WPOY 2016 & The Whale – Week Four

The past week has been a tricky one, mainly a lot of thinking has caused this coupled with a huge dose of confusion

Last Saturday I set off to shoot the famous green rocks at Hunstanton Beach, it was the only slot I had available to shoot for my entry for WexMondays competition. The tide was due to be high(ish) but on its way out, which looked perfect, the sunrise time was just prior to 8am, it all stacked up nicely. What I hadn’t bargained for was what I was to be greeted with on the beach.

As I walked down the path and on to the beach there was a lovely pink stretch in the sky and I could see it was fading so I broke into a little jog. Looking into the distance at my intended location I saw what I thought was a massive rock, looked a little bit like a Whale, but a rock it was in my mind… NO… 100 yards later it was evident that it was actually a Whale, and a battered blooded one at that. Poor thing, I couldn’t even speak as I stood there alone on the beach faced with this almighty creature. I done what I thought was right thing and rang the emergency services who said someone would be on their way.

So here I was, faced with this spectacular creature of the sea, washed up in the location I was going to shoot. By now the adrenaline (and / or shock) had kicked and I knew in my mind before long the beach was going to be packed full of people wanting to see it let alone anything else they may do to it. I had the overwhelming feeling of needing to document this, respectfully and with tact. Out came the camera, looked for a composition, found a natural curve in the rock pattern in front of me, the filters came out and went on – just enough to do an exposure of about 15 seconds to flatten the very still water anyway. The silence was haunting I can’t even remember hearing the sea or any wind, it was just me and the Whale at this point. “Click” – Took the shot. At that point I barely even had checked it when a PCSO turned up, along with 3 Security personnel who were there to protect the mammal from damage by humans. Yes, apparently people in the past have stolen teeth and so forth. Shocking!! – Well is it really shocking thinking about the lack of respect there seems to be around these days in certain peoples lives.

More people started turning up and I found myself explaining how I had literally just walked up to it this morning, this is when some locals told me they had feared the worst as an entire pod of Whales was seen the previous night close to shore. This one was a Young Male Sperm Whale, who was last seen in difficulty beneath the cliffs. The rest of the Pod were no where to be seen, so I was relieved (and guessed they had made it away safely). As for this poor thing its mouth was severely damaged, totally covered in blood, there was massive scrapes and gauges all over its body and there was still blood coming out and mixing in with the North Sea water. At this point disbelief and sorrow really kicked in. I think I spent a good hour just comforting others who were thinking the same as me by means of verbal communication. There was only about 10 of us there come 8:30 but it was a very respectful and somber atmosphere, with stories of the previous night being told and yarns of yesteryear when it last happened being shared it seemed to bring us together as a group. I saw a small batch of photographers making their way up the beach so I took another couple of compositions before it was too late. Another 45 minutes probably passed by and there seemed to be a little drop of in newbies coming to look so I took a seat on the now dry rocks and was imagining the struggles it must have felt and what an awful way to go, comparing it to if it was us humans franticly trying to avoid suffocating whilst being shredded apart at the same time.


The crowd picked up again, was time for me to go, I’d seen and thought enough about it and the best moments of the day had gone and would be spoilt by people who started taking selfies with the poor thing.

So that played on my mind a lot – the scenes I witnessed. Still I hoped I had got a good shot so that I could share it as documentation of the event. Turned out I had, spent 40 minutes just tinkering with it to bring the best out of the RAW file, and it actually even surprised me how well it had worked, not just to the eye as a photo but how respectful it looked… more of a tribute.

Let me finish off the Whale story before I completely move on to the photo.  Turns out the rest of the Pod was not OK after all. 4 of them turned up on the beaches on Lincolnshire and had suffered the same fate as this one in Hunstanton, to make things worse some anti nuclear protestors had graffitied them and someone was photographed trying to steal some teeth. One of the 4 eventually exploded during an autopsy, its the build up of all the gasses inside the whale and Boom! Up it went, shocking to think of. So all of a sudden it was national news. The BBC used my shot to cover the events and I felt an immense amount of pride to be representing not only this great creature but also the county of Norfolk whilst it was being covered. Think I had made a real strong attachment to this shot because of the feelings it had provoked inside me.


So Monday came and I decided to enter it in to the Wex competition, the few people I had run it by had said it was an “Epic once in a lifetime shot” which was a surefire contender to win baring nothing else of a similar nature pipping it. Entered it…. Got many many likes and kind words which really meant a lot to me, the kind of words which you could tell that the viewer had also connected to the shot and the situation like I had. Surprising it didn’t feature in the top 10. I have to admit for the best part of that day I was confused and to a certain extent gutted. Some good friends and an message or two from Wex eventually cleared my thoughts and although the content may not have been suitable to celebrate by giving it a top spot Wex do wish to run a side story behind the shot and the emotion that went with it. So watch this space I’ll post it up when its done.

On to next week!!



6 thoughts on “WPOY 2016 & The Whale – Week Four

  1. For sure, a once in a lifetime sort. This sort of image is always going to provoke empassioned responses, but its reasurring that your intensions were respectful and it definitely shows in the shot.


  2. Beautifully conveyed but sad story Ben, actually brought a tear to my eye…your image is superb, and I actually understand the reluctance for it to be in the top 10, as it is too painful to see…
    Your skill and craftsmanship will always shine through, no doubt about that….Good Luck to the future and hopefully a million winning shots!


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