Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Covering Hurricanes

When I was young and dumber, I would go and shoot things like war in the middle east, erupting volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes. One of my wildest rides was covering Hurricane Gilbert which landed a cover and double truck for Life Magazine. With spring upon us, hurricane season is just around the corner. I thought I would take the time to share what I have learned from covering many hurricanes in the past. First, there are two sides to a hurricane. The WET north/east side and the DRY west/south side. The wet side is were all the dangerous action is…tornadoes, 30 foot storm surges, 150mph sustained winds, etc. Here is the big question, who can shoot in that? I’ve been there, you are surviving and fighting for your life. Photography loses it’s appeal during those moments, not to mention camera’s don’t work well wet. I learned the hard way that the dry side of a hurricane is less dangerous and you can shoot dramatic photos during the hurricane without being in the worst part of the hurricane. Once the worst has past you are usually about an hour away from the wet side and arrive about the time other photojournalist have come out of their zombie states the hurricane beat them into. I have literally followed the waters edge of a storm surge as it recedes into the heart of the destruction where you can find more unique and dramatic photos. You just have to watch out for the snakes, alligators and power lines.  The shot I got for the cover was on the dry edge of Hurricane Gilbert. Then photojournalist Doug Milner and I drove decided to drive into the middle of this monster to get better photos and ended up holding on for dear life and got no photos during the storm. We did get some great aftermath shots…which did not make the cover.

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