Capturing a climate crisis on camera

We’ve been running our South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year competition for over 10 years now, and in that time we’ve seen nearly 200 ‘exceptional coastal erosion events’ which have affected the Trail. For an incident to make it on to our records there needs to have been a direct impact on people’s ability to use the Coast Path, and a subsequent need for an intervention to repair, restore or even completely move the route of the Trail. This poses an enormous challenge and is just one of the many multi-faceted issues relating to the ongoing climate crisis.

That’s why in 2020, we added a new element to the photo competition – our Climate Crisis Capture Award. With the help of our friends at Fotonow, we sought to find the photo that best communicated important issues that are threatening the Coast Path such as; coastal erosion, pollution, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, loss of habits or extreme weather. Fotonow selected a shot captured by James Loveridge that shows a dramatic scene in Lyme Regis during Storm Ellen.

Matthew Pontin, Creative Director of Fotonow who judged the Award said,“There’s something really explosive about this image. I love how the nature of the rising wave sits alongside the building, making it look so fragile compared to the sea. The brooding sky above is a reminder that the climate crisis is hanging over us, demanding we take action.”

But this wasn’t just a one off. We were already familiar with James’s work, capturing a range of photos that show how our coastline is on the front line when it comes to climate change. You can see more examples of James’s work below.

A birds eye view of the damage at Eype after a cliff fall at the end of 2020. The people in the shot show just how big the fall was.

We reached out to James to find out more about his fascinating work and what inspires him.

  • So James, tell us, how did you first get into photography?

I first got into photography while studying Coastal Engineering at Plymouth University in 2014. Switching between living in Plymouth and West Bay in Dorset, I was lucky enough to have access to some beautiful coastal locations across South Devon, East Cornwall and West Dorset to practice, learn and refine the skills needed. When I moved back to Dorset in 2015, I started a job as a Marketing Manager for a group of holiday resorts, situated right on the South West Coast Path and my landscape photography quickly became an important part of attracting people to this beautiful part of the world.

  • What subject material interests you most?

There are some fantastic areas of countryside, woodland and hills in Dorset, but the coastline is by far my favourite place to explore and take photographs, whether it’s the unique barrier beach of Chesil, the coastal formations of Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks, or the golden cliffs of West Bay. I enjoy taking photos in different and more infrequent weather conditions such as fog and rainbows and I particularly enjoy the photographs that require more planning, skill and patience, such as full moon rises and milky way photography.   

  • What’s the most difficult thing about photographing storms, erosion or damage to the Path?

The weather is obviously one of the limiting factors to photographing the path. A lot of my coastal and coast path related photographs involve flying a drone to get a unique view, which is only possible during certain conditions. Some photos take a lot of patience and an element of luck. In November 2020, I documented a landslide on the cliffs at Eype, just beyond the end of Highlands End Holiday Park where I work as Marketing Manager. Over a number of days I captured the fall as it progressed and even spent a few hours in the rain hoping to capture the moment it fell. Unfortunately the cliff fell overnight, but it made a fantastic photograph to see the fence line left suspended, swinging in the wind. 

  • What does the South West Coast Path mean to you personally?

It’s very important to me, having grown up in West Bay and spent most of my life living within a couple of miles of it. It’s brilliant that we have access to such a substantial stretch of coastline and it’s all I know, so it’s strange to go to other places and find the coast to be inaccessible in many areas. It has great importance in my area, having grown up walking it as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme at school and with the emergence of more and more events and activities along the coast path in recent years, including sponsored walks and runs. For a long time I wanted to walk the whole South West Coast Path in one go, but I think now I would have too much to carry as I couldn’t go without all my camera equipment!

  • How does it feel to win the Climate Crisis Capture award?

It’s always a privilege to have my work recognised in competitions, particularly when it’s focused on something I care about like the South West Coast Path and climate change. Living on such a dynamic stretch of coastline as the Jurassic Coast, I’ve seen the changes over the last 2 or 3 decades in many of my favourite locations and the increasing intensity and frequency of storms that shape the beaches and cliffs and I hope more climate change is given more urgency over the next few years.

To see more of James’s work, follow him on Instagram, Facebook or check out his website here.

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