Black Nore Lighthouse


Black Nore Point, Portishead, at high tide with the old lighthouse in the background. (Doug King)
As lockdown was easing, I started thinking about getting out to the coast again and decided to re-visit Black Nore Lighthouse in Portishead. This listed structure was constructed in 1894 to guide shipping approaching Bristol Docks. The light was decommissioned in 2010, but the structure remains as a prominent beacon on Black Nore Point.

I have been back half a dozen times in the last couple of weeks and I have been amazed at the variety of photographic interest provided by just a few hundred metres of coast with sandstone beds, a pebble beach and Dolomitic Conglomerate, all with an old lighthouse as a backdrop.

Black Nore Point is on the coast path about 1 mile from Portishead Beach.

S.S. Nornen

What a Night!

There is a famous old wreck on Berrow Beach, just up the coast from Burnham on Sea. I have seen many photographs of the rotten timbers sticking up from the sand, but I have never photographed it myself. Now that we are out of lockdown I thought that I might have a go for myself.

I went down to Burnham on two consecutive nights. The first was good, but the wreck was surrounded by thick mud and I couldn’t get too close without losing my wellies. I got some good shots, but nothing that I was over the moon with. The following afternoon a big storm cloud blew through Bath and I thought that this might be my opportunity. I was right, as I headed south west I was travelling along the trailing edge of the storm all the way to the coast. The tide was just beginning to fall and amazingly all the mud had been washed away on this one tide leaving rippled sand.

I couldn’t drag myself away until well after darkness!

For a few nights I travelled down to Berrow Beach near Burnham on Sea to photograph the wreck of the SS Nornen. I previously had not realised how mobile the mud in the Bristol Channel is. On previous occasions I was unable to get this close to the timbers as the mud was too deep and sucky. On this night I had the perfect combination of clean sand, falling tide and sunset. (Doug King)The S. S. Nornen was a Norwegian barque wrecked on Berrow beach, Burnham on Sea in 1897. The remains of the wreck are at about the half tide level, North East from St Mary’s Church Berrow.

Bridgwater Bay

Photo for Sale: The rising tide encroaches onto the Jurassic limestone beds at Lilstock beach on the North Somerset Coast. (Doug King)

Fired up after returning from Madeira, I have been doing a bit of exploring more locally. I have (not exactly) stumbled upon a new stretch of coastline to explore in Bridgwater Bay, following extensive virtual travelling using Google Earth.

This stretch of the coast features Jurassic limestone beds, very similar to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. In places the rock has been distorted, giving rise to a series of platforms exposed at the right state of tide. On my second exploratory visit the weather gods rained on me for ages, but then were kind and gave me perfect skies to complement the turbid waters of the Bristol Channel.

This stretch of coastline can be accessed with free car parking at either Kilve or Lilstock. The limestone beds are exposed at low tide.

Severn Structures

Severn Bridge © Doug King

Winter is a great time for low light photography as you don’t have to get up at 3am to catch the pre-dawn. The days are also as often grey as they are clear, giving me some great opportunities to explore low contrast lighting. I have begun to really explore the coastline of the River Severn (and parts of the Bristol Chanel) for man-made objects that will render interesting graphical images in these low light conditions.

A Close Encounter in Croyde Bay

I was down in North Devon again in Mid October and took some time out to take photographs in Croyde Bay. My aim for the day was to try and capture the turbulent chaos where the break met the rocks at the edge of the bay. However, the outcome was something completely unexpected.

I had pinpointed a likely rock, set up my tripod, lens, filters, cable release and all the paraphernalia of landscape photography, to wait for the perfect wave. When it came, the wave was enormous and had me grabbing my tripod and scrambling for safety before my camera could be washed away! Whilst thus distracted, I was astonished to see a seal surfing in on the wave, right up into the rocky gully beside me. These gullies are deep between high rocks, and if I hadn’t been where I was, or if I had still been focussed on getting the shot, I would never have seen the seal. In fact, over the course of the half hour I spent getting to know this youngster, many people passed by, further up the beach, and remained blissfully unaware.

Fortunately I had a short telephoto zoom in my kit bag. Packing away the filters, tripod, etc was a scramble as I was afraid that I would miss a once in a lifetime opportunity. I dropped things, fell off a rock and made a fool of myself in my haste. Fortunately, only the seal was there to see. I needn’t have worried, the pup was far too interested in her surroundings, and eventually in me, to hurry off again. By remaining low, quiet and un-threatening I was able to observe her at relatively close quarters for about half an hour. She appeared almost as curious about me as I was about her.

