Waves on the beach at Bawdsey

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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.

Waymarker at Felixstowe Ferry

Waymarker

Way marker

 

It can be frustrating when you know there is something to photograph in a place but you just can’t find it.  This is just what happened to me at Felixstowe Ferry.  I think the Ferry comes from the small boat that takes passengers (and sometimes their bikes) across the River Deben, a different kind of ferry to the ones that have taken passengers across the North Sea to Europe over the years.  The Coast here is constantly being shaped by the North Sea and the shingle banks both on and near the shore move with the tides and the storms that come and go.

I arrived before dawn and took a look along the river where the small yachts are moored, protected from the sea.  It was quiet but for the sea birds and the wind rattling the halyards on the yachts against their masts.

I wandered around for a while but didn’t find any inspiration until I came round the corner where the Deben heads into the sea between the shifting shingle banks.  Posts and buoys mark the safe channel toward the North Sea.

Curves started to emerge in the shingle, shaped by the tides.  I found symmetry in the shingle banks on the horizon, the single post standing tall and even the horizon splitting the frame equally the sea reflecting the sky.

It’s what I’d been seeking for a while. A combination of tide, weather and light all coming together at the right time.

My time on the shingle at Felixstowe Ferry 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.

Felixstowe breakwater

Felixstowe breakwater
Felixstowe breakwater
Felixstowe breakwater

Being a photographer is about many things.  Being able to control a camera is part of it but much more important is the ability to ‘see’ an image and then translate that into a photograph.  It’s something I spend a lot of energy on with my workshop participants: slowing down, looking and thinking about what they can see before pressing the shutter and then looking at what they have captured and thinking about what they could do differently.  Sometimes a participant realises they have a ‘good eye’ but they want to learn how to use the camera to capture what they have seen.  More often they want to work on their skill of seeing.

A couple of months ago I took a run on my own along the prom at Felixstowe.  As I turned at the halfway point I came across a breakwater that was different to the others shielding the beach.  Not the usual mound of rocks but more deliberate, placed.  I saw a very simple but graphic image and decided to return when the tide was right and there was cloud in the sky.

I went back just before sunrise on a cloudy morning.  Alone on the beach, I looked around at the sweeping lines I’d seen and worked how I wanted to place them.  Taking care I climbed over the rocks making sure neither I nor my camera disappeared into the gaps.  It’s happened before and I didn’t want it to happen again!  I’d settle on a spot for my tripod and while the shutter was open I’d look around for where to go next.

I spent over an hour looking at the lines, watching the patterns come and go in the waves and contemplating life.  Finally I succumbed to hunger and it was time to go and find some breakfast!

My time on the beach at Felixstowe is part of a journey north along the Suffolk Coast from the southernmost point to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring and recording what I find, then sharing.

The Orwell Bridge Standing Tall In The Mist

Orwell Bridge in the mist

 

Orwell Bridge in the mist
Orwell Bridge in the mist

Misty mornings change the way we see familiar scenes.  It’s the difference between harsh sunlight and the soft glow from the moon, a familiar object literally in a different light.  Heading into autumn mists rise more and more, lifting as the warmth of the sun burns them away.  The mist hides buildings and mountains, softens normally graphic structures and muffles sounds all around.

The Orwell bridge is a mass of concrete and steel which carries lorries and cars over the river from which it takes its name.  Drivers thunder across in a hurry whilst down below the River Orwell quietly flows.

Far below the sounds are muffled, it’s quiet and still.  Mist comes and goes carried on the gentle breeze.  The bridge’s gentle curves disappear into the mist on the other side of the river.  But underneath the bridge the curves disappear allowing converging uprights and sharp angles to take over.  Walls of concrete rise from the river to support the road above; the mist softens even these.

I knew when I decided to take a look at the bridge on a misty morning it would look different and I played around looking at the curves of the bridge and their reflections in the river below but they seemed too familiar.  As I walked underneath to take a look from the other side the view struck me a familiar place, a different view.

Landguard Point Suffolk

Languard Point Suffolk
Languard Point Suffolk

Monday morning and I decided to take a bit of me time and go somewhere new, camera in hand.  I often photograph the Suffolk coast but I’d never been to its southernmost tip, Landguard Point.  OK, so it’s not the rugged Cape Horn, but it has a place all of its own.

