That lighthouse, again and again

Jersey, Channel Islands

I recently had to give an interview in which I was asked to name my favourite landscape location. I found it difficult to answer as I tend to be focused on wherever I am with my camera at any given moment. However, one place popped into my head unbidden.   Anyone who has been around here long enough will not be surprised that I thought of La Corbière.

La Corbiere, Jersey, Channel Islands

Guarding the extreme Western edge of Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands, this lighthouse has well and truly captured my imagination.

Jersey, Channel Islands

We have been to Jersey three times during the last two years and during each visit I have devoted evenings to this one place.   There is something about the way the lonely, white lighthouse sits out at sea, precariously perched on Jersey’s characteristic red rock, that stirs the soul.

Jersey, Channel Islands

It has so many moods. Sometimes, it is wild and windswept, spray beaten and inaccessible. At others it is almost serene, especially at low tide when reflected in the still pool at its base.

Jersey, La Corbiere

On one occasion, during my only Autumnal visit so far, low clouds dispersed the setting sun, crowning the lighthouse with rays.

Jersey, Channel Islands

For the photographer, La Corbière offers so many possibilities. When the tide is out, a causeway is revealed, making perfect lead-in lines. Interesting rocks and pools create endless compositional opportunities and ensure that even if there are other photographers about, there’s plenty of space for everyone.

Jersey, Channel Islands

When the tide is in, higher and wider views can be had from the cliff top. Even in high summer, there is a good chance of having the lighthouse to oneself, or perhaps just sharing it with one other photographer and maybe a romantic couple watching the sunset.

Jersey, Channel Islands

There is one mood I have yet to witness, however. Each time we have been there, the weather has been fairly mild. I have yet to see the lighthouse brave a proper storm. To capture a mighty wave crashing over the tower would really be something. I will just have to keep going back!

Jersey, Channel Island

Sunset over Lihou

guernsey
This is Lihou, a small island off the coast of Guernsey and the Channel Islands’ most Western point. It is a nature reserve and only accessible by the public via a tidal causeway for two weeks each month. Our visit sadly was outside this period and the causeway was underwater at sunset so my composition lacked the leading lines I was hoping for. I wish I could convey with this fairly basic shot just how beautiful it was watching the sun set behind the island and listening to the chorus of seabirds. Nature put on a magnificent show that night; these colours are as nature made them – no saturation required.

St. Peter Port

GuernseySt. Peter Port is the principal town on Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands.

Guernsey

Castle Cornet

It is a delightful little place.
Guernsey

One of the town’s squares

Cobbled lanes reveal boutiques and galleries, as well as the more usual high street shopping.
Guernsey

The high street

Cafes and Brasseries spill out onto pedestrianised alleys.
Guernsey

Cafe society

There’s even a spot to rest your feet and have a good read.
Guernsey

A reader’s haven

The picturesque harbour is guarded by the imposing hulk of Castle Cornet, which is reflected in the still water of a Victorian boating pond.
Guernsey

Castle cornet reflected in Victorian boating pond

The Castle is well worth a visit, and I will do a post about it soon. But the town itself demands equal attention, a delightful place to hang out for a lazy day or two of meandering exploration. We will be back.
Guernsey

Last rays

La Corbière, Jersey
Of the many photographs I took at La Corbiere, on Jersey, this summer, this is probably my favourite. I can’t begin to convey adequately how it felt to be there listening to the waves and waiting for the light. When the sun peeked through the clouds just before dipping below the horizon, it was glorious.

Two Burnets and a Forester

insect macro
The grassy cliffs of Sark, in the Channel Islands, are a vital habitat for insects, including a variety of butterflies and moths. When we visited in July, the five-spot burnet moth was much in evidence. Such a striking beast. I also spotted a forester moth, below. Somewhat rarer.
insect macro
Burnets are not known to be particularly flighty but they were fluttering all around me that afternoon. Perhaps it was the very breezy conditions. I wasn’t able to manage a decent in flight shot. Below is a huge and rather fuzzy crop, but a record of the moment nonetheless.
insect macro

Beautiful Jersey

Jersey
Another shot of my lighthouse muse, La Corbière on Jersey in the Channel Islands. Better compositions are to be had on the rocks below but high tides coincided with sunset during my recent trip so I had to make do with a higher vantage point. The long exposure time needed for the low light has softened and muted the waves. You will just have to take my word for it that they were crashing onto the rocks below and I would have been inundated had I stayed down there. On the upside, I enjoyed seeing how different the same composition could look at the same time on successive days.

Keeping it simple

lighthouse

Golden light at La Corbiere, Jersey.

Most photographers I know are always developing their art, changing and adapting to new subjects and new moods.  They also tend to change in the way they see images, and this feeds into new images they make.   When aesthetic changes are experienced by a large enough number of image-makers, they become fashion.  Thus, a couple of years ago, in landscape work, so-called High Dynamic Range, or HDR, images were all the rage.  Done subtly, HDR simply means properly exposing an image so you have detail in the shadows and the highlights, something that with few exceptions has always been a minimum standard for landscape work.  The trouble with the HDR fashion as it emerged towards the end of the last decade was that the effect was exaggerated until the image came to look surreal.  For me, many HDR images started to be about displaying the technique rather than the landscape as it was revealed by the light prevailing when the image was taken.  Yet it is easy to see how this happened.

lighthouse

Blue hour, La Corbiere

The power of photoshop, and HDR plug-ins like Photomatix, is seductive.  It is so easy to keep on editing, always seeking more impact, way beyond the point when perhaps, in the cold light of the next day, one should have stopped.  I have done this myself, egged on by sites like Flickr and 500px where the ‘success’ of an image depends on its being immediately striking rather than any lasting appeal.  Of late, however, I find myself seeking a more subdued aesthetic, one that I hope is truer to the moment as I experienced it when I took the image in the first place.  These images of my lighthouse muse, La Corbière, are the case in point; simple, minimally-edited captures of brief moments when the light seemed to connect with the landscape in a way that pleased my eye.  They are not clever and they will not win any awards but I begin to find myself more satisfied with this sort of image than any other.

lighthouse

Of course, as with any fashion, there eventually has to be a backlash, and the HDR pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way.  So, perhaps in my love of the understated I am just another victim of fashion’s vagaries…  Has your approach to image-making, or image-appreciation, changed recently?  I would love to hear your thoughts.