Sunday, April 06, 2008

Pebbles paused

click photo to enlarge
"Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in."
from "Dover Beach", Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), English poet, writer and school inspector

Not Dover Beach, but Walcott beach, Norfolk. The shape of these pebbles shows that they have made many a "grating roar". However, their noise is now silenced, for the moment, jammed as they are in the gaps between the planks of a groyne. Yet, the next storm may well free them to continue their life of attrition, and their descent into sand.

When I was taking this photograph a couple of children were collecting pebbles in their small buckets. They scanned the beach carefully, selecting only those that appealed by colour, or banding, or distinctive shape. A man, presumably their father, was accompanying them, also intently selecting the pebbles that caught his eye. Perhaps they would be studied then returned to the beach. More likely they travelled home at the end of the afternoon and found a drier resting place decorating a garden, a backyard or a plant pot. Children are instinctively drawn to pebbles, finding the smooth shape and multi-colours attractive. Like flowers, sticks, insects and leaves a child sees them as abundant, attractive and hence, collectable. Interestingly, and almost uniquely, the childhood fascination with pebbles continues into adulthood, perhaps being driven by a primeval attraction based on a long-forgotten utility as well as their intrinsic beauty.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm (90mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8.0
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off