Wednesday, 14 October 2015

West Pier, Brighton

Last month I had the rare chance to spend a little time walking down the seafront at Brighton and Hove with my daughters, Natalie & Sally. They were were performing in Brighton that evening as The Honeyfire and we had arrived with a couple of hours to spare.

We quickly moved away from all the hustle and bustle at the busiest part of the seafront and headed towards the remains of West Pier which suffered major collapse in 2002 and two fires in 2003. It has been three years since I last visited Brighton and there was noticeably less of the structure visible this time. The weather gave the scene an appropriate dose of melancholy and I took the opportunity to make a couple of images before heading back to for an evening of music.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Cornborough Range, North Devon

I've just realised it's the autumn equinox today but much as I am looking forward to the beautiful colours of autumn, in this post I'm taking one last look back to Summer. Specifically to an evening I spent at Cornborough Range on the North Devon coast.

Cornborough Range is an expanse of rock only revealed at low tide and contains a wealth of coastal wildlife. It's one of the few places where you can access the beach from the cliffs that run along this stretch of the South West Coast Path but it is often deserted, even in the height of the British summer holidays. No doubt the mile or so walk from the nearest car park plays a part!

It's a shame that most visitors miss this spot but it does mean I can enjoy the beach all to myself with only the occasional walker peering over the cliff. Perfect.

The evening started off with the remains of the day's rain clouds moving inland to leave clear sky over the Atlantic. With the sun already low in the sky, this created a great combination of drama in the sky and warm lighting on the landscape. I made a few images at the top of Cornborough Cliff where the windswept grass made for a great foreground. Shortly afterwards I was on the beach. Sadly the clouds were soon all but gone but not before turning a lovely pink.

You really don't have to walk too far to find compositions which are literally at your feet almost wherever you walk. I'm always surprised that I've seen so few photographs taken from Cornborough Range. Most seem to be taken from the cliffs. I don't ponder this for long though and I am soon at work making the most of the light.

I hung around for a while after sunset in case anything interesting happened but, as I suspected, the upper atmosphere was relatively clear that day and there was to be no interesting dusk display. Time to return to civilisation.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Wreck at Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! on the north coast of Devon is a place I have written about quite a lot. Not surprising really as I visit often on family holidays and I’m lucky enough to be able to stay here at a relative’s flat which makes for a useful base when working in Devon and Cornwall.

The area has a lot to offer a photographer and even when on holiday I find myself watching the weather for photographic opportunities. It’s just too tempting to grab my camera and pop out for a ‘couple of photographs’ when the conditions are right. The nature of the coast is such that even after almost 10 years of visiting, there is always something new to discover.

There are two known wrecks on the beach at Westward Ho! but due to the constantly shifting sands they are not often visible. In fact, until the winter storms of 2014 which briefly exposed much of the beach’s hidden secrets including an ancient forest and evidence of an early human settlement, I don’t think I had ever seen the smaller of the two. Since then both wrecks seem to have been a regular feature of low tide.

On this particular day only the larger of the two wrecks was exposed. This wreck is widely thought to be either the ‘Salisbury’ of London, lost in March 1759, or the ‘Sally’ of Bristol, lost in November 1769. No other ship of this size is known to have been lost during this period.

The weather had been unusually hot, even for June, with a clear blue sky. Not the ideal weather for landscape photography but as the evening approached and the temperature started to drop, cloud started to drift in over the sea. I decided to take a walk along the beach to cool off and naturally I picked up my camera gear.

The tide was on it’s way out but still had some way to go as I watched the sun set. I had seen the wreck exposed at the previous low tide so I was sure it would appear again. I made a few pictures of the clouds reflected in the wet sand before walking towards where the wreck should be. I soon spotted the timbers protruding though the sea so while I waited for the sea to retreat I planned my compositions to make the most of the colour and clouds in the dusk sky.

