When Big Storms Hit

When major storms hit the state, most people head home. Photojournalists do not. The worse the weather gets, the longer we stay out trying to document the weather event. Unfortunately our best photos need to have people in them and the only people crazy enough to be out in hurricane force winds are the photographers.

In August 2011, I was covering my fourth hurricane for the newspaper and I was stressed out. I had no problem standing in 70 mph winds with waves crashing over me. I have been in worse. My stress came the day before the storm. A lot of decisions had to be made. I was assigned to the shoreline around the Connecticut River. I booked a hotel room in Old Saybrook but I worried about the location. When the storm hits, roads will close and my access might be cut off. I decided to stay with Courant columnist Jim Shea who lives a half dozen houses from the Connecticut River on Main Street in Old Saybrook.

The decision was a good one. The whole area flooded quickly. If I were trying to get in, I would not have made it and would have been cut off from prime spots for shooting the storm. But I was inside the area and I could work on foot. I had access to the river at Saybrook Point, North Cove where hundreds of boats were moored and the causeway between the Saybrook Point and Fenwick, which gave me my best photos.

The first major weather event I covered for the Courant was the 1979 tornado that hit Windsor Locks. Thirty-three years later, I was still at it, documenting the effects of Super Storm Sandy. What’s next?

Two thrill seekers are pummeled by the waves crashing over the causeway, which connects Saybrook Point with Fenwick, Connecticut, Sunday, August 28, 2011 after Hurricane Irene swept through the area.

Two thrill seekers are pummeled by the waves crashing over the causeway, which connects Saybrook Point with Fenwick, Sunday, August 28, 2011 as Hurricane Irene swept through the area.

The biggest problem shooting in a storm is trying to get sharp images with a dry lens in driving rain. It’s not easy. I was standing on the causeway watching waves crash over the railings and trying not to get blown off my feet, praying that someone might appear in the maelstrom to make my photos Page 1 worthy. Photos without people are just plain boring. I needed PEOPLE! And there they were. I couldn’t believe it. Two idiots were actually standing in the middle of the causeway in winds that were 60-70 knots, letting the waves crash over them. It was awesome. In order to make the shots, I frantically kept wiping the lens, then shooting. Wipe, shoot, wipe, shoot, on and on until they disappeared.

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