For the final six years I lived in New Hampshire, there was a good probability you’d find me at the Atlantic Coast at daybreak with my camera, looking to make images featuring colorful skies.
Especially when the tide was low, I frequently worked at a large tidal pool in Rye. On calm mornings when the sky was filled with color, the pool could be a magical place to create interesting compositions. High tide mostly erased the pool, so on those days I moved to alternate locations along the shore.
The inherent challenge associated with a project of this nature is New Hampshire’s location far to the north. The waters off its coast never get very warm (even in the summer), which impedes cloud production. This isn’t Florida, where nice cumulus clouds routinely appear over the sea! More often than not, the sky over the ocean in northern New England is either perfectly clear or completely overcast. Photographers looking for dramatic skies over the Atlantic at the beginning of the day will walk away empty-handed a lot of the time.
During February and March of 2014, there was a period of many weeks without morning color. It was frustrating, to say the least. Coincidentally, two snowy owls had been seen hanging around Rye that season. These beautiful birds, whose primary habitat is the Arctic, fly south to winter. That said, they generally do not appear as far south as New Hampshire….so this was most certainly a treat.
Given the lack of opportunity to make photographs of the sky at daybreak, I found myself shifting gears and heading over to the coast in the darkness before sunrise hoping instead to see and possibly photograph the birds.
I paid only cursory attention to the cloud forecast. For now, I’d focus on the owls.
I was surprised, therefore, one day very early in April as I made my way to the spot where the birds typically hung out, when I saw that the pre-sunrise sky was developing into something quite special. Though I hadn’t set out to photograph it, this was too good to pass up. After so many weeks – FINALLY there was some color up there! I stopped for a moment alongside a tidal creek to survey the scene. It seemed I would get better access to even more color if I continued to the ocean shore – so onward I raced.
The only location I’d have time to get to would be my trusty tidal pool. And since it was high tide, there wouldn’t be much of a pool.
I arrived, flew out of the car, scurried up the embankment, and assessed the situation. Way too much water.
Now what? The clock was ticking. The color wouldn’t last much longer. I hastily retraced my route, heading once again for the tidal creek at which I’d stopped a few minutes earlier. Never having shot there, I didn’t know if there was a spot I could safely leave my vehicle, nor did I know whether I’d be able to compose a shot….but it was the only place I had any chance of getting to in time.
I parked as far off the side of the road as possible, turned on the hazards and crossed my fingers. Please nobody hit me! 🙂 Grabbing my gear, I ran to the edge of the completely calm water, getting as close as I could to include the reflected colors of the sky.
Bing, bang, boom. I just barely made it, but walked away with what I knew was going to be a good image – ironically, on a day when the sunrise wasn’t even on the agenda. I’d never previously tried to make a photograph at Seavey Creek (at low tide the area pictured is mostly mud and marsh) – and would never shoot from there again.
You have to be ready to improvise. Sometimes it pays off.
This image was later used in one of our personalized pastor appreciation plaques. The theme: God’s Love is Reflected in Your Ministry.
That’s this week’s behind-the-scenes story! There will be another next Saturday…
Is there a product image you’d like to know more about? Drop me a line. I’ll make sure it’s added to the “Backstories” agenda.)