Coincidence or Something Subliminal?

Having photographed a number of waves yesterday, and chosen a surfer for my portrait I wanted an appropriate title.  Soft Cell‘s “Say Hello and Wave Goodbye” was playing on my mind for some time, but even the most tenuous links to my pictures weren’t happening for me, so I ended up with a song by Sting against my better judgement.  To be fair, I do love the Dream of the Blue Turtles, probably because the band he assembled included a shipload of jazz talent including Omar Hakim, Kenny Kirkland and the incredibly lyrical saxophonist Branford MarsalisLove is the Seventh Wave provided my inspiration; appropriate as there is an urban myth amongst surfers that the 7th wave is always better than the six that precede it.

Anyway, I digress.  Earlier in the day before deciding on my wave theme I had an idea that shooting people candidly at bus stops might be interesting.  Waiting for buses requires people to find a way of passing the time or engaging in polite, and perhaps unwanted, conversation with someone else in the queue.  Either might produce some interesting expressions or movement.

I shot a few odds and ends but was saving myself for the bus station thinking that I would find a wealth of material there.  It proved otherwise, the waiting areas just weren’t conducive to my needs, but the same harsh light that has been around this week was cutting a swathe through an opening in the side of the building.  I was reminded of another image by Trent Parke from his Dream/Life series, and whilst there wasn’t enough darkness around to replicate the full effect with a wide shot, I was able to frame a couple of passers-by who were dressed in light clothing against a darker background to get the effect shown here.

In each case though I think they needed a mass of normally exposed people around them to give them the truly surreal effect.  As it is they look a lot like mistakes so I gave the idea no more thought.  (This the second time I’ve failed to replicate his work!)

So back to the 7th Wave, and having chosen that option I googled it to remind myself more of the thinking behind the theory, and was vaguely aware that the images option seemed to consist largely of underwater shots of people in turbulent water.  I thought no more of it until this evening when I was researching Mr Parke once more.  There were the same images, from a collection entitled… The Seventh Wave.  How spooky is that?

I went out the following day to shoot my portrait, which is of John, with no attempt to emulate Parke.  I wanted to find someone at a bus stop but bumped into John just beside one (that counts doesn’t it?) and knew I wanted to photograph him.   I’m normally not a fan of spot colour, but when I realised that he would be my entry for 11th November it seemed the right thing to do.

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The Seventh Wave

Sting – Love Is The Seventh Wave

Hearing the weather forecast predicting high winds this morning my intention was to head for the coast in the hope of giant waves breaking over the pier, and more impressively, the lighthouse.  The tide was almost at its high point when I arrived, but there was no sign of monster waves, just more of the bright sunshine that challenged me yesterday.

Still the sun at least provided some backlighting for the spray that the wind was whipping off the wave tops.  This was one of those occasions, in contrast to yesterday, where I think it’s acceptable to have the highlights burn out to pure white as you can see on the left of these images.

Deciding not to go for a portrait in this harsh light I returned later in the afternoon as the sun was starting to set.  It was now at me back as I faced out to sea, giving perfect lighting for the white wave crests and breaking foam.

The sun’s position in the sky had another benefit; casting shadows that revealed the patterns on the sand created by other waves.

Yet it was something else caught by the light that please me most.  A large “cloud” of sea birds, too distant to identify but probably dippers like these, was wheeling about the sky.  Initially impressive for the black shapes they were throwing against the sky’s blue backdrop, as I raised the camera they turned again and the sun caught their pale underbellies in a flash of white.  Sadly their shape disintegrated at the same moment, but they still make a striking sight, like a multitude of stars (though I can’t spot any constellations).

Still no portrait, but as I walked up the shore I spotted a body-boarder retrieving a child’s football from the water, to the delight of his mother.  This was Thomas, still wet from his activity, and with that low sun I had no problem getting that detail into the shot.  (Click on it to enlarge and you’ll see what I mean!)

Flotsam & Jetsam… and Jelly.

I’m on the road today, taxiing my eldest daughter back to the North East from Royal Holloway University in Surrey, so forgive me for writing this yesterday.

The high winds have brought high seas, which means that there is a lot being deposited at the high water mark.

Those helpful people at the RNLI lookout cabin have posted a notice for passers-by to read that warns of two threats to your enjoyment of the beach;  one is that jellyfish are particularly prevalent at the moment, and the other is that there are “weaver fish” (sic) in the area.  Now this is the same beach that I grew up with, paddled in, and occasionally swam in (really, it’s not that warm), and whilst there have always been occasions when the beach has been littered with stranded jellies, I have never encountered a weever fish.

These little beauties bury themselves in the sand and complete their defence with a row of poisonous spines.  The name weever (not weaver) is probably derived from the French word for serpent “wivre” and the sting, which is extremely painful, has been mistaken for a snake bite.

Now when I was small we walked the beach barefoot, so I can only assume that finding weevers here is a recent development.  We did have plastic beach sandals (called jellies because of their construction material, not their purpose) but these were largely reserved for going rock pooling.

The jellyfish too are more plentiful now than they used to be, not just locally, but in all of the waters around the UK.  There are three reasons for this, and directly or indirectly we are to blame for all of them.  The first is the seepage of excess fertilizer from our farms into our watercourses and ultimately into the sea, where the growth of plankton is boosted, providing jellyfish with a plentiful supply of food.

The second reason is down to our overfishing of the same seas.  We have removed the predators that would once have eaten the jellyfish and kept their populations in check.  Finally the climate change resulting from global warming is putting pressure on many species, but the jellyfish seem are thriving because they are more adaptable.

So our beach problems are largely self-inflicted and they don’t end there.  Torness nuclear power plant was forced to shut down when the water intake became blocked with a bloom of jellyfish.  The cleaning operation required them to remove several tonnes of jelly.

This is one of the most remarkable things about the creatures; their composition.  Just as our brains are a mysterious piece of tissue that have no mechanical function to observe with the naked eye, so this entire creature mysteriously lacks the systems we expect to find in animals; respiratory, digestive, central nervous system and so on.  It doesn’t seem to have hampered them as they pulse along, paralysing and then absorbing the nutrients from their prey.

Since I had an old pair of trainers on, I went in search of these creatures at the water’s edge where the only creature deposited was a dead shag. 

Luckily I did find Wilf who became my portrait today.

Postscript – clearly the journey has befuddled my brain; forgetting that I had written this I spotted Dave, his features sculpted by an overhead light at Woodall Services on the way back home.  Be a shame not to include him too!