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At the Henley Beach Jetty

Written in 1985, while living at West Beach

 

The Henley Beach Jetty

The Henley Beach Jetty, on the coast in Adelaide, South Australia.

 

 

The Henley Beach Jetty

Looking out to sea from under the Henley Beach Jetty

 

 

The Henley Beach Jetty

Looking back towards Henley Beach from near the end of the jetty.

 

 

The Henley Beach Jetty

Looking back towards Henley Beach from under the cover at the end of the jetty.

 

 

On the Henley Beach Jetty
“On the Henley Beach Jetty”
37 cm x 27 cm, conté and pastels on brown paper.

I am down at the Henley Beach jetty – what a marvellous place. I am observing the jewel-like reflections of the sun on the water. There are lights that flash for an instant and then seemingly move to another spot to flash again. There are many small super-bright lights on the water, dancing and squiggling, appearing and disappearing, quickly flickering, jittering, silent, beautifully random, glittering, soothing, magical. What a marvellous spectacle!

On-site sketch from my notebook.

There is underlying movement coming from the waves gently rolling in, and rhythmical undulations in the surface of the water from the soft breeze. The whole effect is in free-fall however, resulting from the combination of viewpoint, angle of the sun, weather conditions, and the nature of the water (providing a highly reflective and scalloped surface). Everything is just happening. One just has to be open to experiencing such things.

I just saw a small group of dolphins and a stingray swim past. It felt very special. I first heard some breaking water behind me as I was looking at the glittering water. It was a dolphin, and it was close by. I watched it take air, dive down gracefully, and swim in the clear water. What graceful, smooth and yet sharp swimming!

I quickly walked down the ramp near the end of the jetty to get closer to the surface of the water, to see if I could attract the dolphin’s attention. The surface of the water was still too far below me to make some decent splashing. However, as I was trying to see if I could reach the water, I noticed some other dolphins swimming just behind the one I first saw. What an invigorating experience!


Under the Henley Beach Jetty

At the end of the ramp that leads down to the surface of the water.

 

I watched the small group swim around the area near the end of the jetty for a short time and then move off northwards. While looking out for more dolphins, I noticed a stingray swimming slowly, about a metre above its obvious shadow on the floor of this shallow section of the sea.

The water, gentle green cool water – mysterious, exotic, soothing. I had been lucky enough to see some of the larger creatures that live in it, swimming smoothly and relaxed, looking completely at home. I felt a strange connection with the dolphins, knowing that they too were intelligent mammals, like myself. “Hello, distant cousin of mine” – a cousin that long ago undertook a very different way of life. “I wonder what things you could tell me of life in your very different world?”

After watching these forms and gliding movements for a while, I turned to look back towards some noise coming from the beach. There were some people there enjoying themselves, some splashing, some standing in the water talking. Their forms looked so strange and alien, so much out of place.

It is beautiful out here – so peaceful, so comfortable and interesting. There is a huge vastness out towards the horizon. There are pale orange clouds, small and silent on the horizon, majestic and handsome. Above them is an open sky of pure sunlit cobalt blues. A gentle cool breeze blows in off the water, bringing with it faint smells from the sea.

I can now feel the jetty rocking along its length. The rhythm of the waves must be just right to do this.

On-site sketch from my notebook.

 

As I sit on a railing near the end of the Henley Beach Jetty, I can see my shadow in the water. There is a beautiful changing break-up of the image in the water, as it extends deep into the water. The moving image is made up of close shades of colour. There is a kind of radiating line pattern seen in the water that is centred on the middle of the shadow of my head. The radiating lines are a little lighter than the colour of the water, with more concentration of lightness just next to the shadow of my head. It’s a little like a radiating line ‘halo’. As the water moves and flows and the image of the shadow shimmers a little, the radiating lines remain as much a part of the image as does my shadow. If I get up and walk to a new spot I see that my radiating line ‘halo’ goes with the shadow of my head.

On-site sketch from my notebook.

 

The effect is probably due to seeing the sunlight passing through the water from a point that is directly behind my head – sunlight that looks a little brighter, because it is being seen at an angle of maximum reflection.

Indeed, I have since noticed that a subtle ‘halo’ of light also occurs around the shadow of my head when the shadow is being cast on a solid surface, or say mowed grass. I think this is due to the angle of light (being more or less in line with the light source), minimising the amount of shadow being seen from even small irregularities in the surface. Close to the shadow of my head, there are virtually no shadows of irregularities in the surface where my shadow is cast, as seen by me, because the sun is directly behind me. As the angle of vision moves away from the shadow of the middle of my head (or my eyes, to be more exact) more small shadows that are cast on the surface can be seen, thus reducing the overall tone of the reflected light seen.




On the Henley Beach Jetty - Detail 1

Detail from “On the Henley Beach Jetty”.

I imagined myself sitting on the railing, enjoying being here.

Notice that there is an access with steps down to water level, in front of the wider area at the end of the jetty.

 



On the Henley Beach Jetty - Detail 2

Detail from “On the Henley Beach Jetty”.

Lots of different colours in the water - fascinating to watch.

 


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