I am just back from an excellent adventure photographing lighthouses along the rugged coast of Brittany, France. The trip was organised by Jonathan Critchley of Ocean Capture. Some may remember that I had a few days in France with Ocean Capture this time last year. There will be more from Brittany soon, but this picture might be my favourite.
I have been promising a post about shutter speeds and sea photography for a while. It seems I am going to do two; this is the first. Long exposure photography, achieved with ND (neutral density) filters, has become ever more popular in recent years. I enjoy it too. Adjusting the length of the exposure, even during the brightest time of day, is one way to expand the creativity of my image making. Over time, I have found that I have begun instinctively to know roughly what shutter speeds are going to achieve the effect I am after. The following pictures were all taken within an hour of each other earlier this month, at one location, Climping beach on the West Sussex coast.
The ‘Big stopper’ is a 10-stop ND filter. That is, it reduces the light getting to the sensor by 10 stops, so an exposure of 1/250th of a second becomes four seconds. The first two images here were taken using a Big Stopper. Note how in the top image, at 20″, breaking waves have become an ethereal mist, really not like water at all. Reduce the time by a half and there is more of a hint of wateriness, but not much.
At four seconds (below), some of the movement of the waves is beginning to appear.
This increases as the exposure time gets shorter.
And then (below) we begin to reach my favourite zone for capturing breaking waves, something between half a second to 1/5 usually seems to suit me – I like to capture some sense of the form and energy of the waves, but without ‘freezing’ them.
My favourite picture from the morning is this one, at 0.3″. I am fascinated by the way the water splashes, scattering into different directions, and this shutter speed seems to be good at capturing that with an almost painterly effect.
The exact shutter speed will vary with the force of the surf. My second post on this topic will be from a very different set of conditions experienced at the coast in Norfolk last week.
Finally, not every shot of the sea has to be a long exposure! Sometimes you just have to go faster. Turning round from my chosen breakwater, I saw these gulls playing chicken with the waves:
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A backlog of 365s: 365/59 is from 2010, taken at RHS Wisley.
365/58 is from 2009, when I was at my daughter’s school gathering images for their new prospectus. This one was a bit of fun, experimenting with shutter speed during a PE lesson.
365/57 is from 2014, taken in my garden as I started to flex my macro muscles for the forthcoming bug season. It always takes a while each year to get my macro ‘eye in’ after the winter when I tend to concentrate on the landscape.
There may be a hiatus for a few days as I am off on an adventure. More anon.
Just before I started photographing the seals featured here a couple of days ago, I couldn’t resist capturing a few frames of the gentle dawn light. As before, this is Horsey beach in Norfolk. A two-second exposure captured the shapes made by the surf.
I have been promising a post about shutter speeds and waves. It is still in the pipeline but it’s been busy week! This afternoon alone I have fielded three enquiries for images, all expecting me to provide them without charge in return for the ‘honour’ of attributing my picture to me. I know, the internet is full of photographers whinging about being asked to give images free. I do try to remain stoical, but I must admit it is a little irritating sometimes.
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On a lighter note, here are some more 365 images. 365/54 is from 2009. I was walking with one of my greatest friends on Puttenham Common. The light was very ordinary but I snapped a shot and had a go at improving it in editing. It was useful experience at least and, in accordance with my 365 redux pledge, I have re-edited before sharing it again now. I chose it because it seems to be the only picture I have taken on 23rd February in any year since 2009 and because, coincidentally, I was out walking with the very same friend again on 23rd Feb this week. One of the interesting and unexpected things about this project so far has been finding connections and coincidences across the years.
365/55 and 56 are from 2014. 55 is another watery local landscape during the flooding of winter 2014. 56 is Farncombe Boathouse on the River Wey Navigation near Godalming.
Some of you may know that I am joint owner of a photography training business, f11 Workshops. Yesterday we ran one of our most popular tours, Piers and Wreck, on the West Sussex coast. We have been so lucky with the light on every iteration of this tour so far and yesterday was no exception. Of course, landscape photographers keep going no matter what the weather, but it is nice when things get this good.
