A Photographic journey from Saltdean to the Fog-Clad South Downs

On a crisp December 2nd morning, braving the chill, I embarked on a photographic trip to Saltdean in East Sussex near Brighton. Armed with my Yashica D TLR camera, loaded with a roll of expired Ilford Delta 100 (expired in 2020), and my 4x5 Zero Image pinhole camera, eagerly waiting to capture moments on some fresh sheets of Fomapan 100 film.

Saltdean had been on my photography radar for quite some time, often catching my eye as I drove past. Every glimpse left me with an inner reminder that I needed to devote a day to capturing its essence. However, as fate would have it, the morning presented its own set of challenges. My van was cloaked in an icy sheath, demanding extra time for a thaw, and the road journey unfolded at a leisurely pace, courtesy of cautious drivers navigating the frosty roads most likely the extra traffic heading into Brighton for their Christmas shopping.

Upon arrival, Saltdean unfurled its vast canvas of photographic possibilities. The seafront, in particular, stretched further than my expectations, leaving me yearning for more time to explore. The realization struck that, on a return visit, allocating additional time and perhaps considering unconventional modes of exploration, such as a scooter or skateboard, could unlock even more hidden gems along the vibrant coastal landscape.

My first set of photos come from my Yashica D

A picnic bench on a beach in Saltdean East Sussex
A picnic bench.

People swimming in the sea in the winter at Saltdean East Sussex
People swimming in December

After my first few photos I set up my Zero Image large format pinhole camera.
I chose to push my Fomapan 100 film up to 400. This decision was not arbitrary but rooted in my newfound love for stand developing, a process I've been experimenting with using Ilford DD-X developer. The leisurely pace of stand development, allowing the tank to sit undisturbed for a generous 45 minutes, has yielded results that I find undeniably captivating.

Yet, every artistic choice comes with its set of challenges, and pushing a 100-speed film to 400 is no exception. The most immediate hurdle manifested in the form of drastically shortened exposure times. Pinhole photography, known for its deliberate, time-intensive captures, saw my what would be a 2.5-second metered reading slashed to a mere half-second. Enter the reciprocity failure my 1/2 second exposure remains unchanged, but a 2.5-second exposure morphs into a nice 10 seconds.

To navigate this I made a conscious decision to add to my my pinhole camera an ND8 filter. This ingenious addition added an extra three stops, elongating my exposure times and allowing me to revel in the graceful dance of motion captured during those extended moments. For me, there's an enchantment in the long exposures, a silent conversation between the pinhole and the world it delicately observes.

one of the downside of using a filter on a pinhole camera is it will capture all the dirt and dust that is sitting on that filter unfortunately mine had a fair bit, I managed to clear a little bit up with a spot cleaner when scanning the film but the remains are still slightly there.

Also, it turns out my first two exposures with my zero image pinhole camera had a light leak what would've been the bottom left hand corner (top right on images), I'm not sure where this is coming from I'm presuming either from around the film holder or one of the layers which are added to adjust the focal length.

A broken bench captured with a pinhole camera on Saltdean beach

The Second image with my pinhole camera was of this broken bench, I also captured the bench with my Yashica D unfortunately it does look a little out of focus.

Heading back up the beach I captured two images of this welcome to Saltdean  sign which sits just below the cafe and above the exit/entrance tunnel which takes you under the road up to where the Saltdean Lido is, to where I had parked.

The pinhole image was captured with the camera on the wall which is visible from my Yashica D photo which I captured further down the beach. Which do you prefer?

One I didn't share on my YouTube video from this shoot was the image heading back through the tunnel unfortunately it came out a little bit blurry due to the slower exposure time, I should've used a tripod or if it wasn't so cold my hands may not have been shaking so much.

Out the other side of the tunnel I noticed the sign on the floor for NO CYCLING, thought this to be a perfect opportunity for a photo. 
First image is from my TLR and the Second with my Zero Image with its insane 25mm wide setting giving me a 148.35° angle of view.

No cycling sign painted on the floor at the entrance of the tunnel in Saltdean

No cycling sign painted on the floor at the entrance of the tunnel in Saltdean

On my way home, a spontaneous detour led me to a charming spot featuring a footbridge crossing over the road. The bridge is part of The South Downs way trail and the other side of this bridge heads up on to the downs, which, on this day, were draped in a captivating layer of fog. This atmospheric setting presented an irresistible opportunity for some photography.

A Footbridge on the South Downs Way Trail

A footbridge going over the road on the South Downs Way trail

In the midst of my photographic odyssey, the day unexpectedly transformed into a marathon scene, I had noticed a few runners going past along with a food/drink top up station for the runners just round the corner where I parked. I had done my best to keep out the way of the runners and avoiding them as much as possible but while setting up a shot on a footbridge, two runners appeared in the frame. A departure from my usual focus on landscapes, capturing their spontaneous presence felt right—and, surprisingly, it worked well. Sometimes, the unplanned moments become the most memorable.

South downs way marathon runners crossing a foot bridge

The next two images were captured from the same spot, the first with my pinhole camera and the second with my lens camera, which do you prefer the look off?

For my last shot of the day, I turned to my pinhole camera, capturing what unexpectedly became a favorite from the day. While content with every frame, this particular image just seems to stand out to me. The little Yashica performed admirably, contributing to a day filled with satisfaction and photographic delights.

Pinhole photograph of a bridge crossing the road on the South Downs Way trail

As the day's photographic journey drew to a close and I got around to developing the film, I found myself immersed in the quiet satisfaction that follows a morning well spent chasing moments with my cameras. From the allure of Saltdean to the fog-draped embrace of the South Downs, each frame tells a tale of creative exploration. I discovered the beauty of the unplanned, the joy in experimentation, and the subtle magic that defines a day behind the camera. Until the next chapter unfolds, these frozen moments shall linger, preserving the essence of a day where art and nature harmonized in a visual symphony.

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Gear used.

Z-Flex Tilt tripod head -Blog post on this here

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