Growing up in South Devon and surfing Watergate regularly as a teenager, Owen now works as a designer and creative director in London. He and his family stayed in the beach lofts for a few days this autumn, experiencing “sunsets and drizzle and stormy nights” and pacing the few steps to and from the beach more times than he can count. He shares the thinking behind his film, capturing “those little moments”, and the wide-eyed wonder of a one-year-old staring at the sea…
I loved being so close to the sea; when the tide was up it was all we could see. On the last morning, the storm had passed and the waves got really good again. I woke up at first light and peeled back the curtains to see the sky all pink and the moon setting as the sun came up. Hard to know whether to take a camera or a surfboard in those moments (I did both!)
Staying, sleeping and waking up right above the waves was amazing; that sound and the constant presence of the sea... Our daughter, Coco, turned one on the day we left and she was transfixed by it. I’ve got so many pictures of her just standing and staring out of the window.
For the film, I wanted to just put a few beautiful moments together and slow everything down so we could appreciate it. There’s so much detail in the sea and it’s hard to take it all in. The slow motion footage stretches out the time and gives you a chance to notice all the things you might otherwise miss – the spray coming off the back of the wave like rain and the wobbles in the pool.
I love shooting in black and white because it lets us look at things a little differently. Somehow the absence of colour resets our minds and we see surfaces and textures more. And on a practical level, I shot all these little moments across a few days with really varied weather and light conditions. The black and white pulls it all together nicely I think.
Choosing the soundtrack was easy – I just love that song. Normally I’d go for something instrumental or commission something from a musician friend, but I just wanted to try this Ethiopian jazz tune and it really worked. Once I’d done it, it felt weird trying anything else.
I loved all the glass and reflections around the pool room, and the way you could look through to the outside and simultaneously see the reflections of what was happening inside. It’s hard to capture but something I always get drawn into when I see it.
I like to sit and wait for nice little moments to happen, when the little figures walking on the beach form a nice pattern or rhythm, or somebody appears in a reflection, something a little poetic or coincidental perhaps. But mostly I’m just shooting what’s there and, if possible, I like to make an image that draws you in and holds your attention a little bit.
I’ve been coming to Watergate Bay since I was a teenager to go surfing. I grew up in south Devon and the north coast usually had more consistent surf. Because of the way the roads are, it’s faster to come to Cornwall than go to south Devon. Watergate was always our beach of choice because we could get there in an hour and 15 minutes if we put our foot down! There is lots of space so it’s also less crowded than other beaches.
So the bay, the beach and the waves are very familiar to me – but I’d never set foot in the hotel before. It has a really nice balance between feeling very special but super relaxed. The staff all seem really calm and the whole experience of staying there is very welcoming.
Check out Owen’s collaborations on the Looking Sideways book and podcast (or find the book in our ocean room).
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