Eastbourne Pier Sunrise

On this clear February morning I had originally set out to capture an early morning mist on the South Downs. However, to get to the Downs I have to drive past colourful beach huts, an empty beach, Victorian bandstand and a very photogenic pier, which are often hard to resist against the glowing horizon. On this occasion I did get past the beach huts but soon came to a quick halt at Eastbourne‘s iconic pier. I find it’s often rewarding to ditch the plans and go with the flow.

So I park up, put on my wellies (a must on winter beach mornings – I keep them in the car boot just in case), grab my camera equipment and head down to the beach to find a good spot. I often pass a jogger or dog walker and bid them good morning – something that people seem more inclined to do when there aren’t many other people around.

My next step is to find a good composition, which isn’t always immediately obvious in the dim light and cold of the pre-dawn morning. Sometimes the ideal spot comes to me straight away and at other times I will be moving around a scene like a yoyo. Today I am pretty sure I want to capture some good movement in the choppy sea. With the sky being so clear, most of the interesting features are going to be in the foreground and focal point. I find that most of my favourite work involves a good helping of motion in the frame as to me this helps make the image more dynamic and emotive.

After setting up the camera and tripod at full height and stepping into the small breaking waves, I secure the tripod’s legs into the pebbly beach, re-adjust the camera to get a composition I am happy with and then wait for some good movement in the waves (and hope that no splashes find their way over the top of my wellies…). Photographing waves until you get some really nice effects with the moving water can be trial and error. I find it’s also helpful to use graduated filters on the lens in seascapes rather than creating two exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground, or doing too much post-production editing. Also, watch out for sea spray – it loves ruining your shots.

Eventually, up comes the sun over the horizon. I’ve already set my camera to a very small aperture to get that star like effect on the sun and help keep most of the frame in focus. With my eye I could see the warm colours and highlights appearing on the braking waves, which wasn’t being caught very well on camera due to too much blurring of the waves. So I opened up the aperture to brighten things up a bit, which enabled me to use slightly quicker shutter speeds. I was then able to capture some of that lovely warmth in the foreground on the splashing waves.

I captured a few different images of the pier that morning but I was most happy with this frame and even happier that I didn’t get wet feet.

Mark

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