Landguard Point guards the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich, protecting both from the ravages of the North Sea’s stormy moods and is a haven to many birds, resident or passing through.  Rooted to the shingle is grass mixed with plants that take the assault from the wind, rain and salt from the sea.  The closer you look the more you see, tiny flowers in emerging in Spring.

Looking out to sea ferries come and go carrying people on their travels while container ships carry the goods we crave.  There is a fort that began in the 17th century protecting England from threats from Europe.  It’s been rebuilt several times and now stands as a museum.

But I didn’t go there for the history or the industry.  As I sat on the shingle I could hear seagulls overhead and the waves lapping the shore in a rhythm of their own.  Then the sound of shingle running over shingle as the waves pulled it back toward the sea.

It was then that I could see the image that I wanted.  I’m not sure if it was a jetty or just some kind of breakwater but it stood against the waves as they crashed against it, whether stormy or calm.  The long exposure smoothed the water leaving the structure standing tall against a now calmed North Sea.

My time at Landguard Point is the start of a journey north along the Suffolk Coast from the southernmost point to its border with Norfolk.  Along the way I’ll be exploring and recording what I find, then sharing.

Pinhole Carrelets on the Gironde

Pinhole carrelets
Pinhole carrelets

I arrived just outside of Talmont sur Gironde before the sun appeared.  I was hoping for a cloudy sky to add some mood, facing west I wasn’t going to get a classic sunrise.

Having spent a couple of days hammering down the auto routes of the west coast of France interspersed with intensive photography of everything new that came into view I decided to slow it down and take a few chances!  The first was clambering down the chalky cliff face to the slippery boulders on the beach where this image was made.  The second was photographic, to use my wooden film pinhole camera.

Pinhole cameras really slow you down.  You take an educated guess at what’s in view – there’s no viewfinder.  You rely on your light-meter for the exposure – there’s no screen on the back of the camera to check.  You won’t know what’s on the film until long after you get home.

You take some time and think about what you’re doing and there’s plenty of thinking time. This early in the day each exposure is going to take at least a minute or two.  But that time sitting while the film is exposing is time to sit and think; about your next shot, your surroundings or what you’ll do next.  The pace of life is governed by the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore.

But the peace is finally broken.  After an hour or so I heard voices, workmen coming to fix one of the carrelet damaged by a storm.  Time to move on – I wasn’t sure I should have been were I was and I didn’t have enough French to argue.  In any case time for breakfast.  My mind was recharged, so off to the village for coffee & croissant to get my body going too.

These carrelets are just outside the small village of Talmont sur Gironde on the river north of Bordeaux.  There are some fantastic locations for a landscape photographer.  Both banks of the Gironde are known for their fine wines and when you’re there you’ll find the vines crammed into every available space.  But if you turn away from the land you’ll see the Gironde and if you’re in the right place you may be lucky to see some “carrelet”.  I wouldn’t have known they were there if I hadn’t been tipped off.

A carrelet is best described as a fishing hut on stilts joined to the shore by a wooden pathway – a net at the water end is lowered into the river and later lifted, hopefully full of fish!  They’re not used much for fishing now but they’ve become a French equivalent of the English beach hut – somewhere to while away the day.

If you’d like to see more of my landscape work then please take a look at www.hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

You can follow Hennell James Photography on Twitter at @HJPhotographer or email jeremy@hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

A Parisian Tunnel on the Suffolk Coast

Sea wall, Walberswick
Parisian Tunnel on the Suffolk Coast
Parisian Tunnel on the Suffolk Coast

Anyone who has driven on the Boulevard Périphérique in Paris will have been through its tunnels.  The Boulevard Périphérique is the Paris equivalent of London’s North and South Circular roads combined.  A busy, noisy place with drivers rushing from one place to another.  But sometimes they just crawl…

What’s the Boulevard Périphérique got to do with a sea wall on the Suffolk Coast?  The tunnels wind their way under the streets and buildings above you.  As you drive through them you become aware of the columns at the side of the road, following the bends and gradually revealing the way ahead.  At speed, the columns flash past much like trees at the side of the road.  This image reminds me of what you are about to see as you enter the tunnel.

