Into The Storm

December 21, 2023  |  Portland, Maine

Last year, just before Christmas, a historic nor'easter hit Maine, bringing high winds, towering waves, and torrential rains with it. The photography that Maine photographers produced of the storm was simply epic. There were images of titanic waves pounding Portland Head Lighthouse, lobster boats battling rough seas, inland flooding, and more. And I missed it. I'd headed to New York to see my children for Christmas a couple of days early, so I wasn't in the state when the storm hit.

Spring Point Ledge lighthouse, marking the entrance to Portland Harbor, is awash in the waters of Casco Bay as a nor'easter pummels Maine's coast on a December
Fury at the Harbor Gates

Spring Point Ledge lighthouse, marking the entrance to Portland Harbor, is awash in the waters of Casco Bay as a nor'easter pummels Maine's coast on a December evening.

Last week, we began to hear forecasts of another vicious storm predicted for earlier this week. On Monday, the meteorologists proved correct and the storm hit with a ferocity we hadn't seen since, well, last year. This time, however, I happened to be at home in Maine, and I was determined to get out to photograph it this time. High tide was set for about 3pm, so I made my way to Portland Head Lighthouse at 2:30pm, dressed head to toe in my rain suit, steeled myself to venture out of the warmth and comfort of my Subaru Crosstrek, and made my way to the overlook of the lighthouse to watch the show being put on by the waters of Casco Bay.

An angry ocean batters Portland Head Lighthouse as a nor'easter slams the coast of Maine on a December day.
Neptunes's Fury

An angry ocean batters Portland Head Lighthouse as a nor'easter slams the coast of Maine on a December day.

I had my camera draped in a plastic rain cover, which worked very well in keeping the camera dry. It's a clear plastic which allows me to see the screen without having to expose it to the elements, and it's easy to make changes to settings through the plastic. I selected my Tamron 35-150mm lens for the job, since it would give me some range if I needed to zoom in, but also because my wider angle lens's front element isn't as shielded from the rain, which could have been more problematic in trying to get clear photos.

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Fort Preble is beseiged by waves as a nor'easter batters the coast of Maine on a December afternoon.
Poseiden's Rage

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Fort Preble is beseiged by waves as a nor'easter batters the coast of Maine on a December afternoon.

As for me, I was dressed in Weather Watch jacket and pants by Grundens. Grundens makes fishing apparel, both for recreational fishermen, as well as commercial fishermen and lobstermen. The pants and jacket are not insulated but have served me well in heavy rain. Overall they did well on Monday, but rain did manage to seep inside my sleeve that was angled up holding my camera, and inside the hood a bit when I was facing that way.

One pleasant surprise was that in both locations I photographed during the storm, my subject in relation to my shooting location allowed me to stand with the wind and rain at my back, meaning my lens faced away from the blowing rain and stayed surprisingly clear of water. This made it much easier to photograph than I expected, as long as I was careful to keep the lens facing away from the when moving around from different vantage points.

Rain was pouring down, and wind was howling so loud that I could barely hear the pounding of the surf. Gusts were reaching 60 mph, and waves were over 20 feet tall! My tripod was shaking from the force of the wind, despite the fact that I use a pretty heavy tripod. I ended up holding it down to keep it steady, and choosing a faster shutter speed to help avoid camera shake. In the end, depending on where you were in Maine, we got between 3" and 6" of rain, with lots of localized flooding.

On the downside, after the light faded and I packed up my gear, I somehow managed to get a flat tire on my way home, while the storm was still blowing. Many thanks go out to the AAA driver who arrived quickly to put the donut on my car. I managed to make it home in one piece, but sadly, the flat tire was punctured right on the edge of the tread by the sidewall, meaning it couldn't be patched. And because I drive a Subaru, that also means that instead of one tire, I needed to purchase FOUR tires. Oh well. That's life I guess. Either way, the storm was an awesome finish to the year.

Portland Head Lighthouse during a December nor'easter.
December Gale

Portland Head Lighthouse stands atop a cliff, defiant against the raging nor'easter. Huge waves crash over the rocky shoreline, while the lighthouse's bright beacon pierces through the storm's darkness, offering hope and guidance. It is a mesmerizing portrayal of the resilience of human engineering in the face of nature's raw power.