Brighton West Pier Now (and Black Glass)

Went down to Brighton to see a ruin this morning as the weather was dry, some sun…but pretty cold! Parked up on the top road above the front, paid a packet to park, and walked… I probably should have parked rather closer, but didn’t know what was available. I practically finished myself off, but managed to sort a taxi back to the car (pathetic, it seems, but that’s the way it is now).

Anyway, this is what I saw, poor dilapidated old thing! If you compare this with my previous post, when the pier was in early decay, you can see that the whole of the central section has gone, with only the supporting posts remaining.

For this shot I used a 10 stop ND filter, to try and get the water smoothing effect…can’t really see it here (5 second exposure)! It was my first go at using black glass, I need tons more practice! The hardest part was fiddling about with the gear in the cold…..Otherwise I might have experimented more. The dynamic range was a bit too wide, and I should have used a grad for the sky as well… it’s all a learning curve!!

West Pier marooned

West Pier marooned

The sun was streaming through the clouds, so the pier was pretty well backlit….and those helpful people give a sense of scale! This shot was taken minus the ND. But even at1/200th sec, there is movement in those clouds!

Werst Pier backlit

Werst Pier backlit


  1. Love the clouds and your silver sea in that first one, Sue 🙂 What a difference a day makes (or 30 years!)

  2. Emilio Pasquale

    I used a #10 nd filter only once. At night to get rid of crowds of people. What I didn’t expect was the clouds that came out silky smooth. Love the effect that filter gives.

  3. The old pier is sad now. It’s a shame, I hope that someone rebuilds it. Thanks for making the journey, and for your experiments with filters. I have never used such a strong ND.filter. Your shot shows that it can work in certain circumstances, and came over well. I actually prefer the second shot, as I like the inclusion of the people.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Thanks, Pete! I’m glad I went yesterday, it was quite a nice morning and the trip did me good….. If money was no object, I would always be travelling!! Anyway, it was good to try out the filter at last – I’ve had it since before Christmas. I can’t decide which photograph I prefer, as I like the first for the effect, but I also like the second looking down through the pillars, with those people. Stroke of luck, these girls just wandered into shot taking their own photographs 🙂

  4. Oh what a sad but ethereal sight. Almost like a ghost of its former self. Those “helpful people” look like midgets. 🙂

  5. Looks like the same weather we had in May (2006). I got a couple of shots with crepuscular rays from the side and there seemed to be more collapsed pier than in your photos. I like your first shot and look forward to seeing what you learn through your experimentations. Sorry to hear that you are tiring quickly, I know things can’t improve, but I do hope you keep well.

    • Jude, I wish I had been at least once in the intervening years! There would have been more of the pier when you saw it in 2006… Quite a lot has steadily been lost to storms in the last decade.
      As for me, I’ve been tiring quite quickly for a few years now, I just have to work out strategies. Had the good fortune yesterday to speak to a chap in the office on the sea front who gave me taxi phone numbers, job done!

  6. Allan G. Smorra

    Nice photo and an interesting series of before and after shots. Have you tried using a polarizing filter to counter the water/sky highlights?

    • Glad you like the photographs, Allan. Apropos polarising filter…do you mean to use it in conjunction with the ND? If so, I would need to put polariser on first, turn it to the correct position, then screw the ND holder on without upsetting the polariser setting….sounds like too many things to go wrong!

      • Allan G. Smorra

        Hi, Sue. What I meant was to use the polarizing filter instead of the ND filter. The polarizing filter will drop your exposure by about 1.5 f/Stops right away and then as you turn it one way or another it will cut the glare.

        You will need to know whether to use a circular, or a linear polarizer. It makes a difference to the light meter in your camera and the camera’s instruction manual will tell you which one to use.

      • Ok, I wondered if that was what you meant…but as I was lookin g to slow or freeze motion, I wanted 10 stops rather than 1.5!

      • Allan G. Smorra

        Wowser, 10 stops! You might want to try the quarter-inch plywood filter…

  7. What a shame to see the pier as it exists today Sue. When you think what Brighton was: Strolling down the promenade, Quadrophenia, etc. Still, your photographs are great, your post really captivated me….

  8. Wow it’s changed immensely in 30 years.
    Good on you Sue – lovely subject 🙂

  9. Lovely, and the comparison with yesterday’s photo is amazing! Having that couple in the second photo is great for scale.

  10. Strong composition and great graphical qualities. And I agree with you, the people does give a scale and something to compare with – and thus makes the last photo a more compelling.

  11. These are lovely photos Sue. What was the exif data on the top photo? You don’t need to say if you’d rather not.
    It’s a sad sight to see..The pier even less than a skeleton of its former self.

    • Thanks, Adrian…and I don’t mind sharing the Exif data… 5 seconds, f22, ISO 200, 19mm (Oly 12-40mm MZuiko) I failed to cover the viewfinder, but don’t know if this would have had much bearing on a 5sec exposure.

