I do not consider myself a photographer that photographs people well, but I admire those who have this talent. One such photographer that I admire for his ability to make a single image speak volumes is David Allen Harvey. If you follow photography and you are a subscriber to National Geographic, you probably know his work.
Thirty-one years ago when I was an enthusiastic university student, and a want-to-be biologist, I was working on a research project studying birds that were nesting on beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. And it was there that I had a chance to meet the man.
I lived behind Fox Watersports at the time, a surf and windsurfing shop in downtown Buxton. The proprietor of the business and friend, Ted James, was a full-tilt waterman—surfer, windsurfer, fisherman, and one hell of a nice man. Ted, although not an Outer Banks native, was the person that people gravitated to for insight into the people, places and activities that best represent life on the Outer Banks. With my passion for surfing, windsurfing and fishing, our paths crossed pretty quickly.
National Geographic was doing a story on the Outer Banks at the time and Harvey was the assigned photographer. Our paths merged as we all pursued our work and recreation, day after day, and through the summer
There was probably no more dramatic event that was emblematic of life on the Outer Banks than a hurricane. It was Hurricane Gloria. Gloria struck the Outer Banks on September 27, 1985. I stayed through the storm, along with Ted and other locals. The National Geographic crew stayed also.
The eye passed over in the middle of the night. We took notice when the sound of raging wind and pelting rain stopped and all went calm. We knew we were in the eye (this was long before The Weather Channel). It was calm and dark, and quiet, so much so that we could hear the raindrops dripping from the leaves on the trees. It was a bit surreal to be in the eye of Gloria. The opposite eye wall soon reached us and the roar of wind and pelting rain returned. We retreated back to the safety of the home.
Harvey and crew were staying at a local hotel. They described putting a mattress against the door and window in case it blew in or the hotel came crashing down around them, and being quite concerned for their safety through the night.
We were out and about at first light. People emerged from their lairs and we all took notice of the subtle clues of Gloria’s passage. The power poles leaned to the east, some more than others. There was a duck blind from the sound perched on the Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed dune line on the ocean side. Shrimp and pinfish were in puddles left behind in puddles in the parking lot of a local store as the storm surge retreated.
I have been in the eyes of several hurricanes since, yet I am reminded of Hurricane Gloria as I am closely watching The Weather Channel to see if the path of Hurricane Matthew will come to my home town. And I remember meeting the master photographer, David Allen Harvey, whose work I admire to this day.