The Lighthouse

Saturday morning; a day for rest and relaxation. A day to have a nice long lie in after a long week at work and, quite possibly, a few drinks to round it all off. Wake up, have a nice cup of coffee and watch a bit of trashy television before may showing around mid day and having a nice spot of lunch.

Not this past Saturday; that was entirely different.

I was staying in a cottage in East Dean for the weekend and was being joined by my friend John. I know he often gets up early to take photos, but my plan for this weekend was to use the cottage as a nice base to then drive to a few different UrbEx locations in East Sussex and Kent. I imagined we would get up and take the dogs for a nice walk and then head off to various places on the Saturday and Sunday. 8am was my intended entry time to the locations, so figured getting up at 7am, would be doable. It was possible that we could walk on the nearby cliffs at Beachy Head and take a few shots looking down at the lighthouse below…that would have been nice.

John had other ideas.

He agreed that it would indeed be nice to take shots of the lighthouse, but to do so from the base. Checking out the tides he noted that they were, by some coincidence, going out on the Saturday morning and it would be possible to get to the lighthouse around dawn to take some nice shots.

‘Okay…that’s doable’ I thought. ‘um…what time do we need to get up then?’

Roll on Saturday morning and I’m crawling out of bed at 5.30am and walking in a zombie like state to the kitchen to try and find caffeine. A quick coffee and shower later and we were in the car heading to Beachy Head and trying to find a way down the cliffs to the shoreline below. We find a suitable route and slip most of the way down the greasy chalk surface to arrive on some rocks; water to one side – cliff to the other. We scramble our way over the rocks, which was pretty exhausting – especially so early in the morning, and head towards the lighthouse that we can only just see the light of in the early morning fog.

Eventually we arrive at the lighthouse itself and start snapping away; the rain has stopped by this point, though I’m a little wet, and the fog is lifting so we were pretty lucky with the weather in that regard. I’m not an ocean person, so am a little apprehensive about whether the tide was going in or out. I know the sea is a harsh mistress and don’t fancy a rushed trip back along the rocks with the tide coming in, even with a former coastguard to hand. When I can actually see the tide is receding I feel a lot better and can finally relax. With relaxation comes hunger and a lack of breakfast is very apparent at this stage, so I’m glad I packed an energy bar and some water for the journey. I also have hard boiled eggs and cold sausages, but these are back in the car and there was no way I was heading back there for food at this stage.

In all we managed to get about an hour and a half shooting the lighthouse from various angles. The sky could have been a little kinder and more colourful for us, but all in all it was a great morning.

Once done the walk back was a lot easier. The tide had gone out by this time so we were able to hop along smaller rocks and, in places, actual parts of the beach itself! This made the going much easier until we had to clamber and walk back up the cliff slope to the car – the first part being slippery again, the second just being very steep and exhausting.

I was surprised to enjoy it as much as I did, and on a weekend that took in a pier, a little light painting in a forest, a castle, an abandoned hospital and a derelict school – this first trip to the lighthouse was the one I enjoyed the most over the whole weekend.

It was also the debut location for my new UrbEx mask (photo below taken by John Esslinger)…

2 thoughts on “The Lighthouse”

  1. I like how you used the foreground to great effect in your first image above, Michael.

    Your accompanying story reminds me of a little adventure I had many years ago, I was on rocks at a beach, holding a 4×5 Crown Graphic camera, with my back to the open ocean when I was swept off the rocks by a wave, thinking I was a goner while being tumbled under water.

    Mother Nature can be awesome, but also merciless.

  2. Thanks Wayne.

    That must have been a scary moment for you, and was certainly one of my fears. It’s a little odd as I would happily stand on a roof top where a gust of wind could throw me off and that’s fine – but sit me on a rock with a little water and I’m a apprehensive. Mother Nature should certainly be respected.

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