Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The seaside in winter

click photo to enlarge
"Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside."
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright, essayist and critic

People will have their own opinions about Shaw's view of a day in heaven, but a majority would probably think his description of it perfectly matches a day at the seaside in winter: particularly at a town that specialises in "entertainment". These are places that are either loved or hated. The English middle classes tend to look down their noses at the likes of Blackpool, Margate, Weston-super-Mare, Cleethorpes or Skegness, seeing them as places of cheap thrills and meretricious tat, glitzy facades with no substance. There is some truth in that, but it's certainly not the whole story, and this kind of seaside resort, even in winter, can be a place of deep interest.

My first impressions of the Lincolnshire seaside town of Skegness weren't good. Its beach is flat and relatively uninteresting, the architecture is of the expected kind, but bland, without the showy excess and originality that enlivens many resorts. The pier, a feature of the English seaside that I love, is so short it rarely has water beneath it, lacks interesting ornamentation, and seems to be closed for most of the year. And the funfair is compact, ordinary, and without the spectacular rides found elsewhere. And yet, after a couple of visits, I started to look at what the town had, rather than what was missing, and in doing so found details, buildings and scenes at which I was happy to point my camera.

Today's image was taken on an early January afternoon as the low sun was about to be replaced by dark, looming clouds. The orange light of winter deepened the red of the sand, and intensified the colours of the amusement park rides against the deep grey sky. I took a close shot of the wheel and roller coaster, and then looked for a wider view. But, there was no foreground interest, and so I decided to use my own shadow. That produced the photograph that I liked best, perhaps because its starkness complemented the scene that was empty of the summer bustle and noise of holidaymakers enjoying themselves.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: 7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On