Same sh*t, different colour uniform…

…is how someone described the result of changing employers to me recently.  It seemed to sum up many people’s experience very nicely, and provided a parallel to my experience today.  For a change I headed north before hitting the sands, and strode out over the dunes at South Shields.

It had originally been my intention to try to find some nice leading lines from the rough fences that criss-cross the dunes, but on discovering that the fences were there for the protection of rare plant species the option to trudge amongst them was gone.

And so I reverted to type, walking the high water mark in search of interesting flotsam, chatting to kite surfers, and photographing anything that caught my eye, which was much the same as I usually shoot at Whitburn!

The two kite surfers were Mick and Mark, two brothers out celebrating the latter’s birthday with a bracing dose of sea spray.  If you enlarge the vertical shot with the kite at the top, you’ll see Mark horizontal in the breakers.  You certainly know how to party guys!



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.)


Another bright and sunny day but the anemometer is accelerating bring the kite surfers back to the waves.  The waves themselves remain as powerful as ever and continue to bring interesting objects ashore.

It seemed to me that it was about time I shifted my attention away from the man-made objects on the beach to more natural finds.

The first wasn’t washed ashore, but was a tiny patch of bents grass, the plant that gives the area its name.  Peaking through the dry sand I like the strands of colour that it provided.

A little further and the plant-life got a whole lot bigger.  The bents grass has strong roots that help to bind together the sand at the edge of the beach.  This tree was clearly not so resilient.

From this angle I thought it was reminiscent of a scorpion!

And finally I spotted a small fish, breaking through the waves.  Its colouring suggested that it wasn’t indigenous to the area and the journey had clearly taken its toll upon the little creature, but it’s actually my favourite picture today.

As I left the beach I spotted today’s portrait subject hurrying to the bus stop.  Luckily the bus wasn’t due so I had the opportunity to shoot a couple of images.  Thanks Carol.

Thereby hangs a tale…

On my way home from Darlington today I had nearly reached my destination when I spotted a flash of green in the skies to my right.  A quick glance confirmed it was a power kite, and there were others hovering over the shoreline.

My leather shoes were never made for coastal photography so I continued on my way and soon my thoughts turned to lunch, and shortly after that I began to wade through the day’s emails.

About an hour later I noticed that the sky was darkening, so thought I’d better get out and find a portraiture subject before the rain came.  As I approached the sea front I saw the huge billowing sails of the power kiters once again, which was a stroke of luck as it had already begun to rain and more sensible folk were seeking shelter.

Jogging down the beach, the otherwise deserted sands were littered with the debris of water sports; a lonely kite, presumably staked down, rattled its trailing edges against the wind, a number of small surf boards dotted the waterline, and languishing amidst them all was a complete windsurfing board.  Their owners were presumably the five brave souls at sea, heaving against the reins of their airborne steeds.

One soon came ashore, which is how I met Rusty who explained that he would like to see any decent shots that I got, so we exchanged details.  Foolishly I didn’t shoot a head and shoulders of him at the time, but here’s a more candid shot.

The combination of fading light, the need for fast shutter speeds to capture action, and an extended zoom lens meant that I was shooting at a high ISO, never great for detail but in these conditions the compromise was essential.  The resulting images have a lot of “noise”, but I’d rather that than not have them at all.  Moments like this don’t come along too often (sorry Rusty, it isn’t you!).Rusty told me that he and his fellow surfers (who included his father) had been there for three and half hours!  I could understand the enthusiasm given the adrenalin boosting conditions, but I noticed that he and the others weren’t wearing gloves.  I’d been there only ten or fifteen minutes and could feel my hands chilling against the focus ring of my telephoto lens so this seemed like madness!

As if to make a point the rain stepped up a gear, bordering on sleet, so I ran back to terra firma to shelter both me and my equipment, pausing only to grab another, wider shot before I left.  Looks like the guys had decided enough was enough too  I really like this one (though the noisiness may have encouraged me to over work it) – it looks like some alien scouting party coming ashore as a prelude to a greater invasion.

Shame I didn’t get a better one of Rusty in action.  Wonder if he knows the guy who was in my last favourite surfer shot?