Happy 2014! And welcome to the final installment of my year-long Shoreham-by-Sea blog project. For the past 52 weeks I have braved all weathers, challenged myself photographically, and made a few people smile along the way. Now it's my turn to be happy! Which is, quite fittingly, the subject of my first image.
This final week was one of the most challenging of all. First, I wanted to bring some seasonal excitement to the project's final images, and second, I wanted to push myself technically. So with sparklers conveniently on sale in my local Tesco, I hatched an ambitious plan to write New Year messages with sparklers against the Shoreham skyline.
I started photographing on December 30th on the Old Shoreham Tollbridge. I chose the location for two reasons - partly the lovely sky colour at the end of the last good-weather day, but mostly the fact that it would likely be deserted, save for a few dog walkers. The less confident I am in what I'm doing, the less I want an audience! It was about four o'clock and I had a little helper - oh yes, the lure of sparklers! I was particularly keen to involve my daughter in my last blog post, given the enormous contribution she's made throughout the project, most notably in Week 26 in the Poppy Fields, and in Week 36 at Shoreham Airport. Worth a look, if you missed these!
Happy!Photographic light painting with sparklers by Shoreham-based Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography
Old Shoreham Tollbridge, 30 Secs @ f/22 ISO 200
So I set up my camera on a tripod, and manually adjusted the settings to ensure that the shutter stayed open for roughly the amount of time I estimated it would take to write HAPPY backwards. Why backwards? Well, the easy way would have been to write from left to right as usual, but as the light needs to be facing the camera, I would have needed to subsequently flip the image in Photoshop which was a) cheating, especially given that I wanted a challenge, and b) inaccurate visually, reversing the scene in front of me. I figured some of my Shoreham readers might notice! So I settled on thirty seconds as my best guesstimate, and in the dim light, attempted to arm my daughter with a lit sparkler.
It was about now that I realised there was a third, even greater challenge: the great British weather. The lighter I'd brought with me produced a teeny, tiny little spark, which in the wind immediately extinguished on contact with the sparkler. The practice-run we'd had in our sheltered back garden bore little resemblance to what we were currently experiencing. After about five minutes, my forefinger was red raw from friction on the metal wheel, and the sparkler remained unlit. More than anything, I was disappointed for my daughter, who had been so looking forward to it, and, determined to help, had been frantically practicing her air writing for at least half an hour!
I wasn't ready to give up! I got down low behind a bush and shielded the lighter and sparkler from the elements as best I could. Another few failed attempts and then, bingo! A spark! At this point, it took both myself and my now deflated nine-year-old completely by surprise. I excitedly yelled somewhat ambitious instructions ("Stand over there.... write as high in the air as you can... try to make each letter last five seconds.... try to keep the letters the same size...." etc), then pressed the shutter.
Wow! My daughter is a complete star! The HAPPY photo (above) was the fantastic outcome of that first and only attempt before the wind grew stronger, and we were forced to come home.
2014! New Year wishes from Shoreham BeachPhotographic light painting with sparklers by Shoreham-based Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography
Widewater, Shoreham Beach, 65 secs @ f/8, ISO 400
On New Year's Eve I headed out again. This time it was raining, and the skies were grey. I wasn't particularly confident of getting a photo, but I fancied some fresh air before our evening in with friends, and felt compelled to give it a shot. The rain ground to a slow drizzle at around 5.00. At this point it was almost dark, and I was alone. So I grabbed a remote release, allowing me to hold open the shutter at will. I was on the beach, and had to dive the other side of the beach huts to light the sparkler away from the onshore wind, then run back and start on my backwards 2014, trying to remember where I needed to stand, and praying my tripod would stand firm. Note to self: painting with light is much easier when there's two of you! But at least I'd brought two boxes of extra-long matches this time, much gentler on the fingers!
Eventually, almost an entire box of matches later, I got a 2014 I was happy with (for all my photographer readers, I've put EXIF info under each photo, as I appreciated that of others for my own starting point), and went on to have a fantastic evening with family and friends.
Shoreham 2014!Photographic light painting with sparklers, by Shoreham-based Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography
Adur Ferry Bridge, 30 secs @ f/16, ISO 100
I woke on the first day of the new year slightly fuzzy-headed, but knowing I had to meet my final self-imposed challenge: to write SHOREHAM over the new Adur Ferry Bridge. It began as an inkling of an idea I'd had in the back of my mind, but then it started bugging me, and I knew I wouldn't be happy unless I attempted it.
That evening was out, due to unrelenting heavy rain. But on the evening of Jan 2nd the rain momentarily stopped and I persuaded my daughter and her friend to join me on the bridge. We drove to the beach end of the bridge then, just about to get out of the car, the rain returned in droves. Agreeing we'd give it another 15 minutes to stop (by which time it would be 5 o'clock) I initiated a game of charades to keep their spirits up. At literally one minute to five the rain stopped. OK, so it was dark, windy and miserable, but clearly, it was meant to be! We took turns to man the camera and write backwards, tossing ten failed matches for every success. At 5' 4" I'm not the tallest, but I had a slight advantage on the girls in getting the letters above the Shoreham town skyline. So I challenged them to fill the bridge with hearts, which they loved, and I think you'll agree, they did themselves proud.
Love Shoreham!Photographic light painting with sparklers by Shoreham-based Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer, Jenny Rutterford Photography
Adur Ferry Bridge, 15 secs @ f/16, ISO 100
So yes, I'm happy. Euphoric, actually. My finale plan worked, I'm so proud of myself for completing this project, and I'm looking forward to an exciting year ahead of weddings, engagement shoots, and plenty of portraits. Did I achieve everything I set out to at the start of 2013? Not quite, I've still got the final units of my diploma to complete before I'm a fully qualified member of the Master Photographers' Association. But this year I'm determined to celebrate my successes and not beat myself up about not doing it all.
Regular readers will know that this Shoreham project became a major part of my life in 2013. From the start I was on a mission - not only to capture Shoreham photographically, but to complete my own personal project to my own exacting standards. At times it took over my life, and I admit I'm looking forward to freeing up all those hours... I'll still blog, but forgive me if I do so a little less frequently and a tad less ambitiously.
So a huge thank you for all your support - for those who've commented online, stopped me in the street, or even just taken the time to flick through my photos. Knowing my readers were behind me has really helped when motivation's been low. Now, what to do with all those images? Several of you have suggested I make my Shoreham landscape and seascape images available for sale as prints, and I'm also thinking of self-publishing a coffee-table book... for now, I'm having a bit of a breather, but please do stay in touch, and watch this space....
It just remains for me to say, goodbye for now, and have a wonderful 2014!