In my small corner
If you have had a background similar to mine, the words of an old song learned at Sunday School may well be still in your memory: "you in your small corner and I in mine." On Friday evening I found myself in a small corner.
Rather belatedly I had decided to go to White Rocks strand for sunset and as I strode onto the beach I was prepared for the fact that on such a beautiful evening others would have a similar plan. What I hadn't anticipated was an entire cohort of photographers scattered, tripods at the ready, across the part of the beach I normally like to photograph. With a few cheery 'hellos' - from which I gathered that the photographers were French - I made my way to the only place where I could see I would not be spoiling anyone else's view: right at the end of the beach, where the cliffs take over. I was literally in my own small corner.
The sun was already low in the sky and I had only a few short minutes to set up to catch the last direct light on the ripples in the sand. (I'm not sure why it is that I am rarely early for sunset. I know I should plan to be in location with at least 30 minutes to spare but somehow it almost never happens, with the result that in the end it is a rush. Rushing is not the best way to approach the landscape.)
With the intensity of the sunlight decreasing rapidly I turned my camera in the other direction, discovering that a handy rock outcrop would serve to conceal the crowds on the beach, if I placed the camera low to the sand, and make it appear that I was the only one there. That also had the effect of highlighting the ripples. I tried a slightly different angle, which dramatically changed the view of the ripples, making them look (in my wife's view at least) like the scales of some giant beach monster! With the sun finally below the horizon, I began to investigate the various rocks and pools in my small corner of the beach. Getting down low and using a wide angle lens seemed a good way to go in order to make the most of these details.
The 'afterglow' of sunset was now becoming particularly intense with strong tones of red, pink and orange as well as a deep blue colouring the scene.
By now (around 10pm) I had the beach to myself, apart from a happy group of young adults who had lit a bonfire and were enjoying the chilly evening air and each other's company. I made my way back up the beach to where I hoped I might be able to capture some reflections of the limestone cliffs in the pools of sea water left on the sand.
This was my favourite photo of the evening as for me it brought together the main elements of this spectacular beach and captured the serenity and beauty of a gorgeous May evening. And perhaps it taught me a lesson. It certainly made me reflect. Constraints are not always a bad thing. Being 'forced' to stay still, spend time in just one place, to change the angle, to explore the smaller details, to savour the all too fleeting moments and experience rather than just see.
As I made my way back I came across a piece of driftwood, angled across the beach. And I couldn't resist a final few photographs. I also notice a small stream flowing directly across the beach from the cliffs behind to the sea. What a combination! So I adjusted the position of the driftwood, stood in the middle of the stream and happily took my shot.
Only then I discovered that what I had thought was a particularly fine piece of black wood had in fact spent some time in a beach bonfire! My hands were now covered in soot, as was one of my filters. Photography was well and truly over for the evening.
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