Tag Archives: Landscape photography

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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Having visited Sebastião Salgado Genesis exhibition at the Natural History Museum and was mightily impressed I want to understand his approach to post processing. A friend sent me a TED presentation by Sebastião yesterday and I thought I would have a go.

The thing the exhibition gets over so strongly is a narrative that is somehow enhanced by the processing. At the exhibition I wondered whether it was strong processing of digital or was mild processing of a scanned 400 ISO black and white film – I used to use Ilford HP5 Plus 400 and came to conclusion it was film mostly due to the grain pattern. Mistake! Onlandscape came to the rescue and explained it was digital images processed with DXO plugin with the aim of regaining the look of Kodak Tri-X. The style is one of strong contrast, dodge and burn, grain, use of lead lines especially diagonals. The few negatives are some of the images aren’t as ‘sharp’ as they should in key places, one or two are over processed and my main irritant is sloppy horizon angles.

I don’t have DXO but I do use Silver Efex Pro. So I have taken a few of my recent images and I used the ‘film type’ Tri-X then added a little local and global adjustments mostly on ‘contrast’ and ‘structure’, occasionally used an orange filter then added a little ‘vignette’. Hope you find them interesting – listen to the TED, go to the exhibition and get the book it is amazing.

Just to be clear the images below are mine in a Sebastião style 😉

Himba Woman in Hut

Sanddunes at Gruinard Bay
Bamburgh Castle
Leopard in Namibia
Himba Woman and Hut
Himba Women in Namibia

Lightning at Twilight in Etosha National Park Namibia
Himba woman putting otjize on in Namibia
Papua New Guinea Bride in a style of Sebastiao Salgado by Ian Purves 1983

Scavaig River going into Loch Scavaig
Sheep at Mellon Udrigal
Star Field and Northern Lights over Cullins in Skye from Elgol
Six Zebra drinking in Etosha National Park, Namibia
Himba Child

Papua New Guinea 'War' in a style of Sebastiao Salgado by Ian Purves 1983

Papua New Guinea Man in a style of Sebastiao Salgado by Ian Purves 1983

Dune 45 in Sossusvlei Namibia in a style of Sebastiao Salgado by Ian Purves 1983

Sunset at Spitzkoppe in Namibia

On a final note as you leave the exhibition Lélia and Sebastião have placed a call to action that mirrors his presentation at TED. In one word everyone has a responsibility for reforestation.

Sebastiao Salgado - Call to Arms

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Well there was a stable high pressure system over the UK, a great forecast with some cloud but little if no wind! Reflections came to mind and given an abortive attempt a few weeks ago on this front at Buttermere I thought we would have another go. My Zeiss 21mm was still in Germany getting repaired and broken Lee filters on back order, after my fall in Skye, so I was stuck with my Nikon 16-85mm f3.5-5.6G VR ED AF-S DX Lens for wide angle and Cokin filters. I packed my D7000 but was determined to use my D800 with Nikon 50 / 1.4G or the 70-200 / 2.8 … all best plans.

We stayed at the Bridge Hotel to give easy access to the lake and Mountains. We walked round the lake on the Saturday afternoon and I soon started to get irritated with the D7000 – it was a high contrast situation and the blinkies were going wild and I had to knock the EV down so I switched the 16-85mm to the D800 which automatically shifted into DX mode and the blinkies went away. Initially I was irritated by the severe vignette in the viewfinder, which is not present on liveview but I was walking. After awhile I noticed the thin black line showing the DX frame area in the view finder – all was well and I easily adapted. Unfortunately even the slightest breath of wind create ripples on reasonable size lakes so no reflections.

Tree Old Stump

Trees at Buttermere
Sunset at Buttermere

Got up 0530 for dawn and trotted down the lake – bugger slight breath of wind but nice sky. As it turned out in the next hour the cloud was all to the East – bugger. So mediocre images – plus chromatic aberrations or what thank goodness for Lightroom – come home Zeiss. I was just going to go off for breakfast when the slight breeze ended and within 15 minutes a mirror lake – but no dawn light. I’ll just have to got back.

Single Tree Buttermere Frozen Lake - Buttermere

Reflections Buttermere Reflections Buttermere

Spent the day walking up Haystacks which I haven’t done for years – all the tarns where frozen so no reflections – LOL. Also the 16-85mm kept disappointing so only going to show you one image – however what a brilliant day and its a fantastic walk – happy man.