Newly independent Grey Seal pup exploring the North Devon coast (Doug King)

Thanks to the lovely people at the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, I now know a lot more about this seal’s likely story.

She is a moulted female pup, probably only 4-5 weeks old, a month at most, and therefore has recently weaned. Given that we met on the North Devon coast, she is likely to have been born to the Grey Seal colony on Lundy Island during August. Apparently, after weaning, seal mothers abandon their pups to fend for themselves. The moulted pups disperse in search of food and have to figure life out for themselves. For me, that explains both the pup’s curiosity about her surroundings, but also her tolerance and naivety to the presence of a human.

Standing at the Edge


I have finally decided what I wanted to do with the shot of these stilted beach huts in Essex, taken on the way for my spring trip to Orford Ness.

There is a much repeated shot of these huts with a square on composition, best taken at high tide. Unfortunately on the day I was there the tide was not quite high enough for that shot. Also, when I arrived there was already a queue of photographers lined up to capture that square on image. I wandered around a little and decided that I preferred the converging lines of clouds with the tide line. The pastels of the dawn light perfectly set off the colours of the huts themselves.

Stilted beach huts on the Blackwater Estuary belong to the Osea Leisure Park near Malden in Essex.

Location – Pin Mill, Suffolk

Image "Two's Company" (Doug King)

I have finally gotten around to sorting and processing the photos from my recent weekend in Suffolk and here’s my favourite image of the entire trip.

I made this shot at Pin Mill on the the River Orwell south east of Ipswich. Pin Mill is a small hamlet just outside the village of Chelmondiston. I had seen a number of shots of rotting hulks and knew that I had to visit, but I really wasn’t prepared for the beautiful anarchy of a wooded riverbank lined with a huge variety of lived in boats and barges. The whole area is National Trust land so there is plenty of opportunity to explore and take it all in. Parking in the Parish Council carpark on the final approach to Pin Mill is convenient and cheap. There is also a pub, The Butt & Oyster, which sounds appealing, but I didn’t get to try it as I finished my shoot at 10am on Monday morning!

This is another location where my new Grubs Boots Stalkers made the difference between getting the shot that I wanted and settling for second best – the mud was really sucky!

Location – Mouthmill, Devon

 (Doug King)Another quick trip to North Devon again prompted me to review sunset and tides. This suggested I would have an opportunity to catch the sun setting into the sea touching Hartland Point if I could find the right location. That location turned out to be Mouthmill, the issuance of a small stream from a deep coombe.

Mouthmill is well known for the spectacular Blackchurch Rock, a double arched, inclined sea stack, that used to be a favourite rock climbing venue in my youth. However, on this occasion the spring tide was far too high to get any good shots of Blackchurch which lies a little way off the cliffs.

After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, immersed in the rumble and suck of the waves on the pebbles, I settled on a collection of driftwood lying in the stream as my foreground. As the sunset developed the colours reflected off both the water and the polished pebbles. Unfortunately the cloud on the horizon was just a little too dense to catch the perfect moment of the sun disk touching both the horizon and the cliff.

Access to Mouthmill involves a good half hour walk from the National Trust Carpark at Brownsham. However, Brownsham Woods offer plenty of photographic opportunities. Even though the return leg of the walk was obviously in the dark, I think it was well worth it. Let me know if you agree.

Location – Orford Ness, Suffolk

 

I treated myself to a trip to the East Coast of England last weekend. My specific objective was an overnight stay on Orford Ness to experience all the weird shingle bound dereliction of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment both at sunset and sunrise. The trip was courtesy of the National Trust, which organises one or two special events for photographers each year. Our hosts: John, Simon and Rob were extremely knowledgeable about both the history of the site and the wildlife.

Derelict buildings and industrial detritus litter the site of the former Atomic Weapons Research Establishment on the shingle spit at Orford Ness in Suffolk. (Doug King)

This is not a trip for the casual photographer. The bunkhouse is comfortable enough, but basic. Bunk beds are included but no bedding so bring your own, but you won’t want to sleep much as the light is amazing even well before dawn!

Location – Northam Burrows, Devon

 (Doug King)

After my soaking at Hartland the previous evening I decided to try a slightly more sheltered location for Sunday Sunrise, the area known as The Skern on the Appledore end of Northam Burrows. At this time of year sunsets and sunrises obligingly occur 12 hours apart, the same as high tides, so I knew that there would be a good opportunity to catch the water just topping the gullies in the mudflats.