It is not often I write a blog post because a random stranger in the street asks me to – but that is exactly what I am doing today.  I am writing this blog because a man I met in a café in St. Lucia asked me to.  Let me start at the beginning.

On the 5 February, the MV Magellan, on which I am working as a guest lecturer, arrived at St Lucia.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I’ve been to the port of Castries before and as a town, I really did not like it.  It was scruffy, messy and untidy, and not even in an urban decay sort of way.  I had struggled to find anything to photograph there and on that occasion, I quickly retreated to the comfort of the ship.  Returning to this port was not very high on my agenda.

As the Magellan came it to port, I realised that we were being berthed on the opposite side of the harbour away from the town, things looked a lot more photogenic on this side of the water.  When I got off the ship, I soon realised that although it was photogenic, it was not possible to get to the pretty sections that I could see from the upper deck of the ship.

I made a quick decision and decided I would go for a walk, not in the direction of the town (20-30 mins walk away) but in the opposite direction.  I had heard about a beach on the far side of the Island’s runway called “Vigie Beach” and although I didn’t have high hopes about a beach that close to an airport, I thought at least I’d probably enjoy the walk.

I was completely wrong.  The walk was not the worst walk I had done but it was necessary to walk a long way along the length of a road at the side of the runway, go round the end of the runway and then walk some distance down the other side of it.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the walk, and bored of walking on the far side of the runway, I decided to go and explore the nearby cemetery in search of interesting shots.  Incidentally, walking through a large graveyard next to an airport wasn’t doing much to improve my general fear of flying!  At the far side of the cemetery, I could see a path leading towards the sea and from the end of the path a step down on the beach.  It was a stunning beach.

For a little while, I sat here in the shade of a tree that was growing out of the sand and overhanging the sea.  I sat watching the waves break on the golden sand and listened to the water lapping on the shore.

That was then something started to dawn on me.  Where was everyone?  In half an hour, I had seen two possibly three people and that was it.  The beach was practically deserted.  I looked up and down its length.  To my right, in the distance, I saw what looked like a hotel spilling out on the beach, but not many people.  To my left, there were even fewer people, but I could see what I thought might be some sort of beach bar or café.

I walked down the beach creating photographs as I went.  As I did so I hardly saw another person.  20 minutes or so later I arrived at the café.   Actually, it turned out to be several of them all sharing the same complex on stilts.

I sat on the veranda, drinking a coke and sharing a quick photo of the beach on Facebook.  I soon realised that what people there were in the café were all locals.  Where were all the tourists?  I talked to one man who had seen my camera and jokingly asked if I was working for National Geographic (Oh, if only).  When I explained that I wasn’t, he simply asked me if I could blog about the beach, they desperately need tourists to come to the beach and to the bar.  They were crying out for publicity.  I could see this was true, I don’t know how many other tourists came to the cafes that day, I hope it was more than just me because they are not going to survive very long with just one tourist, buying one coke on one day.

After I enjoyed my drink I set off to make some images that would tell the story of Vigie beach.  Normally when I am photographing beaches I spend a long time looking for angles to make the beach look as empty as possible.  I found it really strange to looking around for people that I could include in my images.  In the shot above the inclusion of the person walking along the sands in a very strange way helps to make the beach more deserted because he is alone than if there was no one in the shot.

It’s also worth noting how I have used the overhanging trees to partially mask the clouds that arrived and then disappeared just as quickly as they appeared.

As I walked down the beach to the hotel at the opposite end I paused picked up a stick to write “I love Vigie Beach” in the sand – I know I would want to use that shot to start the blog when I wrote it.  I put the message just at the edge of the damp sand and waited for a wave to just start to go over it, thus uniting beach, message and sea in the image.

At the hotel, called “Rendezvous” which appears to be an exclusive couples resort, I saw a few more tourists who I presumed were staying there.  Three boats on the sand with identical sails made for an interesting image that uses repetition and contrasts to draw you into the image.

In total, I spent two or three hours on Vigie beach, during that time I did see a handful of other people from the ship.  It was probably no more than 5 other passengers, and a slightly larger number of crew.

I have kept my promise and this is my blog about Vigie beach.  I hope that if you ever have the good fortune to visit St Lucia, that you will take the time to seek out and visit this hidden gem.  I know its charm is the fact that it is practically deserted and that no one goes there, however, I do understand the way in which the locals rely on tourism.  So if you go, please buy yourself a drink at one of the cafes at the far end of the beach, and please tell them that I kept my promise, I wrote the blog and that you learned about Vigie beach because you read it.

Until next time, keep MAKING great images,

Ian.

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