I was statue hunting about Airlie Gardens Friday night with my friend while waiting for the concert to start. The new Guardians of the Garden exhibit opened on the 15th and I wanted to see some of the art. The concert was going to start at 6 so there was some time to explore. Off in the distance was a rumble of thunder but there was nothing on the radar, so no worries! Camera in hand, I first wandered over to Bradley Creek. It was low tide, probably the lowest I’ve ever seen. So low in fact that the oyster beds were exposed almost to the end of the long pier. In the distance the sky was getting dark and it looked like it was raining down in Wrightsville Beach. Still, no worries, right?!
There were numerous egrets and herons out walking the exposed oyster beds and a pair of osprey flying overhead. We watched the birds hunt for food in the shallows as the wind began to pick up across Bradley Creek and the thunder began rumbling closer and closer. At one time I thought I would get a degree in Ornithology and teach at a university – I love birds that much. Pretty sure the Ornithology degree isn’t going to happen now, but I still love to watch birds! The ill-timed pop-up shower was creeping in from the coast so we worked our way back to the lawn. I finally found the first art from the new exhibit along a path on the way back. It was a trio of copper humming birds, gently swinging in the breeze. I had a few moments to snap a couple of photos before the rain drops started dropping on my head.
I was worried about my camera getting wet so my friend and I went back to our seats to gather up the stuff we didn’t want the rain to get. The band announced this was going to be a quick shower and they would be starting on time. We decided to weather the rain on the visitor center porch. Then, “the wind began to switch – the
house garden to pitch, and suddenly the hinges leaves started to unhitch.” Like something out of the Wizard of Oz, the “little pop-up” shower turned into a summer tempest. The wind howled and the rain poured down. Lightning and thunder danced all around us. Needless to say, the concert was cancelled. I was a little bummed, but I had a great day up until that point, so it was okay. I really felt bad for the band and the vendors since the event was cancelled. The guy from Planet Smoothie brought the smoothies they had ready to sell for the evening and gave them to everyone sitting on the porch. The storm had no intention of passing quickly so we sat, and sat, and sat patiently waiting it out while sipping on a fresh strawberry smoothie. The were a few times when the lightning was so close it made me wince.
Once the rain subsided some we ran back to our chairs we left on the lawn and headed back to the car. It was early yet so we had some time to play. Where do you go when all hell is breaking loose? You head towards the beach! I’ve always liked to watch storms, but I’ve never been a storm chaser. I’ve also never photographed lightning before. Now I can say I’ve done both!
We continued towards Wrightsville Beach. The shelf cloud rolled up the intracoastal waterway towards Wilmington. Camera in hand, we could see the lightning off in the distance. The problem for me with trying to catch lightning is the timing. I took a million shots but only a few captured the lightning. The couple of strikes I did catch were pretty amazing (for me).
The storm and the accompanying lightning turned back on itself and we soon found ourselves amidst the storm again. Rather than getting struck by lightning, we ran for the car, dodging drops of rain and drove down to the beach.
We weren’t the only crazy people out on the beach watching the storm. There was a family huddled up under the gazebo near the beach entrance and several people were fishing and watching the waves. We met a nice woman also attempting to capture the lightning with her camera and talked about photography with her for a bit. Standing on the bench overlooking the ocean, the lightning danced across the sky. What a brilliant show! I didn’t have my tripod with me and had to hold the camera still to attempt to get the shot. We stayed out there on the beach for a while watching. The lightning continued as the darkness crept in. Eventually it was too dark to take photos.
One last look and a final deep breath. I wiggled my toes in the sand and listened to the ocean waves crashing on the shore for the last time. Wilmington & Wrightsville Beach make me feel relaxed and sometimes I don’t want to leave. But it was time to go home to see my little dog Daphne.