Ahh, surf. I love its sound—it roars in, then pounds and crashes onto the beach. It’s even better when it hits the rocks! It’s loud, yet relaxing. Of course, as we all know, the Beach Boys popularized surf. I grew up with surf at Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts.
My sister and I loved going there. With the approach of high tide and perhaps assisted by swells from a distant sea storm, one could be battered by waves cresting to as much as six or more feet. Although West Coasters and Hawaiians would scoff at such small waves, this was a pretty big deal to us East Coast kids. We would body surf. The great fun was watching a swell approach, then become a wall and curl before it broke over you. We quickly learned to take a deep breath because if you were caught under the break it would keep you down for several seconds (it seemed like much longer) until its energy petered out towards the shore. Wow!
No one in Maine is swimming now, but I always see people at beaches, sometimes sitting in beach chairs, just watching and listening to the waves. How cool they are. Living on an island, I don’t have to go too far to see surf. You just have to look for shoreline that faces the open sea. So, again, it was back to the backshore. Now that I have a Portland tidal chart, provided by my friend Debbie, I knew high tide would be at 6:56 PM at 9.1 feet on the day of the shoot (the tides run at their highest, over 11 feet, when the moon is at its fullest). Since sunset was at almost the same time, I got to the shore around 5:00 PM when the waves would be better lit (all these things to think about when composing naturescapes). Fortunately, bright sunshine prevailed.
Maybe the best way to present my photo surfin’ safari is to show some wave sequence shots (on the left). Actually, they are all like mini tsunamis, beginning as gentle swells (though they don’t travel at 500 mph). Then, as they approach the shore, the shallower depths compress the wave’s energy so that it rises up to create that curl, which then breaks as the water’s depth further decreases. An undertow resultsas this mass of water begins to recede.
The larger photos, below, show what happens to these waves after they hit the rocks. I played around with shutter speeds so some shots freeze the action while others blur the action.
As you can see, surf has a lot of energy. Given enough time, these rocks will be ground to sand. The tides also contain tremendous kinetic energy. Just imagine what it takes to move up to 30 feet of the sea (at the Bay of Fundy). The Scots, still part of the U.K., are implementing tidal power technology to generate electricity.
But as powerful as the sea is, in some ways we are more powerful. Global warming is proceeding faster than predicted by prior computer modeling. Scientific data show that this is due in great part to our burning of fossil fuels.
According to a recent news report, the Gulf of Maine is warming at five times the rate of the rest of the seas. This is bad news for lobsters that require cold water, and those who eat them, not to mention all the other known and unknown environmental implications.
-From Portland and the mid-coast