This morning I tumbled out of bed at just after five. I headed northwards to beautiful Holy Island, or Lindisfarne. An early morning photo-shoot on the island takes a bit of extra planning as the causeway is inundated by the tide twice daily and becomes impassable for several hours.
I had originally intended going more inland to get some shots of the Cheviot hills, but the weather predicted a heavy cloud layer that would have obscured the sun farther inland. It was touch and go whether the island would be covered with cloud at sunrise. BBC Weather said not and they got it right.
My best shots were the ones I took before sunrise. I spent a good half hour wandering around on the wet sand looking for interesting patterns in the sand.
Lindisfarne Castle just before dawn. 13 second exposure. Bamburgh Castle can be seen in the distance on the right of the frame
This time of the morning is known as the ‘golden hour’ for good reason, but the morning the light today was ridiculously warm. I have actually reduced the temperature of the following few images.
People had been making small cairns on the grass from the rocks off the beach. They must be a real nuisance when they want to cut the grass, but they make good foreground interest for the images!
The arches are the entrance to the old lime kilns. The Castle Point Lime Kilns were active in the 19th century employing 35 men. They turned limestone, quarried on the island, into quicklime.
Following the beach round the castle I found about a dozen of these stakes. I am not sure what they were originally, possibly part of an old jetty or mooring posts. In the distance, just to the left of the centre stake, is the Lindisfarne Priory. It has an amazing history and worth reading about.
A murmuration of starlings took off as I walked towards the castle. There were around 2000 birds in the flock. It was completely unexpected and my camera was not at all ready to photograph them, set up more for landscapes than fast-moving birds. I did manage to get a shot of these geese later as they took off just after the sun rose. The islands in the background are the Farnes, where I went to photograph puffin and other sea-life earlier in the year.
Although the sea state was the same for these shots and I took them within half an hour of each other, changing a shutter speed can make so much difference to a photo. I shot this first one in low light before the sun rose above the horizon, exposing the frame for several seconds.
I checked the weather for the few days beforehand and knew there would be a good swell from the constant wind direction. The wintry rain clouds would break up as a frontal system passed, also changing the wind direction overnight to blow against the waves, lifting the spray from the tops that the low sun would catch.
I checked the sunrise direction and worked out where I would have to stand to capture it rising next to the lighthouse.
It was touch and go. There were still occasional showers and the cloud cover was heavier than I had hoped, too heavy to let the rising sun light the entire sky with colour, but the planning paid off.
I was on my toes as the tide was still coming in and I retreated up the beach
a couple of times while waiting for the shot. I readied for that with all unused equipment stowed in my bag.
I hoped to run along the beach and capture another image with the sun sitting on top of the lighthouse, but it disappeared behind the cloud before it got that high. The window to get a picture of the sunrise lasted about two minutes. The sun quickly disappeared behind the clouds and the light became flat again.
As said in my last post, I sometimes take my camera with me on my early morning spin. It’s inevitable that the best sunrises happen on the days I leave the camera behind and the sun is hidden behind a bank of clouds out at sea when I take it with me, but occasionally I capture some okay shots. I took these farther along my usual cycle route than my last post, and over several trips.
I am pretty hard on myself with regard to my photography. I analyse my shots to the tiniest degree and consign plenty to the recycle bin. This is post is about my process and the analysis I put my photos through. These are mostly borderline shots where I could not decide whether I would scrap them or keep them.
I don’t take a tripod with me on my bike, but I usually have a beanbag in my panniers so I can rest my camera on a rock for longer exposures. I use Live View and rotate the articulated screen on my camera to compose the shot and have the camera set to a two second ‘anti-shock’ delay.
Another day when the tide is right I’ll take my ND8 filter to this spot to shoot this image again with a longer exposure, which I think would improve the picture.
It wasn’t until I got home and put my reading glasses on that I noticed some dust on the lens, which caused the lens flare. In this case, I like what it adds to the image.
I love this time of year when dawn breaks while I am out on my bike. Everything seems to change as the sun rises; an early morning breeze will stop, waves will lessen and gulls take to the sky.
No lead-in lines, no rule of thirds, no foreground interest and a central subject, breaking all the ‘rules’ with this shot. I went for a square frame and symmetry. The high vantage point I used for this picture meant that I didn’t get the long reflection of the sun along the water when the sun was that low, as you can see in the first shot, but it did let me see more sea than if I had been at the water’s edge, allowing me to bisect the frame with the horizon.
It’s okay, but next time? I’ll shoot it when there are no clouds and the sun is either bisected by, or just sitting on, the horizon.
Contre-jour the with the low morning light, is great for silhouettes. Shooting towards the sun can fool the camera into under-exposing. I either spot meter an area of mid tones or use my hand-held meter or just add a stop of over-exposure, take a test shot and check the histogram.
A distracting clump of seaweed spoilt this shot for me but I could not very well go to move it. Of course, removing the offending clump was easy digitally and for a picture produced for art and not reporting news I have no qualms about doing this.
Are landscapes boring? They can be. The challenge is to make them into something that is more than just a simple record of what is there. The early morning light helps, but they become something more with an extra dimension added. I’ve got a bit of a thing for photos of people on their own in the landscape. (Check out my Solitaire gallery.) Including a person, an animal or bird in a landscape adds a dynamism that I find lacking in a straight landscape shot. It raises a question about why they are there.
I am with this next shot and it is the only one of this set that I would keep.
The industrial background in the background is about six miles distant, brought in close by the telephoto lens. The triangle formed by the man, the chimney and the wind turbine work well compositionally.
Because of the angle I shot this, the horizontals converge and the shoreline is higher up on the right than the left. This can sometimes make a photo look wonky, even when the distant horizon is level. I think I have managed to balance this out with the positioning of the man offsetting the “heaviness” of the sand on the right . The horizontal line of waves in the centre of the picture reinforces the level horizon too.
These last three are back close to home again. attempted for some time to get a perfect shot of gulls skimming the waves. My favourite to date is the eighth image in my Monochrome Gallery. An amalgam of the following three shots would represent what I have been trying to achieve. I like the clarity and colour of the sky and the spray off the waves crest in the first, the wave in the foreground of the second and the gulls in the third. One of the big challenges of landscape photography, especially where the landscape is a dynamic one, is to get the elements to fit together perfectly. I could, but won’t, Photoshop these into one image. Getting this shot just right is an ongoing challenge and something to try once again on a future shoot.
Most mornings I get up early to have a 10 mile cycle ride before breakfast. I can’t complain about the views. Much of the ride is behind the dunes, but I get some views of the sea when I set off and at the far end of my ride. These are a few images I took right at the start, over a couple of days, just as the sun was rising.
This lighthouse, at the end of the pier in Amble, has a really ugly, reflective keep-out sign on the gate that people ignore and is horrible for photography. An early morning silhouette gets around the issue for me. People going fishing just climb over the gate and ignore it anyway.
Others get up early too.
The golden light of dawn cries out for coloured pictures, but sometimes the shapes and tones, accentuated by the low light, work well for black and white. A couple of those next time.