Inside this issue
It’s Not Over, Until It’s Over
I am a landscape and architectural photographer based in West Yorkshire, England. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeking out the finest light and making the most of all conditions here in the UK and beyond. I eagerly obsess over the finest of details when it comes to composing and processing my images and aim to capture not only the moment but the feeling I had when taking the image. I am an avid hill walker and theres nothing that inspires me more than getting outdoors and in to the thick of it. You can frequently find me editing my images with some music playing loud and a fruity ale in hand!"
It was the middle of December, temperatures were close to zero, what better time than to go to the beach, right?
It was my first time visiting this location, I was hit simultaneously with the usual anxiety and excitement. I had done a some fairly extensive research on the location online, but the usual questions crop up. How would this place look to my own eyes? Will I be able to find an original composition I liked? Will the weather hold up? I can’t wait to see what the light does!
I head down to my local train station and started the trip towards the East coast. My destination was Whitby, a small, quaint and popular seaside town on the edge of the North York Moors. As the journey progressed, I enjoyed the scenery gradually progress from a concrete jungle to a pristine moor side and then the view of the ominous, yet calming sea.
I arrived a little later than I’d hoped to and the sun was setting upon my arrival, leaving me a very short window to get to the location for a decent scout around before the light faded. I oriented myself using my smart phone and took a determined stroll through Whitby town centre, towards the abbey.
While I was walking, I was also shooting b-roll and other clips for my vlog, this in combination with my quick pace ended up with me missing my turning, the light was quickly fading so at this point I did a U turn and started jogging.
Now back on the right track, walking along the top of the sheer cliffs on the East coast - which formed part of the Cumberland Way - I noticed a sign outside of a farm stating “trespassers will be shot”, I hoped to myself they would not mistake me as a trespasser in the ever fading light. The only thing separating me from my path and the farm was a low wire fence!
I kept the pace on right up until I came to my location, there were only a few minutes of light at this point. The North-East facing bay is surrounded by imposing cliffs and thus got dark very quickly. This was just enough time for me to get a feel for the location and the relationship between the main features - the Saltwick Nab and Black Nab - along with a few points of interest on the shoreline. I took a few reference images and walked back to check in at my accommodation.
After a fairly brief sleep, I jolted awake to the sound of my alarm at 7am. Immediately the anticipation and excitement of seeing the conditions I was to work with that morning kicked in. I made myself a quick bite to eat while unnecessarily but excitedly glancing out of the window every minute or two. It looked windy, cold and clear, but it wasn’t raining.
I arrived at the location and having briefly scouted the night before, I knew exactly where my first composition was to be from. It was by a shale shelf at the Southern most end of the beach. This would only be visible at low tide and, as the tide was on its way in, this had to be my first port of call. This also happened to be in the direction the sun was rising and the cloud cover was the greatest - I couldn’t have asked for more! I had my favourite lens with me, the Canon 24mm tilt shift, and this was the perfect place to use it. I used the shift function which made it easy for me to capture more of the scene by shooting 2 horizontal images, making a vertical panorama. Whilst the tilt function aided in getting the very closest of area of the rocky shelf in focus. I set up my composition and I waited for the light. The tide lapped around my feet with increasing depth and power as the tide rose. I waited.
With the tide rising and my feet getting wet, I knew I had to be quick. As if just in time, the sun lit the clouds from below, revealing texture in the clouds with a beautiful orange and magenta wash of colour. I took a few sets of bracketed exposures to capture all the detail in the scene, paying attention to the waves to ensure the shelf wasn’t obscured by water. My ISO was set to 50, which gave me a slow enough shutter speed to capture movement as the waves receded. The final image was a composite of 3 exposures - one for the sky and 2 for the foreground, blending different waves to more accurately portray the scene I witnessed.
By this point, the tide was consistently coming into my knees so I took a few steps back to review my images and look for another composition. Some of the colour had disappeared, however, a lovely orange glow persisted. I immediately noticed the now-higher tide washing around a prominent rock to the side of where I was stood. It created an almost whirlpool effect so, using more or less the same settings and approach as the last image I waited for the right wave to create the pattern that caught my eye in the first place and took the image.
I eagerly continued to look for compositions further down the beach and a foam forming around another pleasing looking rock. I saw the potential for a fairly minimal image shot ‘straight down the middle’ so I set up my camera, focussed in and fired off another few brackets, again, paying attention to the movement of the tide around the rock.
As the colour in the sky subsided, along with the clouds, I decided to call it a morning. I head back to my base, dried off, warmed up and had some well deserved breakfast.
I took the day to relax and refresh intending to return to the same bay for sunset. I double checked the tide times and found low tide was due at sunset, so this would be my opportunity to get out on to the headland and check out what I’d previously been unable to access.
As I head back out, it was a nice crisp winters evening, however, there was very little cloud cover and thus colour in the sky. I arrived at the bay about half an hour before sunset and started to make my way out onto the rocky shelf to the North side of the bay. The shale was extremely slippery so I had to move slowly and with care. The main feature here, was the Saltwick Nab, a large outcrop that almost takes on the shape of a whale when viewed from the bay. I really liked the lines that scarred the shale shelf I was walking on and would have made for fantastic foreground interest. I say would have, because the conditions really didn’t favour me here. The sky was pretty uninspiring and bland so rather than waiting here I took a reference shot and head back to the main beach. At this point, I’d written off this sunset as it did not look like I was going to get the image I was after. So I took this opportunity to head back along the beach and take a look at the other end of the bay, at which the Black Nab stood proudly.
As I made my way over there, I was periodically turning my head, looking back towards the Saltwick Nab. The sun had just gone down behind me and I was curious as to whether any other colours would appear in the sky. I walked along the shoreline, clambering over the huge, wet rocks, keeping my distance from the imposing cliffs above.
I continued for about 10 minutes and I turned to notice a purple hue being cast on to the last remaining cloud in the sky above the Saltwick Nab. I knew this was the only opportunity I’d have for some interest in the sky so I took it. I immediately started hunting for some foreground interest. Luckily for me there was a large flat rock with bags of texture, an interesting shape and distinctive lines almost right next to me. I reached into my bag for my camera and hastily set up my tripod not to miss this moment. Once again using my 24mm tilt shift, I set up the composition using both tilt and shift to ensure correct perspective and front to back sharpness. The colour intensified and faded in a matter of a couple of minutes. Thankfully I was ready for this and got the image. Satisfied with this result, I headed to the main beach, leaving the Black Nab for another day. And this once again proved to me that whilst on location, working with the elements and changing light - ‘it’s not over until it’s over’.
Have you been to Saltwick Bay? What were your experiences? Why not share your thoughts in the comments on this article.