Blackbeck Tarn

Click icons to see Bridge Hotel and photoshoots – zoom out for Haystacks and tarn

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So I have just spent a week in the Scottish Highlands at a photographic workshop – The bigger picture – photo book and portfolio making workshop – it felt like a month (in a good way). What a great venue in Mellon Charles at the Perfume Studio it is amazingly equipped and reviewing an OS Map doesn’t prepare you for the beauty of the surrounding landscape – breathtaking.

The Team

The team of tutors were fantastic and friendly and I had a great laugh! Joe Cornish needs little introduction not only is he a deeply knowledgeable person but a great artist and I learnt a lot about light. Eddie Ephrams seems to be Mister Publisher in the photographic world and introduced me to layout and style. Paul Sanders having spent 10 years as the Times picture editor looking at thousands of images a day summarises your efforts in seconds but in a fashion that feels great and leads to support in the field next day fixing that ‘issue’. Owner of the studio, Adrian Hollister,  was also helping out brilliantly until he tried to take his head off with the garage door – nice one Adrian glad you were OK.

My fellow tutees’ were a great mix of professional and amateur photographers who all had varying learning goals. We all collaborated brilliantly and we really had some belly laughs, drank a few glasses of wine and worked and worked (sometimes from 0530 to 1900 !).

The Workshop

I choose to do the portfolio group, led by Joe, which involved creating a selection of 5 images which for me summarised the area. I am also going to use these images and a few more to create a book with InDesign and publish through Blurb – coming soon.

I arrived in Mellon Charles from the Isle of Skye after a few days taking photo’s in Elgol and the Cullins (see my Scotland gallery). There was a lot of snow on the mountains and the drive takes you through beautiful but desolate landscape. By the road there are intermittent remnants of a past age which seem not to be cleared presumably due to their isolation and they obviously rust. So I decided to take my theme from ‘Breathtaking Beauty and Dilapidation’ the hardest part was capturing alluring images of dilapidation and this was a challenge for me – Joe and Paul where a fantastic help and very supportive. In the end the beauty was ‘easy’ but these images are coming in the book matched with dilapidated  (Beauty and Beast) – you will have to wait and see in a future blog – sneak preview in gallery!

My Portfolio

So here are my selection – thanks to everyone who helped.


Old Boat at Cove


Abandoned Lobster Pots at Cove


Abandoned House at Cove


Disused Petrol Pump at Aultbea


Harbour at Aird Point

Of course it wouldn’t do not to tell you what, Sharon (wife), my greatest ‘critic’ had to say:

Well I wouldn’t give them wall space

Update 24th July 2013: Book now published

Personal learning notes:

  • Feel the landscape and explore not just the geomorphology but at your feet and the sky.
  • Spend time exploring the composure of each image – though in great light just take it – and then carry on reflecting on the composure.
  • Painting with light (dodge and burn) is such an old part of our craft and the new tools in Lightroom and Photoshop are easy to use.
  • Take on a challenge and don’t stay in your comfort zone.
  • Be careful – I slipped and damaged my Zeiss 21mm and smashed my big stopper – a few days later the wind also blew over my tripod when my back was turned.
  • Fundamentally find a group of like minded photographers, have fun, share and collaborate.
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Skye is probably my favourite place in the World! For the last 30 years I have returned many times and enjoyed the Isle especially the Cullins and my favourite whisky Talisker. I have done several winter ascents and scared myself on a few occasions the last interesting moment was in summer a few years ago with Sharon climbing Sgurr Alasdair on a windy day – you have to take the Cullins seriously but boy are they rewarding!

So I have never been to Elgol but stayed nearby when I did a winter ascent of Bla Bheinn – anyhow with my photographic workshop coming up I thought I would drop into Elgol given its ‘fame’ and get the boat across to Loch Cornisk where I have never been but seen from above. My real hope was a star field shot of the Cullins from Elgol.

Shore Cottage at Elgol in Isle of Skye

It was impossible to find a B&B with space so I really ended being very lucky to stay at Shore Cottage in self catering – Joanie McKinnon made me very welcome and I had the freedom to come and go at all hours plus it is a fantastic place and right on the beach above the pier!

I have to say Elgol lives up to its reputation with the Cullin backdrop and great beach and shoreline. Met several photographers on the beach include some great blokes from Essex who were telling me about the JCB (Joe Cornish Boulder – named after the shot on the front of First Light: A Landscape Photographer’s Art) and where it was – cool.

I got the Misty Isle Boat across to Loch Cornisk and was rewarded by some great panaroma’s as well as sightings of red dear and common seals.

