The jetty less photographed, in the light less understood

An unsung hero of a pier on the Mornington Peninsula's Shelley Beach
No longer the bridesmaid

Piers and jetties are popular landscape photography subjects – the jaded amongst us may say they are clichéd.

They are popular for some good reasons. They are, of course, at the water’s edge, and we like coastal and lakeshore scenes, don’t we? They are usually made of wood, a pleasing, natural material that waves and weather render characterful. They suggest travel or escape or serenity – even if the latter is more or less affected by over use of Big Stopper-type neutral density filters. And they are compositionally useful because they imply depth in a two-dimensional medium.

The most popular jetty or pier landscape photography image on the Mornington Peninsula
That Jetty! Click to view large.

A few minutes of Googling will reveal, if you didn’t already know it, that the jetty pictured alongside this paragraph is the most landscape photographer-popular jetty on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. If you haven’t done so already, you can find and photograph it on Shelley Beach.

I haven’t conducted a scientific survey, so the following assertion is somewhere between idle speculation and educated guesswork: This jetty – That Jetty – is more popular than its peers (!), including the three or four other jetties adorning the same strip of sand. It’s a big photographic hit because of the shed-out-of-water buildings optimistically perched on flimsy-looking woodwork. That, and the rakish angle of the landward end of the structure … you get the picture: it’s a dock in demand; a primus inter pares, a near peerless pier!

Where am I going with this? Well, because I lead landscape photography workshops, there’s a reasonable expectation that I’ll take my guests to photograph the “iconic” images in any particular area. Princes Pier (another pier!) and Brighton Beach huts in Melbourne, for example; or London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road, and so on.

While I was researching Mornington Peninsula landscape photography locations – because, if you haven’t spotted it, I am relatively new to Australia – Google showed me lots of photographs of That Jetty on Shelley Beach and, in spite of my self-image, I had recently become self-conscious about not having a photograph of it in my Mornington Peninsula gallery. So, after a morning of personal photography invested squandered photographing obscure bits of rock on the more bracing Tasman Sea side of the Peninsula, I gave in and set off to “bag” my very own That Jetty shot.

Arriving on the genteel-looking Shelley Beach, I “discovered” That Jetty’s more sophisticated neighbour: the truly classy piece of beach furniture pictured at the top of this post.

The afternoon sun was high in the sky and plenty of landscape photographers may have silently admonished me, or shot me one of those all-the-gear-but-no-idea looks while holding out for golden hour lighting. But, after noticing the interesting shape of not That Jetty, I saw what was becoming its echo. The parallel shadows were not pronounced, or even separated from the structure, but I could see they may become that way as the “harshly-lit” early afternoon turned into just as harshly-lit late afternoon. My theory: this would make for much more of an interesting, convention-challenging photograph than yet another “red sky at night, photographers delight” sunset-with-seaside-prop shot.

I think it worked out quite well and, perhaps because of That Jetty’s photographer pulling power, Google can’t find anything too similar for the location – yet …

But back to Operation Photograph That Jetty … 

I walked the short distance along the beach to That Jetty and photographed it in the style of a lovely picture postcard – although the clouds and the water may be a bit too “landscape photographer” for that genre, and I didn’t fancy the “rule” of thirds at all.

I left the scene before sunset so I could be home in time for my daughter’s bed time story and our night-night hugs.

The most popular jetty or pier landscape photography image on the Mornington Peninsula
That Shelley Beach Jetty. Click to enlarge

5 thoughts on “The jetty less photographed, in the light less understood”

  1. FWIW – I vastly prefer ‘not That Jetty’ to ‘That Jetty’, at least your image of it. I entirely see why ‘That Jetty’ is ‘That Jetty’ – the allure is obvious – but the other one’s much more interesting, at least the way you’ve used it; it’s a very pleasing and unusual composition, whereas ‘That Jetty’ is, I suspect, always going to look like ‘That Jetty’ 😉

    Broadly speaking, then, I’m simply agreeing with you here 🙂 Very nice shot indeed.


    1. Thanks Mike.

      Yes, That Jetty is photogenic and picturesque. Or, more to the point, it is photogenic because it is obviously and assertively picturesque from several angles – it’s easy to see its appeal, both on the beach and, yes, on Flickr, 500 px et al.

      The other one – not That Jetty – is, apart from its interesting shape, less in our photographer faces. And “discovering” a photograph is more satisfying and sustaining/sustainable than iconic image-bagging. Although, not to get too precious, as a newcomer to Victoria and Australia, as I’ve written before, many of these clichés icons are new to me, so I am having lots of not so esoteric fun photographing them!

  2. It’s funny, being a local to the peninsula, I actually shot “that” jetty long before it became such a popular shutter spot, along with many other now-overdone locations on the peninsula. You’re right though, there’s loads of great stuff along that stretch of beach. Whilst shooting there last (in 2010) I spent more time focussing on a dog-legged jetty about 50m to the right of that jetty, which due to the Port Phillip channel dredging a few years earlier, no longer had the wonderful steps up to it I’d been expecting.

    1. Hi Sean

      I’ve just spent a very absorbing hour on your website. I like you photographs and they are well complimented by your enthusiasm for the locations and your craft. In any photographer “honey pot” area there there will be That Jetty, That Tree, That Arch, That … We shouldn’t avoid them just because they are popular – especially if we have photographed them, put the images online and helped to bolster their “Thatness”!

      My favourite photography days are those where I go to a location – iconic or not – and avoid looking at photographs of it in advance. I usually get [personally] much more satisfying photographs than when I feel I have to photograph the That Photograph scenes. I haven’t yet been to the Pinnacles, for example, and I have very mixed feelings about photographing That Feature. But then I get real and remind myself that a beautiful scene, painting, face … isn’t any less beautiful because it has been looked at or photographed a lot. (By the way, your photograph of the pinnacles is splendid). I hope to see you out photographing sometime.

      1. Hi again David,
        Thanks for the kind words. I agree entirely, honeypot areas are great, especially in the way they give you a starting point where you’re no longer questioning whether there’s a shot, but you hit the location and can scour it for new angles and compositions. I originally found your blog when you posted about shooting harsh light on the great ocean road, a location I’ve never been to, despite living in Vic my whole life. I really related to how you tend to get a shot regardless of whether it’s done to death or not, the “tortured artist” in us would scream! I’m the same, I get “that” shot a lot of the time, then move on… it’s on the shelf so to speak, I’ve done it, now I can work a scene to my own tastes.
        You’ll love the Pinnacles at the island, there’s loads to shoot there. I’d visited there 4 times when I finally got the shot you mentioned.
        Yeah, here’s to running in to one another out in the wilds!

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