In 2019, while Hurricane Dorian approached, I wrote that “if I didn’t want to ‘run into’ a hurricane, or even just wait for the hurricane to ‘run into’ me, I had better ‘run away from’ the hurricane fairly quickly“
And thusly, I proved the mastery of MAN over NATURE; of FORESIGHT over RANDOMNESS, and of CAPITAL LETTERS over sensible punctuation. I had triumphed over hurricanes via the time tested method of running away strategic withdrawal™, and as I don’t live anywhere near the ocean, I considered myself the master of these (frankly-overrated) weather events.
Hey… did I mention I just got back from Newfoundland at the end of September?
I missed Hurricane Fiona(we were on the east coast while it was hammering the west). My tried-and-true method of Strategic Withdrawal™ worked perfectly. However, the earlier hurricane, who goes by the alias of Earl, found a flaw in my plan- It relies on me having a car to conduct aforementioned Strategic Withdrawal™. Hurricane Earl hit St Johns the same day I was supposed to pick up the rental car. As a result the scenario suddenly changed from ‘driving away from a hurricane’ to ‘driving out from a hurricane’.
This led to my new strategy, ‘Extend my hotel stay’. I planned to spend the next two days hiding inside and exploring museums, while rearranging my trip itenerary. Seeing as my trip itinerary was all in my head and was limited to ‘maybe I should go in this direction next’, it wasn’t hard to rearrange. That wasn’t even a joke. I purposefully didn’t reserve much on my vacation*, as a lot of what I wanted to see was dependant on the weather**.
I did plan on having two days to explore the museums and indoor attractions, but I didn’t do that for those entire two days. I did that for half a day, got bored, and decided to go explore the outdoors.
There was a flaw in that plan. I saw and ignored that flaw, because I was VERY bored. After all, I was prepared for bad weather. I bought a heavy duty rain coat that worked great. Unbeknownst to me, if there was only one downside for that coat, it was that it gave me a distinctive ‘Goth’ look. Well, maybe not ‘Goth’… more ‘Vampire Fisherman’?
… but on the plus side, I ROCK the Vampire Fisherman look
And so, armed with my many, many, cameras, my trusty(?) raincoat and a complete overestimation of my abilities, I went out to see what a hurricane looked like***.
It looks like wet.
I’m trying something a little different this time. I tried to take some 3D images of the storm, and I’m still going through my 3D photos, but most of them didn’t turn out. It turns out that it’s hard to get good 3D photos of waves in a rainstorm. Everything is moving quickly, and of course my right and left pictures need to be taken at the same time. The dark clouds mean that I need a long exposure and the wind is battering my hands, so in many of the photos when I did time it right the photo is too blurry. Worst of all, however, is the rain drops on the camera lenses/filters. It turns out that hurricanes are wet! Quite a few of my photos would be perfect except for a big droplet obscuring the screen.
Likewise, I was limited in my choice of spectra by the low light. Ultraviolet and deeper infrared were out, as there wasn’t enough light. Full spectrum was technically possible, except that if I took my filter off, the glass of the lens would get wet instead of the filter glass, and it turns out that it is really hard to clean a lens in the middle of a storm. I could (and later try to) wipe it off, but as soon as I put another filter on, the space between the lens and filter would immediately fog up. That left me two cameras too wet to get good photps, one Canon SX600 HS visible spectrum camera, and my Canon T3i camera converted to full spectrum. Frr the latter, I switched between my Kolari Chrome filter and my Zomei 680 nm filter in the images below.
So, in a first… and probably last, as it uses up a lot of my storage space, I’ve decided to make an animation special! For fast moving subjects, I tend to set my cameras to take batches of photos instead of a single one, and it occurred to me that maybe I could stitch them together into some GIF animations. After all, I’m always trying to increase my audience, and GIF files are trendy right now, right?
But first, I had to find some waves. St Johns is a fairly safe place as far as big waves and storm surges go; there is a narrow inlet that connects the ocean to the harbour. It greatly reduces the strength of the waves, and the hills around this passage offer some protection from the winds. This narrow inlet is called ‘The Narrows’, because Newfoundlanders had already used up their creativity with other place names(Everyone knows about Dildo, but how about Great Sacred Island, Heart’s Content, or Chimney Tickle). To see the waves, I’d have to look on the other side of the Narrows. That’s why I walked to Fort Amherst. It’s just a lighthouse now, but was also the site of a gun battery during the Second World War, and has a long history going back to the 1760s. The ruins of the WW2 emplacements still remain.
On a better day, it looks like this:
But on the 10th of September, it was… well, you know.
