Swanage

Last month my wife and I took an impromptu trip to Swanage. It was an accident, we were taking our new car out for a spin and we just ended up there. I love Swanage, I’ve visited there at least once a year for the last 25 years, so it was perhaps inevitable that we’d find ourselves there on one of the first sunny days of the year. There is plenty of great driving roads around there too, which I guess was part of the appeal.

Having visited Swanage many times, however, it was a little while before I felt inclined to get out my camera. I probably have photographs of the town dating back to the mid-nineties, back when I was using a handed-down point-and-shoot film camera. I should probably see if I can dig those out at some point – my parents must have them somewhere.

We were sitting on a bench on a large stone jetty letting our lunch settle when a seagull landed nearby, finally encouraging me to get my camera out.

1/1250sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 120mm
1/1250sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 120mm

At the end of the jetty (which, unfortunately, looks a bit like a penis when viewed on Google Maps) was the standard health and safety sign warning against jumping into the shallow sea in case you get hurt. Signs like this annoy me, it’s why humanity is getting so stupid because people stupid enough to dive into shallow water aren’t being given the freedom to do so and remove themselves from existence. Ultimately it’s the lawyers that are going to be responsible for the downfall of humanity.

I liked the look of the sign, however, but couldn’t decide how best to shoot it. In colour? In black and white? With just the sea behind it, or with some of the cliff visible? A wide shot, or closer to the sign? Should the sign be on the left or the right? I tried variations on all of the above, but as is often the case I’m not sure which one works best, and I know from experience that my opinion tends to be at odds with most other people’s. So, to hedge my bets a bit, here are most of them.

1/1600sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 64mm
1/1600sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 64mm
1/1600sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 39mm
1/1600sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 39mm
1/1600sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 39mm
1/1600sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 39mm
1/2000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 29mm
1/2000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 29mm

I think my favourite is probably the second-to-last photo. I think the image reads better with the sign on the left side and and I prefer the wider angle of the shot.

In other other direction on the jetty, facing towards land, are a few benches. On this day the fates were conspiring to make things look a bit stereotypical, with some old people enjoying their spot on one of the benches.

1/500sec, f/5, ISO 100, 57mm
1/500sec, f/5, ISO 100, 57mm

Lining the jetty are metal railings; they’re relatively new (in the sense that I remember a time when they weren’t there that doesn’t seem like that long ago, although thinking about it that must’ve been over a decade ago) but they’re styled in an old-school fashion which looks quite nice.

1/2000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm
1/2000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

I’ve used a light sepia effect to bring out the texture in the poles. I like using monochrome to bring out details like this.

In was in this vein that I processed this shot of the end of the jetty. It is relatively new – built in the nineties, I think – but is made of Purbeck Stone and styled to look traditional. Not a bad place to sit when there’s no wind.

1/3200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 22mm
1/3200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 22mm

That image has been through a demo of a plugin called Silver Efex Pro 2, part of the same collection as HDR Efex Pro 2, my HDR plugin of choice (I say ‘choice’, I’ve still not actually bought it yet). Compared to the vanilla Aperture monochrome version of this image, the plugin version has more detail in all areas of the frame, especially in the sky. As HDR Efex Pro is only available as part of the same set as Silver Efex Pro (and others), I do need to finally get round to buying it all. Eventually.

Presently we decided to head to the beach. It wasn’t exactly the warmest day there’s ever been (in hindsight I wouldn’t complain if it was that warm now) but still good weather to enjoy an ice cream whilst strolling along the beach.

The first thing that caught my eye on the beach was a metal structure, which is used during summer to secure rental deck chairs or pedalos. This was still off-season, however, and there were none in sight. The frame sticking out of the sand for no immediate reason looked pretty interesting to me, so I spent a little time photographing it.

1/1250sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 37mm
1/1250sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 37mm

I also played about with a HDR version. As I was shooting straight into the sun I took five exposures at -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2 exposure compensation and merged them together using a demo of HDR Efex Pro 2 (fortunately when they rolled that various plugins in the Nik Collection into one, they reset the free trial allowance so I got another 14 day trial).

f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm (HDR)
f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm (HDR)

I’m not entirely sure it was worth it, but it does seem to have captured some more detail than the single exposure version:

1/3200sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm
1/3200sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm

Whilst I sat on the low wall where the beach meets the road to finish my ice cream my wife wandered off to explore.

1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 21mm
1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 21mm
1/1600sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 21mm
1/1600sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 21mm

I liked the idea of these shoes, holding them in focus in the foreground and letting the wall form some disappearing lines. I waited a while in order to get a clean image with few people sullying the frame.

1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm
1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm
1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm
1/2000sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm

Being the off-season, the beach wasn’t as well groomed as it is during the summer months, so there was some more interesting things in the sand. My favourite was this cork.

1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 135mm
1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 135mm

There was also this flint, which I liked the texture of.

1/1000sec, f/5, ISO 100, 47mm
1/1000sec, f/5, ISO 100, 47mm

The final thing that caught my eye as we headed back to the car was a child’s boat full of sand.

1/800sec, f/5, ISO 100, 42mm
1/800sec, f/5, ISO 100, 42mm

I’ve attempted to remove a bit of the colour, with the exception of red to make it stand out, but it seems to have just made it look overcast and sucked a bit of the life out of the photo. I tried putting some back with tweaks to the exposure but it didn’t improve anything.

It’s pretty likely I’ll be back in Swanage at some point this year. I love Dorset for the driving, the sights and the air so it’s pretty much inevitable.

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