If nothing else, an evening out with my good friend Dave and our camera gear rarely leaves us without a tale to tell. In the past we’ve almost been cut off by the dark rising tide at Far Arnside; stumbled in to a bog under the murk of an east Lancashire twilight; circumnavigated a quarry in the pitch darkness trying to re-locate a main road and – in his case – almost been washed out to sea by waves crashing over the Blackpool promenade one wet and stormy night. All in the pursuit of a creative photograph. It was, therefore, with some caution that we planned our latest trip out…
The saga began with a cursory trawl through Google maps as we scouted out a location that allowed Dave to indulge his latest vision of spinning burning wire wool over water. Leaving aside any qualms I may have had about spinning fire in the dark while essentially balancing on something you can’t see, I spent an afternoon driving out to all manner of bodies of water within an hour of home – only to discover that they were all inaccessible or private. And so it was that we settled on Cockersands: The tide was low, the wind minimal and it had the advantage of a focal point in the now somewhat damaged shape of the Plover Scar lighthouse.
Arriving just before 9pm we were greeted by the sight of a huge burning orb nudging the horizon like the Sun God was playing nature’s answer to Tuppenny Falls and about to hit the jackpot. In all honesty I’d have settled for a shot of that sunset behind the lighthouse but alas, we were too late. It did mean though that we had plenty of time to wander out to the light and set up the cameras in readiness of twilight descending.
As time crept on I wandered round the base of the light taking advantage of the unusually low tide, looking up at its northern elevation to appreciate the damage recently inflicted on its stone work. 169 years of storms it may have weathered as it kept ships safe from the rocks below, but it wasn’t able to withstand a glancing blow from a passing container vessel earlier this year – a cruel irony that wasn’t lost on me.
We lit a test piece of wire wool and began to play, working out the best exposure times and the best composition, appreciating the solitude of this lonely coastline well away from the prospect of starting a grass fire or inadvertently burning down a building. But we weren’t alone…
A light flashed back from the shore, as a shadowy figure hung around the car and melted into the shadows. Refusing to allow my imagination to believe that it could have been the spirit of a monk passing by the now ruined abbey, it seemed plausible that the keeper of the car park had closed it at dusk as advertised by the little tin sign and wasn’t happy about the one solitary car remaining and the goings on down by the lighthouse. I’d been here before after dark and let myself out, and when the light disappeared I figured the usual note had been written and left under my windscreen wiper advising me to do just that, as the man retreated to his house for the night.
We carried on and rattled off a few more shots, but soon the man with the light was back – flashing it around, walking up and down in a way that seemed uncomfortably menacing. We carried on, and had an even better potential shot in mind than this final one pictured above, but feeling increasingly uneasy about the unwanted attention we decided to pack up and head back. I was expecting an angry man wanting a confrontation – perhaps he thought we were vandals, or wreckers trying to lure stray ships on to the rocks with our own light show – who knew.
Eventually we reached the shore cloaked in the now full bodied darkness that drenched the scene, the man reappearing in the gloom, shining his head torch in our faces. “Is that your car”? asked the man in a quiet voice that didn’t exactly match up to his angry light flashing, giving us the leeway we needed to lead the conversation into a more comfortable area. After initially being rather stand-offish he became amenable and interested in our photography, even offering permission for us to park after dark in the future. A nice guy actually. It was just a pity we’d cut short this escapade just as we were getting going.
There’s always next time…
You can look back on the last wire wool escapade by reading the ‘Playing with Fire’ blog post again here.