Walberswick, a tranquil village on the coast, is far from the heart of Paris.   Miles of sandy beach to the south and Southwold across the river Blyth to the north.  The buttresses you can see here support a wall which creates a channel at the mouth of the river.  The low tide reveals the “tunnel”.

If you’d like to see more of my landscape work then please take a look at www.hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

You can follow Hennell James Photography on Twitter at @HJPhotographer or emailjeremy@hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

Always look behind you

Always look behind you - Biarotte
Always look behind you – Biarotte

Throughout the South West of France you’ll see many stands of trees like this one.  Most of them seem to be on the side of the auto route where you can’t stop!  It’s mesmerising to watch the trees lap over each other as you speed by on the way somewhere else.

I spent about an hour in this stand, most of the time in the periphery of the trees exploring the lines and shapes which morphed as I walked between them.  I found a few images I liked but nothing that really jumped out at me until it was time to go.  Back at the car I put my bag in the boot and turned around.  This is what I saw – I grabbed my camera, quickly lined up the trees, pressed the shutter, job done.

It’s a good job I turned around and finally took notice!  I could have seen this shot when we arrived but I was so keen to get in amongst the trees that I didn’t take time to look.

I captured this image about 16 months ago when I had the great fortune of spending a week in the company of landscape photographer Jonathan Critchley.  We went to many locations during the week usually on the Atlantic Ocean or around the lakes of the region.  However, it was one of a handful of locations away from the water which gave rise to this image.  It’s on the back of my business card and always gets a thumbs up from those I pass it to.

A word about Jonathan.  He’s based in South West France, and creates images with a dramatic ethereal feel; usually having some reference to the ocean, rivers or lakes.  You can see more of Jonathan’s work here.

If you’d like to see more of my landscape work then please take a look at  www.hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

You can follow Hennell James Photography on Twitter at @HJPhotographer or emailjeremy@hennelljamesphotography.co.uk

Be prepared to try something different

Be prepared to try something different
Be prepared to try something different

A couple of weeks ago I drove up to Aldeburgh to photograph the “Scallop” at sunrise.  The weather forecast was promising and the sky looked good as I drove north.  The image I’d been hoping for relied heavily on the sun lighting up the clouds above the Scallop before it appeared over the horizon, but a heavy bank of cloud out to sea put paid to that and the sunrise turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

Rather than go home empty handed I thought I’d try something a little different.  I grabbed a couple of flashguns from my bag and set about seeing what I could do with them.  It was getting lighter and they didn’t have the power to illuminate the whole sculpture as the day brightened – the Scallop stands about 4m tall!  With the flashguns off camera in the shingle I decided to focus the light beam in the centre creating some fall off toward the edges.  I deliberately underexposed the sky to darken the mood.  Finally a conversion to monochrome in Lightroom followed by adjustments to the contrast created the image you can see above.

The Scallop is a tribute by the artist Maggi Hambling to the British composer Benjamin Britten and bears the words from his opera, Peter Grimes, “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”.  It stands on the beach at Aldeburgh in Suffolk and is there to be enjoyed both visually and physically.  People are encouraged to climb on it and watch the sea.  I think it’s a bit like marmite – you either love it or you hate it.  Personally, I love it!

If you’d like to see more of my landscape work then please take a look at www.hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

You can follow Hennell James Photography on Twitter at @HJPhotographer or email jeremy@hennelljamesphotography.co.uk

 

Lighthouse in the setting sun

The Lower Lighthouse at Dovercourt, Essex
The Lower Lighthouse at Dovercourt, Essex

The 19th of January brought the prospect of the sun setting in the west as the full moon rose in the east.  I hoped to capture the moon rising behind the Lower Lighthouse at Dovercourt lit by the sun as it went down.  The sun played its part but the moon stayed behind the bank of cloud out to sea.  Maybe the moon will play next time…

Built in 1863 the Dovercourt Lighthouses formed a pair of leading lights.  A ship out to sea could position the high light on the shore above the low light seen above.  Heading on this line would guide the vessel safely into harbour.  Though the lights were taken out of service in 1917, after buoys were laid to mark the channel, they remain a landmark on the coast of North Essex.

If you’d like to see more of my landscape works then take a look at www.hennelljamesphotography.co.uk.

You can follow Hennell James Photography on Twitter at @HJPhotographer or email jeremy@hennelljamesphotography.co.uk