Because photography is the only art form that is made by machines, not by the human hand, you have to know your machine well – otherwise you just accept what Mr Eastman thinks your colour should be, explains Vitali, who works with both digital and analogue cameras.

That meticulous control of his craft is evident in the number of images he takes – normally just one per day. ‘In 22 years, I shot 4,870 photos. A digital photographer can easily do that in a day to get out one photo.’

Vitali shifted to art photography and began taking photos of beaches in 1994 at the age of 50, when few photographers were interested in the beach as a focus. A defining moment for him was seeing Cape Light, the American photographer Joel Meyerowitz’s classic 1979 book on early colour photography, shot with a large­format camera.

Another major influence was the famous black and white image, Coney Island Beach, 4pm, July 28, 1940 by Arthur Fellig (known as Weegee), showing a sea of people clad in bathing suits, packed together like sardines, stretching to the horizon. Vitali went to Coney Island in 2006 to make his own version in homage to Weegee, but when he tried to set up his scaffold, the police wouldn’t let him. ‘They said: “Why don’t you go where Weegee went?”,’ Vitali recalls. ‘So I had to dismantle my scaffold and go where Weegee went. And it was very nice, but I preferred my standpoint.’

Vitali’s early beachscapes show heaving scenes edged by urban sprawl, but in his more recent work, dramatic natural settings dominate the figures. His locations range from the deserted white dunes of a Brazilian national park to a Spanish beach in the middle of a meadow, formed from a flooded sinkhole.

Elizabeth Fullerton, "Life is a Beach" in F22/STATE, May 15, 2016.