I wanted to photograph the sky reflected in the tidal pool created by the wreck but I had to wait for the tide to reach it’s lowest point so the waves no longer disturbed the surface of the pool. This gave me a few minutes to enjoy the cool air and quiet solitude before recommencing work. In no time at all the colour in the dusk sky was fading and the tide was on it's way back in but I had my picture.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Golitha Falls & Engine House Ruins

Well, this blog has been a bit neglected for some time now hasn't it? No excuses other than I've been busy with other stuff but, I'm back.

Last week I paid Bodmin Moor in Cornwall a long overdue visit. My intention was to explore some of the old mine engine houses scattered around the moor at Minions. The weather looked promising but, as is so often the case, forecast and reality did not match. I was greeted with a flat grey sky and no sign of the sunny spells promised. No matter. I had a backup plan.

After a little roaming around identifing possible compositions should the weather improve later, I headed off towards the River Fowey just down the road. In particular I was keen to investigate where my OS map had the words 'Golitha Falls' promisingly printed in blue.

Golitha Falls is a section of the Fowey which descends down a gorge surrounded by ancient woodland. I've always loved woodland rivers and there is something particularly exciting about exploring a stretch of river for the first time so my change of plan was very welcome. Golitha didn't disappoint and before I knew it several hours had passed. When I noticed the light dimming I decided it was time to return to the moor too see what was going on above the green canopy of the trees.

A thick layer of cloud greeted me at the car park but there was a little time before sunset so I returned to the mines. Despite being very pleased with my day at the falls, the cloud layer was still a bit of a disappointment. Temptation was to leave in search of evening tea but I noticed a small break in the clouds drifting vaguely towards where the sun should be. I had no desire to watch a spectacular light display from behind the wheel of my car so I started planning a few compositions to make the best of any potential sunlight should I be lucky.

Unfortunately the patch of clear sky missed the setting sun. The hills the other side of the Tamar Valley briefly received the last of the day's sunlight but nothing in my immediate vicinity. My thoughts were starting to wander back to food but I vowed to go the distance so I patiently waited.

I was soon to be rewarded it seemed as as the cloud started to thin and break up. I made a couple of images before patches of colour started to appear in the sky. Soon warm light bathed the scene before me and I had just enough time to make the image you see here before the colour was gone.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Loughrigg Fell Cave

Feeling somewhat frustrated this week. I've been excitedly waiting for the delayed start of spring with a list of locations to photograph. Finally it has arrived but to my dismay I have managed to catch a cold. Just a cold I hear you say. What a wimp! Well yes I would agree but this one seems to have affected my balance and I'm simply in no position to get behind the wheel of a car at the moment.

Never mind, I'm sure I'll be back on my feet next week and it's not as if I have a shortage of images to prepare back at base which leads me onto the subject of my post.

This was from a couple of years ago while visiting the English Lake District during the summer. This was a wet and overcast day on Loughrigg Fell near Rydal. In other words a typical summers day at the lakes! Big vista image opportunities were going to be limited in supply so I chose to explore the fell and in particular the area marked as 'Caves' on my OS Map.

I found two caves easily accessible from the footpath, and this is the larger of the two. Later research revealed these caves to be the result of slate quarrying that ceased in the early 20th Century.

This cave contains a large pool of water at it's entrance and I was immediately drawn to the colour and shapes on the cave wall and it's reflection in the water. Surprisingly the pool contains many ornamental goldfish. I can only assume that at some point someone released some goldfish into the pool and over the years these have successfully bred. Judging by the number of fish I could see they are obviously thriving in this environment.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Storm Thorgerson 1944 - 2013

It was with great sadness that I heard about Storm's passing on the radio this morning. His work has been a big influence on me for a long time although regrettably I only discovered who he was much later in life.

I first knowingly saw one of his designs at the age of 9 when I wondered into a local record shop with my mother. There plastered all over the walls were posters of a grand looking industrial building (Battersea Power Station) bathed in fantastic morning sunlight with a gorgeous sky overhead in which a tiny pink pig was flying. The image had me transfixed and had I had the money (and was not with my frugal mother) I probably would have bought whatever that album was there and then just for the cover.

