Surfisher, this will be a long reply but I want to give you the whole story, which I know.
We sell this photo at Yellowhousehave for years.
Three years or so ago, I had a customer who knew the photographer personally. I met her later that fall and here is the story from Linda Westerman, the person who took the original photographs. BTW, all of these copies which are for sale at YH are now signed by Linda, and I tell the story to anyone who will listen!
Back in the summer of 1972, Linda was a college student who was waitressing on the OB in the summer, earning money for school. (You could actually do that back then! Earn money enough for college expenses, I mean.) Linda was a fine art major with a concentration in photography. She had her own b&w darkroom. Among the assignments she had to photograph for her senior portfolio was a believable "trick" photograph, made by stacking two or more negatives together. She worked and photographed here all summer, and she made this composite photo with no intention of deceiving Outer Bankers; all she needed to do was "deceive" (wink-wink) her professor who had given out the assignment. She took one photo of a row of cottages. Her best recollection was that these were in Kitty Hawk. Took the photo on a day without pretty puffy clouds...she needed the top 2/3 of the negative to be image-free. Then, during a summer squall, she took a close-up of some large waves. Put the negative of the waves in the top of the frame showing the cottages, and exposed them together in her darkroom to create the print. Eventually she gave a print, or prints away and at least one remained behind in a local restaurant. Summer ended, she and other students left the beach...but the picture remained.
Eventually somebody said, gosh, Ash Wednesday...what else could it be?
No one remembered the waitress who had taken the photographwhich was taken in 1972, not 1962.
Different folks wanted a copy. The picture was taken down, copied, passed around, sold. Some time later, some enterprising person took a copy to a printer and had the lettering added: Ash Wednesday, Kitty Hawk, 1962... a bunch of stores bought copies wholesale. A few still remained in inventory when Pete and I bought the gallery late in 2005.
Linda was gracious, came to the Outer Banks from VA where she lives, brought her original negatives so I could see her files (and a bunch of others from that summer as well) and signed my prints for me. I now share revenue with her every time I sell one and the signature helps buyers remember the story I tell.
David Stick never included it in his Ash Weds. Storm book because he was suspicious of its authenticity, since it never surfaced in the years immediately after the storm, and the photographer's identity was unknown.
And that is the Real Story of the "Ash Weds Storm" photo!