The Red Mist

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Friends are rubbish.

Sure, in principle they’re a good idea, but in reality they make you drink Guinness when you should be going home for a pre-sunrise early night.

Thankfully, my sleep can be a bit temperamental every now and then, and so after being made to stay at the pub completely against my will and deciding a sunrise trek could wait, I found myself heading over to Highcliffe the next morning just the same.

I really can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have something in my life which makes me want to climb out of my warm and cosy bed at 4 in the morning when it’s cold and I have a hangover.

The intended shot was a relatively simple panoramic sweep, perhaps similar in principle to my Hengistbury Head Sunrise shot, but the weather was all wrong – a thick mist had reduced visibility down to a few hundred yards, so I ventured down to the sea to see what I could see.

I know most of the coast from Sandbanks all the way down to Hurst really well but this was my first time seeing this part of the beach, so I was going to have to improvise. I was struck by how unique this part of Highcliffe Beach feels compared with, say Bournemouth, Mudeford or Barton-On-Sea, all of which are only a few miles away from each other.

For starters, the water reaches all the way to the cliffs in a standard high tide, and secondly those cliffs are made of a substance which is closer to clay than rock. Finally – at least on that morning and in those conditions (I’ve not seen it any other time) – it had a uniquely baron feeling to it, almost like a desert.

All in all I knew I was in for something good, but in an instance, the whole world burst into a browny-red colour as the sun, still below the horizon, lit up the mist and clouds from below and things turned crazy. Between the baron clay cliffs, the thick mist and the browny-red tint everything had taken on, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It genuinely felt like I was on a different planet, and bear in mind I was still to see another human being.

The difficult thing at this point of proceedings is keeping your head on your shoulders and taking a photograph which does the situation justice. Sometimes, the most incredible scenery in the world just isn’t photographic; other times, it’s all there but you just can’t get it to work. Thankfully, neither of these scenarios were the case that day.

On went the waders and the shot was actually pretty straightforward to put together, especially as the photographic gods – who had already been overly kind to me so far – dished up a huge piece of drift wood, the proverbial cherry on the cake.

This was a unique, unforgettable and just ridiculously enjoyable session, and just to cap things off, I walked away with two photographs from the same spot, which is incredibly rare.

Just outrageously good fun.

Part of the Hengistbury Head, Mudeford and Barton collection.

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