If at First, You Don’t Succeed …

Bruce Little / landscape, photography, seascape / / 1 Comment / Like this

… “Forget it”. So said Tommy Cooper, the Wurzels and, I suspect, many others for comedic effect. However following a very thin weekend of photography, which included an “oh so nearly” shot from Dawlish Warren, I spent the next week mulling over what could have been and, rather than forget it, the traditional “try try again” kept coming to mind.

The “nearly shot” in question was one of the old groyne at Dawlish Warren in Devon. The beach here is part of a spit of sand dunes which protects the mudflats at the mouth of the Exe estuary. There are numerous wooden groynes along the beach to protect from erosion and, towards the far end, there is the remains of an old “first generation” groyne which isn’t really functional any more but which I’d had my eye on for a little while. I have had a grab shot of this structure in my Lightroom catalogue for a little while but I wanted something a bit more artistic.

The first week I though of visiting I chose at the last minute to go elsewhere. When I checked my Flickr account later that day I’d discovered that my contact Mark Lakeman had been there that day and captured an effective composition with muted colours which I quite liked, but which he wasn’t pleased with, complaining about a “lack of mojo” in his commentary.

The following week I headed off with a view to getting a shot from the right hand side looking out to sea, with the groyne pointing towards the midwinter rising sun. “Curses” I thought when I arrived as I had forgotten that there was a modern groyne just to the left which would hamper any attempt to shoot from this side. Add to that an almost total lack of cloud in the sky and it was my turn  to experience a disappearing mojo. There was a thin strip of could on the horizon and I caught the sun behind it as it rose. Several compositions included pleasing starbursts but, and I have no idea how this happened, none were anywhere near in focus. I put this down to camera shake due to breaking waves moving my tripod in my own Flickr commentary but carelessness was probably a more accurate cause. Anyway, I posted one shot (below) to Flickr and left it at that.

The shot is OK but I had taken a number of more “square on” compositions which looked better overall as there was separation between the posts, but which were also blatantly out of focus. This one is, at least, in focus and offers a pleasing sun reflection and line of clouds on the horizon, but it is not what I was after.

Following Mark’s comments and my own disappointment I nicknamed this place the “Beach of Despair” and spent the next week mulling over what could have been. The sun would soon start rising further north and my chances at rectifying my mistakes would be few unless I wanted to wait until next winter. So it was that on Christmas Eve, I thought I’d give it another go. Rising a good 90 minutes before sunrise I headed off towards Exeter under a thick blanket of cloud. As I turned onto the A379 to head away from Exeter towards Dawlish Warren, I saw a clear slot on the low horizon and my hopes were raised.

Parking the car, I thought I may have been too late, despite it still being 50 minutes or so until sunrise. The horizon was already dark red and I ran and stumbled my way the 15 minutes or so to the old groyne. I made sure that the tripod was firmly in the sand, composed  to hide as much of the new groyne behind the old one as possible, and took extra care focusing to ensure that the posts were pin-sharp. By this stage the sky was turning bright red and I was getting very excited indeed. For about two minutes just before sunrise the sky was intensely red. I took numerous shots until it began to fade, checking, checking, and checking again for focus.

Then I looked behind me.

The sky was turning pinker and there were wispy red clouds against the darker grey layer. I ran around to the other side of the groyne, composed, focused, and kept shooting. Once the sun had risen above the cloud layer, I stopped, packed up, and jumped up and down with clenched fist like a little kid.

One of these latter shots was the first of mine to make it to Flickr Explore, peaking at #49 and my views went through the roof. Web traffic and comments are, of course, not why I am taking photos but it was a really pleasing way to round off the day and was the final justification for wanting to go back and get it right second time around.

And it is in no way the “Beach of Despair” any more …

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