Some weeks I shoot for this blog with a plan. Not this week. My cat jumped up on the bed at around 5.15 am and gently patted my face until I responded. She then charged around the house like a kitten (she's 13) while I lay there listening to the wind howling outside in a futile attempt to get back to sleep. She does go a bit crazy when it's windy. I started to imagine the surf lashing against the groynes on Shoreham beach, and once I get an idea in my head....
...so I muttered something to my half-awake husband about being back in time to make the kids' packed lunches, grabbed my camera and a couple of lenses (this time not forgetting my memory cards!) and left. The beach was completely empty at 6.00 when I arrived, and it was a good half an hour before I saw even a dog walker. Whilst I hate dragging myself out of bed, I love that feeling of being out alone in the early morning fresh air. Strange, I know, but I remember feeling like that as a kid when I got my first paper round.
Living a mile inland in Shoreham, I wasn't quite prepared for the force of the wind when I stepped out of the car. With some difficulty, I set up my tripod, which instantly blew over. I figured my shooting time would be short, with the fierce gusts spraying damaging salt onto my lens, and the cold nipping my fingers. Happily I remembered the glove-liners I keep in my camera backpack, which may not be the warmest, but are better than nothing, and thin enough for me to still operate the camera.
Regular readers will know that I often favour my mid-range 24-70mm zoom for landscapes, but on this occasion it just wasn't working for me. Using my body to provide some protection from the elements, I switched over to my beloved 70-200 mm giant. It's perfect for outdoor portraits and capturing kids running around. When used to its advantage, it flatters the features and produces a lovely blurred background (or bokeh, in photographic speak). But for landscapes, what it does best, is to compress the elements in a scene. Some of you who are interested in such things, may remember my "boats and trains" blog (back in Week 9), which utilised this technique to ensure that the train had enough prominence in the Adur River scene.
Here on the beach, the beauty of the scene was the combination of dramatic sky, choppy sea, and hazy light on the buildings, backed by the South Downs. This lens was perfect! It was equally good for focusing in on the groynes, waiting for the moment when the waves struck.
At this point I remembered the packed lunches, and was considering heading off home.... but then skied a man battling the elements to unpack his kite-surfing gear. Now I'm not saying that my photography comes before the kids' wellbeing, but.... (I am now cringing, envisaging my husband's expression as he later reads this...)
At least I know my photographer readers will completely understand!
So, still with 70-200 mm attached, and a high shutter speed/wide aperture combo to freeze motion, I focused on the lone surfer and followed this launch into the ocean through the view-finder. The lens was perfect for capturing the surfer himself, but while he was still relatively close to me, I had to time the shots around the dipping and rising of the kite, to keep it within the frame: in this early storm-light, the sea was naturally monochromatic, and the back-lit kite made a strikingly colourful contrast to the scene.
I set the camera to high-speed shooting mode and snapped away. These two images were, for me, the best combination of surfer, kite and groyne position. Happy to have captured an unexpected bonus in my beach shots, I now felt able to tackle the sarnies, and at any rate, the surfer was now almost out of sight. Luckily for the kids, I don't possess a lens longer than 200 mm.
Thanks for joining me on the beach. As I write, I'm not entirely sure what next week's blog will be.... but if you spot a small blond with a big camera at Shoreham's French market on Saturday, you could hazard a guess..... oh, and please come up and say 'hi'!