Sea, Sand and Bits of Mellow Fruitfulness*

The end of October means its time to attack the garden.

Hedge trimmers, shears, secateurs and loppers are brought to bear, whilst roses, gooseberry bushes, brambles, and hawthorns deploy their spiny defences.  If I can corrupt a line from The Hissing of Summer Lawns it’s a case of

and on every nettle and thorn,

just a little blood of his own.

Still when the sun chooses to shine there are some seasonal images to capture, and apart from the susurrus of wind on dry leaves there is only the persistent nagging of a cheeky robin.  Like some back seat driver he tweets his advice from the safety of the tangled bushes; close enough to be easily seen but too mobile to pose for a shot.

I’d thought that with this horticultural start to the day I should find a portrait subject in the nearby allotments, but whilst there was a blazing fire there was no sign of those who had lit it or anyone else there for that matter.

So down to the sea again where things were somewhat cooler, but I did meet Sue and Denise who overcame different degrees of reluctance to be photographed together.  Close bosom-friends as Keats may say.

*apologies to John Keats whose Ode to Autumn deserves better treatment!

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Wait for the sky*

It is 18 years since Sunderland last had illuminations, an annual event which, whilst smaller than the Blackpool equivalent, still involved miles of lights strung across the coast road, and a number of installations in Roker Park, including the floating tap that I referred to recently.

I was surprised then when Steve (who I photographed last weekend) emailed me to tell me that there were to be some illuminations once more this year, though confined to the park, a decision doubtless welcomed by some of the Seaburn residents who found themselves gridlocked every year.

With the official opening due for 7.00pm I made my way along the coast on foot, expecting that parking would be difficult, and though I was distracted by the combination of a setting sun to the west which bathed the eastern sky in a pink glow I just about made in in time.  Except that the park was closed until 7.25 to allow the gathering crowds an opportunity to “enjoy” the performances of a local school choir and a theatre group from York.  Eventually the gates were opened and we were led into the park by strange umbrella wielding fairies to see the wonders that were in store.It didn’t take long.

A few strings of coloured lights above the pathway, a small coloured fountain in a multi-coloured grotto, the bandstand strung with lights around its canopy, two static tableaux and a few lights in the trees.  Oh, and the ravine bridge, also picked out in white lighting (nothing special, but one of my favourite elements.)  Perhaps the famous tap would be the centrepiece?

I made my way to the boating lake to find a row of half a dozen coloured jets with accompanying music.  Quite pleasant, but not enough to float my boat.  Even in the short time I was there, one of the jets seemed to develop a mind of its own.  Doesn’t bode well!

Still Sue and Abbie seemed to be having fun when Sue asked me to take their picture.  Really don’t like shooting with on camera flash, but I didn’t have an extension cable, and this wasn’t really the time to start setting up pocket wizards.

A little later I decided to try without flash and positioned this couple under a light to give me a fighting chance.  Dragging the shutter to blur the passing crowds was a bigger risk, but I seem to have managed to hold the Canon steady enough, even at 1/25 of a second. Not perfect but I quite like it.

Cutting my losses I walked the 2 miles or so home along a brilliantly moonlit beach.  This was the real illumination event – I just wish I’d brought a tripod!  My favourite picture of the night was one of those that nearly made me late.  Perhaps I should have stuck with the bird in the hand.

*not quite a Jackson Browne song!

50 Shades of Grey

After the rain came the fog.

It’s one of the features of living on the North Sea coast – the mists that can blight any summer’s day by enveloping the coastline in cold and damp.  It may be bright and sunny a few hundred yards inland, fooling many into heading for the beach, only to find the blue skies and golden sands rendered grey by airborne water vapour.

For me as a photographer it’s not without appeal though.  As soon as you walk out of your door you enter a different world.  The cobwebs that yesterday were invisible are now painted silver by the addition of tiny water droplets.  Not such good news for the spiderlings erupting from their nest who are now easily identifiable by any small bird in the vicinity.

On the coast itself, the greyness desaturates many a scene, though this means that if you get close enough to a source of colour, it provides a strong contrast to the blandness all around.

Of course there are some subjects whose greyness means that even a colour image like this looks monotone in these conditions.  It the time of year when the adolescent gulls are on the way to developing adult plumage, losing their speckled browns for solid blocks of grey and white.  Only the golden yellow of their bills brings a touch of colour to their new outfits.

So with colour at a premium, I went in search of something different to create a striking image.  The contrast between light and shade provided by a silhouette amongst these ashen skies.  That I was able to find a suitable spot to enhance this with a reflection was a bonus.

So with all of this greyness it seemed appropriate to shoot a monotone portrait today.  Every other image has been in colour, and I’ve noticed that I tend to use mono more frequently with male subjects than female, but I had no worries today.  Sue’s smile is so fantastic that colour would be an unnecessary distraction.

BTW – if you came across this blog because you were seeking some badly written source of titillation, my apologies for misleading you, if only in part!