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Photographing Disasters - Tropical Storm Irene

Updated on September 7, 2011

I live in the Upper Valley area of New Hampshire, close to the Connecticut River and Vermont. We were lucky, we never lost power and had very little wind but a lot of rain. Our neighboring towns in Vermont were not so lucky with the tremendous amount of rain and the large amount of rural dirt roads in the least populated state. Many towns had roads washed away and few towns even became islands cut off from the rest of the state.

After seeing my Connecticut shoreline refugee parents off yesterday, this morning I decided to head over to White River Junction, Quechee and Woodstock to survey the damage and take some photographs of the aftermath of tropical storm Irene.

Here are a few thoughts I have on photographing disaster areas.

1. Be mindful of the people who were affected by the storm. I witnessed a lot of people working hard to clean out their basements, remove inches of silt from their driveways and roads and simply dealing with the lack of electricity and thoughts of lost business with leaf peeping and skiing season right around the corner. Don't act like a rude tourist, be respectful of the situation.

2. Don't get in the way of emergency vehicles and work crews. The last thing they need is some fool getting hurt trying to take a picture or parking in front of a bulldozer. Keep in mind that workers are trying to salvage roads, buildings and restore power. Respect barriers and police lines placed for the safety of everyone. Just because the rain as stopped doesn't mean everything is safe and stable.

3. Some photography advice - shoot lots of details. The grand destruction photos have already been in the paper and on the news. Zoom in on details relating to "floods", "flooding" etc that can be used for stock to illustrate similar disasters and in articles or ads for things like insurance.

4. Head out early to get the best light and to avoid people blocking your shots.

5. Bring a map! Many of the roads in Vermont were closed, washed out or both. You might have to find alternative routes to your subject.

6. Be safe! Local officials are recommending wearing masks if you are around the dust caused by silt. Its just a precaution but who knows what bacteria or harmful chemicals could be in the dust.


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    • lilnassau profile image

      lilnassau 6 years ago from Nassau Bahamas

      I live in the Bahamas so its kinda the norm to expect hurricanes. Ive always wanted to go out and photograph the before, during and after effects of a hurricane but I find my self so busy preparing and making sure my family and home are safe. The aftermath can be so devastating and heart wrenching that I'm usually so shocked that I hardly ever remember to capture the moments. Irene just past us by not to long ago damage wasn't to bad so I was able to capture some good shots.