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Living Through The Lens – The Therapeutic Story Behind The Image

Written by: Christiaan Partridge, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Christiaan Partridge

Imagine the scene before you: it’s late winter, a cold, crisp morning, and despite feeling a little tired, you’ve got up early to explore the coast at sunrise. There are a lot of small fishing ports along the coast, dependent on the tide, accessed by channels through vast swathes of salt marsh that acts as a roosting ground for migrating birds. The sky is reasonably clear, with some bands of high clouds. Nobody else is around, just skeins of geese flying in formation overhead. This is how the day started when this image was created, and below is my experience of planning for the shoot and the therapeutic effects of making the image.

Beautiful shot of sunset with silhouette trees and water


I was staying in a nearby hotel on the North Norfolk coast, an idyllic area and an excellent setting for sunrise and sunset photography. It was early February, the weather unsettled, but it was the promise of a clearing sky for sunrise. When planning to do coastal shoots, there are four key elements to consider: the weather, the tide, access to the location and what equipment will be needed. With an early start, it is essential to have scouted the location in advance so you know what is there; apps like Google Maps are excellent, and in the UK, the Ordnance Survey maps also show great detail of footpaths and tide lines. Checking the weather forecast before leaving and knowing whether the tide is in or out is essential. Tides can vary, and it is very easy to get cut off in some places, especially on the salt marshes in this area. Being at a location and in the correct position for your subject, waiting for the light to play its part.



For this image, I used a camera with a fixed focal length lens, meaning I had to move to get the framing correct. I will have two fully charged batteries, one in the camera and one in my pocket, as cold weather can make them discharge more quickly. I had my tripod and gimbal head, the bracket attached to the camera so that it could be quickly attached. The head on the tripod means the camera angle can be adjusted quickly. Like the batteries, I will have a memory card in the camera and at least one spare. Also in the kit bag are my filters, holder and adapter rings, which connect to the lens. These are primarily neutral density filters, used to block light, or graduated neutral density, dark and the top fading to clear, for balancing light in the image. Also in the bag is a circular polariser, used to increase saturation or cut through reflections and has a light reduction effect. The final piece of equipment is a remote trigger release; this is so that once focused, I don’t touch the camera. Here, we are using long exposures, and any vibration or movement of the camera will blur the image.



This is one of the small harbours on the North Norfolk coast, with a long-distance coastal path running through it. Once parked on the street, I wandered around the harbour to find the best subject for my image. I had arrived about 30 minutes before sunrise so I could be in position and composition framed ready. With the sun about to rise and a high tide, the sky was brightening, and the inner harbour basin was full, reflecting the light above. Standing on the boat landing well above the water line, I had noticed the house with the glass lookout tower would be lined up with the sun. Lining this up to the left of my frame would leave the reflections to the lower right segment. Once in position and my composition framed, it was a case of waiting for the sun to rise and the magic to begin.


The therapeutic of the scene

It’s early winter, the temperature is just above freezing, and no other people are around. As I stood on the landing, the sounds of the water lapping gently on the concrete and boats gently creaking on the water, I started to relax and become entirely absorbed by my surroundings. Skeins of geese flew overhead every few minutes in almost perfect V formations. The oystercatchers were busy trying to feed on the foreshore, gently chirping away as the sun began to lighten the sky. I had got the angle just right to pick up the light coming through the glass of the lookout tower, and the ribbons of high clouds reflected the flying formations of the geese. As I was waiting, two fishing boats landed on the edge of the inner basin, the only other human activity that morning.


There is something quite special about watching the sunrise. Despite feeling tired from the early start, I experienced an endorphin and cortisol release and suddenly felt exhilarated and ready for the day ahead. It symbolises new beginnings, warmth, and calm all at once. I was completely immersed in the moment, and all other thoughts, stress and worries just disappeared. Witnessing the sun rising is an uplifting experience; I can thoroughly recommend it, and combined with my photography, I have a memory I can relive through the image I made.

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Christiaan Partridge Brainz Magazine

Christiaan Partridge, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester. For the past 7 years, he has been a youth football coach and also an ECB Core Cricket Coach. Christiaan also has vast experience in running amateur sports clubs, specializes manly in Landscape Photography, with a particular interest in Therapeutic Photography to treat minor mental illness.



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