Continuing my exploration of the long exposure technique with another lighthouse – sort of.

I’ve come to the mouth of the Tyne where lights are in abundance.  Glance across to the north bank of the river and you see the high lights and low lights of North Shields.

In contrast to many stories of the destruction wrought by Henry VIII in these posts, this time he was responsible for something positive.  In 1536 he granted permission for the construction of a pair of leading lights to enable shipping entering the Tyne to avoid the rocks of Black Middens just below the ruins of Tynemouth Priory and the shifting sands of South Shields.  Two fortified towers were constructed (the originals served a defensive as well as a navigational purpose), and by aligning the lights one above the other the sailor could find a safe route when the hazards were hidden by the high tides.  Since the lights within were provided by tallow candles I suspect they were limited in their usefulness when conditions were harsh.

Two hundred years later it was necessary to build new towers when a dispute arose between the company managing the lights, and the governor of the fortification that had been built in the 17th century.  His decision to build a house that obscured on of the two lights must have angered many, but when you’re sitting in a fortification with troops and cannon you have the upper hand in negotiations.

The shifting course of the river meant that the High and Low Lights were rebuilt once more in 1808 and the old buildings decommissioned though in the picture you can still see the old High Light, helpfully painted in cream.  It’s partner was painted over in darker colours to prevent confusion with their successors.

Of course if asked about the Tyne lighthouses, most would think of the structures that mark the ends of the guardian piers.  I opted to save myself a couple of miles of walking by heading elsewhere.  Herd Groyne was built in the late 19th century when those piers changed the flow of currents at the river mouth, threatening the shifting sands with erosion.  Adding another light here gave a further navigational option, and one which in time supplanted the twin towers opposite.  Vessels entering the river on the correct course are shown a white spotlight, those that veer south a red light, those heading too far north, a green.

I could have done with some guidance too as I encountered new frustrations in the terra nova of long exposure shots.  I’m getting some light leaks at present (than heavens for Photoshop) and though today the wind was non-existent my heavy lens was too much for a tripod on sand so that the image blurred as my equipment sank lower.  At 10 minutes per exposure I was continually frustrated that the camera was out of action as other things happened around me – dippers emboldened by my lack of movement came incredibly close, but I was unable to take advantage.  I vented by shooting abstracts of the water’s edge.

Another 10 minutes wasted when I found my resultant image was pure white – I forgot to fit the filter!  Too much light.

Finally I nailed it, and with such long exposures was able to ignore the others milling around the sea wall in the knowledge they would blur into nothingness.  It seems however that I was shooting the wrong thing – this guy took ages setting up his tripod so that he could get the perfect shot of….

His footwear?

Maybe I was on the right track after all.



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