Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Porth Nanven - Photography Week 17 & 5 (2016)

There are many fine places to photograph in Cornwall but for many landscapers Porth Nanven is either at the top or very close to the top of the list - something I found out on my second visit during photography week 17.

The attraction is the extraordinary ovoid boulders that line the cove. They were once part of an ancient beach suspended in the cliffs when sea levels dropped after the last ice-age. In the years that followed the boulders eroded from the cliffs to form an area of special scientific interest (1,2)

Ovoid Boulders

Boulders in the cliff face

Suspended ancient beach

Concrete walkway which may cover a disused sewage pipe (1)

Rocky cove view

Boulders - shapes and textures

Boulders - shapes and textures

From a photographic point of view, the boulders make perfect foreground interest particularly when combined with lapping waves. The rocks shine when they are wet emphasizes the range of different colours and sizes. Offshore, two islets called The Brisons serve as a strong background focal point (3)

The Brisons

Getting close the wet rocks can result in a soaking!

A milky sea isolates the rocks and leaves a wet shine

Heavy showers and a stiff off-the-sea breeze characterised my first visit to Porth Nanven in early February. I spent most of time fighting a losing battle against raindrops and sea spray. This was probably the best image from the visit and I would describe this as the 'classic' Porth Nanven composition.

Classic Composition

Heavy Showers

The conditions for my second visit in May were much better except for the number of other photographers. As it reached golden hour time there were 8 other 'togs' (4) all fiercely guarding their tripod space.

Togs lining the cove. Can't help but think that the most interesting light was across the beach rather than into the light?

Fortunately, I had met two of the photographers (Peter and Andy) previously and they suggested an elevated position to the side of cove using a tongue shaped rock as the main foreground focal point.

I think I will try low tide for my next visit to Porth Nanven and hopefully it won't be quite so busy. 


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porth_Nanven

(2) projects.exeter.ac.uk/geomincentre/05West Penwith.pdf

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisons

(4) TOG - used online as an abbreviation for photographer. Not to be confused with Terry's Old Geezers featured on the late Terry Wogan's Wake up to Wogan radio programme.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Little Dennis Blockhouse - Photography Week 4 & 18 (2016)

Little Dennis Blockhouse is right at the tip of Pendennis Point in Falmouth and dates from the mid- 16th century. It is part of the wider fortifications established by Henry VIII to protect the Fal estuary (1,2).

During both World Wars Pendennis played a key role in coast artillery defence with long range radar-controlled attacks against enemy ships during WWII (3).

The position of the blockhouse (4) makes it a good subject for sunrise photography. My first attempt was in January and whilst I liked the light and the colour I found that I was unable to prevent the building cutting across the coast at St Mawes. Also at the key moment of capture a chap decided to stand on the rocks and take his own sunrise pictures:

There is not a lot that can be done about people walking into the shot. Those that are aware tend to think they are outside of the camera's field of vision but a wide angles lens can capture an arc of about 100 degrees. It can be annoying particularly early in the morning!

Getting the composition right is a matter of preparation and time. To avoid the issue of St Mawes in the background I needed to change the shooting angle. I looked for a vantage point that would give an open sea view and then checked the sun's movement over time using TPE (5).

During May the sun rises broadly over St Mawes and this provides side lighting on the blockhouse and a good view out to sea. The earlier time for dawn also means there is less chance of people getting in the way. These were the results:

Remnants of 20th century defences are evident in both shooting directions. These are mostly concrete platforms and gun emplacements. From a landscape photography point of view I can't totally decide whether these are interesting or ugly features:

(1) http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-460094-little-dennis-blockhouse-pendennis-castl#.Vz8Q-cuTVjs

(2) http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pendennis-castle/history/

(3) http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pendennis-castle/   - see the expanded timeline and an illustration of the WWII defences.

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockhouse

(5) http://photoephemeris.com/ - The Photographer's Ephemeris - an indispensable tool for the landscape photographer. It shows the angle of sun both at sunrise and sunset on any given day.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Portscatho Formation Polyptych - Photography Week 4 (2016)

In a recent post, I wrote about my motivation for photographing rock formations together with a description of one image that I had labelled 'a good one'.

In this post I am reflecting back to a set of images taken along Falmouth sea front during January (photography week 4, 2016). Instead of focusing on the merits of a single photograph, I have combined a number of images into a polyptych (1).

A polyptych aims to create a multi-layered view. Each component can be looked at either individually, as one whole image, or a series of relationships between the sections. If the later is achieved the polyptych has depth and is more interesting for the viewer.

This particular polyptych is part of a wider project to present the coastline around Falmouth characterised by the Devonian Portscatho Formation of sand and mudstone formed 375 to 392 million years ago (ref: iGeology app). 

These are a selection of other rock images that were not included in the above polyptych but could be used in the future:

(1) I have used the term polyptych to describe a photograph made from many individual images or sections. Perhaps more common is a triptych - a three part work. More information about the origin of polyptychs can be found here

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Painterly Touch - Photography Week 4 (2016)

Photographs that look like paintings can be very appealing. Over the years I have experimented with a few techniques including some of the fun software programs that mimic painting styles. 

At the heart of converting a photograph into a "painting" is simplification. 

Simplification is a process of blurring the detail in the photograph whilst retaining some of the sharp edges. The painterly finish can then be enhanced by adding textures and /or making changes to the colours and tones.

To illustrate this process here are two links to images that I have created in the past. The first is a Spanish Farm from 2011 and the second is Paphos Harbour at sunset from 2012.

There is no real objective criteria for selecting an image to convert into the painterly style. It is more of a feeling that it might work. For example, this is an image taken at Perranporth in Cornwall. The image has a natural soft definition due to the weather conditions. The appeal is the line of wet sand converging towards the cliffs in the background.

The foreground is actually quite distracting and although I like the shape of the clouds a better composition for these purposes is achieved with a top and bottom crop.

Using blur and adding texture subtly alters this image to give it a painterly finish. Whether this is an improvement depends upon individual taste.

This is a slightly brighter version:

Here is another example taken at Chapel Porth on the same day. Again the conversion is subtle with the original shown first:

This set is perhaps less subtle: the original image; the original cropped; the simplified and textured version; and a new composition that was deliberately overexposed to mute the contrast and colours before simplifying and adding texture:

The amount of simplification, altered colouration and added texture depends upon the subject matter. The aim is to not make the processing so obvious that it becomes the subject. Any changes should enhance the picture. Of course, it is not normal to present a choice of the original or the processed painterly version so it is accepted if the original is the preferred by some viewers (it is also recognised that viewing small digital versions is limited and that full sized or printed copies can look very different).

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Best of the Rest - Photography Week 16 (2016)

These are a selection of other photographs taken during photography week 16 (18th to 24th April 2016):

Trevellas Porth

After a walk along the South West Coastal Path we stopped at Trevellas Porth near St Agnes for the sunset. With a fairly high tide the compositions were limited. The best shot was this golden light on a wet rock:

Just before sun dipped below the cloud line I captured this shot into the light:

Glendurgan Gardens

We spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon looking around Glendurgan Gardens:

At the end of the gardens there is access to the beach at Durgan:

Wooden Door

Can't resist old wooden doors and rusty hinges:

Tehidy Trees

Whilst in Tehidy this week looking at bluebells I also spotted the contrast between the grey/silver trees and the rustic coloured thicket:

Photo Art

Football on the beach. I have used colour reduction, blur and textures to give a painterly finish to this scene:

Steps in Falmouth:


These are some odd bits around Falmouth taken during the week: street names with a helpful pointing finger; sea water covered steps; and a church slate roof.