Getting Some Sea Air in Weston-super-Mare [Kodak Ultramax 400]

weston-super-mare grand pier

Images shot on Kodak Ultramax 400 in the Lomo LC-A

Another blog post, another film photography essay here on My Favourite Lens, and it’s another stroll around a British seaside town.

I’ve published a few of these already, which you can find under this tag here, and I have more still in my drafts or even with the film still to be developed too. But for today, we’re in Weston-super-Mare and we’re shooting some Kodak Ultramax 400 in the Lomo LC-A.

A classic film in a classic camera, although I’m sure when the latter was made in the Soviet Union nobody envisaged it would one day be taking pictures containing messages of support for Ukraine in a battle for its very existence against Russia.

I can’t get too much into that though. It’s too heavy. I need a break from the bad news out there in the world and writing posts like this gives me that. So let’s crack on and tell you about that Grand Pier up there.

grand pier weston-super-mare

Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier

Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier first opened in 1904 and has been a major attraction, a symbol of the town, and a cultural hub ever since.

In the beginning, the Grand Pier featured a 2000-seat pavilion that hosted a variety of performances, including everything from opera to boxing, music hall, Shakespearean plays, and the occasional ballet too.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. In 1930, a large fire broke out and burned that original pavilion – which you can see here – to the ground.

A new one was built, and this lasted for a while longer than the first. Until 2008 that was, when… a large fire broke out and burned it to the ground.

Another new one was built. This cost around £39,000,000 and is, at the time of writing, still standing.

A small fire did break out in 2019, because of course it did, but thankfully it was quickly put out and the pier reopened the following day.

Weston’s Grand Pier has twice – twice! – won the prestigious National Piers Society Pier of the Year award, which is no mean feat.

It’s also been used in a number of TV shows and films, with perhaps the biggest one being The Remains of the Day.

The pier was awarded Grade II listed building status in 1974, which protects its historical and architectural significance. Written consent from the relevant authorities would be needed before any alterations or building work could be undertaken.

Remarkably, the Grand Pier’s original 360 cast iron piles, laid in 1904, still support it, along with 71 new steel piles added in 2010. This engineering feat speaks volumes about the pier’s robust construction and enduring strength.

I found the daytime walk along the pier quite fruitful in terms of finding stuff to shoot with my little Lomo LC-A, and the Kodak Ultramax 400 film rendered it all very nicely too.

Nailing a close-up shot with the zone focus system is always nice, and the 32mm f/2.8 Minitar lens does a lovely job with the lo-fi blurred backgrounds when you do too.

I have to say the Ultramax did well with the light and shadows on the third image below too, as well as when shooting more into the sun on the fourth one.

People can and do think what they like about this film and camera. Especially the camera. I love it for these British seaside days out though.

At the end of the Grand Pier you’ll find the latest pavilion. Upstairs is a concert venue, and we did see a very good performance there one night. Shout out to Lipinski and their Beatles vs Stones show.

On the ground floor is an amusement arcade, which gave some decent opportunity for some indoor, low-light images on the day I was there shooting this Ultramax.

I didn’t get too many, because I wasn’t sure how well they’d come out. But they weren’t bad at all and gave me the confidence to get the LC-A out more often in indoor places with decent light.

So long as it’s got some ISO 400 film in it, of course. You might struggle with anything lower than that. And the camera has no ISO setting any higher.

On the beach at Weston-super-Mud

The beach at Weston-super-Mare is notable for a few reasons – one of which being where the nickname Weston-super-Mud comes from.

It’s one of the UK’s largest naturally occurring beaches and is notable for having the second-highest tidal range in the world. This means when the tide goes out, it goes out a long way. And when it does, it reveals a vast expanse of mud, as these people and others have found out.

Also, due to the town sitting right near the Severn Estuary in the Bristol Channel rather than on the open sea, the water is often a murky brown colour rather than a more inviting blue you might prefer if you fancied a swim.

When I was there, the weekly Parkrun was held on the hard-packed sand too, although this appears to have changed now.

Geographical sand and mud chatter aside, you’ve got the other normal stuff you’d expect from a British seaside town too.

Donkeys, swing boats, ice creams and sticks of rock, and a van where you can buy cockles and mussels and other such delicious seafood.

Not a fan myself, but you do you.

The Revo Kitchen building made for some nice symmetrical shots with the LC-A also.

Maybe should have gone in for a beer and a burger too. Maybe next time I find myself in town I will. Maybe.

The Weston Wheel and other super-Mare street scenes

Overlooking the beach and surrounding streets is Weston-super-Mare’s Ferris wheel. Providing great views of everything around it – I imagine anyway seeing as I didn’t go on it – the Weston wheel was also a good subject for some shots with the Lomo LC-A.

Especially that clichéd one looking up at it from underneath, which I believe is illegal to not do if you happen to pass by a Ferris wheel with a film camera in hand.

A bit like a basketball hoop or a 1960s American car in that respect.

Walking further around the streets of Weston-super-Mare gave me a few more things to point the Lomo LC-A at and get through this roll of Kodak Ultramax.

A fairground ride – my childhood favourite Waltzer, no less – and the triple-arched frontage of an amusement arcade.

Arcades were also one of my favourite things as a child. Back when you only had 8-bit consoles at home – I was a NES kid – and the jump in quality to the games in arcades was huge.

Staying with the visual archway theme, we also have the Weston Arch. I didn’t know what it was at the time of taking this photograph, but I’ve read up a little on it now.

Made of Chinese granite, the Weston Arch stands 8 metres tall as an entrance to the town’s seafront. It weighs around 113 tonnes, with the keystone itself weighing around 7.5 tonnes.

A notable landmark and a piece of public art, the Arch is also part of the town’s seawall.

The Geisha mural in the second image below is something else I shot without knowing anything about.

Again, a little research now means I can tell you it’s by the renowned artist Dan Kitchener and was painted in 2021 for a local street art festival.

The final mini-set of images from my stroll around Weston-super-Mare is of some of the old shelters that line the promenade overlooking the beach.

No matter which British seaside town you go to, there’ll always be a sense of nostalgia for a bygone era there. Some sort of faded glamour in the air. And in the architecture and the signage too.

Things aren’t what they used to be in the time before cheap air travel to Europe, and those Victorian glory days of places like Weston are never coming back. That’s not a bad thing, though.

They’re still brilliant places for days out with family and friends, and I love going to them. And one reason is for the reminders of how they used to be. I’d rather they be there than not.

Because that would be like having a seaside town without a soul.

Wrapping up from Weston-super-Mare

Again, there aren’t many places in the UK I’d rather be shooting some film at than a traditional old seaside town, and Weston-super-Mare was a decent one to go to for this.

We’ve already talked enough about the Grand Pier, and that wasn’t even the only pier I shot there. You can read all about the other one, Birnbeck Pier, in that blog post I wrote before.

The Lomo LC-A and Ultramax 400 were a good combo for shooting in Weston too. From the lo-fi qualities brought by the camera to the grain and familiar Kodak colours brought by the film, I think they just matched well with what I was shooting.

This won’t be the last coastal UK place I go and shoot film at either as I build up the burgeoning British Seaside Series on this website.

I don’t know yet where the next one will be, but be sure there will be more. I’m looking forward to getting out there, getting on with it, and discovering more about these places as I do. 🙂

If you enjoyed that write-up on shooting some colour film in Weston-super-Mare and want to read some more analogue photography essays, why not have a look at some of these:

And if you think others will find this post worth a read, help them see it by giving it a share 😀

written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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