I timed the GIF so that the frames in this file and the subsequent ones to switch every 1/10 of a second. That’s about 2-3 times faster than real life, as my camera usually takes 2-3 photos per second with the batch settings on(I did try to measure it once, but it isn’t a fixed number; it varies depending on the lighting conditions). After playing around with the timing, I decided to speed it up to 10 FPS. Going 5 fps made the image more jerky and harder to see the movement, and moving any faster meant that the image went by too quickly, and the waves became blurry. 10 FPS was the best compromise. Besides, as this is a number of single photos stitched together and not a film converted, It looks like a badly filmed silent movie. IT’S NOT BAD PHOTOGRAPHY, IT’S A STYLISTIC CHOICE!
Right at the lighthouse, the shoreline to the south is visible, all the way down to Cape Spear(another lighthouse).
… not that you can see the lighthouse in the storm or anything. Just big waves hitting the cliffs.
Fort Amherst is on the southern edge of the Narrows. To the north is Signal Hill, a National Historic site and park. The waves hitting the northern corner of the inlet looked like…
… that. It’s hard to get a sense of scale here, but those waves were at least as big as the ones hitting Fort Amherst.
I was also using my Kolari Chrome filter here; you know the drill. Blue light is eliminated, green is recorded as blue, red is recorded as green, and infrared becomes red.
The green vegetation is now red. Actually, in the visible spectrum, it is hard to distinguish against the rocks with the stormy weather(Just look at the visible one above); it pops out here. The ocean looks more bluish, too, is that the ‘wine-dark’ seas they talk about?
Signal Hill also has the three-story tall Cabot Tower, site of the first wireless trans-Atlantic radio tower. Below the tower are cliffs, with a trail near the bottom. I don’t think that was a good day for walking the trail.
And then I started back to St Johns to find a place to warm up.
Not before I took a few more photos of Fort Amherst, though.
The end. Except… I was still enjoying myself, and the storm had let up a little…
So, I actually went out of St Johns a little bit with the car. I mean, it’s a rental. Who knows how well it will endure a road trip? I’d better put it through it’s paces first, and a hurricane seems like a good stress test.
I went to the aforementioned Cape Spear, about 10 km outside the city. It has a lighthouse too, so a good lookout, and is the easternmost point of North America. A lot of people have been to the easternmost point of North America, but how many during a hurricane?
The railing isn’t shaking, by the way. I was shaking, as the wind was over 100 kph, and I was trying to align the photos on the computer to minimize the effect of that shaking motion on the waves. I didn’t bring a tripod, but even if I did I don’t know if it would have held up to the winds.
The one photo way above was looking from Fort Amherst to Cape Spear; this is the twin to that; Cape Spear looking to Fort Amherst. Again, it isn’t visible, just sheets of rain. My camera was having a hard time keeping the settings the same in the wind and rain here; even in the batch mode it was adjusting settings on the fly.
That’s why it looks so flickery, even more like a film from the 1910s. Sure, it is in colour, but between the sheets of rain there’s almost no colour in the image, and I could say it was Black and White and probably some people would believe me.
By this point, my Chrome filter was soaked, my normal camera was soaked, and my cloth to dry the lens and filter was soaked. Also, I was soaked. Did I mention that hurricanes tend to be wet? I had no way to dry anything.
I still had one more filter that was dry though. Knowing it would probably be my last good photos, I attached my Zomei 680 nm filter and pointed it out to the open ocean.
Not bad, not bad. The infrared seemed to slightly increase visibility, even though the haze was from rain, not pollution or smoke. Perhaps the infrared light isn’t scattered as much by the drops, or perhaps there is more contrast to the water in that range. Still, after a few seconds, that filter was covered with droplets as well. It was time to dry off… until the next day, where I decided to drive around the peninsula in the still-stormy-but-maybe-not-quite-as stormy weather. But that’s a story for another time.
In conclusion, now that I’ve survived three hurricanes with a 66% avoidance rate, my expert advice is ‘stand outside and take photos’. Followed by ‘Bring a towel… maybe you should have though of that before you stood outside and took photos’ Followed by ‘don’t sue me for bad advice’.
*Actually, I lied. There was one firm reservation for a guided hike. This was on the day of the hurricane, and 200 km away, so I did need to change it. Probably I made a good choice, as the hike was cancelled that day anyways due to the cause of ‘the bridge blew away’.
** You might ask why, if the trip was weather dependant, I chose to visit Newfoundland in September. The answer to that is ‘shut up’.
*** Those ‘science experts’ might have called it a post-tropical storm, and a weak one at that, but they aren’t the ones standing outside taking photos.
**** These directions, coincidentally, is how you can find my stash of gold and a mid-ranking peerage in England. First come first serve!