      • Hi Sue,
        Just to add to Allan’s point first, you can use a polariser with an 10 stop ND filter. You can screw the polariser onto your lens first. As the polariser also has a female thread, just like your lens, you can then attach your ND filter sytem to the filter. Thanks for the exif data. The only time I’ve used my 10 stop in bright sunlight I still got a 104 second exposure which is why I was interested in your settings. That said, I wasn’t shooting directly into the sun and my ISO was 100. I’m guessing 200 is your lowest setting or you’d have gone to 100.
        I think the 10 stops really come into their own when you can extend exposures over minutes rather than seconds. It was overcast when I took my Clevedon Pier pics but still quite bright. I managed a 4 minute exposure at ISO-50 then. Just a little more cloud cover would have been on your side to acheive that really smooth water. That said, that silvery effect on the water, that would have been lost if you’d gone longer, is lovely and gives the scene a rather dreamy feel. 🙂

      • My concern with using polariser plus ND is that I would have to set the polariser, then screw on the ND holder…risking changing the setting….not dexterous enough for that!!
        Re ISO, 200 is base ISO, don’t have 100, would just change EV (is that right?)

      • EV componsation is not an actual physical thing the camera uses to control light. There are only three things that do that, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. EV compensation is just a way of telling the camera to ignore the light meter in certain auto modes. If you were using the 10 stop in an auto mode (something you would only be able to do in very bright conditions) your camera is closed down at f/22 and your ISO is at it’s lowest setting, EV compensation, in an attempt to get a longer exposure is going to lighten your image to the point of blown highlights which is where you were at.
        In manual mode, which is where you’ll need to be in overcast conditions as your light meter won’t be able to meter and you’ll need to refer to a chart to get your exposure, EV compensation will have no effect. Does that answer your question Sue?

      • Oh, certainly, and I’m using manual all the time now anyway, and base ISO as much as possible….

      • Meant to ask you…would you use a polariser plus ND?? It does seem a heck of a fiddly operation!

      • Hello again Sue, sorry missed this. I don’t use polarisers generally. I’ve tried them in the past and they’ve not really worked for me. I think with the right combination of ND grad and exposure, you don’t need them but that’s me. If I wanted to remove the glare from still water, I’d use a polariser but that sort of shot doesn’t come up too often for me. Also as you point out, adjusting the polariser and then srewing in an adapter to take another filter is fiddly as well as having limited uses.
        I have UV filters attached to all my lenses bar the 14-24mm. Taking pictures near the sea means salt spray and I’d rather be cleaning the salt off the glass of a filter that cost me £100 than the front element of a lens that cost a very great deal more. Once these are fitted of course, you don’t have to align them. Fiddly to get off but if I need to take them off, I use a rubber band around the filter. Makes it much easier to manage.

      • Like you, I have UV filters on all my lenses – I like your nifty trick with the rubber bands! I never use polarisers, that’s why I asked. Thanks for coming back to me…

  12. Suzanne

    These are stunning Sue. Your photographic skills are excellent. The first image looks so incredibly sad yet mysterious and romantic at the same time. The ghost of pleasures past perhaps.

    • Thanks, Suzanne….I love your description – sad, mysterious, romantic, the ghost of pleasures past. I couldn’t have put it better myself! Very eloquent. 😀

  13. Laura Bloomsbury

    I’d be well-pleased if these were my shots – the ghosting is magical and the proportion of human to a broken human endeavour

  14. Oh dear…I jumped the gun, going through your posts, I see you did make it to Brighton! As you know, I remember roller skating on the West Pier in the 70s and now…well, no skating and no pier 😦 But I absolutely love your photos and the lighting and the backdrop. Love your effects, really quite stunning Sue 🙂

  15. I love the light in these and the size of the posts!! Beautiful shots Sue!

    • Thanks, Cybele. I was pleased with these shots because I did a120 mile round trip on the spur of the moment and got some nice photographs! Admittedly, I had been meaning to do this trip for a while, but I was getting withdrawal symptoms from not travelling for a while, and thought to myself “just go!”

  16. Again you have captured a great image Sue. I love the inclusion of the 2 people to give a feeling of the size. What a shame such a beautiful building has been left to rot away.

  17. My daughter lived in Brighton for a while a few years back. Parking prices near the sea are ridiculous. This captures this old relic very well. The starkness of the scene is perfect.

  18. Sue, stunning images …… you have given the old “skeleton” some of its beauty back – absolutely magical your images. Mine is miles away from yours. So sad that the West Pier has come to this, but still I find its important that its left.
    My favorite is the last image with the people in – love it.
    And here is the link about the horse.
    Once again thanks for being you and for our fantastic lunch date.

  19. I saw this around 2000 when it was a ruin, but there was more of it. It used to be an amazing gathering place for starlings at sundown. I love the stark beauty of your compositions, Sue.

  20. Great shots, you can really feel the cold in these 🙂

  21. Lovely shots of a beauty lost. I really didn’t know that much was gone of the pier. Sad. I have never used filters…or any special gear. Looks great. I want to learn though – that will have to be when I’m retired…

  22. Fabulous, I love this pier!

  23. Emilio Pasquale

    Looks like I saw this in January of 2015 and liked it then, too. At least I’m consistent.

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