An early eye on the shore

EMMA OUTTEN Yarmouth may not be well known as a photographic location, but according to amateur photographer Jon Gibbs, who was born in the town, it provides all the seaside subject matter he needs.


If you had just worked the night shift, would you be thinking about getting some shut eye or the shutter speed of your camera? If your name is Jon Gibbs, then, more than likely, it will be the latter.

If dawn's about to break, it is not unknown for Jon Gibbs to forego sleep and go out and photograph the shore at Yarmouth instead.

The 36-year-old loves taking photographs from the vantage point of the town where he was born and bred, even if that means sacrificing sleep in the process. The father of three says he survives on little more than four hours sleep a night (or rather day). But he said: “It's worth it.” Not only does it mean he can dabble in dawn photography, his working shifts mean he can see more of his children, aged six, four and two.

The former Caister High School pupil admits that his interest in landscape photography has become something of an obsession, although he says his partner has not become a photography widow just yet!

It just means that at dawn there's a chance he will be out and about, around his home town. “Yarmouth seafront is very close to home so this is a regular place for me to visit and capture the sunrise,” he said.

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Although Jon would be the first to admit Yarmouth is not known for being a photographic paradise, he believes it can still hold plenty of interest to the photographer.

Especially at dawn or dusk, as he said: “Everything looks better in the morning light or evening light. It makes the world look a bit nicer and warmer.”

He is more than happy to get his feet wet in order to get a good shot. One of his favourite photographs is the one taken on South Beach, looking out to a very milky looking sea. Once again it was taken at dawn.

“This area around the South Beach and harbour at Yarmouth provides me with ample opportunities for photography,” he said. “There is the pier and the harbour's comings and goings as well as the most fantastic collection of weathered groynes that provide great interest.”

He added: “I will not forget one morning as it provided me with some excellent dawn shots with a fantastic sunrise that provided beautiful colours.”

The recently constructed offshore wind- farm at Scroby Sands also provides stunning subject matter for Jon, all year round, whether taken from South Beach or Caister Beach.

“As with a lot of photos I will take near home, the windfarm will always be part of them.”

And at dusk, Breydon Water, the inland estuary famous for its huge quantities of migrating birds, provides Jon with a beautiful setting for a sunset under the wide Norfolk skies.

“The Breydon estuary is literally five minutes from home and is a good source of images for me, especially at sunset.”

And Lockgate Mill is only three miles away from his home.

Jon, who works the night shift at Morrisons supermarket, describes himself as an amateur photographer but with aspirations to turn professional.

He started taking photography seriously in early 2002, inspired by the work of landscape photographers such as Joe Cornish and Charlie Waite.

He tends to focus first and foremost on the coast – anywhere from North Norfolk down to the Suffolk Heritage Coast, and then inland second.

But this year he may shift his focus inshore to the town of Yarmouth itself.

And although most of his images are taken around East Norfolk, it is his intention in the near future to photograph other areas of the UK.

Although he said of his home county: “It is a big country – there's a lot to photograph yet.”

Favourite photographic spots in Norfolk include Brundall, Damgate and Postwick; Thurne Mill, Tunstall Mill, West Somerton Mill, Strumpshaw Fen Nature Reserve and Kelling Heath. “This area of heathland is prone to beautiful autumn colours,” he said.

One of his photographs is simply called Norfolk Hill. “I love my part of the world but it would be nice to have a few more hills here and there,” he said.

His gallery of photographs include a couple of Scotland shots taken on family holidays. “I just love it,” he said. “I wish I could go up there every weekend, it's beautiful.”

His work nowadays is exclusively digital after a period of using 35mm and 6 x 7cm slide film which helped him greatly to perfect his technique and learn so much about landscape photography.

Although Jon may only survive on little more than four hours of sleep a day, he still manages to focus a bleary eye on the things in life he loves best.

t Jon's work is being exhibited at Cafe Renaissance Gallery 101 High Street, Lowestoft, until Thursday April 28. He will then have an exhibition bay at Picturecraft Gallery, 23 Lees Courtyard, Holt, from Thursday May 12 to Thursday June 2.

t Jon Gibbs's photographs of Yarmouth are featured in the May issue of Photographer Monthly, on sale now, price £3.40. Photographer Monthly is an Archant publication.