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  • Writer's picturePatrick Smith

North Norfolk Coastline Photo Workshop

February 2022

Setting off early on a Monday morning from my home in Sussex to head to Norfolk via the Dartford crossing is always like entering the unknown!

What time to leave? – Later - and perhaps the rush hour traffic will have eased or early and risk upsetting our dog who will expect me to walk her before I leave!

As it worked out the choice was taken away from me as the series of severe storms over the weekend and the continuing gale force winds from storm 'Franklin' hitting the South East had meant closure of the QE2 bridge and created “around 1.5-hour delays” to get through the tunnel.

Google maps successfully guided me via the Blackwall tunnel and I ended up in Snettisham in Norfolk only 30 minutes later than planned!

Meeting up at the Rose & Crown hotel with the other members of the group we were given a brief introduction by Justin Minns – our professional photographer for the workshop - as to the locations we were hoping to visit over the 3 days.

We put our equipment in the 9-seater VW and set off on the short drive to Old Hunstanton beach.

Along the back of the beach are a series of dunes and a variety of beach huts – these were a good subject to start photographing and gave us all an opportunity to find interesting angles textures and features. The wind was still blowing enough to give good movement to the grasses in the sand dunes.

With the low tide starting to turn we walked over the sands – which stretch for miles at low tide.

There are some random posts [maybe markers for shellfish beds?] and as the tide comes in some long exposure shots of this feature were possible - albeit with a degree of haste as the tide comes in quickly over the flat sands.

Moving further south along the beach towards the rocky foreshore there is an old shipwreck – this is the Sheraton trawler which was in use as a defence vessel between 1915 and 1918. It was sunk in 1947 and now is just a skeletal remains. Dominating the beach are the cliffs with their unique appearance - three layers of white chalk, red iron-stained chalk, and brown carrstone.

A fine sunset and great rock formations make for some good photo opportunities for the end of our first day.

Day 2

My alarm goes off at 4.45. Oh good! – Justin is taking us on a sunrise shoot at Thornham Marshes.

After a short drive we arrive at the salt marshes. It is still fairly dark with a lot of cloud cover. We set off towards the river – it is low tide and there are old jetties and boats settled in the mud of the river.

Mud is the main issue! – the salt marshes have suffered from very high tides from the recent storms and the ground is very slippery with a coating of wet mud. We gingerly make our way to the locations and I am now remembering that I have a set of mini spikes back in my car at the hotel – would have been a lot more use if they were strapped to my boots!

Unfortunately, we did not see a sunrise that morning but the flint coal barn, wooden jetties, posts and fishing boats offered a good variety of subjects to photograph. I decided I would take the opportunity to use my little used wide-angle 7-14mm lens. Justin’s advice was very useful as to how to achieve the best results from this lens.

Returning to the hotel to clean up and enjoy an excellent cooked breakfast we then had some Lightroom tuition and a review of some images. Around midday we left to travel to Brancaster Staithe – a fishing harbour along the north facing side of the Norfolk coast.

The sun - now shining brightly – meant that there were a few comments about it now being rather too sunny for photography! However, there were some really interesting subjects to focus on - with the inevitable piles of rope and fishing paraphernalia which always provides great opportunity for abstracts.

Before moving on to our third destination of the day we refreshed ourselves with much needed tea and cake in a local cafe and then drove back along the coast to Snettisham beach. This is also an RSPB reserve and is an area of even larger expanses of sand and mud flats - the undulations of the sand provide some great curved pools of reflective water to photograph.

As the sun sets we shoot different angles of what appears to be the remains of an old jetty or pier. We wondered why this would have been built there originally as it was a long way from any habitation or shelter.

A beautiful sunset more than made up for the lack of a sunrise earlier in the day.

Day 3

We are again in the people carrier at 5.30am driving across to Wells-next-the-sea. On arrival we climb over the dunes from the car park and are presented with a huge sandy beach with what must be a record number of beach huts – in all colours – built in a line in the shelter of the dunes. This impressive sight is enhanced during the next 40 minutes with a fine sunrise which illuminates the huts and highlights the shapes, textures and colours.

Having had the opportunity to photograph the beach huts, shoreline and dunes from various angles we drove back to the hotel for a welcome cooked breakfast and after vacating our rooms we set off to Hunstanton seafront and made our way down to the beach. The tide is high and just turning. With a brisk south westerly wind the sea is quite choppy. Our aim is to photograph the unusual breakwaters that are built in a zig-zag design. I try to see whether the better shots are using a long exposure or whether catching the spray coming up through the gaps in the breakwaters will give the better image at a high shutter speed.

The stormy seas of the previous week have thrown a lot of pebbles into the breakwaters which created some interesting abstract images.

A great 3 days in Norfolk with many different photo opportunities, expert tuition and good company. What more could you ask for?

All Images ©Patrick Smith Photography


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