click photo to enlarge
Victorian and Edwardian recreational piers make great photographic subjects. They stretch out from the shore into the sea, a wooden deck with pavilions, theatres, shops, shelters and railings, supported by a forest of cast iron or steel legs and cross bracing. Ornate metalwork, fanciful roof outlines, flagpoles and other excrescences make for lively shapes against sea and sky. People flock to them seeking the experience of being at sea without setting foot in a precarious boat or sickness inducing ship. Fishermen seek them out for the opportunity they offer to easily cast into deep water. Yes, piers offer the photographer subjects a-plenty.
However, piers offer more than a subject. The photographer at the coast, casting around for a vantage point from which to take shots of land, the sea or the beach, can do a lot worse than position himself on a pier. I've been fortunate to have lived in the vicinity of piers for a large part of my life and I've frequently taken the opportunity of standing on one in search of a striking or unusual composition. The other day I was in Cromer, Norfolk, doing just that and I came away with a couple of views of the shore that please me. Both were taken fairly early on a Sunday morning before most holidaymakers were stirring. Both feature Cromer's medieval church with its tall tower, described by Pevsner as, "at 160 feet, by far the tallest of any Norfolk parish church." And both show the zig-zag sloping path that takes the pedestrian down to the pier entrance from the viewpoint in front of the Hotel de Paris (1895-6). But, only the smaller photograph shows the pier itself, a structure of 1900-1. It is currently undergoing a refurbishment and has "clutter" on its decking so I kept the amount in the frame to just enough for a strong leading line to the church and hotel. The main photograph, though the colour is not as interesting as in the smaller shot, has a composition that I like better, with the groynes, sea-wall, church tower and line of buildings combining asymmetrically to good effect.
If you want to see what the pier looks like in totality these views taken a couple of years ago tell the tale.
photographs and text © Tony Boughen
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On