That image and that day has stuck with me ever since and I attribute it to my love of photography that developed shortly afterwards. Looking back I realise it has had an impact on my style too, not to mention my love of skies in my photographs.

As a teenager a friend introduced me to Pink Floyd's music and I was delighted to discover that this iconic image was in fact the cover of their 1977 album 'Animals'. I have been a big fan of their music ever since and 'Animals' has always had a special place in my heart. I later discovered that Storm was the designer of covers for much of the music I have loved over the years such as Peter Gabriel, The Cranberries, Muse as well as Pink Floyd.

A few years ago I bought a used Nikon FM2 SLR film camera off eBay for some personal black and while work I wanted to do and I was astonished to find the seller was Rob Brimson, one of the photographers credited to the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals. We corresponded briefly by e-mail and he confirmed he did indeed photograph the power station from a helicopter. I recall he observed, after looking at my work, that I obviously like skies!

I never imagined that one day I too would be designing and shooting an album cover of my own but that is exactly what I have recently done for my daughters band. While not quite on the grand scale of Battersea Power Station (nor they as big as Pink Floyd!), I have just realised that there is just a little of Storm's influence in the cover. It's not ready to see the light of day yet, but when it is I will probably write a short post about it.


Edit: If anyone wants to see more of Storm's work then I thoroughly recommend the book 'Taken By Storm' by Storm Thorgerson which contains many of his designs along with commentary from Storm.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Failure - Ignoring My Own Advice

Practice, practice, practice. I think Jimi Hendrix reportedly played his guitar for 6 hours a day on average, at least that's what I'm constantly telling my daughters when they've gone a couple of days without playing their guitars or singing together.

Well I have to admit that I've failed to follow my own advice and this week I paid the price.

You see, apart from a couple of weeks during last autumn, I'm ashamed to say I've not used my Large Format camera regularly for over a year. I have lots of excuses, the main one being I've been concentrating on another project and haven't had the time to devote to my photography that I would like. Of course I've been working on my photography all this time, but have found myself using the lack of time as an excuse not to pick up my Large Format camera.

I've been fooling myself though because a Large Format camera is not like a bike that you never forget how to ride. Unless you practice you quickly forget those little, but important, things that with regular use you'd remember without even thinking.

This week I spent a few days on the North Devon coast. For the last two nights low tide occurred at dusk and so the night before last I decided to take another look at the old pier at Westward Ho! and work on an image I have had on my mind for sometime. I managed two exposures, but the second is most likely ruined. After careful focussing I forgot to tighten the locking nuts on the lensboard tilt action. As a result the whole front lensboard tilted down as I cocked the shutter. By then it was too dark to accurately re-focus. I did my best and exposed a sheet of film, but I am sure it is ruined.

Last night I decided to photograph the wreck out on the beach at Westward Ho! that I had noticed was exposed the evening before. Another image I've had in mind for quite some time. I arrived in plenty of time but the wreck was nowhere to be seen, re-buried under sand it would seem. Instead I decided to make a few images of the patterns left in the sand by the retreating tide. For my last (and hopefully best) composition I switched from my usual Velvia 50 film to the faster Provia 100 due to the dwindling light. Without thinking I calculated the exposure from my light meter without resetting the film speed on my lightmeter and over exposed the image. Schoolboy error!

What made this last mistake all the harder to bear was that I was making a long exposure and had a whole 2 minutes in which to consider my mistake and rectify it by closing the shutter early. During long exposures I often pass the time by re-calculating exposures just in case I have made a mistake. Of course I forgot the change in film speed and made the same mistake a second time. My mistake only dawned on me once I was packed up.

I'm now wondering what other errors I made but I will have to wait for the film to be returned from the lab to find out. So, determined not to make these mistakes again, I will be out and about with my Large Format camera on a regular basis from now on. Fortunately I did make a few exposures on an 'idiot proof' digital camera so all was not lost. The image you see here is one of them.