On A Cold & Frosty Morning

Stepping away from the heat generated by my last post and into the cold of a wintry Yorkshire, I returned to the town of Whitby in the hope of shooting a beautiful sunrise over the headland where the Abbey ruins are silhouetted. At this time of year the alignment means that from just out at sea this should be possible.

There are two issues with this; the first relatively easily resolved. Shooting from the sea, even were I to charter a boat would be a technical nightmare, necessitating fast shutter speeds to cancel out the boat’s movement, but in low light that would mean very noisy low quality images. The light trail made by one small vessel demonstrates my point, and that  was from within the protection of the harbour.  Fortunately the town has a solution.

Whitby has a plethora of piers. I exaggerate of course but on either side of the mouth of the River Esk are stone piers with a history that goes back to the 16/17th Century (though there had been wooden structures to protect the port since the early 14th). In the early 1900’s these were augmented by a pair of extensions that reached further out into the North Sea.

That level of engineering is no longer justified in a town where fishing and exports of alum are no longer major industries and the piers have suffered; the bridge linking the East Pier extension to its parent is long gone so it is now accessible only by boat. Scarborough Borough Council now faces the challenge of how to maintain, repair these structures and though economically unattractive they are so much a part of the town that any proposal to scale back or abandon them would be controversial.

The West Pier extension is still intact however and so I found my spot to wait in the January cold for the sun do its job. And here was my second issue.

Being an hours drive away from Whitby requires a certain amount of commitment to be there before first light, a commitment that there is no guarantee will be repaid. Even in January I had to be up at 5.45 and as the year progresses so earlier sunrise makes a return trip less likely. So I gambled on the sun repaying my enthusiasm.

Sure enough the sky began to develop a pink tint just above the ruins. It grew brighter and spread a little further, and then… nothing. Gone. Just the clouds, the sea, the cold and the walk back to town along that pier.  


At least the tourists and Goths that throng the streets hadn’t risen yet so I could capture some more genuine local colour.

I did at least catch the golden hour around the marina as a consolation prize, and amongst the seabirds found an unexpected sight.  At least there was some red about that winter’s morning.



The seaside town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coastline, may seem like a typical seaside town relying on sandy beaches, fish and chips and amusement arcades for trade, especially in summer.  The town has had an eventful history however.  _PW_5004_3_5-Edit

The ruined abbey that dominates the town from its clifftop setting dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, and it was here that the differing views of how Easter should be dated were reconciled at the Synod of Whitby in the seventh century.  Viking raids, Henry VIII’s dissolution, and WWI naval bombardment have left the abbey as a shell, but its raised position enables it to maintain a dramatic silhouette against the northern skies.

Once the home of a great fishing fleet, the economy has suffered as fish stocks have dwindled, but by encouraging leisure boat owners to moor in the River Esk they continue to make good use of the port where the explorers William Scoresby and more notably James Cook learnt their trade, the latter commemorated through a museum, statue and a pub named after his ship, the Endeavour.

_PW_5052The town is also noted for its bi-ennial Goth Weekend, though purists feel that the event has been watered down by other sub cultures like Steam-Punk and Victorian Vampires attending, together with the scores of photographers who wish to take advantage of willing models.  (I have so far resisted the temptation).

What is it that draws them all to Whitby?  Perhaps the visit in 1890 of Abraham Stoker explains a lot, for when he set to writing his classic gothic novel he chose for his anti-hero to come ashore here and visit both the graveyard of St Mary’s atop the hill and the abbey ruins.
I don’t know what time of year it was when Bram Stoker came to Whitby, but if you’re looking for a day that would inspire a writer to share an account of a shipwrecked vampire and his eventual demise then a January such as this wouldn’t be too unsuitable for Count Dracula.  The clouds would have provided ample protection from the sunlight._PW_5033_4_5-Edit