Low Tide at Pawleys Island

Some decades ago, when my wife and I began spending a week each spring at Pawleys Island, SC, my black and white photography feasted on the splendors of marsh, creek and beach. My three-ring binders grew fat with negatives and contact sheets of landscapes, seascapes and marshscapes. People were noticeable in my photographs more  by their complete absence. In recent years, however, people have begun to creep into my Pawleys Island negatives in greater numbers.Low Tide #22.tiff copy           I’ve increasingly spent my time photographing during low tide, especially at the inlets. These were the most dynamic times of the day, when the inlet waters gradually lowered and narrowed, and the beach widened as the tide fell. The broadening space attracted great numbers of people. Sometimes they walked alone, sometimes in twos or threes, sometimes bending over in a pose of thoughtful discovery. Some looked for shells, moving in a slow and almost dreamlike way. Others walked across the shallow inlet to reach the sandy islands that had formed as the tide dropped. Parents gathered with their small children to wade and play in the warm tidal pools that formed at low tide. The tide’s retreat from the beach had created a zone of contemplation, discovery and play.

Low Tide #19.tiff copyLow Tide #17.tiff copy            I became interested in the way the figures moved about, and especially in the relationships they formed with each other as they moved. A figure’s pose might suddenly echo another’s at some distance and that’s when I’d take the picture. Some figures passed completely unaware of each other but they formed an interesting arrangement. I’d look for those kinds of pictures, too.Low Tide #11.tiff copy 2Low Tide #6.tiff copy 2All Photos ©Lawrence S. Earley

I photographed these “Low Tide People” at a respectful distance, not so far away that they would be only dots in the picture, and not so close that my presence might interfere with their spontaneous movements. I wanted to capture them as figures occupying a large space of sky, sand and water.

Please view more photographs in this series at my photography website, www.lawrenceearley.photoshelter.com.

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