I wasn’t sure what to call this post – “clinging to the wreckage”, “penal solitude””epilogue” “heart of darkness” and more occurred, but let me explain why. A while ago I blogged about an unsatisfactory visit to Saltwick Bay, but what I revealed in that post was only part of the story.
For the last couple of years J has been a huge part of my life; at various times my friend, lover, confidant, adviser, inspiration and so much more. I’ve never known anyone like her, but on the day of that visit to Saltwick a series of events began that ultimately ended our relationship. I’d gone there on the day for some thinking time but one of the unhelpful factors was the fact that in my journeying to and fro over the North Yorkshire Moors, and while I was there I had no phone signal. I’m not going to share the grisly details, but suffice to say, no matter how important we were to each other we were unable to find a way to deal with the less winning aspects of our personalities (mainly mine) and that lack of communication didn’t help.
So faced with an unwelcome amount of freedom this weekend I returned to do what I didn’t do on that day, take my time over capturing something worthwhile. Ironic when I’d just lost something so much more worthwhile.
My favourite time for photography on the North Sea coast is sunrise, and whilst that comes later at this time of year, the need to drive for 75 minutes, descend the cliffs and then navigate my way to my objective made it an early start. The moon took pity on me and provided some illumination, but I was glad of my head torch as I reached the more muddy and slippery stretches of the path down the cliffside.
I almost tripped over the corpse at the foot of the steps. Washed out and swollen, it’s greyness allowing it to blend perfectly with the rocks that marked the beginning of the beach. The large seal whose flesh I photographed last time had been washed about 100 yards further north in the intervening weeks and the wound in its throat had grown to the point of decapitation but I’m sure it was the same cadaver. Time to get moving.
I knew that the tide had just turned and was making its way out so I wasn’t at risk of being cut off, but being unfamiliar with the area I didn’t know how great an impact it would have on me heading south to find the wreck in that picture from the unknown photographer.
I grabbed a couple (yeah right) of shots of Black Nab and then set about dealing with the fact that my objective was still out of easy reach. There was a gap between the waves and the cliffs, but it was a gap strewn with boulders from the cliffs above. Boulders slick with seawater, lubed with algae, carpeted with kelp and rocking under the nervous steps of a photographer picking his way with all of the grace of a pig on castors. In my need to avoid damage to camera and tripod I wedged my feet into cracks, hoping that I wouldn’t end up turning an ankle. (Make that a giraffe on castors).
With no one aware of my trip that missing mobile reception haunted me again. The boulders were easier to negotiate nearer the cliff, but after a day of heavy rain these were perfect conditions for further rockfalls. The Buff I was wearing to protect my ears from near zero temperatures and strong winds no longer seemed adequate. I mention this because yesterday I heard a radio play based on the writings of Emile Zola in which an artist’s obsession with creating a masterpiece lead to the death of his son, his own suicide and the insanity of his partner. I felt I’d lost enough this week already.
Eventually I crossed the divide and reached a shelf of flat stone. Tempting to gain momentum, but even more slippery than the boulders and so I continued slowly. As a consequence I reached my goal after the sun had risen, but it was still partly submerged so I was never going to create anything as striking as the image that inspired me in the first place.