Shell Bay, Elie

A dramatic sky over Cocklemill Burn.

About 20 minutes from my home in Fife is Shell Bay, a nice, sandy beach on the Forth Estuary with a holiday park behind it. Being new to Fife and not really knowing my way around from a photographic opportunities point-of-view, I discovered it whilst familiarising myself with the area on Google Maps in the comfort of an armchair.

The sweep of bay looked quite impressive but it was a nearby water feature that caught my attention. A grassy area to the west appeared to be speckled with small and irregularly-shaped, sparkly depressions. It was as if a giant had used a variety of cookie cutters to chomp little bites out of the grass which the marshy ground then proceeded to fill in with water.

The walkers' bridge over Cocklemill Burn.

This happened during the lockdown and the road to the beach was unfortunately closed at the time. As soon as it opened up, I had a run along and found the wee holes free of water - dry as a bone, just little dirt depressions amongst the tufts of grass. It seemed to be either a seasonal or tidal phenomenon so more patience was required. Anyway, to cut this long story short, I eventually managed to visit the place when the holes were good and wet - but even then we're only talking about a foot of water in each.

Thankfully, there were no warning signs alerting walkers to a possibly nasty end in a swampy marsh if they strayed off any paths so it seemed safe enough. Either that or someone from the local health and safety body had been texting a pal when they should have been paying attention to the landscape during their survey. Although it's an out-of-the-way spot, it does border the holiday park and part of the Fife Coastal Path walking route so I wasn't too concerned.

I've shot the scene on 35mm so far and some of the resultant images are presented here. My weapon of choice was the OM2, with Delta 400 in the chamber and 24mm, 50mm f2 macro and 135mm Zuikos carried concealed in the Domke. The tripod was where tripods belong - back home. The film was developed in DD-X 1+4.

The sparkly depressions extend over a small area, probably no more than about 60x40 yards.

I'm quite pleased with the results but I think there's more to be had from this location. For a start, the detail in the landscape would benefit from a bigger neg, as landscapes usually do. Might be time to fire up the Mamiya Press although I haven't got round yet to sending it away for its much-needed service. I could easily wander all over the site with the 75mm Sekor hand-held on the 6x9 Mamiya but the Rollei SL66E would need to be fixed to the three-legged millstone - it's about as hand-holdable as a hot coal.

Still, I think the 40mm on the SL66E would give me some great wide angle shots of the water-filled depressions so it might be worth it. It would also be better if I could carry a wee step ladder to the spot - about 100 yards from my parking space - for a slightly elevated perspective of the watery holes.

I've yet to visit the site in winter so it will be interesting to see the difference some bad weather makes. Cocklemill Burn flows into Shell Bay at this point as well and it, too, presents some nice photo opportunities. Finally, there are some WWII buildings a short distance away and I do love a pillbox or two. My usual modus operandi when looking for pictures is to drive all over the place but it's so much more pleasant - not to mention cheaper and more productive - being able to encamp at one location and spend several hours taking photographs instead of sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Cocklemill Burn where it flows into the Forth. The cross on the horizon is actually a
signpost on the coastal path.


  1. These are great Bruce - you've captured that gorgeous North Sea light perfectly and as you say the area looks perfect for a deep exploration.
    Why not take the Rollei and only the 40mm, or how about the Rollei 3.5F - that lens needs to be used more - I think square would make a very good statement on these.
    More please!

    1. The TLR might be a very good idea, Phil. It’s definitely overdue an outing.

  2. I like the compositions of these great landscapes.

  3. Hello, Bruce. Wonderful landscapes and excellent compositions. You did a good job in capturing the mood of the place.This is the kind of scenery I like best in these times. I found the analogy of the the cookie cutters fits very well.
    I wish you all the best for the upcoming year.
    Cheers, Marty.