Battling Salt, Sand and Surf.

A few weeks ago I spent a couple of days of my week off in between uni and work around the Yorkshire coast; as well as taking a trip to the wonderful RSPB Bempton Cliffs, I took a couple of trips to the seaside to shoot landscapes, although both trips yielded very different results.

Filey- Looking Closer

Last year I went rock pooling on a little university trip (Zoology is the best) to Filey Brigg situated just below Scarborough and above Bempton. Due to its location and the fact I vaguely knew what it was like I decided to check it out again after visiting Bempton Cliffs and before I stopped for the night in Scarborough. I wanted to walk out onto the large rocky Brigg in the hope of some nice landscapes and possibly sunset shots, however when I arrived I soon realised the tide wasn’t going to play ball. From the beach I could see the brigg was mostly submerged, as was much of the rocky/beach area close to it, and the tide was only due to rise higher while I was there. Playing out the potential scenario in my head, I decided to not play around with the tide, cliffs, and an area I wasn’t all that familiar with… which left me with the small patch of rocky beach still fairly close to the exit. Much of the beach was cast in shadow by the cliffs behind, it was boulder strewn, but the wider landscape just wasn’t doing it for me. After trying a couple of wider shot compositions I decided to give up, but not go home quite yet. Although the wider landscape didn’t inspire me too much, it had beautiful elements very much worth taking notice of, something I knew my circular polariser and 3-stop Neutral density filter would come in useful for.

long exposure rocks sea blur

Using the circular polariser filter eliminates wet reflections and allows a more photogenic and natural looking colour to shine through, it also blocks one stop of light, meaning that, along with my neutral density filter,  4 stops of light are prevented from getting into the camera. This allows for long shutter speeds and gives the water a whole different character and aesthetic. This is a popular technique that I often employ when working with water, whether it be the sea or a river, but it’s always fun and is a great way of getting nice shots under otherwise unfavorable conditions!

black and white long exposure sea water rock waves

long exposure black and white sea yorkshire post waves surf

All these shots, and most shots of this kind that I have tried before, involve static objects contrasting with the movement of the sea. However, every now and then I pick up a photography magazine, and casting my mind back I could remember an article about someone who shot a stunning portfolio of shots which were essentially long exposure shots of just the movements of the sea; with no static reference points, the shots looked more abstract and painterly.  I haven’t tried this before and to be honest don’t often shoot in such an abstract way, but I did have time on my hands, so I had a few goes to see what I could manage. Some of them came out surprisingly well, and here are my two favourites!
long exposure blur movement wave waves sea tide

dancing surf sky clouds sea blur movement long exposure abstract

Flamborough Head- Trying to Capture it all

After getting to Scarborough and spending not quite 5 hours asleep, I was off again to attempt to get to Flamborough Head before the sunrise (no mean feat for a student). I arrived in the car park only about 15 minutes from sunrise and had to rush down to the beach to try and find a shot; sunrise always feels like a very quick window to miss! More specifically, I was down in Selwicks Bay, a small bay just below the lighthouse full of interesting geology and the perfect place for a sunrise shoot. My only regret was not getting up just a tad earlier as I didn’t have long to decide where and how to take the first few shots, knowing the sun was going to peak above the horizon at any second. While dodging the odd wave and balancing my tripod feet on slippery algae covered rocks, I decided concentrating on the foreground-interest filled rock pool area was my best bet.

sunrise rockpool coast ocean seaweed flamborough

Luckily the golden hour served me well and gave me more time; there was plenty of clouds in the sky providing a pretty beautiful start to the day.

golden light waves white surf blue

One of the weird things about this little bay is the variety of sediments laying around, ranging from fine sand to crackling gravel, and from pure white rocks to grey and brown boulders.

gravel rock sunrise sea waves long exposure

white rocks flamborough head

The chalk cliffs make for a dramatic backdrop to this scene, and I spotted this gull sat on top of the tall chalk stack, and what looked like could be a nest (though I’m not all that sure now)  with two youngsters stood next to it.  Here I tried to take a wider “animal in its environment” style shot still trying to incorporate movement in the waves and sky.

gull nest stack flamborough head sunrise long exposure animal habitat sea cliffs

This isn’t the easiest place to shoot; with sand getting in between tripod legs*, an inevitable tide ever changing the scene, and the varying levels of waves coming dangerously close to my precocious electric camera, it certainly can keep you on your toes! I spotted a potential shot when I saw a large piece of seaweed being batted around in the waves on the shore. Its not often you have to chase a landscape shot as if you was photographing wildlife, but this piece of vegetation gave me a bit of a run around! After dodging most of the waves (by this point I had very wet feet) I managed to get the shot I was after with a  nice composition and the trails of surf coming off the branch of seaweed.
*(luckily MeFoto tripods are completely deconstructable and I gave it a good clean when I got home!)

sunrise cliffs beach seaweed long exposure sea ocean waves flamborough head

As the peace of sunrise began to lift, the tide started to come in and the waves only got bigger, making getting low and anywhere near the water a dangerous prospect for my camera!

sea cliffs wave smash splash long exposure

With a steady barrage of waves coming in and the clouding over of the eastern side of the sky, I decided to take this as my cue to head back up the winding wooden steps and explore the cliff tops beyond the lighthouse.

flamborough head lighthouse steps

The cliff were topped by a meadow bordered by farmland, filled with wildflowers and grasses, and hence also teamed with lots of insects and bird life. The flowers pictured below are birdsfoot trefoil and a beautiful southern marsh orchid.

birdsfoot trefoil flower lighthouse flamborough head

southern marsh orchid flamborough head

Flamborough Head is a great location and I’d definitely recommend it to any photographer visiting the area! I had a great time and although the salt, sand and feet-soaking was sometimes a challenge, it was nothing compared to the grassy meadow… For within a couple of hours of leaving and popping back to Bempton Cliffs, I had been debilitated into a bleary eyed mess by my arch nemesis, hayfever. Damn pretty flowers.

flowers cliff top sea ocean view

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