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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.

Gear – Filter system for 17mm TSE

For a long time now I have wanted to make better use of my fabulous 17mm TSE Lens. The only thing that has been holding me back is finding a filter system that would allow me to use the full range of movements. I have finally bitten the bullet and bought 165mm Firecrest filters and a Lucroit filter holder. These will largely, but not entirely, supersede my use of Lee filters with this lens.

During my research I noticed a lot of discussion on the Internet forums regarding suitable filters for the 17mm TSE lens so I decided to share what I have learned so far in comparing the two systems.

Gear – Arca Swiss style tripod quick release

A long time ago, when I set out to buy my first tripod, I put a bit of effort into researching tripod heads and quick release systems. This resulted in me buying a set of legs by Manfrotto, but without one of their heads. Like many manufacturers, Manfrotto have a proprietary quick release system which is not compatible with other manufacturers’ equipment. I matched my new Manfrotto legs with a ball head by Really Right Stuff of California, who use the Arca Swiss standard for quick release clamps and plates. Every piece of support equipment I have bought since also complies with the Arca Swiss standard and, so, everything I have is completely interchangeable. This enormously simplifies my life when out in the field making photographs.

Gear – Tenba Reload Pouches

Unfortunately I am not the neatest of photographers and I often end up stuffing small bits of kit into random pockets or parts of my camera bag. This sometimes makes it difficult for me to stay organised out in the field. These small and apparently insignificant pouches from Tenba Tools have really helped me out.

The Tenba Tools Reload pouches for batteries and memory cards have vastly simplified my life when out in the field trying to capture the light and not worry about equipment and accessories.
Tenba Reload Battery 2 – around £10-£12
Tenba Reload Universal – around £15-£16