Monday, April 20, 2009

Photographic cliches and beach huts

click photo to enlarge
Beach huts have become something of a photographic cliche for UK-based snappers. These wooden, low-cost, weekend and summer holiday shacks are making something of a comeback. In the 1970s and 1980s it like they might disappear. However, there has been an increased interest and demand in recent years, and a few new ones have started to appear. The straitened economic times that are upon us will doubtless give them a further fillip as many families forsake the beaches of the Mediterranean for the beautiful, though cooler, coasts of the British Isles.

What is it about beach huts that makes people point their cameras at them? It must be a combination of their bright colours, the unusual and varied nature of their construction, the fact that they are redolent of times past, and the photogenic places in which they are located. I wasn't prepared for this particular group of beach huts at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, until I went over the sand dune nearest the sea and came upon them. Beach huts superseded bathing machines at the end of the nineteenth century when mixed bathing became more acceptable, and people no longer minded walking across the beach to the sea in their bathing costumes. The examples shown here are some of the oldest in the UK, dating from around 1900, and differ from others I've seen around the coast by being raised on legs and having steps up to a small verandah. I don't know whether any are municipally owned, but judging by the way they have been individualised I'd guess not. Probably most are privately owned, though doubtless some are available for hire.

Given that I described photographs of beach huts as a cliche, why was I taking pictures of them? Well, there's a challenge in producing an image that gets away from the stereotypical series of multi-coloured gable ends (though I have done that one in the past!) There's also the desire to record these distinctive structures. So, with those two points in mind I ended up with this distant shot of the huts backed by the pine trees and holidaymakers as the right foreground interest.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On