Thursday, 11 February 2010

Assignment 3 - a winter walk from Hove to Brighton

For this assignment, which requires a selection of photographs in different sorts of natural light from my neighbourhood, I have chosen a walk that I and many others frequently do along the seafront from Hove to Brighton – a distance of just over a mile.

Given the time of year, I have chosen to represent the seaside in winter and therefore made a conscious decision to show this frequently busy location at what I think is its best – without people and with a low sun.

Photographing by the sea brings its own special delights as well as challenges: the light is strong and reflected off the sea. It is a comparatively harsh environment with a pebble beach and 180 degrees of water – no gentle coves here to soften the edges. Skies and sea are frequently burnt out in my images despite the use of a polariser. The other major issue is the horizon – I invariably have to straighten this afterwards and the subsequent cropping often means something key to the image has to come out. Having a straight sea often also seems to mean that other parts of the image somehow don’t look level which is a distraction, and those images are rejected as well.

For this assignment I took many, many pictures at different times and in different conditions. Choosing the final selection was difficult and there were some heart-rending decisions to get it down to 12. Some days were easy to discount entirely – such as the very blustery day after a storm. The sea was fantastic – all white waves and bubbling surfaces and spray everywhere. It was almost impossible to stand up however with the result that I had to delete almost the entire 200 pictures I took – they were either out of focus, just too white and bright or the lens was covered in salt.

Orange umbrellas in the sun - Hove


Still engrossed in the “colour” part of the course I was delighted to see this great example of orange on blue. While this was mid morning just a couple of days after Christmas the sun was quite low and really brought out the deeply saturated warmth of the umbrellas.

Beach huts in the rain

Wet beach huts

These beach huts are such a key part of the walk that I couldn’t do without them. I choose to photograph the bright colours in a damp and rainy context to show the colourful reflections in the puddles but also give a softer fuzziness created by the humidity. A high ISO also increases the grainy and “wet” effect.

Red bicycle in the snow

Red bicycle in the snow

I am delighted that this course has shown me how to take picture of white snow rather than grey – by increasing the exposure bias, as I’ve done here. This was a reasonably bright day after some snow but this was a typical case of needing to straighten the horizon which meant the cropping of the back wheel of the bike was tighter than I would have chosen.

Fence at midday


While the light is sometimes at its least interesting in the middle of the day, the low sun at this time of year means that this image of the fence shadows looks disproportionate to the actual fence creating a dramatic viewpoint, enhanced by the use of black and white.

Sunrise over West Pier

Sunrise over West Pier

On possibly the coldest morning ever recorded in Brighton and with snow still lying on the beach, I braved the early morning light to take pictures of the sunrise. There was an interesting battle between the clouds and the sun, then the sun burst through, the clouds melted away and the temperature rose. I particularly like the bright shadows from the fence reflected on the damp promenade.

The "birdcage" bandstand

The Birdcage

A shot taken at twilight just after the lights in the newly refurbished bandstand had come on – I wanted to include them as they provide some illumination from underneath as well as the ambient natural light that was gradually getting darker.


Pink sunset

This was an incredibly beautiful sunset but unfortunately, having been indulging in a late lunch, only saw the last 90 seconds or so during which time the pink-tinged sky shown here turned grey with the light disappearing entirely. I love the way the sea has pink reflections on it too.

Sunset over West Pier

west pier sunset

It is astonishing how different sunsets can be – this is another evening but the effects and colours are quite different with a focus on pink rather than the oranges above.

Morning sunlight

West pier

Looking west now towards West Pier (and on a day with a higher tide than the sunset image above) the focus here is intended to be on the green catamaran. The low morning sun adds a particular warmth to this part of the image which is in the sun.

Monochrome curve

The curve

I took this image on a cloudy day and it is the shape of the sculpture and its texture that I like particularly. I thought that making this black and white it would enhance those elements. The people on it – the man in a big furry hat – place it firmly in the winter and the more distant West Pier show our progression east.


Murmuration over the pier

Starlings used to roost on the West Pier but as it has gradually crumbled away they have headed east to Brighton Pier. This shot at sunset looking east captures this winter-only activity and the size of the flocks compared to the size of the pier demonstrates what a vast number of birds arrive.

Under the pier

Under the pier

On the same evening, but looking west with more of an orange glow in the sky I like the silhouette of the struts under the pier, with seaweed and rope tangled among them.