No half measures



In the game of Othello or Reversi the pieces flip from black to white and vice versa.  There is no intermediate state, no compromise.

In digital computer code a switch is either on or off, a “1” or a “0”.  There is no alternative.

It seems that the weather patterns reaching these islands are following a similar pattern at present.  Bright sunshine.  Heavy Rain,  More bright sunshine.  Guess what’s on the way?

Luckily this morning coincided with one of the drier interludes.  It was actually pretty warm in the sunshine, and a number of walkers were taking the opportunity provided by larger pieces of driftwood to have a seat, catch some rays, and let their dogs do the work of exercising themselves.

For me there was little drama in these clear skies to shoot so I contented myself with changing tints through white balance adjustments.  Corporate HQ wall paper stuff really.

With Jimmy seated, and me on a sloping beach I was able to get an angle to shoot him and his dog which gave me a different style of picture.  The bright sun leaves no choice but to burn out the highlights to white if you want any detail from the shadows (or a dark dog), but I’m happy with the outcome.

Now to get the waterproofs ready for tomorrow.




An Alien Discovery

Another idyllic day on the Whitburn coast.  Perfect for a wedding, some cricket practice, or a little propagation perhaps.

Strolling to the shore I spotted something out of place here amongst this leisurely activity.  There was a man on the beach, working at a table.  What could he be doing, and why there?

I was here as usual to see what I might find of interest on and around the beach, and I wasn’t disappointed.  There’s a lot of driftwood about still, but you can create something a little less commonplace even with a single piece.As I drew nearer to the man it became obvious what he was up to.  Having written only yesterday decrying the artistic and cultural appetites of my fellow Wearsiders, here was an artist at work.He was painting the Fisherman’s Cottages, a landmark of the area, though one that I usually have at my back when photographing the boats in the lagoon.  He was Robert Soden, an artist who has been chronicling the changes within the City of Sunderland through his paintings for a couple of decades.  How ironic that I should meet him after yesterday’s blog, and even more so that he should provide one of my favourite portraits of late.

Thanks Robert.


Europe Photobloggers Meetup 2008
Europe Photobloggers Meetup 2008 (Photo credit: Carlos Lorenzo)

I’ve recently been inspired by the work of David Nightingale, a photographer based in Blackpool, who is renowned for creating dramatic imagery using Photoshop to enhance colours, tones and contrasts.  Have a look at some of his work here on his website

In one of his images a simple broken bucket, left abandoned on the shore, becomes a work of artistry, and with this in mind I set off to walk the high water line today looking for opportunity.  I’m not claiming a similar skill level, but wanted to see what I might learn from using some of his techniques.   I shot this one almost as soon as I arrived, so felt confident of some success anyway.

Between the piers at Roker I was astonished at the volume of driftwood washed onto the shore.  I don’t walk this stretch very often, so it could be the result of a long-term build up, but the difference here compared to the beach beyond the sea wall was remarkable.  Most of the driftwood carried down the Wear seems to struggle to get out to sea, so is regurgitated onto the high water mark.  Stepping through it feels like disturbing the nests of a group of pteranodons.

Surprisingly there was little here but wood (and the occasional spent shotgun shell) so I moved on, but not before I spotted the opportunity for this shot.

Away from the timber, and moving north I spotted two possibilities amongst the littoral litter.  A child’s blue spade provided the first opportunity, but didn’t turn into anything of interest, but a pink ball, not much more substantial than a balloon ran playfully about the sand propelled by the onshore breeze.

Though decorated with a large cartoon strawberry, the ball had a will of its own and refused to displays this side of its personality to the camera.  Never mind, it still gave me something interesting to work with, though I don’t think Mr Nightingale will lose any sleep!

I wasn’t the only beachcomber today, for at South Bents Judith and her two children were looking for interesting pieces of driftwood and collecting them into a small carrier bag.  Judith explained that they were wanting to do something creative with them.  Snap!  Her hair and scarf make great details for a portrait too.

Look what the sea washed up…

I’ve lived by the sea for the last couple of decades, although I’ve always been within a couple of miles of the coast.  One of the things that I love about the location is the way in which the seascape is forever changing.  I’ve long believed that the short stretch of shoreline could produce something new to photograph everyday.  (Rest assured I’ve shot enough images there that I’m no longer sufficiently obsessed to start another project365!)

When I say that the shoreline could produce something new everyday this is no exaggeration.  Anyone familiar with changing shorelines will know that the sea is constantly depositing gifts along the high water mark.

Stormy seas such as those we have experienced lately will wrench seaweed from its anchorage and leave the sands strewn with slippery strands of fragrant brown kelp.  Small stones and pebbles are always part of the shoreline debris, but large rocks can also be thrown up by more potent waves.

Then there are the man-made deposits.  Fragments of brick are common, planks of driftwood, fragments of fishing nets and garish marine ropes are all unsurprising finds, along with the inevitable litter; plastics bottles and sweet wrappings are common.

Thankfully the shoreline hazards of my youth are no longer found.  Beaches are no place to find broken glass, and rockpools afloat with used condoms?  No thank you.

The combination of cold, wind and rain meant  that whilst there was plenty of material for the passing beachcomber, there were very few about to spot such exotica as this:

The one person I did meet on the sands was Sheila, but with so little of her exposed to the elements I didn’t feel she quite met the requirements for today’s portrait, which is a shame since she was so co-operative.

Perhaps there were other factors at play in keeping people off the beach.  One of the side effects of organic matter like weed and algae being liquidised into the seawater is that it creates a detergent like effect.  Combine this with winds to whip it into a foam and you get spume.  This is a relatively minor amount – in extreme cases it has reached a metre high on beaches elsewhere on the globe, but it can be hazardous if it contains contaminated storm drain overflows or algal blooms.

To be fair it’s easily avoided, but another trap was in store today.  Normally  the sand above high water is soft and dry, but firmer footing is found on the sea-washed stretches where the sand is more compacted.  I was surprised then that when I reached this section today I began to sink further into the sand, which was more mud-like than expected.  There must have been so much rain of late, that combined with the receding seawater there was too much to easily drain away, leaving the shoreline akin to thick soup.

No wonder the place was deserted, but I still wanted more of a portrait.  Well, every cloud has a silver lining, and for the first time in a while there wasn’t a queue of hungry customers at the window of any of the fish and chip suppliers.  As I arrived at Minchella’s (probably the best) I found three members of staff passing the time with little hope of custom.  One of them made a break for cover, but Claire and Heather remained to be photographed.  I knew I had a semi-prepared meal at home. but the smell of chips took a lot of willpower to resist.  They’re still on my mind now!