Monday, September 20, 2010

Southwold Pier

click photo to enlarge
As you point your camera nearer to the sun the dramatic quality of your image increases - and the colour drains away. That thought ocurred to me when I reviewed this photograph on my computer. But then I thought, hang on a moment, Southwold Pier is pretty devoid of colour anyway, so this image doesn't make that point very well.

I used to take more contre jour shots than I do now. I think it is my change of location to rural Lincolnshire: the subjects that work with this approach are now harder to find. However, on a recent visit to Suffolk I did take a few against the light, of which this is one. I kept the sun's brightness out of the shot - you can just see the edge of it at the top right of the frame.

I chose this shot for today because it happens to illustrate a few of the compositional devices I listed yesterday. Framing, using the posts and pier name; contrast by shooting contre jour; leading lines (the railings and pier itself); repetition of forms; balanced asymmetry (the sweep of the near pier to the left, the thrust of the main pier and pier name to the right); and a single subject. But, as I say above, it doesn't make my point about colours dying away as you point the lens closer to a strong light source.

Southwold Pier opened for business in 1900. That being the case you'd expect it to have large, ornate pavilions, substantial benches, decorative railings, and lashings of bright paint to emphasise that a pier is all about FUN. However there are a couple of reasons why the pier is a sober and studied essay in white, black and grey (the primrose yellow landward building excepted). The first is because, as with most piers, it has been knocked about a bit and very little remains from the early days. In 1934 a storm swept away the T-shaped landing stage at the end of its 810 feet (245m) length. Then, during the Second World War, like many east and south coast piers it was cut to prevent it being used by invasion ships. A further indignity was visited on it when it was struck by a drifting mine that exploded taking down another section. Repairs in 1948 proved to be insufficiently robust to prevent a 1955 storm cutting it in half, and in a storm of 1979 it was reduced to a stump a mere 150 feet (45.4m) long. However, in 1999 a fund raising campaign secured enough money to rebuild it, and in 2001 it was re-opened in the form we see today. That brings me to the second reason for its sober colours and undemonstrative architecture. Southwold is one of the English seaside towns without an "amusement" area. The place has a reputation as a middle-class playground, and I imagine that this is not unconnected with the pier's appearance and its difference from most other English piers.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/1600
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On