My business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I are clear that we will not make our own images when out with clients; we just grab a few publicity snaps at the last location. We both know that photography is such an absorbing occupation that we would not be giving our customers our full attention if we were making our own images. Sometimes, when the light is this good, that’s a hard promise to keep! In the end though, having happy customers is the better reward.
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My 365/52 is from 2010, a close up of one of the butterflies in the glasshouse at RHS Wisley.
365/53 is from last year. Just a snap really, on what appears to be a date when I take few photos: Walton viewed from the bridge to Desborough Island.
Taken on this day last year, these images are studies of the little stilt fishing huts, or ‘carrelets’, that abound in this area of France. For more images from this trip, click on the tag ‘Gironde’.
This shot, from this day last year, is from the French village of Talmonde sur Gironde. Liked the blue door against the pinkish walls. The blossom was a bonus.
I’ve had a super day at the Telegraph Outdoor and Adventure Travel show. I could have spent the whole time just listening to the inspirational talks in the Outdoor Photography theatre. This image is David Baker telling us about his atmospheric seascapes. If you don’t know David’s work, I recommend his book, Sea Fever. The show is on again tomorrow, if you fancy a visit.
Meanwhile, my 365 redux project continues. Taken on this day in 2010, this image was captured on a wintery morning at Cissbury Ring, an ancient hill fort near Worthing in West Sussex.
I am getting ahead of myself a little here as I will be busy tomorrow, so here’s my 365/46 too. This image was taken on 15th February last year, on the first evening of a brief but wonderful trip to the Gironde Estuary. I have attempted a more experimental edit for my 365 project. The jury’s still out on this one, but it’s good to try new things.
Outdoor Photography is my favourite photography magazine. In December, I plucked up the courage to send them a selection of my black and white images. I was surprised and delighted when they contacted me to say one of my images (above) had been accepted. It has just been published, with the following blurb:
“This was taken at Fistral Beach in Newquay. While my family surfed, I had a very happy couple of hours pottering about the shore with tripod and filters. This is a blend of two exposures, two minutes to smooth out the water and create space, and a faster one for the yacht. I wanted to capture a sense of the tiny yacht being dwarfed by Nature.”
My first 365/42 is from 11th February 2010. I had gone to the RHS gardens at Wisley to photograph the butterflies in the glasshouse but it was this cheeky little robin, encountered as I walked towards the glasshouse, who ended up capturing my fancy.
Strangely enough, I discovered that on 11th February 2013, I was at Wisley photographing the butterflies again! Here’s one from that day, actually of a butterfly this time.
My 365/43 is from 12th February 2009. Although last year’s floods were extreme, there is often winter flooding on the Thames. In 2009, it was strong enough to beak this boat from its moorings and cast it up onto the banks of Desborough Island.
Finally, it’s back to the 2014 floods for my 365/44: Walton Bridge with its feet in water.
This time last year, my local area was affected by unusually heavy flooding. The Thames burst its banks on a scale we hadn’t seen since 1947. I captured as much of it as I could, fascinated by the changed landscape. My 365/40 and 41 are images not previously shared here, of Walton Quay (41) and the Thames towpath between Molesey and Hampton Court (40).
I had to include one more picture, even though it has appeared on Focused Moments before. This last image, snapped as the flood water came rushing in, was the closest I have come to having an image go ‘viral’ on social media. It was shared 450 times on Facebook alone with views well into 5 figures. The view seems innocuous enough but to people who know the area, it was a unique sight.
I thought I’d share some more pictures from my walk in our short-lived snow, on Tuesday morning.
Chatley Heath is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and it is managed as a nature reserve by Surrey Wildlife Trust.
In its efforts to restore Surrey’s lost heathland, important habitat for several species at risk, the Trust has to do battle with birch and scots pine, the county’s dominant trees.
They self seed freely in the sandy soil. I have to say, however that they do look well together under a dusting of fresh snow.
I did find a few beech trees too, some still hanging onto autumn foliage. And one or two venerable oaks.
My 365 is from this day in 2009. I foolishly let on to my daughter’s headmistress that I took photos. Next thing I knew I was doing all the photography for the school’s new prospectus. It was a challenge for me, especially as at that time I had only a very entry level DSLR with lousy noise levels at ISOs above 400, no flash and little experience. But I enjoyed every minute of it. This image is from my first shoot at the school.