Slaughden Quay

The last time I came to Slaughden Quay it was to eat fish & chips from one of the two great chippies in Aldeburgh, fending off the seagulls as I devoured the fruits of the sea!

This visit was different.  The chippies were closed and the sun was fading in the sky at the end of the day.  The East Coast is normally associated with the start of the day as the sun rises over the sea.  But I was looking for a classic sunset reflected in the River Alde looking back towards Snape.  A little cloud in the sky and I was ready.  The sun fell below the distant horizon and the sky lit up.

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I got back to the car by the beach as the stars started to shine and I looked out to sea – The Plough, Orion and more started to appear as I sat and watched the waves rolling onto the beach below.

Why not, let’s have a go.  I picked a spot, set up and started to take pictures.  Each one needing a longer and longer exposure as  the light faded.  I thought that the sea would merge into a uniform colour after a while but no.  Even at 8 minutes there were patterns emerging in the deep blue of the ocean.  I could hardly see what was going on, I couldn’t see anything in my camera’s viewfinder but it could see for me.

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I’m rather glad I stopped to watch the stars.  I think I’ll do it again some time…

My time on Slaughden Quay is part of a journey north along the Suffolk coast from Languard Point at the southernmost tip to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring, recording what I find and then sharing.  You can follow me on my journey by adding my blog to your feed, liking my Facebook page, circling me on Google+ or following me on Twitter.

Eclipsed by the clouds…

Blog lr_Z4A1847We were lucky enough to have a partial eclipse of the sun here in the UK this morning, though because of the heavy cloud if you weren’t paying attention you’d have missed the slowly changing light levels.  No sight of the sun just a gentle darkening of the sky.

Nonetheless I took the opportunity to do a little low(er) light photography in the middle of the morning down at Languard Point, the southernmost tip of Felixstowe.  Moody skies, bit of a swell on the sea and a camera.  What more would I need?

Orford Ness

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Orford Ness is a place like few others.  From a distance it appears to be a barren landscape, the largest shingle spit in Europe.  Shifted and moulded by the sea as the seasons and the years pass by.  Access is difficult: you either need to swim or take a boat across the river.  The ness is part of a National Nature Reserve and access is restricted.  You could of course walk down the shingle beach from Aldeburgh, it’s a few miles and hard work on the shingle beach.  Never mind the risk of stepping on something nasty left from the past!

From a distance you can see the the remains of buildings left to decay.  There’s an old listening post, a lighthouse which may soon be swallowed by the sea, a black watch tower and some other old buildings.  Then finally some strange structures standing as a testament to the past.

Orford Ness was use in the last century as a testing ground for British ordinance.  It was used for live firing tests as well as vibration tests of triggers for early atomic bombs.  The strange buildings, appearing as a mix between a pagoda and a Greek temple, were used to put the triggers through the rigours that they’d face in flight.  If one exploded the roofs would fall in and smother the blast.

Now the buildings are left to decay and the flora and fauna are left to their own devices.

I arrived well before the sunrise, the moon and stars shining bright against the black sky.  Bitterly cold I settled down in the one spot on the river Alde close to the northern end of Havergate Island and watched the scene develop.  The moon was just a quarter full and not bright enough to use as a light, maybe next time.  Broken cloud started to drift across the sky and as the sky got lighter there was no sign of the sun behind the bank of cloud out to sea.  Normally I love to move around but today the sky did the work for me.  Finally, the sun showed itself streaming thorough the cloud.  Every time I thought of heading off to a warm cafe the sky would change and persuade me to stay for just one more shot.  After 3 hours I finally headed back along the river bank to the warm, a hot coffee and breakfast!

My time opposite Orford Ness is part of a journey north along the Suffolk coast from Languard Point at the southernmost tip to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring and recording what I find and then sharing.

Shingle Street

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Shingle Street is hard to describe.  It rests at the end of a narrow lane, the only buildings are a line of cottages and a Martello Tower.  Looking inland are fields and out to sea mostly empty space.  Banks of shingle come and go with the tide and change shape with the storms that rage in the North Sea.

With all this nothing what could there be to photograph?  We’re so used to being fed information and stimulus we sometimes forget that we can sit, watch and discover for ourselves.  Often it takes too long and we have other things to get on with rather than invest the time in ourselves.

