6:45 early Sunday morning I was sat in my car, photography gear loaded, GPS set for Reculver and visibility down to about 50m due to thick fog. Sunrise photography? Dagnabbit!
I had checked the weather forecast on Friday and it had been showing cold, clear weather in Reculver for Sunday morning which would have been perfect for my plan to somehow capture sunrise and the twin towers of the 12th-century ruined church on the Kent coastline at Reculver.
However, my plan B, once sunrise had “happened” was to also try out my new 10-stop Hoya 77mm Pro ND 1000 filter for some long exposures of the sea. As you’ll see, it was a good job I had a plan B.
So there I was, sat in my car, surrounded by thick fog, optimistically still believing the coast could be clear 35 miles away. So, I set off into the fog.
Surprisingly, when I arrived at Reculver, 45-odd minutes later and 15 minutes before sunrise the fog was mostly gone. However, it was clear (actually, it wasn’t “clear” at all) that the flat, grey, cloudy sky would prevent the Sun from being visible at sunrise.
The car park was nigh on empty. One van was already there and a couple more carrying beach fishermen arrived just after me. Parking fees were good; I think it was 20p for 1 hour, 40p for 2 hours and £1 for 24 hours. I played it safe (of course) and paid for 24 hours.
I set off with my trusty Canon EOS 500D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, my LowePro Flipside 300 backpack and walked the 50m to the twin 12th-century towers of the ruined church that stands amidst the remains of an important Roman fort and a Saxon monastery.
I popped off a few shots of the towers peeking through the intermittent fog patches.
This one is framed by some of the old stonework.
And this one given a black and white treatment.
The shot below has, not unsurprisingly blown out the sky as I’d increased the exposure to capture the dark interior. I was thinking of trying an HDR image and so I captured several -2 | 0 | +2 exposure compensated shots with this intention however the sky was so flat the results upon trying this were not working out. I could have composited in a sky taken later on, when the sky had cleared a bit but the sky never showed before I left and it didn’t feel right to put in a sky taken in another place and time. Maybe I will in a later post, just to show what can be done?
It was still murky out to sea but I was just able to capture a flight of what I presumed were geese when I heard them flying by. This image had some basic exposure adjustments, a crop, a quite severe levels adjustment and finally a sepia-selenium-3 gradient map applied because the out of camera RAW image just looked so grey, murky and drab. It turned out alright actually.
Walking back to the car park I noticed a lookout point which I thought would make for an interesting photograph — it had a “face” that reminded me a bit of WALL-E.
The WALL-E image above is a composite of two images. One was exposed for the binoculars and the other, with a -2 exposure compensation was used as the exposure for the sea in the background. Unfortunately, the sea exposure was one of three shots taken for an HDR (which I didn’t process) and had a different focal length (46mm) than the 54mm focal length of the foreground image. No biggie; I just had a little bit more work to do; scaling and masking, when compositing the images.
I started back towards the towers and past them, walking eastwards and paying close attention to the very clear signage. I didn’t want to be “that guy” or “that guy” either.
I grabbed a couple of rock texture shots. You never know when they might come in handy. This sort of thing. Always useful to have your own collection of textures. Maybe I’ll try and use this in a forthcoming image and post about it so you can see how they can be used.
I would have liked to stop down the aperture a little for more depth of field but the light was poor and my poor old Canon EOS 500D really gets noisy at ISO 400 and above and I didn’t fancy shooting 70mm at 1/30s (or slower).
At the water’s edge I setup my tripod, Hoya 77mm Pro ND 1000 filter and set about taking some long exposures of the incoming tide lapping up against some rocks forming a groyne. Here are three of them. Click the image below to view larger so you can see the subtle differences caused by each 30 second exposure capturing different waves.
At the end of this groyne is the groyne marker. I recomposed (see photo below) using the rule of thirds to place it on the lower-left hand third point and placing the horizon on the lower third line. The rocks lead the viewer’s eye into the image from the corner.
I converted the image to black and white but kept the red on the top of the groyne marker. This is a post-process technique known as selective colour. Some photographers frown upon it as being a bit cliche but I say “never say never” and use it, albeit sparingly when I think it adds to a composition. Art is so subjective anyway.
This turned out to be my favourite photograph of the day and I really think it would look amazing printed large as wall art which is why it’s a piece I spent extra time on in post-process getting just right and made it available to buy.
On my walk back to the car I met a fellow photographer, Matt walking his dogs and he gave me some tips about coming here a couple of hours before sunrise when you can catch stars (and maybe moon) above the towers an hour or so before the sun starts to rise. We had a good chat about photography in general, the gear we have and the gear we want (of course, there’s always gear we want)
Anyway, I’ll definitely be coming back to Reculver as me, the towers and the Sun have some unfinished business.
I wasn’t planning on taking any photographs. The storm just rolled in but after just a couple of flashes of lightning I felt an overwhelming urge to capture it. I guess I’m just weird like that.
Below is the best of the photographs that I took. It has proven to be quite popular and has been posted on several popular web sites which has boosted the number of views it’s had on Flickr and perhaps how you found your way to this post?
Lightning Over Maidstone, 8s @ f/13 ISO 100 18mm
Anyway, taking photos like this with a DSLR, at night, is pretty straightforward. I often receive comments like “great timing” which is nice, but when you read the tips below you’ll realise it’s not really great timing at all. I hate to burst people’s perception of my photography skills dagnabbit!