Should have known better…

So there I was trundling down to the south coast. I was meeting up with Violet Blaze for my first proper photo shoot in Brighton.  London was experiencing a scorching sun so I thought against taking my reflector and just carrying my Slingshot bag for the day would suffice.

I checked my kit twice as it would not be good to get all the way to Brighton to find I had left my camera behind! What I should have bought was suncream.. lots of it. More on that later.

It has been a long time since I have been to the coast and stepping off the train at Hove, I was instantly struck by the quality of the air. So much better than the city. Massive seagulls too!

Having worked out a route from Google Maps on the train I headed south towards the beach. I saw the usual fare on offer from shops, bucket, spade, small flags etc… I wanted to find a Fish and Chip shop that still did a portion of chips in cone…

Arriving at the beach I saw the sea for the first time in years. The sun by now was overhead and there were a lot of people on the pebble beach already. Turning left I saw the remains of the West Pier at Brighton. After seeing it on Google Maps I made a note to take a few shots of it.

Walking eastwards I noticed the amount of people on the beach increased the closer I got to Brighton. I decided to look out for spot where I could do the shoot along the way. Passing stalls and entertainments I came across a stunt show, people on BMX bikes would ride up a ramp and fling themselves around for the applause of the crowd. I stopped here for a while and took a number of shots for three reasons:

  • With the available light I was able to attain a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action when a rider was upside down in the air.
  • I used the technique of pre-focusing on the top of the ramp, turned off the auto focus and fired off a couple of shots when the rider came up.
  • I assumed like everyone else watching…. that most were here because they wanted to see someone crash.

Moving on from the two wheeled acrobats I continued towards the West Pier. I noticed that the amount of people was increasing rapidly and to get a clear shot I would have to thread my way around bathers and screaming children to get a good position.

I then noticed a groyne stretching out towards the sea with only a fisherman occupying the end of it. This was a much better idea than wading through the population of East Sussex who had descended on the beach that day. Nodding a silent hello to the fisherman I took a few frames with my 50-200mm lens. I filled the frame with the whole structure and had to wait for a pedalo to slowly move out of the way.

I was struck by the reflection of the structure and decided to make that part of the resulting photo above.

Eventually, I hooked up with Violet Blaze. On the way to the West Pier I spotted the end of a groyne that was appearing out of the sea as the tide went out. However it was blisteringly hot by now so we stopped a ways before that. We stepped onto the beach and picked out a spot by wall of the groyne, a few meters from the waves.

As this was my first proper shoot I had thought on the train about directing a model. I only had to say to Violet, ‘When you hear the shutter fire, change position of your arms, body or expression and we will go from there.’ I did’nt have to direct at all after that, Violet ‘channeled Beyoncé’ as she put it.

After a few shots of Violet lying down on a beach towel we moved to the groyne wall only to find it covered in seaweed and barnacles. Not wanting Violet to lean on the barnacles and get slowly eaten I suggested she walked into the sea a little and start splashing around. Now this is a pro tip here… water and an DLSR to not mix! I stood well back and used the 50-250 so I was well out of reach of the splashy model. Even at 130mm, f5.6 I was getting a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second so the spray from the waves were frozen.

After a good number of splashy shots, I helped Violet out of sea. We ended the shoot with a few shots playing with the towel and a quick shot of the Traveling Police Box for the archives!

Violet Blaze - 94-2

This is my favorite shot from the shot.

The one thing I forgot to do was to bring either a hat or suncream…  I got sun burnt which even as I type this post, still stings. It is nice to get a bit of colour in my face for once… shame it is bright red..



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