So you've decided that you want to take regional flooding photos...
Before we go any further let me just go ahead and say Don't! It's dangerous for both you and the folks that will eventually be rescuing you. The very night I went out to document the flood a little boy got swept away by flood waters. Search and rescue recovered his body today, a week later. that could have easily been me or any one else trying to document the flooding. It can turn expensive really quickly! I personally picked up a flat tire during this past flood. Just sit and think how expensive that would have been if my car would have gotten flooded or even worse swept away. Also don't forget about you're equipment! that couple of grand worth of camera equipment be be ruined by rain or a short swim. You can also get sick. Flood waters have any number of bacteria swimming around it in. I've personally been sick since the day after the flood waters receded.
That being said some of us photographers are bull headed and are determined to get the photo.
10 Simple rules to follow:
1. Know the weather - Is flooding in the forecast? put your equipment in the car.
2. Know your region - Is your area prone to flooding? Is it safe to even take the photo? Is the location choice a risk to you? all things you need to consider.
3. Dress appropriately - grab your boots, pants, shirt, poncho, and any other thing you might be wading though water in.
4. Think about your situation - Are you going to be in danger? Are you going to put someone else in danger? Are you going to be in the way of rescue workers? Do you know how deep the water you're in is? Do you know if there is till roadway where you're car is traveling? You have to consider all of this. Don't take stupid risk...
5. Know your area - What roads will be closed first? What business are going to flood first? Where can you park your car to be out of harms way?
6. Know Your arrangements - Can you get home? Do you know where to go if you can't get home? what's your route home? what's your second Route home? where can you be safe?
7. Have an umbrella - you don't want rain falling down on you or your equipment.
8. walk in (if you're in an urban setting) - Find a safe out of the way place to park your car and walk to where you want to take your photo. stay out of the way of rescue and utilities workers. be aware of everything going on around you. You don't want to find yourself in the center of a rescue operation.
9. Keep it moving or get out of the way (in a rural area) - don't leave your car sitting on the highway if the road is still open. sometimes you can get away with shooting though the windshield when stopped, although not ideal you can still make an exposure that tells the tale. Park in an empty drive way if you can. Watch for cars. remember the world is full of lookie loos, and their not lookie looing at you.
10. Share your photos - Share those photos any place you think people might be interested in seeing them. The more lookie loos see them online the less lookie loos we'll have jamming up the flooded highways.
My experience last week:
all those rules being said. I ended up breaking a couple of them last week myself. I had been back home for Sunday dinner with my grandmother and I knew flooding was going to happen if it didn't stop raining. I ended up bring my photography equipment along and low and behold the whole area ended up being under water by the time I left home.
It was time to scramble, I stopped at the local dollar store and bought the cheapest umbrella they had. So that paired with my sweat pants where a game winning combination (totally wouldn't suggest wearing sweat paints, their basically one big sponge...) Ran outside opened it up and saw a house getting encompassed by the creek.
I'm rushing to get my equipment out, my dogs licking me in the face, and the rain is pouring down my back as i'm stooped over in the car. I knew I had to move fast or I wasn't going to make it home. so I took a few quick photos there, and moved to another part of the rural town where they had just moved all the school buses away from the overflowing creek.
Making my way home I encountered lots of photo opportunities but I had to pick and choose which one were right for the conditions. Wasted time could have meant not going home that night. I encountered several roads that were about to be closed and I was the last to make it though many of them. I got lucky.
I finally came to a road that was impassable for me, the state police had blocked it off. I ended up turning around and taking a little mountain back road back to civilization. Where I found my town to be under several feet of water. I parked my car with my dog in it leaving her for only a few minutes at a time (she's smart she knew the drill). I took a few photos of the main road under water and some of the local business.
I tried to steer clear of driving though any flood waters more than I had to. I eventually made my way to the creek where I took some photos to show the intensity of the water and kept my distance from the bank, who knows when that could have broke off into the torrent...
It took me Five hours to drive a one hour drive that night. Of course I was taking pics so that does account for a little of that time. I made my way home, edited the photos as quickly as possible and distributed them every where I deemed necessary.
I've been sick ever since, I picked up a really sharp rock (of all things...) in my tire, and I got featured in two different county papers last week. So I consider the whole adventure very rewarding!