Power, beauty and rage; storm watching along the Wild Pacific Trail.
Words & Photography :: David McColm
I awake to an ink-black night and one of my favourite natural sounds— the rumble & roar of ocean waves rolling, crashing onto shore just a few hundred metres from our home in Ucluelet, BC. The predicted west coast storm has arrived and right on schedule and while I generally sleep well listening to the white noise of the Pacific ocean, this thunderous, soul-inspiring sound means as soon as day breaks I will head out into the pummeling weather to experience & photograph this storm-wave action. I can’t wait.
But sunrise is still three hours away, so I lay in bed, restless, excited, and start thinking of the best possible locations along the coast between Ucluelet and Tofino to witness & shoot this storm. With big, wet storms like this I also need to factor in wind direction and precipitation—I can’t point my camera lens directly into the rain-soaked wind. This narrows down my options so I decide my first location will be one of my favourite storm watching & shooting spots along the incredible & special Wild Pacific Trail.
After a fitful couple of hours of sleep, it’s finally time to get up. The sound of the waves seems to be intensifying so, although it’s still a bit dark, I head out to the first stop of the day. Walking down the forested trail, I get my first glimpse of the wave action—it’s big! I consciously pick up my pace, it’s going to be a very good storm day.
With my tripod set up, I start with the big lens and capture my first few images—of a breaking wave with that ever-present emerald colour, the foam, a few seabirds …. today is looking like it will be about as good as gets for west coast storms. In between shots, I text my wife Sandra: “It’s BIG.” She knows what that means and will be joining me soon.
Sandra & I whet our appetites for these kinds of west coast storm watching days the first time we camped & stayed at lodging right on the beach in Tofino. There’s nothing quite like hearing the sound of the waves crashing in all night and then being able to watch them roll into shore as the early morning light arrives.
During a recent stay at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay, we had an amazing storm watching experience during a high tide where the water’s edge was just a stone’s throw from our deck. It’s a special day of wave watching when you can witness nature’s fury from the couch while eating breakfast and then capture stunning photos & video of the rolling & roaring waves from a covered deck! But even then, we eventually geared up and headed outside to get even closer to the action.
For me, there’s nothing quite like watching, listening to, and feeling the rumble of waves as they pound relentlessly towards the shore. And as a storm photographer, I also revel in capturing the beauty & magnificence of a storm as well as the individual waves, especially at their explosive peak. On particularly powerful storm days I can literally spend hours in one spot watching and shooting in total awe & wonder of the power of nature and the beauty of the Pacific coast. That feeling, witnessing the power of the landscape, is incredibly special and hard to duplicate.
Until the next time the ocean roars….