This area of Sussex has become a favourite English location for photography where I’m starting to gain a deeper understanding of varied seascapes and shorelines, big views and more intimate images. I’ve seen Rachael Talibart’s work and been on a few of her one-day workshops and, having previously done days with Philip Bedford around the Devils Dyke and Alfriston, I booked his Seven Sisters workshop as soon as it became available online.
A 90 minute drive meant an early alarm in order to meet the group at 06:30 for pre-sunrise start. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas, with heavy driving rain, so we adjourned to the Newhaven for a coffee. Introductions were made: Eddie Campbell, Kevin Goodwin, Graham Heelis, Istvan Lorincz and myself. You may have seen images from some of these fellow photographers on the RPS Landscape page on Facebook or a recent Monthly Landscape Competition.
The rain abated after sunrise, so we move to Hope Gap for a traditional The Seven Sisters view and then on down to explore Cuckmere Haven. The tide was in, so no venturing across the river this time. While some took images of the traditional cottages, I was eager to get down to the shoreline. The colour of the sea here is lovely; the solid chalk rock base and the loose powders making some milky greens/blues and, combined with the white cliffs and browns of the rocks, can generate quite a mixed colour palette. Although, it has to be said that the textures can also be great for monochrome. As can happen after a morning storm, the weather became almost too nice, with so little wind on the tides and no big skies. My favourite 70-200mm f2.8 lens stays on all day.
After taking a medium view across the Cuckmere River and a more intimate crashing wave, I wandered away from the shore to seek an alternative view, but then turned around to notice the light catching some Teasles. We move on to Birling Gap and down the staircase to a receding tide. I love shooting tides, hand-held, at both fast and slow shutter speeds, so had another go at capturing the dynamism of even small waves. It’s December and the day is short, so we are soon heading to a mid-afternoon finish at Beachy Head. I’m thinking monochrome, but then a splash of light reflects onto a pillar of rock a few minutes before sunset so I stick to colour.
A Tranquil High Tide Meeting The Cuckmere River
A Small Wave Crashes (Below The Cottages)
Teasels Catching the Light
Reflected Light at the End of the Day
Waves Of Waves
The Bigger Picture
This coast changes dramatically in terms of the weather and the varied range of high and low tides, especially at Full or New Moon. Our day was not as dramatic as I’ve seen previously, so here are just a few images from other visits by way of contrast.
Force 7 At Cuckmere Haven
On a previous November morning, the new moon and a good wind indicated a potentially strong high tide, with a risk of foul weather. It’s a Force 7+ gale but there are a couple of small gaps in the clouds, so worth waiting for a while. Selecting a speed of 1/640th, I still had to fix the composition by using a bungee to tie the tripod to the concrete “Danger: Cliff Edge” sign.
A Low Low-Tide (At Full Moon)
Receding Tide At Birling Gap
The Seven Sisters coastline stretches from from Hope Gap to Beachy Head (Seaford to Eastbourne), but not forgetting the wave potential at neighbouring Newhaven. The rest of the National Park is also worth exploring on a repeat visit: rivers, rolling hills, attractive barns, churches. I can recommend Philip Bedford’s range of day workshops, both coastal and inland; it’s also an excellent area for a solo trip (including some good short walks), but with a little research.
Finally, two recommendations: Birling Gap NT – best cakes/light meals; The Tiger (East Dean) – the best pub/lunch.
All images © Howard Klein, LRPS
This article was featured in the RPS Landscape Group's Newsletter, March 2022.
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