Sorry friend. No newsletter last week. I was doing a big photography job for multiple clients and the week just got away from me.
It’s been a while then. How are you? Did you survive Storm Ciara? Are you prepared for Storm Dennis this weekend? I’m hoping it hits just after my dip in the duck pond. That probably sounds odd to a non-local but its what we call the marine lake round here. It’s not a duck sized pond. While it could be quite exhilarating to have a dip in a storm I’ve personally had enough of storms to last me a while.
We don’t get the same weather as the rest of the UK in New Brighton. When the country is shut down from snow we’re having BBQs. It rarely snows here. Oh but when it snows it snows. You snow?
What we do get is a good storm. In 1990 we, I say we but I wasn’t living this side of the Wirral then, we got a storm so bad that the lido flooded and had to be knocked down. The entire waterfront area was heavily flooded. I have a vague memory of going down the Eggy Ferry with my mum and watching the waves crash. I was maybe 11 at the time and I have no real memories of New Brighton before I got into photography. From what the neighbours have told me it was a bad storm. Only 1 gate in a row of houses on the prom survived it.
In 2013 we had a repeat of that. I don’t think it was as devastating but the waterfront area flooded. Morrisons, the hotel, restaurants all had to deal with knee high water levels. I was having a break from social media that month so I had no idea it was happening until after it happened. I saw the aftermath and the power of the waves. It’s not something you mess around with.
Pirate ship before the storm.
Pirate ship after the storm.
Pirate ship after a rebuild. It has survived every storm since.
This week we had Storm Ciara. My wife and I enjoy seeing the big waves crashing over the promenade wall. From a safe distance of course. We’re always shocked to see just how close some people get. I guess it’s just a wave at the beach. Bit of seaside fun. You have no respect for it until something goes catastrophically wrong and then its too late.
Flashback to 2008 when I was almost too close (see above). These days I’m older and wiser. I know not to get too close. So from a safe place it is fun to watch the waves. They can really get quite high.
We went out on the Sunday to see the waves and they were quite big. I was a bit annoyed that we had missed high tide, even though there was torrential rain at that time and I chose to stay inside. Still, I was a bit annoyed given how big the waves were 2 hours after high tide. On Monday I managed to get out just 1 hour after high tide. Big waves. Bigger than the day before. So on Tuesday I went out just before high tide. This was dangerous.
The past few days had been a fascination. Look at the big waves crashing against the promenade. Amazing to see. Tuesday at high tide in a storm was flat out life threatening if you misjudged it. I could see where poets and writers from days of yore got their inspiration for the rage of Poseidon from. Building high waves. Even though I’ve been photographing storms here for over 10 years I’d never seen it like this.
I was cautious about getting footage but felt safe hanging on to poles and I was wearing waterproof clothes so I was prepared to get my feet wet. I always kept my distance. I was a promenade width away from the waves. The worst thing that would happen is I’d get wet feet. I was fine with that. I could see a group of people up by the pirate ship and considered walking up there. As I started to walk up a big wave flooded the prom. My feet were quite wet by this point even in waterproof socks. So I stopped and decided to turn back.
Next thing I knew I was staring into a wall of water. I’m 6ft 5 and out of nowhere there was a wall of water towering over me. I quickly grabbed the railing and held my camera up high. My hat was ripped off my head. My camera gear was soaked and I was dripping head to toe. I managed to see my hat and grab it before the next wave took it out to see and I headed home. I was in good spirits despite what happened. I wasn’t really sure what actually had happened. I was far away from the wall and behind me was quite open. Yet the wave somehow bounced off the ground with such force that it covered me.
You can see roughly what happened in that video. Here’s what could have happened. A photographer turned her back for a moment and a big wave took her out.
My t-shirt, under my coat, was covered in sand. I hate sand. It gets everywhere. My lenses all made crunchy noises when I turned the focus rings. Sand. Everywhere sand.
Hours later my shoulder started to hurt. It took me a moment to realise why. I wasn’t just casually holding on to the railing when the wave hit. I was holding on with everything I had just so I didn’t get knocked over. I found a park bench had been ripped out the ground by the same wave so that’s the level of force this wave had. I was very lucky. I saw on the local news that a man had to be rescued from just a bit further up the road.
That evening I started to really think about the whole situation. I miscalculated and underestimated the river. My camera gear is all in the repair shop. £4,000 worth of gear ruined by one wave. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but I really felt traumatised. I googled the symptoms of shock just to make sure it wasn’t that bad. Every time I blinked I could see that wall of water. I felt on the verge of a panic attack with each breath. I’ve never experienced anything like that and as simple and basic as it was, just a splash of water, I was very shaken.
This week I saw a video of the RNLI going out to save a surfer. A local life guard received an award after risking her life to save a surfer. Huge respect for them. Their sheer strength of character to risk their lives that way is amazing.
My mental health took a bit of a nose dive this week. Perhaps understandably after being traumatised by a wave which does sound kind of silly. It wasn’t, at least I don’t think it was a near death experience. It was something though. Something that caused distress. Reflecting on it led me down bad path.
I was annoyed that I had potentially ruined my camera gear. It’s insured but I was still annoyed. £4,000 of camera gear, potentially some actual injury and for what? A photo of a wave that no-one will buy or license because they’re 10 a penny. What the hell was I thinking? I should have been safe inside working on my portfolio update. That was this weeks big job. I shouldn’t have been outside playing with the waves like some HDR Flickr photographer (Hi 2006 me).
I do architecture and portraits. This silly “documentary” look at New Brighton isn’t going to pay any bills and I’m too afraid of people to get to know anyone in a way that someone like Tom Wood did. So I’m just wasting my damn time when I should be working.
I was annoyed at myself. I was questioning my decision to photograph the waves. I knew why I was there. It could have been another 2013 or 1990 and I wasn’t about to sit around at home while something big was happening outside my house. I was shocked by what happened and I my mind was racing to darker places. It twisted these ideas and combined them with my portfolio update. I didn’t feel like I had any “WOW” photos from 2019. I’m sure I did but at that time I really felt like 2019 was a wasted opportunity. I should have been doing more and working harder. I’m just not doing as well as others.
Throw in some fears that I’m still just a computer geek with a camera. That I should be trying to do what I love which is be a computer geek with a camera instead of a real photographer out there in the world. Boom. I’m a hot mess of depression and anxiety.
I’ve had far worse days. This was just an understandably bad response to external forces. It’s the times when there isn’t an external force that’s the problem. When it’s all internally driven and there’s no escape from it. This I could endure and come back from. I swam. I ran. I can’t say that those activities instantly cured me but it’s better to try.
I ran with a running group on Wednesday. It’s part of my attempt to regain lost connections. Join real world communities and engage with real people. Being autistic makes it a challenge. Hell, running and talking makes it a challenge. Yet I keep going back to this running group for the same reason I do portraits. A real human interaction seems to lift me up. So that helped a little. I’m out tomorrow morning with the lake dippers. I’m starting to form a routine. Wednesday beer run and Saturday dip. I actually feel like I’m starting to build a better me.
Just like the waves don’t underestimate depression. Please don’t. As someone who isn’t a people person who does people person things for a living because it’s rewarding, don’t shut yourself off from the world. Take a break by all means. We’ll be here for you.
Ugh. That’s too motivational vomit. I’m sorry but we all need a little hand now and then.