Learning to see

The wind whips across the wide deserted beach sending billowing curtains of fine white sand scudding towards the sea. The strand is empty but not quiet. The noise from the gale and the pounding waves ensures there is an energy about this place despite its loneliness.

I have just walked through Ross Links with its low dunes and waving seas of marram grass and am now standing on the edge of Budle Bay. To my right is Bamburg Castle, to my left Lindisfarne and in front of me, just offshore, lie the Farne Islands. This is the Northumberland Coast at its best.

The light this morning is amazing. Last nights rain has long gone leaving the sky with broken clouds and a gorgeous peachy glow. There is a look of warmth to the day, but this is deceptive. It is the last day of December and the north westerly wind which is gusting at 40mph and above is definitely not warm.

Just offshore I can see a gannet twisting and turning in the tempest, its long slender form and black wing tips clearly visible as it glides and turns, soaring up high then dropping down to swoop low over the waves. It is soon joined by a second bird and together they rise and fall in an effortless aerial display.

As I walk I find that the stand line is littered with long arms of kelp torn from the sea bed by the storm, deposited in tangled piles of bronze, their roots still attached. Amongst the kelp I find several dry shells or tests of the sea potato or heart urchin, all slightly different colours and sizes but easily recognisable by their heart shape and distinctive pattern of dots like a seam on a cricket ball.

Further along the beach I discover the remains of an old wooden boat just visible above the sand, a few ribs pointing skywards in a desperate attempt to cling to life above the sand. The wind is still gusting hard and as it catches the waves on the edge of the beach it blows the spume back towards the ocean  a phenomenon that creates the strange appearance of a backward travelling sea.

At first glance a gusty morning on a deserted Northumberland beach might not seem like a rich environment for photography but if you look and notice all the tiny things around you there are possibilities and opportunities everywhere.

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) the  American documentary photographer and photojournalist once said ” a camera is a tool for learning to see without a camera” and for me this is absolutely true. The act of going out to take photographs makes me much more aware of my surroundings. I am looking all the time at the lie of the land, the light, and the elements within the landscape. I notice patterns, colours, shadows and contrasts and over the years I have become so attuned to this that I notice it all whenever I am outside, whether I am with my camera or not.

Wind and waves at Budle Bay, Northumberland
By | 2017-01-27T11:49:32+00:00 January 5th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

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