A year in images | Seascapes

My favourite beach scenes from 2017

When you take as many photos as I do, the ones that tend to stand out are those that have something a little different about them, those that for some reason or another are out of the ordinary.

Usually, one sees an image in isolation, left to be judged only by what information is contained within the frame. But photos are more than just a moment in time. In most cases the end result is governed by the circumstances presented to the photographer, meaning there’s often an untold story behind them, one that can make them more interesting than just being another nice picture.

While quantity is ubiquitous, quality is elusive, especially when you’re continually raising your own bar. Like many creatives, my focus is habitually on the here and now, rather than the past, so I’m always more excited about the results I’ll see from my next shoot, than the images I’ve already created. Even so, I recognise it’s good to pause and reflect, to look back and take stock.

Photographically, my 2017 could well be summed up by that wonderful quote from Yogi Berra: it was déjà vu, all over again! But whilst I stood in front of much the same things I did the year before, I’d like to think the way I portrayed them has progressed.

The same can be said for this set of retrospectives. Previously, I’ve organised them in various ways: around subject matter, in chronological order by month and I’ve even grouped images by colour. This time I’ve split it across the subjects I photograph the most — art, automotive, floral, music, people and seascapes — and picked just a handful of shoots from each.

Whatever I’m shooting, I always aim to create images that are inventive, that are a little different from the norm. Whether that’s in the content or the execution, for me, it’s all about being out of the ordinary. Since day dot I’ve never been content for my images to be restricted to what can be achieved in camera and have continually experimented with different looks and treatments to find my own individual aesthetic.

My interpretation of what constitutes a good image has also sharpened considerably — manifesting in there being fewer images that I’m genuinely pleased with — as has my desire to push the barriers of what one can achieve within a single still image.

Choosing just a few frames from among thousands was never going to be easy. Deciding which would make the cut meant having to leave out many personal favourites.

These then are the stories behind my favourite seascape images from 2017.

Spume | Littlehampton | 13 March 2017

There’s something about waves crashing onto a beach that draws me to the sea. Usually, the more violent the crash, the better it will photograph. I love this shot, because even though it’s a still image it has the feeling of movement. It’s not the usual waves-on-a-beach beauty shot, but it captures the power of the sea in an almost abstract way. It’s wet, it’s wild and it’s also fresh. This one was taken at Littlehampton’s West Beach.

Left | Littlehampton | 2 April 2017

Beach shots almost always look better when there is someone in the frame. Not only does a person provide some visual interest, but they give a sense of scale to an otherwise empty landscape. If you can get an interesting figure in silhouette, so much the better. Beyond that, all that matters are the hues, the textures and the layers of beach, sea and sky. Get them right and you’ll probably have a nice looking image. The shot above works because it has only the faintest of colour.

Nuance | Littlehampton | 2 April 2017

When you take people out of the landscape, what’s left can often become a lot more abstract. The shot above is not much more than tones of blue, but it’s the minimal nature of the content that makes it so enchanting. There is nothing to distract the eye and nothing to give you a clue as to where it was taken.

Cast| Brighton | 13 May 2017

A public art project that took place over a May weekend in Brighton, Cast involved people choosing a pebble, painting it in one of six vibrant colours and then throwing it onto a section of beach that had been painted white. If truth be told, from a distance it didn’t look that interesting — or colourful — and worked a lot better when photographed close-up. It would have been much more artistic if it formed a shape such as a fish or a seagull. By the way, all the paints used were designed to wash-off when the tide came in.

The Farm| Littlehampton | 14 August 2017

Rampion is one of the biggest wind farms being built off the coast of England. To give you some perspective there are 116 turbines out there, each 200-tonne tower is 80 metres tall and topped off with three 55-metre blades and they are located between 13 and 25 kilometres offshore. The wind farm occupies an area of 72 square kilometres, that’s nearly three times the size of Manhattan Island! Due to be completed in 2018, this was the first time I’d seen them up close and personal. To be honest, I was shocked. I had no idea they would be quite so intrusive. But as you can see, they are clearly visible, spoiling a view that’s been the same for centuries. I really like this image because it shows just how huge and omnipresent the turbines are, contrasting neatly with a single figure looking out at them. The vegetation in the foreground adds another layer of interest and perhaps even a nod to the ‘green’ nature of the image.

Sparkle| Littlehampton | 14 August 2017

My favourite time for a beach shot is on a calm late summer day when the tide is way out and the last bit of sun is glistening on the wet sand. Throw in a few silhouetted figures and you’ve got yourself a cool shot.

Lines In The Sand | Littlehampton | 15 December 2017

“It’s all about the light” is something you often hear photographers say. And they’re right, it is. Spend an hour on a beach and you’ll see just how the light changes everything: the colour of the sand, the shingle and the sea. But the light also affects the shadows, how dark they are, how sharp they are. These two images were taken less than 30 minutes apart on the same beach. The structure in the shot above is the beacon at the harbour entrance and the sand looked like it had a dusting of snow, even though it hadn’t. Half an hour later and the grains of sand had settled into beautiful and mysterious patterns, now lit blue by the changing light. No wonder I’m a bit of an arenophile!

Equipment: Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus 75mm 1.8 prime lens, all shot handheld with available light only

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Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people