The weather had been kind to us last weekend. The SLOW photography group drove south in two cars to Lymington and sailed across The Solent to Yarmouth, on the north west of the island. We spent the night in the 1930s style Shanklin Hotel. It was after all August, the height of the British summer, but the beaches in Shanklin and Ventnor weren’t even crowded. The local deckchair attendant on Shanklin beach was rather perplexed and told me that usually, by mid-August, the weekends are overcrowded with beachgoers, and he would have rented out all his chairs. Today, he spent time playing by the shore with his daughter and grandchild, a cute little blond.
The group spent over 2 hours walking along a stretch of seafront about 500m long, lined with tea shops, amusement arcades, gifts shops, cafes, and those that sell ‘swimming paraphernalia’, like blow up crocs, rubber rings, lilos, flippers, and colourful beach-balls.
I brought my trusty Rolleiflex along to shoot a couple of rolls of 120 film and since it was a SLOW approach, a lot of time was taken up with observing the crowd, chatting to some, and making contact with potential portrait sitters. Andy chatted to Joe, the friendly pedalo-minder, and we got some portraits of him posing in front of his hire sign. Katalin shot a series of Joe kicking a beachball.
Late afternoon, we headed out to the south cliffs of Compton Bay, and waited for the glorious sunset. Fernando, the conquistador of the sweeping long-exposure ‘guru’ demonstrated how to shoot a dramatic sunset, with graduated filters, bubble-levels, a sturdy tripod, and most of all, vision and patience. Vasuki made sure she had her 2X and 4X ND filters also, and managed to smooth out rippling waves in rock pools with her 5D Mark 2, and made friends with a huge dog.
The next day, we decided to pay a visit to Dimbola Lodge, in Freshwater on the south-western coast of the island. This is the childhood home of Julia Margaret Cameron, the celebrated Victorian portrait photographer. There is a permanent museum there and a revolving exhibition. On the way we stopped by Ventnor esplanade. The beach was still quiet at 10:30am.
An elegant and handsome retiree with wavy silver hair sat enjoying his coffee in a beach front cafe in Ventnor, obliged to have his portrait taken by the group. A hip surfer dad and his kids hung out in a fully restored red VW camper van also allowed us to photograph the interior of his ‘pride and joy’.
From Freshwater, we proceeded to hike towards The Needles, the most visited spot on the island. These are craggy sharp stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea on the southwestern most point of the Isle of Wight, used by sailors and shipping as a reference point. The view is breathtaking.
The IOW has a certain unspoilt charm about it. We found the locals friendly, the food to be of a very good standard, and the scenery simply outstanding. The weekend went by too quickly, and being an exercise for restraint, thoughtful photography, we found ourselves challenging our observation and compositional skills often.
Who’s up for Blackpool next?