Sarah and I have had many adventures over the last 3 years of our relationship, we have travelled across the western states of the US, we have travelled extensively across the south of England and Wales too. We bought a house, made a home (reads making right?), each one a little adventure in our lives.
My charming and dear friend, Daniel Murphy Jnr of New Mexico says, and I agree, ‘Every day has an adventure, it’s your job to find it’ – he is so correct!
Life is what you make of it, we all have down days we all have off days, but the secret is to rise up like the phoenix out of the flames and start again, each day if you have to, life must go on and we must make the most of it.
Sarah and I have, as you have gathered an age gap, I am 21 years her senior, I shall be 60 in 3 years, she 40 in a little over 4 – we have business to be getting on with, at a pace, because we are nothing if not committed to each other and our entwined journey – we met, we fell madly in love and our time is short, so we must make haste.
All of us have lives, for the most part, that revolve around our quite often taxing and busy jobs, I have quite a demanding job as does Sarah and we often spend plenty of time moaning about our respective employers and various colleagues who don’t do things how we like them, whatever, you get the deal – were all the same after a challenging week.
So, when we get the opportunity, we escape, we literally bugger off, just the two of us with the cameras to get some ‘US’ time. We don’t even have to go far, neither do you, I adapted Dan’s phrase to use more in tune with the vocation I adore, and it reads ‘beauty is all around us, it’s our job to find it!’
We had such an adventure yesterday, one which was planned meticulously and one which went very wrong even a day before we decided to go.
The plan was to meet with friends at a beach near to Folkstone called the Warren, I had checked the tides, they were out, perfect for location, coincided with sunrise time too. The Warren has a lot of beach debris, perfect for foreground interest, the holy grail for the landscape photographer and this was to be our location to start our day.
The plan, and there almost always has to be one, but it’s a guide rather than a plan, because one must stay in flux, be flexible to the day as it unfolds – conditioning your day onto too tight a timeline or list of things to do ties you down, stresses you out and you end up ‘failing at objectives’ – that’s not relaxing and it’s in my mind foolish at best.
So our plan, ha ha, don’t worry it all went south even the day before we were to go, but the intentions were to shoot the sunrise at the Warren, then up to the café near Folkstone racecourse for a hearty breakfast, often referred to by Mr Goose as a ‘fat-boy breakie’ and then onto location number two, this was to be one of many, weather dependant, so it could encompass, Dungeness Beach, as far down as Winchelsea beach, not ideal with an incoming tide, of inland to the woods at Shadoxhurst or the common at Hothfield. We were then going to catch the late light of the day through the trees at the little stream at Sandling in Cuckhoo Woods.
Very early on, weather apps suggesting sunrise was a no-go, again monitoring this during the week was to prove the case. Then one person drops out, again this changes the dynamics of the day, because they had different challenges and wants to the others, they don’t get out as much as us, so we wanted to ensure they had a most enjoyable day with their camera.
So fast forward now to Friday evening and the light is looking to be full cloud at low altitude over the coast and toward the east, where the current bun will rise and give us our show. We elected to stay in bed. Despite the dawns later arrival in these temperate mornings of mid-autumn, we still need to rise early enough to travel, which would be slightly less than an hour from home to location. So, for a 6:50 sunrise one still wants to be out of the sack around 4:30am to pack the car, bags are prepped the night before of course, well mine is, Sarah is another story all together, her batteries still on charge etc.
We would aim to be at location 45mins before Sun rise, to ensure we can catch any golden light, illumination of the high-level clouds, the best light generally being at this time. We would want to maximise that, and the photographic action can be apace at times. One scout’s locations and compositions on arrival as best one can, and then you know what you’re going to shoot. The direction is south of east at this time of year, but behind you at the Warren you have some white cliffs and rising ground to the Northwest, which, given conditions could well be beautifully bathed in the warm golden light of the morning sun. These are our pleasures, the location, the early start, the fresh coffee, the beautiful light, the great company, the clean air, the call of the birds, it’s about being there to live it more than anything else. Should one come away with an image then that’s the bonus, but we are photographer’s first, we have risen early and our time on this earth is precious – so we do our best to prevail.
Of course, mother nature has her own hand in proceedings, and she will deal you a hand of cards, some mornings it’s a royal flush on others she’ll give you a ‘bad beat’.
Some photographers despise this, and whilst it can be highly frustrating when you get a bad hand, often you get something, early mornings offer us the best weather here in our northern latitudes, our days quite often degrading as cloud and water vapour intensity increases during the course of the day. Land mass heating in our green and pleasant land has a detrimental effect on our weather.
Once out of bed, time for a quick spruce, a mug of tea, and the loading session begins.
One of the challenges for the photographer is kit, there is gear to pack for eventualities that may arise during the day, especially one with multiple locations. But generally, we travel with one digital bag and one film bag each, 2 or more tripods, wet weather gear, an umbrella, hiking boots, wellington boots, waterproof trousers, Sarah needs those more than me ;), her ability to dunk her derrière never fails to amaze me – I can see elasticated plastic pants on the Christmas list for sure.