On a cold dreary winter morning before the sun had risen I stood on the beach and watched the waves breaking on the shingle.  I listened to the sound of the pebbles being dragged back into the sea as the waves retreated.  A grating sound that’s hard to describe.  The tide was falling and in its wake the shingle banks emerged, all the time changing the pattern of the waves.  Gulls settled on the banks before lifting once more into the air.

While all this happened the sky lightened as the sun continued its journey to meet the horizon.  Textures started to form in the cloud and colours morphed in the sky, changing all the time.

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The sun finally rose above the horizon and Shingle Street greeted another day.  The waves, the shingle and the gulls carried on as before but somehow the ambiance changed from soft and gentle to bright and glaring.  Another day had begun, Shingle Street returned to the isolated beach you’d expect.

Shingle Streets haunting beauty under wraps for another day.

My time on the pebbles at Shingle Street is part of a journey north along the Suffolk coast from Languard Point at the southernmost tip to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring and recording what I find and then sharing.

Mud, glorious mud!

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Mud and cameras are not really good bedfellows.  All the tiny gritty dirt can get everywhere inside and out so it’s best to keep them apart!

Knowing all of that I recently returned to Bawdsey to photograph mud.  He’s gone mad you’re thinking, well not quite.

I spotted them about a year ago – big patches of clay emerging from under the eroding cliffs.  I also saw it in the surf as the waves broke on the shingle beach and thought it was rock.  They looked like the limestone pavements in Yorkshire and had the appearance of being carved by the action of the waves and shingle.  When I stood on one my boot left a shallow footprint.  The Suffolk Coast is not the classic rugged coastline with towering cliffs and boulders but more gentle, in appearance at least!  These ‘rocks’ are in fact London Clay left under the sandstone cliffs millennia in the past, re emerging as the cliffs are pulled into the sea.  A good hunting ground for fossils apparently!

The day I returned work had started to shore up the sea defences before winter storms started in earnest.  Heavy machinery had churned up the fields on the land side of the sea wall so I waded through a pool of slurry nearly a foot deep, glad I was wearing Wellington boots so I could walk in the surf without worrying!

The weather forecast had suggested broken cloud, not the shady grey cloud above.  The sea was almost grey.  The mud was grey.

Time to watch for the patterns as the waves broke over the  mud.  There’s always a temptation to see something and hide behind the camera as you snap away but I find I see so much more by stopping, waiting and watching.  Waves have patterns, not just in the flow of water on the beach as they come and go but in the variation in size and direction as they interact with hidden objects under the surface.  It can take a few minutes to tune into these and work out when to press the shutter.  It’s usually well worth the wait.

My time on the beach at Bawdsey is part of a journey north along the Suffolk coast from Languard Point at the southernmost tip to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring and recording what I find and then sharing.

Waves on the beach at Bawdsey


The last time I ventured out to Bawdsey the rain was pouring down, almost horizontally off the sea.  The wind whipped up patterns in the waves, shingle banks around the entrance to the River Deben forced them to break out to sea leaving patterns in their wake.  If the wind had been blowing from any other direction I’d have been busy but as it was it was coming straight at my lens and there are only so many time you can dry it.

Today the sky was clear and I had just the moon and the stars for company, as the sun rose the stars faded into the warming sky.  The tide was higher than I’d expected so the image I’d hoped to make would have to wait for another day, time to explore further along.

Bawdsey has a long history and it played a pivotal role in the development of radar that watches over us in so many invisible ways today.  Steel plates and girders have replaced many of the wooden sea defences protecting the sandy cliffs from crumbling into the sea.

As the sun rose its bright rays reflected from the waves, not the calm images I often look for so time to look for something different.  Looking away from the sun I stood and watched the waves break and rush up the beach before retreating back to the sea wrapping themselves around the stumps leftover from the old sea defences. Each wave leaving a different pattern.

Rather than freeze the motion I decided to let the pattern gently flow around the stump and back to the sea.  It was so bright I needed my neutral density filters to slow the shutter down for the effect I wanted.

My time on the beach at Bawdsey is part of a journey north along the Suffolk coast from Languard Point at the southernmost tip to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring and recording what I find and then sharing.