Archive for September 4th, 2010

Oh, No! Mr. Earl…..

Sep. 4th 2010

Oh, NO! Mr. Bill……………….I mean Mr. Earl!                         (People of the Saturday Night Live generation can relate to Mr. Bill.)

A what? A hurricane to document using digital photography?

My first thought was–this could be a whopper of an assignment/adventure —or, I could be blown to OZ, with expensive camera equipment in tow, face planted to the windshield of the International Space Station.

So I take on the task.

First stop. Boston. Blue sky. No storm in sight. Let the games begin. Get me to Cape Cod where Mr. Earl is scheduled to hit in less than 12 hours. He is late for his appointment.

I hear chatter. The only 2 bridges leading on and off Cape Cod may close. Panic? No. It causes wrinkles.

I drive my automobile as if I am with a friend who grew up in Wyoming—-making believe the 2 of us are  in the final round of The Amazing Race. To my friend who grew up in the heart of the American West, the word “speed limit” does not exist. 

I find no backed-up traffic lines at the Bourne Bridge. All this rushing for no reason. Hold the phone.  The blue sky did gradually turn to gray as I made my way closer to “The Cape.” There were a few sprinkles of rain on the ride down from Boston.  At this moment in time, I do not sense a hurricane is about slam Cape Cod. I throw into my CD player a Neil Young live recording from the early 1970s, and my worries dissipate.

First Cape stop. Massachusetts Maritime Academy to photograph their wind turbine. Strange……. it was spinning, yet at a pace similar to a spinning wheel one would see at Old Sturbridge Village, used to create yarn for 19th century clothing. Was this the calm before the storm one always hears about?

Next stop. Ambient shots of small businesses with their glass windows covered with plywood.  Then a great shot unfolds before my camera. A gas line. People are filling up  their vehicles  with gas, in case the electricity that runs gas station pumps go kaput. All this is  reminiscent of the photographs from the 1970s energy crisis. Click. Click. Click. Pray that my camera equipment does not radiate static electricity. If that is the case I become the story.  Mr. Earl goes to the back burner.

Rain begins to fall. Darkness descends upon Cape Cod. Park Rangers have all they can do to turn away crowds of people wanting to be photographed with hurricane  surf as a backdrop. Add some wind-whipped rain to add drama to the family picture. Can you say “holiday picture,” anyone?   Or, “Wish you were here!”……………………. Really?

A quick sidebar…….Did you see the brilliant photographs on page 1 of Today’s New York Times? If you did see them, YOU KNOW WHY  authorities close beach access during impending hurricanes and actual hurricane touch-downs. Kudos to the photographer who took these 2 images of a family IN the surf. Picture 1. Smile. Picture 2. Utter panic. Wipe-out! (Now hum that classic 1960s song.)

My alarm goes off at 2 AM. I look outside. Heavy, driving rain.  No trees bending like celery sticks about to snap. In fact, there are few tall trees on the Cape. The early settlers cut them down and the once dense forest never fully grew back. This is not Los Angles, land of swaying palm trees, or Southwest Florida. Shots of palm trees during a hurricane make page 1 of any publication.

I did take visual images of power trucks lined up in a symmetrical row–at 3:30 AM. However, they were parked in a hotel parking lot. If Linemen and Linewomen are NOT out at 3:30 AM  dealing with down power lines, I ponder—why should I be standing in the driving rain?

I drive to the beach. I take shots of waves. Big waves, yet they are not spectacular waves.  A source calls. I am informed  Mr. Earl, whom I am documenting,  is now classified as a heavy rain storm–not a full throttle hurricane.  No breaking news. No page 1 shot.

So here it is Saturday.  Mr. Earl  arrived and departed like an uninvited guest at party—-once his/her bluff is called. The sky today is a cobalt blue. No clouds. Beaches are empty, yet the surf is turbulent. There are seals off the coast, on the Atlantic side of Cape Cod, waiting for low tide to claim their turf on a strand of beach in North Truro.

I take out my casual Cannon camera. I photograph a dog playing on the beach. I collect beach stones smoothed by the action of the sea. I witness sea gulls pecking at each other and bickering about some foolish issue. I chat with some other delightful nature observers, then  leave the beach to meet 2 friends, both accomplished visual artists, to talk about you know who………….

Brendan Ben Feeney

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