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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 4 – Pinhole Experiments

A little bonus part four from the series of photos from coastal walks over the Christmas period. While out with my Nikon FE2 I also took out a new pinhole 35mm camera to experiment with. The last time I had used a pinhole was actually at school (…a little while ago) so it was fun to try out a roll of film and check exposure times, etc. I think I need to ensure the camera is more stable to get sharper focus but it was fun to try this out after such a long time.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 3

After the walking back down the river path during the flash storm the sun tried breaking through as I finally returned to the water meadows and the edge of the beach. This is the corner where the Colne River meets the sea. The steps lead down to a flat beach, with lots of pieces of dark, wet and decayed wood jutting out of the low lying sand. As the tide continued to climb the wood sunk away again, with always the question of who placed it there and why. Due to the location of the beach the lines of waves intersect, climbing in from two different sources.

With another storm fast approaching, wet feet and all my film used up it was time to return home.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 2

On Christmas Eve I wanted to re-explore an area of Mersea Island I had briefly explored before, in sunnier weather. The easterly edge of the island lies where the mudflats of the Pyefleet channel meet the wide River Colne which together join the North Sea. I had visited the beach and marshes but I hadn’t discovered what lay upriver so as the rain clouds closed in from the stormy weather the UK was experiencing I set off up the footpath with a low tide to my side.

The mudflats here are zigzagged with small channels, feeding the water from the fields down to the river. With low tide these flats led the eye out to the lonely moored boats, out in the channel itself. Despite the time of year the air was full of birdsong, the geese seemed restless and were circling and I was lucky to see Heron and Cormorant too. At rare breaks in the mud there are access points for people to take small craft down to the water’s edge, these both give access to the water and to the broken, haphazard mud lines that bank these access points.

About a mile upriver I found a deserted shellfish farm. The open yard and pool area above the tide level had small hills of leftover shells, with that dark tinted smell of rotten seafood strong in places. This area led down to a launching channel that opened up to reveal the shellfish farms and farmed mudflats. The broken tooth like shuttering of the mudflat boundaries was rapidly disappearing as counter-intuitively the tide rose rapidly, but coming down from upriver, rather than the sea. The edge of the dark rainstorm coming from the north east hit and must have been the original source of the rising river water, rising by inches as each minute passed.

As the storm edge hit my location, the rain haze fell and in seconds I was soaked as I set off back the way I came on the coastal path. With a cold, wet smile on my face I sensed that I may have well been the only soul to experience that particular place, in those particular conditions.

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The Stormy Shoreline of the East Part 1

After a manic last few months of 2013 it was a much welcomed break for Christmas that allowed me to spend some time walking with my camera again. My family live up in north Essex and on the drive up from Portsmouth I always travel through the village where I used to live and up the coastal roads rather than the main A road (the A12). The Essex coastline is something very, very special and all the more so in the winter months with the mudflats, beaches and villages quiet.

I say quiet…but for all the time I spent over the Christmas period out coast walking it was all during the period of harsh storms and the first walk at the Heybridge Basin was the windiest and wettest of all. Heybridge Basin is a naturally sheltered area of water where the River Chelmer joins the Blackwater Estuary. The small village and local pubs were quiet with people tucked up inside in the warm while I braved the rain and sticky mud with the tide fast approaching with the howling wind behind it.

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The Skies, Bricks, Sand & Trees of The North Part 2

As well as discovering the coastline of Aberdeenshire on our Scottish trip we also spent time in both Aberdeen and deep in the countryside. The city of Aberdeen in many ways felt a lot like my home town of Portsmouth. It might be the nautical history, its general geographical makeup and also in many ways its current cultural feel with the arts. One of my favourite things is exploring a new city with my camera.

The second part of our trip was our good friends’ wedding which was out in the countryside about an hour east from Aberdeen. We stayed in a cabin tucked away in a pine forest for the two days and hid from the world. The cabin with its log burner kept us warm but it was the pine trees that drew me out, with the faint warmth from an autumnal sun creeping through.

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The Skies, Bricks, Sand & Trees of The North Part 1

A week or so ago I went up to Aberdeenshire as two close friends who were getting married out in the countryside. Despite being warned about it being grey, wet, cold and windy when we landed at the airport the sun was shining and it was t-shirt weather by mid morning. We had the Thursday free so decided to take the hire car and get lost up the coast north of Aberdeen, when we saw a sign for Cruden Bay we thought it sounded good and turned off of the main road for the sea.

Weirdly, while at the airport we saw a tourist poster of a derelict castle but no name or location and whilst driving down a hill in to Cruden Bay we saw the very same castle up on the bluff to the north of the village so we went to discover it before finding the beach. Slains Castle is thought to be the inspiration for Dracula’s Castle as Bram Stoker visited the area and castle before the novel was written. The castle is now a roofless, derelict structure overlooking the rocky cliffs which if anything, is really in keeping with the atmosphere of the book. We explored around the old and very old sections, catching views through arches, doorways and windows out to the North Sea.

