06 Nov 2018 South Downs: landscape photography on a whim
One Friday recently I was heading back home from the Forces Media Academy, when I had a sudden urge to escape London and enjoy some time in the great outdoors. This isn’t new to me: I’m never as happy as I am when trudging across fells or downs on some windblown adventure, making landscape photography of whatever wild places I find myself in. That means I always have outdoor gear almost ready to go at home – so I grabbed some food, my kit, tent and camera, and headed out to shoot some South Downs landscape photography.
I arrived at Southease station as night was falling, and took a chilly night walk up to Firle Beacon. Quickly, I found myself enveloped in the silence and darkness of the South Downs, on a moonless but starry night. Dark skies are a rare pleasure for a Londoner; certainly I’m not often able to find a chance to create the kind of landscape photography I might make in Cornwall or other places far from city lights. But here, all was dark and quiet. I pitched my tent and fell into a deep and satisfied sleep.
At sunrise I took time to enjoy the way the landscape changed as it filled with golden light; thick banks of fog seemed to be chased across the valley floor by the advancing sunlight. This, alone, could make the impulsive trip worthwhile. How often do we ever really have a chance to study the start of a new day?
I struck out from Firle Beacon for Cuckmere Haven, a pebbly beach close to the magnificent Seven Sisters chalk cliffs. The route offered me chances to play with perspective using a long lens (landscape photography of rolling fields can turn into abstract studies of towering walls of soil this way). I enjoyed experimenting with the abstract way the ploughed furrows snaked across the frame. In the South Downs, landscape photography can be about so much more than hills and horizons.
If those ploughed fields offered me a chance to enjoy abstraction, closer to Cuckmere Haven I found a chance to indulge in a little action photography. High above a hillside just a short walk inland, a paragliding club took to the skies. I took perhaps an hour to make photographs of their flights, wishing I could join them. The long walk back to Seaford via a crowded Cuckmere Haven yielded a chance to capture pictures of a serene red sailboat, but I returned home feeling I’d left my heart floating high with the paragliders.
You can see and download my walking route on Ordnance Survey Maps.