Tag Archives: Dunstanbourgh Castle

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places and given I was spending the week in Embleton I clearly had to try for a sunrise over Dunstanburgh Castle even with a 0430 start for a 0545-ish sunrise. Plus I wanted to do something different than my trip in January. Google surprised me with an image from 1797! Joseph Turner clearly spent sometime on the Northumberland coast and captured an image in his mind that he subsequently painted (I assume he didn’t do it at dawn?). Lilburn Tower from the North in my mind is the iconic view of the Northumberland Castle and I found this image quite captivating especially thinking of the image of a clear horizon but heavy cloud nearer the coast – I did think there would be some pink in the clouds but hey lets see … tides are not relevant for the shot so out comes The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) on my iPad and it seemed possible – optimist.

Parking at Dunstan Steads on 19th August the horizon looked good and there was some cloud near the coast. As I got to the 13th hole on the Golf Course it became obvious the angle I was going to need for the sun was not the angle I wanted on the Castle the sun was going to come up too far south on the horizon. Plan B climb up to the castle – that is steep in the dark!

Even in the castle the sun is still going to be quite south for the Lilburn Tower. I took a few test shots and realised I was going to have to build a composite of several shots. I wandered down to the main part of the castle to explore angles. As the sun came up this is what I captured.

Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland at Sunrise in August

Time as usual was short and ran to the spot where I had lined up the test shots and here is what I could capture (8 shots combined in CS6) … not a Turner but actually watching the sunrise was more impressive than even my Zeiss 21mm captured. Those 4 orange-red rays that beamed through the cloud were utterly captivating. There was the predicted colouration of the cloud – I don’t know enough about Turner but clearly he wanted a muted pallet.

Lilburn Tower, Dunstanburgh Castle Northumberland at Sunrise in

As the sun came up I went for a ‘star’ shot with a tight f/16 and then there was a golden shot of the Tower and Embelton Beach. Looking back at the Turner as the sun comes up the colour shifts from red to orange and is more diffuse … but that’s only present in the vaguest of ways.

Sunrise at Dunstanburgh Castle Northumberland

Golden Morning Light on Lilburn Tower Dunstanburgh Castle Northu

Over the next few days I thought about where Turner got his inspiration so I pulled out TPE and found that in the coming year there is only 6 days (19-24 June 2014) when the angles are right – all not surprisingly around the summer solstice. Looking at the image from TPE the only warning is that the field you need to stand in is often flooded but this summer we haven’t had enough rain so its dry.

Tuner - Lilburn Tower 19-24 June 2014

I thought I would have a look at the map and see if I could get an angle on the whole of Dunstanburgh Castle and the sunrise and I thought there was – so off on the bike for a test shot. The shot below is taken from a second world war pillbox to get the height on the horizon (Map ref 247213 OS332 see map below) with a 70-200mm lens @ 100mm – unfortunately due to sea frets for the rest of the week I never managed the dawn shot. Also for the sun to be between the turrets it is 1-12 Aug with it in the middle on 6th Aug so I was too late! However I think to the right of the main tower maybe more balanced – 19th Aug? Maybe next year – if you have a go let me know.

Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland from the West

Map below showing parking and sites of shots.

Open Space Web-Map Dunstanburgh Castle

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Well having spent what remained of December editing Namibia photos and then cooking for the rest I thought it was about time I got out! Inspired by a couple of photo’s in one of my Christmas Presents Joe Cornish’s book First Light, having checked a) the weather (good … possibly a little fog), b) sunrise (0832) c) angles in the The Photographers Ephemeris and d) tide tables (high tide – neaps @ 0751) it all looked perfect! I got up at 0545 for a 50 minute drive (top down) and set off for Embleton – pitch black when I got there so thankful for the head torch I set off on memory of the path … took a detour along the beach ;-)

I had in my mind silhouetted menacing castle high above me with matching menacing cloud pointing towards the doom in the castle! I wanted to pull in some of the round (cannonball) basalt boulders (random link to Namibia) to add to the metaphor and was hoping for a golden glint on the rocks that Joe had found. Sunrise at Dunstanburgh Castle, NorthumberlandAs an aside my wife loves these blurred sea scenes so I set out to add them as much as possible – as it stands she is my only critic! … and the kids will tell you … criticism is one of her specialities (she’ll never read this) …

To being with it was very dark stuck with 30 sec and f/8.0 and shifted ISO up. Unfortunately I had forgotten my glasses so I couldn’t trust my assessment of the liveview on close focus so broke a rule and shifted to f/11.0 and guessed focus (using my Zeiss 21mm). The feelings I had hoped for where present … did I capture them? As the light arrived I stuck a ND8 filter on to keep the shutter slow. Simon Owens arrived he’d been South first and decided the North was a better option, its great to meet people on dark beaches ;-) He gave me a great idea for tomorrow … you can wait!

- 20130105 - 075459 - Prof Ian PurvesSo having processed the images I think I got there … except the golden light (it was red). Biggest problem in post processing was the white balance. Especially the ND8 effect it was a real challenge deciding how to pitch it … go with the Lightroom dropper (Temp: 20,000 and Tint +50) or stay darker and more blue/green … I did the later. Interestingly so did Simon.

Also the filters created a slight vignette … I have known for awhile I needed to change my Cokin set … what to do Lee or Hitech Pro?

There are more photo’s in the Northumberland gallery and one image I took a different white balance approach is below.

- 20130105 - 083131 - Prof Ian Purves

Personal Learning Notes:

  • Explore colour balance when using ND filters
  • Decide which filter route to go down Lee or Hitech Pro

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