“I would really love the shoot to be on my favourite beach, a place with important memories for me”.
Yep, we can do that, I thought when Zoe first approached me about a shoot for her and her 3 beloved dogs. I’m always happy to go to someone’s favourite place to walk their dogs as there’s always a story to be told and I nearly always find that people are that bit more relaxed in those environments. You can visibly see tense shoulders drop on the dog owners and the dogs, well, they just have a whale of a time.
Ok, so where are we going then?
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Blue Anchor Bay was the answer. A peaceful little bay on the North Somerset coast line, a pebble throw from the popular tourist destination of Minehead. The sprawl and screams of the holiday camps were a far cry though from the serenity of this beach early one evening in August. Having checked the permissions out and with Zoe’s good knowledge, I discovered it’s a beach where dogs are welcome, which is always a good start, particularly in the summer months when many beaches are closed to dogs.
On the evening of our shoot I met Zoe and her partner Rob with their 3 happy hounds and we headed out to a particularly nice part of the beach where the bay was at it’s most curved from the sea. To be honest we had a ‘small’ issue with the tide and although we had a reasonable time before the beach was lost to the majesty of the sea once more, we needed to be aware of it’s progress back in.
As we wandered up to a spot I’d seen Zoe told me that her family had been sight hound fans for a long time and that they’ve owned Whippets or Lurchers for quite some time. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the little French Bulldog – Charlie – scooting along next to the two Whippets, Millie and Wilson. So how did this little dude make his way into your life then I asked. It was time for Zoe’s partner, Rob to fess up and announce that Charlie was his. I kind of did a double take. Rob is a vet, working with large animals. He’s dealing with cattle all the time in his life, he’s a tall chap, the sort you’d see on the rugby pitch. Outwardly you might think it’s they might be an odd choice together… Rob laughed and went on to explain that Charlie was his before he and Zoe got together. He was sort of rescued at about 12 months old, he admits he never set out in life to be a Frenchie owner, but they’ve built a strong buddy relationship over the last 8 years. Charlie has moments where he’s a little unstable on his back legs, but boy can this little dude run and run and jump. He’s just got a bit of an odd gait really but his massive personality and zest for life gets him through those times when he is a bit wobbly. It’s fair to say that although Charlie was firmly Rob’s dog for many years, but when Zoe came along Charlie’s affections jumped ship a bit !! I think Rob is very happy to share though…
We chatted about the dogs and as Zoe lives in Wellington, she’s about as far from Blue Anchor as I am, so I asked how she knew about the beach here. With a tinge of sadness Zoe told me that close to the beach is a natural burial ground, where her father is buried and the family discovered the beach after her father had passed away. The bay is now an important part of her life and she comes up whenever she can. It’s such quiet, unassuming place with a long beach and a fantastic old fashion prom. It’s not heaving with people, there’s was just a few sea fisherman setting up for the night while we were there and directly behind the beach the West Somerset steam railway track sits. There’s something rather magical about a steam train running by the side of the beach and we were treated to such a view at one point.
Millie is Zoe’s oldest Whippet. She’s a typical delicate and very pretty little lady. She’s 12 now and she’s not been terribly well in recent months and recently underwent surgery to remove a growth. She’s fit and well after the Op now but Zoe apologised for the slightly ‘patchwork’ coat she’s currently sporting. To be honest you’d be hard pressed to know she’d been poorly bar the shaved hair and surgery signs. It’s very clear to see just how much this little lady means to Zoe though, there were lots of extra special snuggles going on there. Wilson completes the canine part of the family. Another Whippet, he’s the baby of the bunch at 6 and much the biggest too. Wilson LOVES going to this beach as it means he gets to bound over to the fisherman and attempt to steal bait, whoops!
The sun dropped behind clouds almost as soon as the camera came out, but the warmth between these 5 together with the amazing pinky sand that the light was throwing up made for a fantastic feeling to this shoot. OK, so the dogs were a little bit wayward at times but it’s AMAZING what a packet of digestives can do to get their attention…!
Before we knew it the light went against us and we headed back up to the prom and back to the village. Rob, who wasn’t going to really get involved in the pictures was in far more than he intended I’m sure, but he never stopped smiling or getting involved with creating opportunities for Zoe to have some super photographic memories to go with all the ones she’s internalised over the years. They both know that time could well be running out for Millie and Charlie, but rather than dwell on that they are making the most of everyday, together.
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Until next time…
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