Sprung

Finally a sign that Winter is relinquishing its grip.

Not only did the sun shine, but it did its best to raise the air temperature too.  Not enough to have the beach swarming with swim suited sun worshippers, but enough to create a haziness as water vapour rose from wet sand into warm air.  The thermometer had climbed into double figures.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to shoot at first.  There was a moment of drama with a runaway horse when I first arrived, but it was already moving away from me, presenting me with poor angles and a diminishing subject.     I wasn’t in the mood to go looking for portraits so that left me with landscapes to get started with.  The beach was stonier than usual, still bearing the shrapnel of every winter storm, so I incorporated these into a few shots.  Nice enough results, but I remained unsatisfied. (click any image to open a full size slideshow without the cropping)

Maybe some candids would do?  I switched to street photographer mode but there was little to interest me.  The three elderly couples sitting and staring out to see lacked any sort of animation to lift them out of blandness.  I took a few shots, but they went straight into the recycle bin once I began processing.   As I mused on what to try next another sign of Spring appeared.  This lady is a regular rider along the coast, and I have not seen her for some months, or if I have she was so wrapped up in waterproofs as to be unrecognisable.  Good to see her in her vernal plumage._MG_1034

Looking back to the waterline I saw my chance.  A small group of men seemed to be taking turns to race a horse-drawn buggy along the expanse of sand exposed by the retreating tide (or maybe it was the same guy with a group of fans waiting to judge every run he made).  If he set off once more, I would have time to get into position before he made the turn to come back and perhaps get some shots that captured the action.  I was in luck.

As he raced South, I ran down to the shore to find a spot somewhere near the tracks he had left, thinking as I did that I must remain visible even if crouching.  Being mown down by a galloping horse wasn’t on my to-do list today.  The first shot was good, the angle allowing me to see the faces of both horse and rider, as well as a flowing mane to create movement.

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The second shot was good too.  Horse airborne and sharp, muscles, veins and ribs revealed by the oblique lighting.

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And then the third.  Initially I felt it lacked something.  Shot side on, the lack of any angle made it feel flat, but the mane and tail flowed nicely.  Could I give it anything in processing?  Judge for yourself.  I found the use of overlays to dirty the sky and sand helps give more movement and drama.  This is my favourite, but which one is yours?

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Sun, sea, sand, and ……

I’ve photographed many of those who find exercise and recreation in the waters off Whitburn and Seaburn; the many board riders, propelled by sail, kite, paddle or wave, the kayakers and even the open water swimmers.  Consequently when I walked the beach today I wasn’t sure who or what I’d shoot.

The wind and waves were combining to give a constant stream of rolling breakers, but there were few taking advantage; most of those who braved the sea were of the run in and straight out again variety.

Still there were the occasional images that prompted me to raise the camera to my eye; a family with a shared love of sartorial millinery,

an old man keeping guard over the clothes while others paddled (well someone has to!)

and the inevitable evidence of the totem builders who try to build mysticism from driftwood!A little further along and I spotted a group on horseback, racing on the soft sands and then cooling their steeds in the shallows.  I remember shooting a horse on Whitburn beach a few years back and thinking it was a an unusual event.  Now they seem to be part of the fixtures and fittings, but I’ve not photographed them in the same way as I have other beach users.

As I neared the group there was one woman whose mount stood out to me as a particularly fine specimen, but I’m no equestrian.  Nevertheless I like the way its muscles are sculpted by the light.  As I said a fine specimen, contrasting with the mount of one of the other riders.  Bet the dog was worried!Today’s picture is of Sid whose aquiline features reminded me of a young Martin Landau.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d spoken to me with an American accent.  (He didn’t.)

Fireflies and Serenity*

If you were watching the Jubilee concert yesterday, you will have seen that at the culmination of the evening, HRH took a large crystal, shaped inevitably like a diamond, and like an octogenarian Bond villain, inserted into a podium where it spiralled downwards to active her weapon of world domination.  In reality it was a particularly ostentatious means of lighting a flaming beacon, the final flame in a chain of over four thousand that had travelled around the globe.

In Sunderland there was an attempt to echo the events of the Mall; the cliff tops at Roker played host to a day of entertainment before culminating in the ignition of their beacon and a fireworks display, which though impressive paled into insignificance when compared to the pyrotechnics playing out over Buckingham Palace.

Here in Whitburn, things were more restrained.  Another beacon was lit, witnessed by a car park full of interested parties, and accompanied by a lone bagpiper.  In yesterday’s breeze the basket was soon ablaze, providing an opportunity to create some interesting worm-like spark trails with a timed exposure.  The ferocity of the flame soon consumed the fuel and the event was over after I’d managed to capture no more than a dozen frames or so.

After the Thames Pageant on Saturday, and the concert yesterday, today seemed quiet by comparison.  Taking my daughter Holly to work we were delayed in an unlikely fashion.  A skittish horse was at the traffic lights,  and was frisky enough to cause the taxi driver following to maintain a generous distance.  So generous in fact that his vehicle wasn’t close enough to trigger a change in the lights, so we waited in vain for a green light.  Eventually he seemed to understand the problem, and negotiated with the rider to give him a clear berth as he drew alongside her.

When I reached my favourite stretch of beach it was calm and deserted, but for one solitary dog walker in the distance, and a group of boat thieves who seemed unable to get the vessel moving. 

Hearing a noise behind me I thought I might be in luck, but it was the unpredictable equine once more.  I wasn’t getting too close with my camera, and watching horse and rider progress along the water line I was happy with my decision.  Even the tiny waves in the breaking surf were startling the beast, though they were no more than a few inches high.

Returning to my car and I found a man sitting on the fence alongside it.  From a cast list of only one, he had to be my subject for today, which sounds a bit like desperation but not a bit of it.  I really like the resulting picture.  Thanks Ken.

*Must have been having a Joss Whedon moment!

Walk, Don’t Walk

One of the aspects of cycling that I always enjoyed was the fact that I became aware of so much more of my surroundings when I was on two wheels.  That degree of awareness is multiplied when on foot, and on a beautiful spring day there was no reason not to make the most of the opportunity.

The Sunderland/Everton game was over, so there was nothing keeping people at home – there should be plenty of potential subjects to photograph.

Hitching a lift with Gill as she went to the hairdresser I decided to walk the mile and a half from Cleadon to Whitburn in search of images.  I was soon proved right; there were lots of people out and about, but the problem was that nobody was walking.

Two beautiful girls on horseback would have looked great, but getting them to stop and control their steeds on a busy road wasn’t really on.

I turned onto the quieter Moor Lane where I spotted a couple of pedestrians up ahead… …and walking away from me!  There were plenty of others heading my way, but they were all in cars.  As I reached the outskirts of the village I thought there would be more people about on foot, but there were no immediate signs of walking life.  I began toying with the idea of trying to photograph someone who was driving.  Technically challenging due to the need for a fast shutter speed to reduce motion blur, and perhaps a polarising filter to remove windscreen glare.  It was a matter of desperation really.

One local resident looked at me with a degree of superiority.They clearly had no intention of walking anywhere, but then my luck changed.  No one that I could stop and shoot, but at least they were moving slowly enough to get in focus.

And then a car, but a convertible so no glare issues.

And finally my subject: a masterpiece of co-ordination; his clothing blue and white, like his hair, beard and bicycle.  I didn’t stop him, but we were at least able to exchange an acknowledgement through eye contact and then he was past me and gone forever – a case in point of the advantages of pre thinking your camera settings and being ready for likely eventualities.

As I returned home I did finally find another pedestrian though!