When Tropical Storm Debby hit Panama City Beach and the surf was up, I had to go out and get photos. There was only one problem, though. Rain….and lots of it! Cameras don’t like rain. At least my trusty Nikons don’t like rain.
Tropical storms can be good and they can be not so good. The good kind (in my opinion) skirt across the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico sending Panama City Beach fun waves for days on end. The not so good kind send Panama City Beach fun waves, but also hover just south of the beach bombarding us with rain for days on end. Debby was the not so good kind of storm. What’s a photographer to do you ask? Get out the umbrella and hope for the best!
I woke up at 5:15 on Sunday morning to make sure I was at the beach to photograph the sunrise surf session. After dragging myself out of bed, I grabbed my camera gear and hustled down to St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach. I should have stayed in bed with my lovely wife because the surf was awful. There were waves to be had, but you had to be at the right place at the right time. The surf was a bit out of control and no one was really paddling out. Bummer.
I got back home just in time to hear my son saying, “Ma Ma, Ma Ma, Ma Ma.” (hopefully one day he’ll say Da Da, but I’m not going to hold my breath) I went and grabbed the boy, gave him a big hug and a kiss and we got back in bed with Ma Ma.
As the day progressed I kept thinking of the surf. How was it now? Was it cleaning up? Was anyone out? What kind of cool pictures am I missing out on? My wife decided we needed some food so when she and my son made a quick run to the store, I grabbed the camera and went to check the surf.
The surf was on fire. Dozens of surfers were out catching some pretty epic rides. The wind was howling out of the north and the rain was pelting my legs like shots from a BB gun, but I was determined to document the Tropical Storm Debby swell. With my new golf umbrella in my left hand and my camera on a monopod in my right, I was doing my best to get sharp photos against the will of mother nature.
It was a struggle to stay dry, I tell ya. My left arm was hurting pretty bad from holding the umbrella against wind gusts of 30mph and my lens kept getting little droplets of rain on it. I stuck it out as long as I could and wound up getting some decent Panama City Beach surf photos out of it.
Maybe next time I’ll wait until it stops raining. That would make tropical storm surf photography much easier, but where’s the fun in that?