Loch Cornisk


Scavaig River flowing into Loch Scavaig in Isle of Skye - B&W

Cullins in Skye over Loch Cornisk with  Scavaig River

The beach has large pebbles and rocks but are not that slippy and nor are the rock past the point – the point is navigable with any tide except with a high spring with low pressure and given I was round it several times, including at 0230, this was great.

Sunset at Elgol in Skye

Cullins in Skye from Elgol

Not only did I get the shot I went for but I caught the Cullins with the Northern Lights behind them – I spent two hours marvelling at my D800 as whilst I could see the Cullins were back lit it was confusing until I got the exposure right, as I could not distinguish the Northern Lights with my eyes and there is no light source North of the Cullins!

Star Field and Northern Lights over Cullins in Skye from Elgol

Anyhow hope you enjoy some my other shots below.

Sunset at Elgol in Skye Elgol Elgol Sunset at Elgol

Cullins in Skye from Elgol Cullins in Skye from Elgol Elgol Beach with Cullins Behind
Lobster Pots on Elgol Pier

Click icons on map below to see Shore Cottage and photoshoots – zoom out for Loch Cornisk

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Can you believe it Josh got up at 0545 to go take photo’s – well done dude. He’s been talking about learning photography for sometime now and the start was this morning.

It was a cloudless morning so nice sunrise and catchlights.Josh Purves

Teaching Josh I managed to get most of my pre-sunrise (bar one) and actual sunrise out of focus I opened the aperture a touch and forgot to shift the focus anyhow as you can see I swapped lens just after sunrise and spotted the error when I stuck the Zeiss 21mm back on – what a numpty – I ordered new glasses last week!

Josh’s shots

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn Old Harley

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn North Pier Tynemouth

Not a bad start he even did his own edits in Lightroom going to pick up on some of learning needs tomorrow.

My shots

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn -Prof Ian Purves-20130302-0825

The second of the right was my first shot with a Lee Big Stopper had to adjust white balance a bit – I must get round to that filter blog I keep talking about.

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It is said that persistence is one of the greatest attributes that a landscape photographer can posses. Having discovered yesterday that there was a cave to get past the point from Byer’s Hole (or The Wherry) that might give access into the bay at 2.1m over datum it seemed obvious to have another go if the weather forecast look good – which it did.

I got round the point at 0630 with 2.0m over datum hanging onto the cliff to steady myself and timing the waves – the last 2 meters involved bolder hoping to avoid going over my wellies. The cave was easy and I was on the beach with more water than I had seen before and off to the arch for 0739 sunrise. There was a dark cloud but a free horizon so a nice sunrise but no post glow as the sun then went ‘into’ the dark cloud.

Off Lizard Point below Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn

Off Lizard Point below Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn

Arch at Lizard Point below Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn

Rangefinder at Lizard Point below Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn

Arch at Lizard Point below Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn

Arch at Lizard Point below Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn

By 0840 (low tide 1.0m over datum) I was at the point on the entrance to Byer’s Hole taking a photo Byers Hole-Prof Ian Purves-20130209-0840and met a nice local bloke who was heading off to winkle ‘harvest’ just past Lizard Point. I mentioned the tide and seemed to have no anxiety so we got talking – he regularly uses the cave then climbs the cliff – he also comes down this way! He also mentioned you can walk to Marsden Rock but once past Lizard Point the rocks get bigger and its a bit of a scramble – might have a go.

In post processing I noted some diffraction again – I have got into the bad habit of using f/16 in the dark as it gives more chance of getting foreground and horizon in focus plus it gives slower shutter – comparing one shot when I opened up to f/8 from f/16 and took the identical shot you can see the blurring.

Personal learning notes

I was using the D800 and Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/21 ZF.2

  • Diffraction can be seen in the images over f/8.0 (especially f/16) – got to stop using apertures over f/8.0 unless I really need to
  • The Lee filters are great – whilst I can apply a grad filter in post processing you get some noise pulling the foreground – note the images with 18 point star on the sun (from Zeiss 21mm) this was missing with the Cokin filters.
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Having been to Lizard Point a few weeks ago I had been disappointed that the tide prevented me from taking a set of dawn shots of the arch. Today was the return trip with the only favourable tide in 2013!

The upside was that I discover that maybe it is possible at other times of the year – more of in a moment. The downside was it was a cold miserable dizzily day and the sun was nowhere to be seen – not anything vaguely resembling golden hours – except a bit of glow from Sunderland. So I took few long shots then raced back to the point for the tide – I only had 1hr 15 mins on the beach as the low tide was 1.28m at 0750 with sunrise at 0744.

I got round the point at 1.5m over datum with a 60cm swell – had to time it between waves at the apex.

