Brighton beach, the UK one, East Sussex, on the south coast of England, is a wonderful spot for seascapes combined with architecture, for two glorious reasons which we’ll get to in a moment.
It’s a seaside town, a wonderful laid back atmosphere, and a promenade stacked with bars and folk generally having a good time. The lanes beyond the seafront are a wonderful maze of interesting shops, and the Regency Period Pavilion is a wonderful piece of architecture. A wonderful structure to photograph with its domes and curvature, weather you're into architecture photography or not!
Domed! The Royal Pavilion, Brighton: f/11, 1/160, 35mm, ISO100
Oh, I do like to be...: f/11, 1/80, 53mm, ISO100
Brighton is also home to not one but two piers, the Palace Pleasure Pier and the old West Pier. Although they are both pleasure piers built in similar styles, they now present very different photographic opportunities.
Water, cloudy UK skies, looks like a time for my long exposures once again, but the first time I visited Brighton, (post-photog enthusiast bug infection), the only filter with me was my screw-in polarizer, and I had no tripod.
Long exposures were well out of the question. Sad, because the sky was stunning! Perhaps actually that's a good thing, the skies were dramatic enough and blur may have lost some of the drama. Blue skies were mixed with some very moody cloud.
Apocalyptic? f/11, 1/50, 15mm, ISO100
The palace pier, on that first day, didn’t inspire me with an interesting composition, the sky in that direction wasn't as dramatic. It was nice to look at, but...well, not so special. Nice views don't necessarily make good photos!
The West Pier, was beckoning, so many options. Gorgeously grim in its aspect, lovely! It had to be done. Hand holding shots from all angles, most bracketed to ensure the highlights in the bright patches of sky could be held in the image. The problem was though, just which angle was the best? Zooming in, or zooming out to include the shore? Partly side on, or full frontal? One thing that made up my mind was that side on, with the columns, was sadly too distorted to get everything straight in the final image.
As you see from the shot below, the old West Pier is now a sorrowful specimen after being left to ruin from fire damage, but at the same time gorgeous to photograph. The hard dark timbers against the sea and sky, combined with a few of the steel columns that rise obstinately from the beach.
Blasted! f/8, 27mm, ISO100, 3 shots bracketed. HDR in Photomatix Pro
Hand holding was the only choice. I didn’t even have a bag with me on which I could put the camera to frame up a long-ish shot that, without filters, still wouldn’t have been all that long unless I took the aperture down to a ridiculously small f/32. At such a size the image would be softened too much. No point.
Brighton II – The Revenge of the Frustrated Photog.
This time I was ready! I was armed with my tripod and my filters, I could blur the sea and sky at will. The sky on this second trip was definitely not as interesting as the earlier visit, but the blue was glorious and this, together with a few white clouds and the sea blurred with a long exposure presented gorgeous colours.
The Palace Pier, f/16, 131 secs, 31mm, ISO100
Long exposure looked gorgeous, the question was just how much? The waves themselves were beautiful, crashing in freely. I could go longer with the shutter speed but leaving a trace of the waves, as in the shot above, left the impression of movement that an even longer exposure would’ve killed off.
The shots down on the pebble bank near the palace pier lasted at least 30 minutes. A whole selection of framing, with and without the shoreline, close ups of the pier structure, and wider views. I took the filters off and went for freezing the waves smashing against the legs. An alternative view that, while interesting, didn’t present great images.
My normal routine was followed for all filter work, composing, lining up and taking test shots without the filters, before placing them on. Several times forgetting I was in auto focus mode, and so I lost the focus as soon as I tried to place the filters on...one quick click and that was rectified. Almost a muppet moment, but I fixed it!
As fun as it was photographing the Palace Pier with long exposures and the crashing waves, there was something much more interesting waiting for me along the beach...the West Pier. Long exposures with those achingly sad timbers, it was the main target of the day, and had been since I'd visited last time without the kit.
I got there...blast! A bloke with a tripod exactly in the middle of the old columns where I wanted to be. Grrrr...ah well. I found another angle while I waited. Fortunately, he wasn’t long, a couple of shots and then he was gone, weird. Or maybe he doesn’t share the same fascination with long exposure and water as I do? Very possible!
The shots were lined up. Straight on. Side on. With the columns. With the shore. Without the shore. 30, 40 minutes passing as I took plenty of shots, I was determined not to miss a composition...yet I know I did. I also fell foul of my muppet moment, cutting a long exposure off far too early and ending up with an image that was far too dark to use, and my other classic; getting light in between the filters and reflecting the numbers on the front of the lens back into the censor. Damn! But at least I noticed both this time...and got another, better shot. Maybe I am learning after all! Click the links to read each Muppet Moment post!
Despite the glorious blues of the day, both the sky and the turquoise effect of the motion blurred sea, perhaps the most striking image of the day was the old West Pier in mono, simple and stark! Two vloggers that I follow, Mr Danson and Mr Heaton, both preach simplicity in composition. I understand why!
Ruin, f/16, 55sec, 38mm, ISO100
Dereliction, f/16, 44sec, 50mm, ISO100
It was definitely worth going back to Brighton with full kit. I am delighted I got the chance to cross off the long exposed shots of the West Pier from my photo bucket list.
Share links to your shots showing the same place in different weather/light! What places are you waiting to get back to? I’ll be sure to reply!
The Frustrated Photog.