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Who hasn't taken a photo of the sea? It's the photography standard for amateurs, professionals, and selfie-takers everywhere. I've always been drawn to the sea; the first photo I ever remember taking was at Watergate Bay in Cornwall with a disposable camera from Boots. I must have been about five years old. Fast forward 25+ years and we arrive at the next image in this series.

Where and When?

Brighton, in September 2015.

The Background Story

This wasn't a photography trip but a surprise birthday celebration weekend. I questioned whether to even bring the camera at all, but I saw I had a small window of a few hours where it might be possible to sneak in some shots...


None whatsoever. This was an impromptu afternoon walk under increasingly threatening skies. I just happened to have my camera with me (which is a lesson in itself).

Technical Details

  • ISO 500

  • 23mm (equivalent)

  • f/16

  • 1/80s

How It Came Together

Attempting anything outdoors in England in September is always a lottery with the elements. Here was no different. Thankfully the rain held off but walking back from the pier the clouds started to roll in and the wind picked up. It was blanket coverage but, backlit by the sun, created this diffused light which in turn brought out all of these subtle details and colours.

With the overcast conditions I decided to opt for something simple and clean in composition. As we walked along the top of the promenade I realised that I was at the right height to frame just the sea and the sky: no people, no clutter, no distractions. It was a one-shot image.

Back home the processing involved an adjustment to the horizon to make sure it was perfectly level and a slight increase in the exposure. The colours and contrast did not need any enhancement, such was the quality of the natural light. It is one of the simplest photographs I have ever taken - both in subject matter and process.

Why Is It A Favourite?

The reason I like this particular image so much is because it goes against the grain of most of my 'normal' work. Whilst I am a fan of simplicity when shooting, for example, on the streets, it is not something that I would instinctively seek out with my landscape or seascape photography. Getting outside of your comfort zone every now and again is important.

It is also a reminder that while it can be satisfying to spend hours / days / months planning, researching, and refining locations and scenes (or is that just me?), it is also incredibly refreshing to achieve a rewarding image when you do just the opposite - adapting to unfavourable conditions, being spontaneous and exercising creativity to get around obstacles.

Shooting a scene like this completely unplanned, in a short space of time, and processing it in two minutes taught me a worthy lesson: sometimes it is OK to take shortcuts to your goal and break the habits of 'correct procedure'. Because when you do you are often forced to try something different - and that can be the start of creating something special.

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