I went out this week to take pictures at Mansion Beach. The wind was blowing the wave crests back to make streams of spray called “horses' manes”.
Given my years on the island and my well-documented tendency to take many pictures of any moving object, I would wildly guess that I’ve taken 30,000 pictures of waves.
At one point, I changed from a telephoto to a wide-angle lens and this presented a problem. With a telephoto I could choose my picture, but with a wide-angle I got everything, especially Wilson and Molly, who could see we were on a mission and wanted to lead the way. I developed the technique of walking in the opposite direction until Wilson and Molly inevitably put themselves in front of me. Then I would suddenly whip around and take my pictures. That’s one thing I like about Block Island. There’s room to be a little odd.
I got the idea that it would be fun to get down low... use the qualities of a wide angle lens to get that feeling of big space, with the waves coming directly toward me.
Because this lens takes a wider view than is normal for a person, the mind adjusts, and close things look like they’re far away. I reminded myself of this interesting fact as I lay on my stomach with my camera and my chin on the sand. But then I was busy and you probably see this coming. I got hit by a wave.
Now it wasn’t very big. That’s the one, there in the picture. It’s about six inches from my face and I’m realizing what will happen and I’ve started to get up.
There are billions of waves in every ocean at this very moment. There are bigger, more beautiful waves, but you might like to know that in January in New England, no matter how many wave pictures you have taken, when a wave hits you, it is the only one.
So I took my pictures and then I took them home. I looked at them over and over. And then I didn’t remember how many pictures I’ve taken. I didn’t compare them to things I’ve seen before. I saw this one particular picture and this one and this one - this pattern of light and energy - this motion changing from one picture to the next - this spray blowing back and freezing.
I saw metallic reflections of clouds in wet sand. I saw light in the Biblical clouds and the place where the sun was hitting the water when the land was still in shadow. I saw clean, green water and the sun flying up like diamonds. Water and light spoke directly to my body. For a moment, I had tears in my eyes because my heart was filled with these pictures.
I looked at them all day and dragged myself away to make dinner and then looked at them again. I had to make myself go to bed. And then in the morning, I didn't do anything else until I had looked at my waves, just for a minute.
PS: I’m fine, and my camera is fine. It’s a photographer’s instinct to save the camera first.