Last night on the promenade I was taking a walk, photographing flowers. I have been doing this for several evenings during my enchanted stay on Portobello Beach. I love the silence and peace of it. The play with light. The shapes and colours. The way the darkness wraps itself around the flowers. The comforting smell of woodsmoke lingered in the sea air. I turned off a side street back onto the promenade.
Up ahead a truck blared it’s lights onto our path. Upon passing the blinding glare I saw it was the coastguard. My eye shot past the truck to a searching beam of light. A patrol of five men with flashlights were sweeping the beach. I’d seen a tall ship on the distant horizon earlier and wondered if this was related. Was it some kind of shore landing? That might seem like a strange conclusion to leap to but I had an experience when I was a teenager on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale where hundreds of Cuban and Haitian migrants landed. I recalled the memory in a piece I wrote for Air Iceland's travel magazine which I titled "In Search of Cinema." You can find the full article on my website.
This experience flashed across my mind. Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the coast guard patrol's slow sweeping dance of lights. I followed them trying (and failing) to capture the eerie atmosphere. It was E.T. like.
They moved past a group of adults and children sat around a glowing campfire. As they passed, they said something which I couldn't make out. I had passed the campfire on my way out and taken some shots from afar, wanting to join them. But I didn't. Now was my chance. I approached, nervous. I had all the usual anxiety walking alone into a private group of individuals, uninvited. I asked what the coastguard said. "Only something about them 'investigating'. They were being vague on purpose." They were being thorough, but about what, we still don't know.
I got to talking to this lovely woman Kathleen, who made me feel quite at home. It turned out I had met a few of the people there already back when I returned from my motorcycle trip in July. The children began play fighting. I asked if it was ok to photograph them and did. I'm still not sure of my photographic protocol with children. I take it on a case by case basis as it feels right. The rain came and after a Scottish while, they packing up. Kathleen was covering her head with a shawl and joked that she looked like Rooney Mara in Mary Magdalene. My heart jumped at the reference to the recent film. My dear friend @philippagoslett wrote the screenplay for it. I related this to Kathleen and it turned out her friend worked props on the film. Small. Beautiful. World. I love talking to strangers.