Never before have I witnessed such a dramatic scene – fortunately I was in the right place at the right time.
At the end of last month I visited East Head at West Wittering, a place I have photographed and written about many times before on this site. But this time the conditions were very different and they couldn’t have been more atmospheric, moody or in one word spectacular. It was early evening as the drama unfolded before my eyes.
As I walked on the sand I noticed a line of fence posts which roped off a section of the dunes. After all East Head is owned by the National Trust and they are keen to protect this important habitat for wildlife and in particular nesting birds. This was a minimalist image (above) but as I turned round to look in the opposite direction I saw dark clouds gathering fast.
Much has been written in recent times about how the combination of photography and mindfulness can be beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Simply being out in the open, experiencing nature and witnessing the marvel of the created world has to be good for the soul. Most people worry and are anxious from time to time without actually suffering from a mental illness, myself included.
As well as taking regular exercise for your physical fitness, I recognise that doing things which specifically help your mental wellbeing are just as important, perhaps even more so given the world in which we live right now. So whilst stress and anxiety are not really a big issue for me, we can all benefit from being creative in a beautiful location and in so doing capturing a few special moments with a camera.
A few weeks ago I returned to one of my favourite places. East Head at West Wittering on the West Sussex coast. Probably one of the finest stretches of sand along the south coast and often listed in ‘Britain’s Best Beaches’. More often than not I am there with my wife and our dog early in the morning. On this occasion I went there on my own for a couple of hours not to walk but to photograph. I chose one particular spot, and then observed the tide receding and captured the setting sun. Because of the fading light and a desire to smooth the water all of the images you see here were long exposures which of course required the use of a tripod. This in itself forced me to slow down.
With no pressure on my time I could relax and concentrate on what I was doing. Whilst waiting for the light to change I simply stopped and watched the sun work its magic in the sky. Any worrying thoughts I had were lifted; as there was no space in my mind for anything other than photography and the scenery around me. Just ‘being in the moment’ to coin a phrase. Photographing sunsets is something of a cliche, but does that matter? Not in my opinion when the benefits are so tangible.
It has been a while since I last updated this blog and I am pleased to have another three or four entries to compose and publish soon. All of which will feature colour photographs as this seems to be the path I am following for now. I am also aware that I need to spend some time updating this website generally to reflect this change of direction. There are also a number of camera and processing techniques which I have yet to try – for example, focus stacking and exposure blending. Nothing new or original, just something I have never done before, so when I do I will endeavour to write about my experiences and share some images.
For now though I will simply leave you with this summary. If you are a creative (it doesn’t have to be photography), then put aside some time in your diary, head out to a favourite location and turn off your phone. Try and relax and take a few deep breaths, whilst you experience and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, And perhaps for the time you are there some of your worries will ease, as a feeling of calm and stillness prevails.
This shot was taken 9 days ago at West Wittering. A day or two later the beach car park was closed and access became more difficult. We need to drive to this location so it’s now out of bounds and is likely to be for some time to come.
This marker post is I think a rather poignant reminder of how we might be feeling at the moment.
Alone and separated as the waves of change ebb and flow. A dark sky hangs overhead but there is light on the horizon. Our lives have been put on hold, our daily habits altered, we can no longer visit friends or loved ones. But we have been given a new found ‘space’. We now have time to reflect and consider what is truly important in our lives, which in the ‘rush’ is all too easily forgotten.
A few days ago I picked up my new Fuji X100v. In fact it was the first day the black version could be sold to the general public. ‘Who’s a lucky boy then?!’ Well I am because my first impressions have exceeded expectations.
Despite the title, this isn’t a long distance selfie! I am though drawn to lone figures in relatively empty spaces walking along with only their thoughts for company. Perhaps it’s because I can readily empathise with the concept of being on alone in a quiet space. After all there is so much ‘noise’ in this world that it has become something of a luxury and a joy to find somewhere with solitude and even a little silence.
Alone yes, but even here there is the sound of gentle waves lapping against shore and feet squelching as each step lands on the soft wet sand. I just hope this person had the good sense to switch off their mobile phone, or better still left it at home to avoid the temptation to check for messages, emails, likes or comments!
There is of course one other person present, and that’s me the photographer. Photography tends to be a solitary pursuit and I am very happy this should be the case.
As you are looking at this image there is now a third person, you the viewer. For as Ansel Adams once said – ‘There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer’ – and how right he was.
Depending on the device you are using to view this picture, you might like to click on the image to see a larger version, as the main point of interest is very small but hugely relevant!