Lizard Point

Coming back I noticed a cave in the rock above me and so explored it – it comes out where the blue circle is (on the iphone photo below) – its a bit tight but its a good 4m above datum.

You can go up to where the blue arrow is and you are faced with the rock face in the inset its a ‘difficult’ climb and a bit loose, there is a metal stake hammered in where the red circle is – that helps. If you are competent scrambler you might risk it? … coming down is another thing I wouldn’t recommend it especially in the dark … plus the top is very loose.


The route round I have been using is the red arrows – below where the head of the second red arrow is where the tide is lowest.

Rather than climb up you should come back onto the beach, if you can, and then lowest point is mid the first red arrow – maybe 1.8m above datum though its protected and in wellies I bet 2.1m is OK.

On my way back to the car I noticed this sign naming ‘Byer’s Hole’ (as on OS Map) as The Wherry – the sign is right above the entrance to the beach.

The Wherry Whitburn

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Last week I had a spare hour in London between meetings so I thought I would go to Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Theatre its on until 9th February 2013. I really enjoyed it – one of the images I liked was by Heather Athey “A bracing morning” and so I thought I stop by Tynemouth on the way home from Old Hartley to check it out – especially as there was a bit of surf. It turned out to be far more interesting than I expected.

North Pier Tynemouth

You drop down the hill next to the priory entrance and park on the headland above the sailing club. Then walk towards the gated entrance to North Pier past the sailing club. On the left of the entrance is a viewing ‘terrace’ and some steep steps down to the beach. I arrived at 1000 with a tide of about 3.2m above datum – I guess you can get on the beach anywhere below 4m but there is a surge that caught me mid thigh a couple of times when I had been standing on dry rock (my new Paramo Aspira pants coming to the rescue) so be careful.

The view is amazing and awe inspiring. In early February the sun is south of the pier so you don’t get the light like Heather found – I need to check The Photographer’s Ephemeris to see when the light might be good.

North Pier Tynemouth

North Pier Tynemouth

Anyhow it seem the pier’s construction took over 40 years (1854–1895). In 1898 the original curved design proved inadequate against a great storm and the centre section was destroyed. The pier was rebuilt in a straighter line and completed in 1909. As a consquence there are foundations beyond the wall on the seaward side that cause amazing waves with heights you normally couldn’t possible stand safely as close as I was on the beach. Got to go back in a heavy sea.

North Pier Tynemouth

North Pier Tynemouth

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Three weeks ago I went to St Mary’s lighthouse with a low tide and noted a sunrise shot of St Mary’s Lighthouse was going to come from further north – probably around Old Hartley. So with a high tide at 0710 with 4.7m and sunrise at 0753 I thought it was good chance!

It was pitch black at 0700 when I arrived at the car park (see map below) and there was one photographer in the car park setting up (sorry forgot your name – let me know if you read this – he did mention Putting Photography First on flickr). Anyhow he pointed me at the dark line down the cliff south of the car park and said it was a set of steps.

Down the steps and I can say that its not a place to be with a tide 4.8m above datum! Also it wasn’t the view I was looking for initially – I’ll come back to it later (as I did about 0845 when the tide was 4.2m over datum and much more comfortable).

I walked south and attempted a few dodgy descents on the cliffs but finally found a low set of fence posts in an L Sr Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn with High Tideshape where the cliff had fallen away (see map) – its muddy and lose but you can scramble down to the beach where it was rocky and about 0720 when I got there – its probably safe with 5.0m above datum but there will be no foregound rock so 4.7m was ideal there are clearly other shots as the tide drops maybe as low as 3.0m over datum?

There was a dark cloud on the horizon and there was not going to be a horizon sunrise perhaps a cloud one. Anyhow by 0800 I decided to pack up and go to Tynemouth (next post) but predictably just as the tripod was on the bag the clouds changed pink – unpack 😉 – I also used my new Lee 100 system filters – a 0.9ND and 0.6ND Grad Hard.

Sr Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn with High Tide

Sr Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn with High Tide

By 0830 I set off back to the car park and on the way dropped down the steps to have a look – some great light.

Sr Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn with High Tide

Sr Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn with High Tide

Sr Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn with High Tide

I went onto Tynemouth – see separate post.

In post processing in Lightroom 4.3 I didscovered that the D800 is about 1.5 stop dark with the Lee filters – with my old Cokin filters I did notice this however the colour cast with the Cokin is not present with the Lee nor is the dreadful flare – this is a little flare if the filter is 90 degrees to the sun.

Personal Learning Notes:

  • Need to read more about filters and draft some notes on utilization of Lee filters

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