Father and Daughter watch Tropical Storm Debbie, Anna Maria Island

Tropical Storm Debby Hits Sarasota

Debby Does Sarasota?

I can’t help it. I just can’t take a tropical storm named “Debby” seriously. Still, the storm has pummeled the Gulf coast with wind and rain pretty steadily for the past two days, and when the rain eased up for a few hours this afternoon, I decided to head to the outer beaches to see how things looked.

Dog Walker, Bird Key
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter Walking the dog on Bird Key, Sarasota Bay

First, though, I passed over Sarasota Bay, and stopped to take a look around Bird Key. There were a few other people out looking around at the churned-up water, but the bay was relatively calm… I even saw a dolphin.

Watching the waves, Bradenton Beach, Tropical Storm Debby
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter

I pressed on to Longboat Key, then Anna Maria Key and found that my favorite beach was closed on the Gulf side of the island, but I walked around from the other side anyway. Waves crashed over the barriers and soaked the benches on the walkway. In absolute terms, the waves weren’t that huge: maybe 4-6 foot swells, pretty typical on the West Coast (or the east coast of FL, for that matter). For the Gulf, though, they seemed massive, and the waves were fast-moving, discolored, and chaotic. A few people walked out to snap photos of them from the shore, and most were rewarded with a surprise drenching. The wind howled and pushed me around, but was pleasantly warm, even at 30-40 miles an hour.

Tropical Storm Debby, Breaking Waves in Bradenton Beach
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter

One guy came up to me and warned me to watch for falling branches from the palms and other trees surrounding the park, which I thought was nice of him, but he went on to explain that he knew which tree was going to fall next, and if I’d just set up a video camera, I could capture it falling… probably within the next hour. I didn’t know what to say to that, and decided to move up the beach.

Surfing on the Storm, Tropical Storm Debby, Bradenton Beach
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter

In the town of Bradenton Beach, the shore was surprisingly active. Surfers were taking the opportunity to ride some real waves, and an alarming number of kids were playing in the water, while women in bikinis strolled along the sand. The sky was ominously dark, but the sun broke through and highlighted the contours of the choppy water.

Women in bikinis during Tropical Storm Debby
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter

My skin was developing a crust of salt and sand. The spray in the air was unavoidable, and I had to frequently stop shooting to clean the front element of my lens, and even more frequently, my glasses. My hair was whipped around and tangled and sticky with the sea air, and by the time I left, I looked like Robert Smith. As many of you know, I generally recommend NOT shooting with a UV filter attached to your lens; it will generally do more harm that good. Days like this, however, are the exception. The UV filter will protect the element from the damage caused by rubbing stray sand against the lens coatings.

Wipe-out on Tropical Storm Debby, Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter
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Simon Ng

Hi Matthew,

As usual, great write up! Maybe you can elaborate or explain how you clean your kit after spending time at the beach. Loads of people including myself wanted to shoot at the beach, but am too afraid to bring the gear out.


Bill Minton

I bought this lens cleaning “pen” a few months ago.  I’ve used it once I think on my kit lens.  Was that a good idea?



Alfred Lopez

Wow! Killing camels JUST for their hair! Photographers are MONSTERS!



I only knew very little about photography, so I wont know what are all the details that I have to look at in the picture but I really like the pictures up above,colors are full of life–its brilliant. Also,the creativeness (angle of the camera).

Bill Minton

Great article.  I love storms, so this was right up my alley.  Be sure to post the rest of the pictures if you can, I’d love to see them.


Bill Minton

They’re still pretty good IMO.  The kids being out there would make me nervous.

Were these all hand-held or tripod?