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Wayne Hinshaw: Beach walk on the dark side

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC — On a family vacation to Kiawah Island, I decided that it would be fun and challenging to take a walk on the beach at twilight and walk into the darkness of night with my camera as my partner.

In the quietness of the night and massaged by the gentle warm breeze from the sea, I wanted to challenge myself with the difficulty of photographing and capturing the feel of the beach in the dark. After all, photography is all about capturing light. It is very hard to make photos without light. In fact, it is nearly impossible in total darkness.

My goal was to produce photos for my pleasure with no real reason for doing so. There was certainly no pressure, if I failed to produce images. It was me listening to my mental thoughts with a totally peaceful mind walking and sometimes stumbling in the moist salty sand.

I like to capture photos of things and situations for the viewers to see reality in ways that they have not experienced. I like to connect with the viewers through my images in a way that they might think, “I have never seen that before” or “I pass here every day, but I have never noticed the view.” Photos on the dark beach would meet my criteria.

I wanted to take the viewer of my images over the “swinging bridge” of doubt onto the solid ground of a visual happening.  Not meaning to be overly dramatic, I want you to walk with me to the mountain top, and together, we look on the other side. We will see the beach in the darkness of night.

I hope the images remind you of a moment in time, an event in your life, or a story that connects you with me mentally, even if only for a brief second.

As darkness smothers out the daylight, I approach the beachfront seeing a wooden erosion fence that lines the sand of the beach, silhouetted against the darkening sky. I think the view is eerie and a little spooky as well.

Much to my surprise, the breaking waves of the ocean reflect the little remaining light. The white reflected highlights bounce off the rolling water rushing to the beach. The silhouetted sea oats dance in the breeze as if performing a ritual dance for the ages.

In the sand, I am able to see some sort of creation of packed wet sand. On closer look, I  discover a mermaid made of sand  created by someone who has abandoned her in the night leaving her to fend off the high tide that will steal her out to sea. A lone man sits on the beach in his folding chair with his kicked-off shoes at his right side reading his iPhone messages. The brightness of his iPhone monitor seems to interrupt the darkness of the moment, but night is creeping over him. Oh, well, his mind is in another mental orbit as is my own mind on this night.

Down the beach, I see a lady in a red shirt and white shorts walking her dog as the darkness of night wraps around her.  I suppose she is getting in her last exercise of the fading day. I wonder about the name of her dog? The darkness is making it difficult for me to focus my camera on her.

Further up the beach, young boys frolic wildly in the waves of the sea. I can only see them against the snowy white of the breaking waves. The sea foam, on the dark sand, makes grand arches that last only for a few seconds and are then washed away.

I wonder how old are the boys? Where is their home? I’ll never know.

Darkness is winning the battle over the daylight as the storm-filled cloudy skies fall prey to the blackness of night. With my feet feeling their way in the dark, I nearly fall down. I stepped into the center of a giant moat left around a sand castle to protect the imaginary residents.

As the warm yellow lights inside the beachhomes start popping on to light the interiors, I realize it is really dark out on the beach. Looking toward a home, I see a big-screen TV lighting a window. I wonder what they are watching tonight. I see no people in the home, just the house lights and the TV rescuing their home from the blackness of the night.

Realizing that I have no flashlight to scare off the darkness, I start back up the boardwalk. Suddenly, there are strange bright beams of little lights about 6 feet tall coming at me out of the blackness. What could it be?

Relived, I hear a man’s voice say, “Hello. I’m taking the family for a night walk with our head lights.” Sure enough, father, mother, and two children pass me headed to the ocean with bright flashlights strapped on their foreheads.

Thats’s enough beach darkness for me tonight. I’m stumbling home.

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