Five Years Later: A Look Back at Hurricane Sandy
Five years ago Hurricane Sandy paid us a visit. It devastated the Jersey shore and caused some major damage to cities along the New England coastline. It left half of the Island of Manhattan, and even Lady Liberty in complete darkness, as it flooded subway stations and basements, turned streets into rivers and brought down boardwalks.
I remember getting ready for the hurricane–making several trips to the grocery store. I remember helping out taping the windows, making sure there were enough flashlights, and that batteries were all charged. I did get my photo gear ready, too. Other neighbors really worked hard to make sure the building was as hurricane proof as possible. And, thanks to all the preparations as well as a bit of luck, we got through it untouched. Others were not that lucky.
So, for this five-year anniversary of Sandy, I’d like to look at how one can photograph a hurricane that passes through a city?
First, make sure you stay safe throughout the experience. Make sure you, and then your gear, are safe.
Prepare your gear. Make sure you charge your batteries and have additional batteries. Make sure you know where to find your gear in case of power outrage, especially at night.
Try to capture the visual story of the hurricane–before, during and after. Try to shoot from various angles, zoom in/out. Again, do it as safely as possible.
For example, try to photograph the calm before the storm, as well as during the eye of the hurricane. Try to photograph the preparation stage, the incoming storm, the storm itself (if possible and however possible, as long as you’re safe doing it), and the aftermath.
Try to photograph…the invisible–that is, things that we cannot really see, but we can see or touch or feel indirectly–things like the wind, for example, especially during a hurricane. Or maybe the sound of the storm,without audio/video recording, the strength, power, fury of Mother Nature and our associated fear, perhaps. Document the story, but also tell it as you experience it.
As mentioned above, try to shoot before, during (as much as possible, while staying safe and maintaining what they call situation awareness), and after the hurricane. Capture what’s left behind, and also how. Try to capture the same subject before, during and after the hurricane, for example, as if to tell the story of the storm through the viewpoint of that one particular subject. Just an idea.
Here are a few images of my documenting Hurricane Sandy:
Entrances to PATH stations were either blocked using sandbags or boarded up. This, while more sandbags were being organized on the waterfront.
As the wind started to intensify, the water level started to rise, engulfing piers and the waterfront. That didn’t stop a few people to go out on the waterfront and snap a few pictures, watch the incoming storm.
The night of Hurricane Sandy
That night, Hurricane Sandy turned streets into rivers, flooded cars parked on those streets, and took down the boardwalk. Water came in from the Hudson and from the flooded neighborhood streets. I could go outside during the eye of the hurricane, to take a few pictures. As they say, the silence of the city was deafening. The darkness was blinding then. Other than a few small pockets of city lights, the Jersey side of Hudson was mostly in complete darkness. And so was half Manhattan.
First Street in Jersey City was completely flooded. Two cars were floating in that water. Remarkably, the headlights were still on, at least for a while.
Soon, more lights came out. Water kept gushing in from the waterfront, taking over the streets. It was late at night, that night, when I could still see the boardwalk lights, still flickering. Then there was only darkness there, too.
The aftermath: the damage Sandy left behind
It was only the morning after Hurricane Sandy that I discovered why the boardwalk lights had suddenly disappeared. I went for a walk in the neighborhood, to assess the damage, only to find out that the boardwalk was no more. Here are a few images:
Then the recovery work began. I found almost ironic to notice a bunch of wet leaves stuck around the branches of a tree, in the shape of a dollar sign. Symbolic, don’t you think?
But also symbolic were the Powerhouse reflections, as a background for yet another pile of branches floating on yet another street.
Sunrise: The morning after Sandy offered a gorgeous sunrise. It helped me capture what later became an award-winning image.
Check out more photographs from Hurricane Sandy in Sandy Tales: Snapshots from a Hurricane
As always, thanks for stopping by!