Walking back along the path covered in scallop shells we made it down to the perfect sandy beach of the bay, which was empty and silent apart from the oil rig helicopters passing overhead in quick succession. After a picnic on the dunes we set of back for Aberdeen.

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In The Aberdeenshire Pines

I spent a few days up in Aberdeenshire last week and was in awe with how beautiful the coastline and countryside were. We spent a couple of nights in a cabin in a pine forest and on the morning after our friends’ wedding I went for a walk with my iPhone and captured a few clips. This edit was then made using the iMovie app on the phone whilst I sat in front of the log fire after the walk. I’ll have the photos back from the developers soon.

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Marwell Zoo (1)
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Where the Almost Wild Things Are

I don’t really remember the last time I went to a zoo but I do remember going as a child to London Zoo and Colchester Zoo and it really being a special experience. Despite the ever ongoing battle of arguments for and against of which I can appreciate both sides I do really feel that by seeing the animals that are at risk in person it builds a sense of understanding of the issues around conservation.

I recently visited Marwell Zoo in Hampshire for the first time and as zoos go it seemed to really focus on creating an environment for the animals that allowed them to have a sense of place in some way. Beyond that, it was pretty incredible to see such beautiful, interesting, characterful, funny and unusual creatures up so close. Even the crows that occupied the outside of the cafe were curiously intriguing with their behaviour (as well as being photogenic in their own particular macabre way).

Shooting photos on film rather than digital meant that each photo I had to think a little harder, react a little faster and think about light, colour and composition a bit more. It also meant I didn’t end up experiencing the whole zoo through a viewfinder, with plenty of time to enjoy the place and the animals after one or two photos.

Favourite animal there? The Red Panda.

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Visit to Christchurch, Dorset (4)
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Time Away With The Sails, Wings and Leaves

Last autumn my girlfriend and I were pretty desperate for a short trip away after having a difficult summer. We wanted to go somewhere quite close but where we haven’t explored before, somewhere with sea and trees and we ended up picking Christchurch in Dorset. Christchurch is near Bournemouth with it’s own small harbour and west of the New Forest and despite it being a bit showery we did get some sun, some peace and we did well exploring as much as we did.

You can view lots more photos over at the Quiet Corners Facebook page.

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Old Friends and The City

It was my 40th birthday the other week and part of the weekend was spent up in London with lots of friends, skateboarding around the city. The first time myself and some of these friends skated london was in the late 80s so it was something special to relive that in part with skating through the streets before ending up at Mile End skatepark for a wind down with some drinks.

I’m really lucky to still have skateboarding and some amazing friends still in my life.

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Searching For The Seals

After discovering some years ago that seals frequent not only my local harbours Portsmouth Harbour & Langstone Harbour but they also live and travel as far as Southampton in the West and and Chichester Harbour and beyond in the east I’ve wanted to see them in their natural environment. There are two types of seals in this area, the Common or Harbour Seal and also the occasional sightings of the rarer Atlantic Grey Seal too.

A while back I went out on a boat trip in the harbour to try and find some seals, who particularly enjoy the low tide muds around places like Thorney Island and the plentiful food the harbour provides. The beat travelled down to the harbour entrance, past East Head before exploring the smaller channels in to the wide, remote mud flats, inaccessible from the shore. We spotted a single seal initially and then as the boat came around a corner a group could be seen enjoying the sunshine and seemed happy to have some photos taken before we had to leave and return to the harbour entrance, with a wide view of the Solent out beyond. I’m hoping to see more of these residents of the local harbours this summer too, with a little luck.

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Earliest Light on the Cold Hands on the Wet Sand and Rock #2

Reaching the wet but warming by the sun sand of Aberporth beach meant finally walking out in to the open, early spring morning sunshine. the first thing to explore was where the stream exited from it’s hill source under a road bridge and joined a channel down to the seawater. This was where the few fishing boats were located, with their pots and nets. From here it was a short explore to the lowest cliffs, perfect for climbing up and giving a central, elevated perspective of both sides of beach and the bay as a whole.

The cliffs had been worn away by millennia of weather and tide but there were also human wear too, with names scratched in to the rock. It was difficult to tell the age of these scrawls but some could date back to the early history of the village, some hundreds of years ago. My time on the cliffs and beach quickly past and I had to both leave the sands but also get ready for the drive back to Southsea.

