Isn’t it funny how the most familiar places in our lives, no matter how majestic they may be, are often the ones we most take for granted? When I lived in New York, I never gave a second thought to the Empire State Building until a childhood friend paid me a visit and we trekked up to the observation deck. I had been living and working in the shadow of the venerable building for years, but up there that afternoon it all seemed brand new, the experience and the sweeping views of the city giving me a whole new appreciation for the structure and the city.
I had a similar experience on my last trip to Martinique when I was lucky enough to enjoy a view of Mt. Pelée from the unique vantage point pictured here.
I’m on a boat. Specifically, I’m on a dive boat killing time while a few friends explore the wreck of the Roraima 150+ feet below. (Click here for more on the incredible wreck dives in Saint-Pierre). Being the slightly less than novice diver that I am (more on that another day), I took the opportunity to spend some quality alone time with the legendary volcano and attempt to capture an image of her without her usual shroud of clouds.
It wasn’t a particularly windy day, so for awhile I thought that the lead image above would be the best I could manage. For sure, it was among the best photos I had ever snapped of the mountain in all of my annual trips to Martinique over the past six years. On each of those other occasions, I photographed Mt. Pelée from some land-based location, usually in or around the town of Saint-Pierre, with which the mountain is so intrinsically linked. Each time, the shy volcano hid behind the clouds, teasing me with fleeting winks of green, but no clear views to her crest.
This time, though, was different…
The earlier clouds eventually shifted position behind the volcano, revealing the full breadth of the mountain in all its awe-inspiring glory.
From my floating perch out at sea, it was impossible not to think about the fateful day in 1902 when Mt. Pelée changed Saint-Pierre forever. The distance from the peak to the city seems so far that it’s hard to imagine the eruption wiped out the entire area… and virtually everyone in it. Harder still to imagine is that had I been where I stood in the middle of the Bay of Saint-Pierre on the day of the eruption, I would most certainly have perished as well.
Photographing Mt. Pelée from the sea certainly gave me a deeper appreciation for the history of what happened here, inspiring me to take this last shot…
I hadn’t much used the grainy black and white art filter on my Olympus Pen e-p1 camera before, but in this instance it seemed appropriate. To me, this last image captures the emotion of the Mt. Pelée story as I was experiencing it that day out at sea, the tragic history of the grainy past combining with the awesome beauty of the landscape today to create a unique photo-op I’ll remember for a lifetime.