A Shed With A View
I guess I would consider myself a morning person. I prefer to get up, get things done and hopefully finish early rather than run the risk of finishing late or running out of time. That said I am sure there are times when it has physically hurt me to get up at say 3:15 in the morning. I have heard it said that sometimes it's better just to stay awake and not go to bed at all, sorry, but I'm not that brave! To add a little salt to the wound, I was on holiday with my wife and children staying near Edinburgh and should have been having Lay-ins, cups of tea in bed and all that.
The 1hr 30min drive to Bamburgh was typical for me; fretting about the weather, will I be late and miss the 'good light'? I needn't have worried as cloud was everywhere! One thing that wasn't an issue was parking as a free car park close to a golf club was perfectly placed. Out of the car at 5am and 60 seconds later I was on a deserted beach..
Things didn't look too bad. The pain of the early morning was starting to fade, so too the disappointment of the heavy cloud, which was starting to break and provide a little interest. This is what floats my boat, I had the whole beach to myself and I set about trying a few different image compositions.
"Morning... That's the most photographed place in Britain that is".
Out of nowhere appeared a man walking his dog and off he went along the beach! He had a point though, was I just going to copy the images of others before me or do something different?
Not wanting to waste the opportunity I started with the former, trying compositions remembered from images I had seen whilst researching the location. It is important to try and get something in the bag early on, just incase the weather changes, that way your efforts aren't wasted. That done, and when I can, I like to spend time exploring a location, trying different things. My efforts certainly don't always work out and some are fit only for the recycle bin, but as someone once said "a person who makes no mistakes makes nothing". Not only that but my first image is rarely my best.
During my wonderings my eye kept being drawn to a small beach hut on a grassy slope. I didn't remember it in any of the images I had seen so assumed it was relatively new. A closer inspection revealed it wasn't new, just well looked after.
I walked around it and studied it, looked up at the clouds.
The lack of any real direct sun light was forcing me to think black and white as there seemed to be good textures and contrasts here. I wanted to try and include the castle, the hut and the beach all in the same shot. The best location was slightly higher up the bank than the hut, in some tall wet grass. The midges were having a field day on my legs.
I briefly remembered a Far Side cartoon by Larson. There are two Mosquitos, one sucking blood but he is blown up like a balloon about to burst, fear on his face. His friend is looking on in abject horror "PULL OUT, PULL OUT, YOU'VE HIT AN ARTERY!" he screams.
I tell you, it was all kicking off down there on my legs.
My tripod was a bit wobbly on the long grass but I always use a cable release to avoid touching the camera when taking a picture. Something else I use a lot is Mirror Lock; a feature buried in the menu system of my Canon. The first click of the shutter release locks the mirror in the up position. Wait a couple of seconds for any camera shake to subside then a second click of the button takes the picture, drops the mirror and everything is back to where it was. Despite the cloud the sky was rather bright and with no direct sun light illuminating my subjects the brightness of the land and sky was very much out of balance. I ended up using a 0.6 and a 0.9 ND Grad filter to back off the sky. These filters slide up and down in the holder and I was careful to put them in slightly different positions to ensure I didn't get a line appear across the image.
All of this 'thinking stuff' was going on while I was being eaten alive at the legs, still, it took my mind off things.
Finally the depth of field. Set to f13 and my 10-24mm lens to 10mm I had a depth of field of 1.5m to infinity, ample to cover everything in the shot. My focus was set to the nearest point on the hut.
I think the early morning and midge bites were worth it.
An App on my phone helps me with depth of field but if you're ever rushed and have only seconds before the sun disappears behind a cloud then try this as a quick rule-of-thumb...Focus one third up from the bottom of the image in your view finder and set the aperture to f11. With a typical wide-angle landscape shot (say a lens focal length of 15mm) this will give you a depth of field of around 2m in front of you to infinity...If you don't want to do the phone /app thing type "online depth of field calculator" into your favourite search engine. Enter 10 different combinations into the website (to cover the lenses and situations you use most often), write down the results and keep safe in your camera bag.