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English Riviera

This week we had a short break in Torquay for my wife’s birthday, staying at the Cary Arms in Babbacombe. Photographically I was not expecting much, maybe a typical beach scene or two. Furthermore, the weather was splendid for a holiday, but far from my usually preference for stormy skies.

However I was fortunate and on a walk along the coast path found this little cove. Returning just before sunset, I was hoping for some great colour in the clouds. Unfortunately they all drifted away before sunset, but this shot from earlier in the sequence turned out all right.

These steps lead down to a tiny cove on the coast path between Babbacombe and Oddicombe Beaches in Torbay. I was hoping that sunset would intensify the colours, but the clouds disappeared about 15 minutes before and denied me. (Doug King)

Shot on the coast path between Babbacombe and Oddicombe beaches, Torquay.

Exhibition Online Today

Bath Photographic Society has been impacted by Coronavirus as much as any other aspect of our lives. But the society has continued its activities, just online rather than in person, concluding with a special on-line exhibition of members favourite works.

I normally capture images as they are presented to me, either in nature or on location. I have never really gotten the hang of arranging items artistically for still life photos. During lockdown however, options for travel to locations were limited and I exhausted opportunities in the back garden quite quickly. I started collecting bits of garden detritus to see if I could do something with them and after a few attempts I came up with a composition I was pleased with. (Doug King)

Being a mostly outdoors photographer, was quite pleased with this still life image, an area of photography that I am not familiar with.

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.

The Lilstock Serpent

This week marked my return to Bridgwater Bay and the amazing rock formations (at least I think they are) of Lilstock and Kilve beaches, only this time I spent less time on the rocks.

I have been going out in the rain recently in the hope that the weather will break and afford me amazing skies and light. Once again I completely forgot the discomfort of being wet when the light came together for me with the water carved sand and created the Lilstock Serpent illuminating the horizon with her furious gaze.

The Lilstock Serpent - photo for sale

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.