Photography Tips for Citizen Scientists Capturing the 2015 King Tide

By Tammy Newcomer Johnson, ORISE Research Participant

The sidewalk is flooded at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.  Photo by Tammy Newcomer Johnson.

I’m a scientist working at EPA and an avid photographer. I have exhibited nature-related photography in a 2-artist show, and I occasionally shoot weddings— preferably on the beach!

“King Tides,” are the highest tides of the year and they provide a glimpse of the future challenges that climate change brings to coastal communities facing rising sea levels. The main 2015 Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard King Tides will occur on October 28th. Check out this King Tides Map for predicted times. This is a bounty for photographers and a wake-up call for local planners.

Recording King Tides is a great citizen science opportunity. Anyone with a camera can participate!  Images and video of King Tides can help local planners, elected officials, and community members visualize and prepare for future flooding events from sea level rise, high tides, and coastal storms. For example, the King Tides Project teams up with classrooms in coastal communities to empower students to educate local planners about future flooding risks. Likewise, many of the National Estuary Programs are actively engaged in capturing the King Tides. The Casco Bay Estuary Partnership in Maine has an interactive King Tides Trail and an annual King Tide Party to document high water levels. What a fun way to combine art, science, and coastal management!

Want to learn more about King Tides? Check out EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries and NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management for some great resources.

Here are my King Tides photography tips:

  1. Location, location, location! Choose a place that is vulnerable to coastal flooding. Make sure that you include some familiar landmarks so that it is easy to identify the area.
  2. The early bird gets the worm! Arrive at your location about 45 minutes before the high tide to scout out the best shot.
  3. Quantity leads to quality! Take a lot of pictures so you can compare them and pick your favorite. During a recent wedding I photographed, I took over 2,000 photos. I found some real gems among all of these photos!
  4. Bonus points! Get some photos of the low tide to show the contrast and/or take a time-lapse video.

I encourage you to share your King Tides photography with the King Tides Project, the MyCoast App and your local National Estuary Program (if you are in one of those watersheds). Thank you for helping your community to be ready for climate change!

About the author: Tammy Newcomer Johnson is in the ORISE program with EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries team. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science (MEES) program from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she explored the impacts of urbanization on the ecology and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.


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