That’s a lot to remember and a lot to pack, but it’s in the car and then I am tapping my feet, shouting ‘coooome on’ up the stairs etc, most chaps will know that deal. Sarah is, in all fairness, pretty good, she just wants to know one thing, that is the time we are leaving, she generally builds in enough time for her to get ready for that departure time. I pack her gear along with mine in the car, in an organised manner, not burying the boots at the back, as an example. Generally, when Sarah and I shoot alone, we pack hot drink making facilities, we have a stove and a ‘jet boil’ pack of biscuits, coffee, and tea. We started to do this because of the covid pandemic which, of course, has affected all our lives, and we have found it to save us a fortune on Costa or Starbucks. We can generally make as good a cup of coffee, and exponentially better tea than either of those establishments – each time emptying over £10 out of your wallet, because someone always wants……cake, the bane of my life not to mention my waistline – I do love her so! Our isolation from others continues to a large degree, in this vein, until this evil has passed, one hopes soon.
Changing circumstances of course prevailed, the sunrise at the Warren was aborted and we conceded to a much later start meeting at a more local café, and the focus of attention for the day being the small woodland at Sandling.
After a hearty feed of a full English, we were off to the woods, now going with certain people entails its own differing challenges. Trevor takes toys, Star War’s figures and reconstructs the most effective dioramas utilising fire smoke and brimstone to create the most wonderful and cinematic images.
He also has a talent for modelling, but not your average modelling, more of the creepy horror show stuff, be it ‘Hellraiser’ or ‘Michael Myers’ from the movie Friday the 13th – today was going to be a Friday the 13th kind of day. This encompasses large knives, fake blood, ghoulish masks and coveralls to create the effect. It’s our job as the photographer to create the mood using the light and editing skills (mine are lacking I assure you) to make the image as ghastly and frightening as we can.
Sarah was to play with ducks, those of you who know us well, understand the importance of this for her, my job was simple, catch the ducks. Quackers!!
Trevor donned his horror attire and once he had finished frightening the wits out of a young girl and her father, who were using the footpath, quickly removing his mask and affording a smile of re-assurance to them both we got down to business. Now Trevor is the expert in these matters, me very much the amateur here, but between us I think we did OK, some very different images from my norm, you can see them below, nice for a change and a good laugh in the process.
Of course, the primary reason for being there is to photograph the small stream and beck as the course flows under a little bridge, one assumes an old cart crossing toward the pilgrim’s way path to London, or Canterbury, which passes a miles to the north. This is a quaint location and one I have photographed before, but like all things in the nature we love, the landscape changes, and evolves to present us with subtle differences, enough of which demand a re-shoot.
The stream had clearly had some severe flows through there since my last visit, several of the larger rocks and stones repositioned much further down the stream. There was evidence of the water flow undercutting the bank in many places, such has been the torrent, which normally follows heavy rains we have seen with in the last few weeks. The blessing of our visit is the on-set of autumn, the falling leaves coming down around you with the silence of snow, they kiss the ground with a gentle caress, which you only see.
A breeze flows, you hear the trees whisper above as they shed more foliage to the floor, growing the carpet of colour for us to enjoy, it really is the most beautiful time of year. The lucky photographer will catch some of these leaves in their images, we may or may not this day.
The water comes through a small arch, the water course comes from an underground source under the chalk of the north downs. Most of Kent’s water supply is underground, held in huge reservoirs under the chalk, it’s ability to soak up water and retain it offers us protection here from drought in all but the harshest of summers. There are many such streams and culverts which stem from the downs to the north, providing irrigation and sustenance to the local population for a millennium.
I have never seen this dry, its flow is constant except following heavy rainfall when its catchment is below the downs forces it to become a torrent, if only for a day or so.
Sarah and I generally shoot both digital and analogue images and we did both on this occasion as well. Despite being similar photographer’s, we have totally different eyes for detail, hers being far superior to mine. We look for different objectives when we shoot, you will often hear her say ‘oooh seen an image’ and off she trots dragging her bag behind her. We work in different styles, and despite being together as a couple we have different goals when we are out. Sarah will often share those with me, as do I her, but it does not seem to change out individual objectives.
We just love to make pictures, don’t really care if anyone likes them or not, we just do our thing which gives us the pleasure we enjoy. I am blessed to have several photographer friends who feel the same, they are refreshing in their own styles and genres without the pretentiousness I dislike so much.
Sarah’s shoot of ducks did not really go to plan, me releasing them upstream of the bridge, to cries of noooo, as they all cascaded under, some of them adopting a more capsized orientation which I found most amusing. Of course, this was not without its perils, falling over trying to regain ones footing on the wet leaves that formed the carpet, thankfully not getting gooped in mud in the process. But photograph them she did, which was far more challenging than you would imagine.
The photography was the landscape we wished to capture in all its beauty and discovering new compositions which was wonderful to do. I have discovered a new composition there, which demands a revisit to do properly as Sarah is in the original image, but it’s scene I like very much and offers something very different from the norm.
So we achieved some nice imagery, some laughs, some ghouls and ducks – see were all quackers really – but as I say life is for living and you got to love it.
If your still here, then you deserve a medal, well done and thank-you for reading my ramblings that I love to pen.
Remember, I am one man with one vision and one opinion, I am often as right as I am wrong – enjoy.