Behind the Shot #1: Soar

Welcome to Behind the Shot, a series where I tell you the stories behind photographs I’ve taken in the water.

For the series' first post, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about this photograph taken at Footdee, Aberdeen.

Soar    Buy print

On the high tide at Fittie on a sizeable swell, the waves crash against the break wall and travel back out to sea, where they collide with incoming waves. This makes for some fascinating shapes in the water, and a lot of noise.

People are drawn to these collisions. There always seems to be someone watching, no matter the weather, most often looking out from under a thick hood and waterproof jacket. What are they thinking?

It’s certainly an inspiring sight.

Watching has inspired an image in my head that I’ve been wanting to capture ever since I started swimming around with a camera. It needs nature to align for me though, and as all surfers learn, nature is fickle.

A clean swell at sunrise on the high tide, a light offshore breeze. Incoming and outgoing waves colliding and fanning out in perfect symmetry. The colours of the morning sun backlighting the droplets of water.

Soar is not that photo.

This photo was taken in the dead of winter. I was losing light, and high tide was rapidly approaching. There was a large swell on a short period hitting the beach (this means constant breaking waves for you non-surfers). The water surface was starting to bump with the rising tide and outgoing waves. 

In other words, there was plenty of movement in the water. And of course, no-one else out.

The sea is constantly moving, changing. Most of the time getting a good image is about putting yourself in the best position you can and trusting that mother nature is feeling kind.

As the tide rose, the collisions became more dramatic and I did my best to put myself amongst them. A lot of diving under waves, paddling and hoping for a memorable moment ensued, and time ran away. I was a little late in realising it was time to get out of the water.

You really don't want to be at the break wall when the tide reaches its highest point and there are near constant waves bearing down on you. You definitely don't want to be there with your expensive camera in hand, wearing large swim fins that prevent you from using your feet!

I bounced about the break wall for about ten minutes, while I tried to take my fins off and protect my camera, diving under every wave. It's lucky you have to wear a thick rubber wetsuit in the North Sea, plenty of padding!

I'd gathered quite the crowd of concerned onlookers, watching from the path above. But finally, the sea relented, if just for a moment. The lull was enough for me to make it up the steps before the next wave. Camera and bones intact, pride a little bruised, and a lesson learnt (and not one that should need learning!)

This photo serves as my little reminder to be safe in the water, as the ocean can be a scary place. I'm still hunting that perfect moment though. Watch this space.