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Earliest Light on the Cold Hands on the Wet Sand and Rock #1

On a recent week long trip exploring the west coast of Wales I had a bit of a camera malfunction with my Nikon FE2 so ended up using my digital camera for the trip. On the morning we were set to return to Southsea I got up with the very early sun and grabbed the camera anyway (no light meter and shutter fixed on 1/250) and some rolls of film and went down and explored the two beaches and pathways around the village we were staying in, Aberporth.

We stayed in a converted train carriage on top of the cliffs overlooking the beaches and Aberporth Bay and I was lucky to get out just after dawn with the low, golden light breaking over the serrated shoreline. The quiet path down through some trees to the first beach ducked in and out of the sunlight as it weaved down the cliff to the back sand and to where the river meets the beach. The view of the village and the beaches unfolded as the path got closer and closer to it’s destination.

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Lowest Tide Reveals the Sands and The Things That Will Remain

Somethings change, somethings stay the same. Hoping to post lots more photography in the next few months here and on Quiet Corners and the Quiet Corners Facebook Page and get back to a regular routine again. I’m out with my Nikon FE2 a lot more again and want to share the results.

What better place to start than my home of Southsea. It is easy to feel that your home for some time has no more secrets or nothing new to show you and inspire you creatively but that’s actually a reflection of your own blinkered view I’ve found in my experience. This small village on the southern tip of a southern island on the southern shore changes from one day to the next and given the chance will always have something new, if I look past my own tired eyes.

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I Hoped That We Would Stay, In Our Own Way

Autumn has fallen on Hampshire. I love this time of year, the slight chill in the air, the bite of cold rain and that first time in months when you walk in to a pub with a log fire. About this time last year Jo and I visited Petworth House over in Sussex. English Heritage have done a wonderful job of making the huge house accessible but just as importantly they have left much of the land wild, allowing you to get in amongst the hills, the trees and the deer. The deer observe with a bit of a disinterested air, keeping an eye out incase you get that little bit too close.

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Obstructed Views and Converging Lines

The entrance to Portsmouth Harbour is heavily fortified with the Hot Walls and the Square & Round Towers and thankfully much of this part of Portsmouth’s history is both still here after the ravages of the Luftwaffe and is open and accessible. The different spaces, views and walls can give dramatically different sights of the water and it’s continuous movement of traffic passing in and out.

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Between the Ruins, The Woods and The River

Midhurst lies in a green corner of West Sussex and is home to the Cowdrey Ruins and to be honest, I do love a good spot of English Heritage. The ruins sit at the end of a long, straight almost causeway like path through the wetland up and over a small river that travels perpendicular to the gates, as if man handling it to form a moat. The ruins, the riverside and the woodland around it all cut the light up in vertical lines of colour and shadow that unexpectedly visually united the different locations and views. Even the hidden Norman ruins up on the wooded Motte formed a quiet partnership with the tall trees and straight stone lines still marking the walls and walkways left from a thousand years ago.

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Sea Fog, Red Rust and Wet Concrete

This has to be the worst summer ever, right? Each year I try to swim in the sea down here in Southsea as much as I can but it’s been really difficult with the weather and work commitments. Part of the bad weather has been the return of the familiar winter sound of the fog horn across The Solent. Not too long ago I visited the pier during one of these days where the horizon and the Isle of Wight disappear from sight.

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Zenit Walks Part 2 – Alley and Sea

After walking the dockyard wall in Portsea I walked through Kings Bench Alley, which has existed for hundreds of years but has a mixed history. Appropriately enough up in the barbed wire overhead was an empty bag, more than lightly something stolen. The alley runs down behind houses and spat me out back on the road again from where I went for a walk along Southsea seafront to use up the last of the roll.

The Zenit TTL camera seemed to really struggle after the sun came out and it looks like shooting in to strong sunlight is something it is not too keen about, mores the pity.

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Zenit Walks Part 1 – Portsea Walls

I’m always looking around charity shops for old film cameras, the more clunky and unusual the better. Back in late winter this year I found an old Russian Zenit TTL SLR in a local shop and picked it up for a few pounds. It needed a bit of work and the focus seemed a bit iffy but was heavy and it felt rugged so I loaded it up with a roll of film and set of for a walk around a part of Portsea I hadn’t explored before, the outer edge of the Dockyard walls.

This particular part of Portsmouth running along Queen Street for many, many years was infamous for it’s dangerous pubs and prostitutes plus it’s slums which reached a head in the 1920s with the murder of Brighton Mary which led the way to urban renewal, council housing in the city and dramatic change. With the bombing of this part of the city during the war and the redevelopment in the 60s this part of the city now has next to nothing to show for it’s past history apart from it’s road names.

One thing that has endured is the Dockyard wall. This wall runs around the dockyard circumference but at this part of Portsea is tucked well behind flats and housing, far away from the casual viewer’s eye. I had never explored this area so set off with this cold war camera in the cold weather in the low sun looking for new things and old things.

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