A December Morning on Cleethorpes Beach

Going to The University of Sheffield I couldn’t get much further from the sea if I tried, so now I’m back home for Christmas, this morning I took advantage of living fairly close to the coast by visiting the seaside town of Cleethorpes. After a trundling along the A16 at about 40mph due to icy conditions, I arrived at Cleethorpes Leisure centre car park at around 7:40am.

The sun hadn’t yet risen, and it was bloody freezing! The first thing I noticed (apart from the temperature) was the amount of birds present. I have never been to the beach in Cleethorpes in winter, when many wading birds from Northern latitudes migrate south to Britain’s relatively mild shores, and the high tide had pushed various wading birds right up to the beach. As I walked down from the car park gulls were flying over me towards the marshy areas near the boating lakes. The wobbly yodelling sound of curlews rang out betraying their presence on the marshes. Over my head oystercatchers gave out piercing chirps as I trudged up the beach towards the groynes and the pier, the objects I knew I wanted to take photos of this morning. Before I got close to any of the groynes I noticed this group of small wading birds in their non-descript winter plumage, my wader ID skills aren’t particularly up to scratch at the minute, but I think they were knots. I was pretty surprised how close they let me get, obviously my 18-55mm kit lens gave me a pretty limited scope to what I could shoot, so I tried to include the delicately pink sky and pier in the shot for a habitat style shot.


Cleethorpes Billy Clapham Knot sunrise


I will definitely have to return to Cleethorpes for some wader photography once I have a telephoto lens… hopefully “Santa” thinks I have been a good enough boy this year to warrant such a gift…
After getting a little too close and scaring the flock away I started heading toward the groynes to get the landscape photos I was after on this trip. I haven’t had a proper go at taking photos of the sea before, so I mainly went with the intentions of getting those classic coastal landscape shots of long exposure waves and taking advantage of the golden hour sunlight. (For these shots i used a circular polariser filter, Cokin ND grad and a Kood ND8 filter)

Here’s my first shot before the sun had risen:


billy clapham cleethorpes landscape photography


Here’s another shot of the same groyne at a slightly different point of view, and this time converted to black and white


billy clapham landscape black and white cleethorpes


It wasn’t long before the sun peaked over the horizon adding a tiny bit of much needed heat to the situation! Now if only I had that long lens to close in on that gull sat on the groyne next to the sun…


billy clapham landscape cleethorpes sunrise sea


With the sun firmly above the horizon it started to cast its nice golden glow onto the beach, so I jumped to the other side of the groyne and took this shot, I think my favourite out of these last three. The circular polariser filter really brings out the colours, I mean the muddy Humber estuary/North sea looks practically tropical!


billy clapham cleethorpes landscape sea long exposure
Having mostly exhausted that groyne of photos I wondered further up the beach and past the pier and found a particular jetty that I recognised from numerous shots I saw when I scouted out the area on flickr. I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t resist taking the cliché shot. It just works so well, especially in black and white.


billy clapham cleethorpes black and white landscape sea 5


The sun sat in a slightly awkward place on the horizon, it would have been nice if it was out to sea  bit more, but that’s not exactly something I can change! Never the less I managed to include it in this shot of the old pier.


cleethorpes pier landscape sunrise billy clapham photography

Since the sun was getting higher in the sky reducing the light quality and the sea was getting further away from me now, I started gradually wondering back to the car, where I grabbed these other two shots. My attention was mostly on the increasing number of bird species I was spotting, first a little redshank, then a small group of brent geese flew in to the quickly expanding mud flats, and finally a godwit, of either the bar-tailed or black tailed variety…. There’s a massively cropped image of it at the end of this post, anyone know which one it is? I was quite surprised how much I liked doing photography in Cleethorpes, it’s not some where I associate with wildlife and beautiful peopleless landscapes, I guess that’s the difference between a freezing winter morning and a tourist swamped summer afternoon!



cleethorpes landscape reflection billy clapham


What Godwit?

Bird species spotted (I’m a bit of a birder at heart, I couldn’t resist)

  • Black headed gull
  • Herring gull
  • Greater black backed gull
  • Curlew
  • Redshank
  • Turnstone
  • Sanderling
  • Knot
  • Godwit (sp.?)
  • Oystercatcher
  • Brent geese


Thanks for looking!

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