Waiting for the Tide
I’m waiting at the exit of the car park leading onto the beach. One eye is on the car, making sure it stays safe: there’s a suspicious-looking character wandering around the area and one can’t be too certain. It’s late in the day and all the day-trippers have gone home. There’s only me with reason to be here. Eventually, the would-be dodgy itinerant disappears up the John Muir Way and doesn’t return. I can relax and concentrate on my intended vigil.
The other eye has been on the beach, watching the tide recede. It is a clear evening in the middle of May, and the sky is still bright. Sunset at this time of year will not occur for another hour or so. It is also an hour or so to low tide: I’ve arrived early in order to see the timbers of an old boat emerge from the waves as the tide ebbs away from the beach at Seton Sands by Longniddry.
The aim is to complete the photo-shoot I’d started a week earlier and be in a position to photograph the wreck at sunset as the tide receded. I was in luck. The period of fine weather we’d been experiencing during the first part of May was holding: high pressure had been in charge for over two weeks now and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. I was looking forward to a real bean-feast of a session. All the ingredients for long-exposure photography of the surf washing around the barnacle encrusted wreckage were falling into place.
The sky flared orange-gold as the first of the timbers began to peek above the tide. Gradually, imperceptibly almost, the stem post stretched further into the sky and two of the ribs punctured the surface. By this time I’m well down the beach almost at the water’s edge aligning the camera on the tripod and adjusting the controls. The exposed timbers are almost in silhouette against the setting sun: a suggestion of a humped shape emerging from the waves. The first photographs are taken. I’m hoping they will come out as intended: my very own “Nessie” on Longniddry beach.
Little appears to be known about the boat: it is presumably the wreck of an old fishing vessel, but there is nothing to be found on-line to suggest that that might be the case. It is clear however, that the wreck has deteriorated considerably over the past decade. Photographs from the late “noughties” show a considerable array of ribs and planking marking out what seems to have been a sizeable vessel; but no longer: all that remains now of the boat are the stem post, the keel planks and half-a-dozen or so ribs on either side of the bow section.
The skeletal outlines of the old boat become more visible with each passing minute. Soon I’m able to get in amongst the timbers themselves, splashing through the surf and gradually lengthening the exposure as the light faded towards sunset. The light was incredible: the horizon continued to glow orange while the sky above started to turn a deep blue, and the sea reflected the sky. I stayed for as long as I could, until the exposure duration reached 30 seconds: the maximum it could go before having to switch to B mode. Yes, I could have upped the ISO setting, but I’m a fiend for keeping it as low as possible. In any case, I’d been working for a good hour; time to go home.
The action of the tide — and perhaps also of the local talent — will probably mean even these few remains will deteriorate further over the next decade or so. So a popular attraction for the visitor and photographer alike will soon be gone for ever: never again to tantalise during the golden hour; or to rise like Nessie from the waves as the tide recedes.
A selection of the photographs taken during that glorious period of fine weather on the 8th and 16th May 2017 are presented in the Gallery pages
Who knows, these images may be some of the last ever to be taken of the Longniddry wreck in a recognisable form.
The Featured Image
The image at the top of this post is from the photo-shoot on 16th May 2017, taken at around 21:11 in the evening.
REAL EDINBURGH Photography Location Guide – The Longniddry Wreck [Online] Available from https://photosofedinburgh.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/photography-location-guide-the-longniddry-wreck/ [Last accessed December 2018]