Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ahead of the Storm

This image is a composite of two photographs rather than a straight photograph. The two images were taken nearly thirty years apart. I took the photo of the working boat on Smith Island with a film camera circa 1975, while the cloud photo was taken with an early digital camera about thirty years later. They were composited in Photoshop, then taken into a program called Corel Painter. It is just as sophisticated as Photoshop, but is geared towards artists rather than photographers. Using the wonderful digital media and brushes in that program, I painted over the composited image to give it a painted look.

I wrote yesterday about how the islands of the Chesapeake Bay are disappearing, but it isn't just the islands in the Bay. Many of the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast of the Maryland and Virginia also suffer from the same problem.

Smith Island, however, is the prime example of this loss because of it's unique history and heritage. In the past 150 years, the island has lost more than 3,000 acres to erosion.

To visit Smith Island is to step back in time. Island residents can trace their lineage back to the original English colonists who first inhabited the island in the 17th century, about twelve generations. Even today, the residents can be difficult to understand because, living in a largely closed environment, they still speak in the Cornish dialect of their fore bearers. As the island has continued to erode, the population has also declined from roughly 700 people in 1960 to less than three hundred today.

Hearing that sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay and along the East coast were rising at twice the world average made me sceptical. After all, doesn't water seek its own level? I mean, you don't see water piling up on one side of a bathtub under normal circumstances. But having read articles about the problem in the Chesapeake Bay Journal have helped me to understand how worrisome the trend is. The entire microcosm of society on Smith Island could easily disappear over the next 30 to 100 years.

It turns out there are a number of factors affecting sea levels. The loss of glacial ice in Antarctica has more of an impact on the East coast of the continental U.S. then almost anywhere else in the world. This has to do with the global positioning of continents as well as gravitational forces, tidal forces and strong storms that devastate coastal areas through erosion. And, believe it or not, subsidence of the entire region as a result of the last ice age is still occurring.

Like I said yesterday, these types of environmental stories are not something you see in the regular news media. The Bay Journal has been my go to source for understanding issues unique to our region. I highly encourage you to visit their website, friend them on Facebook, and subscribe to either their email version or hard copy of their monthly newspaper.

At the time I completed this image several years ago, I entitled it "Ahead of the Storm." Little did I realize at the time how appropriate the title was.

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