What a day! We both woke up at 5 am. That was earlier than originally planned, probably due to all the excitement. The weather was lovely — sunny spells and just the right amount of clouds. The plan for today was Durdle Door and Stair Hole.
We got ready and set off by car for Durdle Door around 5:45am. We arrived only a few minutes later, parked the car and then walked along the footpath down the hill. It is a surprisingly long walk and the terrain is pretty rough, but few minutes later we reached Durdle Door. To benefit from the rising sun, we decided to start with Man Of War Cove. We first took few shots from the top and then we took rather slippery stairs on the left, reached the shore and walked around the cove to get the best possible view of the rock formations on the other side. When we finished shooting an hour later, the sun was already over the hills and the whole scene was really beautifully lit. We returned back to the top of the stairs and then found a way to the other side where we were welcomed by a lovely cliff scenery dominated by the ‘Door’ itself.
It’s difficult not to be amazed by the sheer beauty of this part of Dorset. By the time we reached the beach near the Door, the whole area was flooded with sunshine and the sky was completely cloudless. Even though that’s not always welcome by photographers, as clouds create more dramatic skies. Luckily, in this case, some clouds appeared quite soon. At the end, we spent over 1.5 hours down there shooting the beach, the cliffs and of course the Door. At one point, Milan (probably because of all the excitement) somehow failed to realise that he stands way too close to the sea. And 30 seconds later a massive wave hit him and thoroughly soak shoes and trousers to the knees. Milan looked rather displeased, but was happy that he managed to save at least his camera. We then walked back to our car and even managed to get back on time for breakfast — Full English, of course.
At around 4 pm we agreed the lighting conditions are again getting good and so we decided to slowly move to our second location for today — the nearby Stair Hole. Getting there wasn’t really a big challenge as it’s just about 150 yards from the ‘base’ and since it’s been sunny and dry the whole day today, the paths were quite easy to walk on. The flip side was that there were quite a few people who also wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Unfortunately, they way too often walked into our shots. And after a while it became pretty annoying.
The first spot we thought might be good to take some nice pictures from was an easy-to-access and almost flat patch of grass on the western side of the hill. Then we descended towards the middle of the ‘hole’. It is mostly covered with boulders and stones so walking safely with all the kit is tricky. We took a number of pictures of the splashing sea water with the beautiful rock formations in the background. After that, we headed further down to the bottom of the hole to get even closer to the sea. Overall, we spent over three hours down there and yet we still felt there’s more we can shoot.
The sun was already pretty low, but we still wanted to visit the Lulworth Castle Park to try to take a few pics of the lovely old trees we spotted when we visited the castle yesterday. So at 7 o’clock we jumped into the car again and drove to the castle. Given that dinner was imminent, we spent only about half an hour in the park, but still managed to take a few good shots. Some smart post processing will be needed to get the best out of them, but it was worth it.
Today we faced a number of photography-related challenges and we thought it might be interesting to share them with you. For instance, as any long exposure (LE) photography aficionado knows, one needs a dark ND filter to reduce the amount of light that hits the sensor or film and through that to increase the exposure time to get the desired effect. However, when a dark ND filter is put on a lens it is virtually impossible to compose a shot as you can’t really see anything. So the only choice is to set the composition without a filter, put the filter on and only then take a shot. And all this needs to be repeated every time you change place or even want to slightly adjust the framing.
Now, there are two basic method how to attach/mount a filter onto a lens: screw-on and snap-on. Screw-on filters are generally cheaper and smaller, but less versatile and require a more cumbersome mounting. Moreover, you need a separate filter for each lens diameter. The ‘snap-on’ filters on the other hand, while more expensive, offer a greater versatility, can be used on multiple lenses and in case of grad filters their effect can be also be ‘adjusted’ by sliding them in the holder or rotating the holder itself. As you may have read in our yesterday’s post, Milan uses a screw-on ND110 filter, but Martin is lucky enough to own Lee filter system. And now, here’s the challenge: In the field, unless you shoot only from one place, you constantly need to remove and reattach your ND filter. And in case of the screw-on filters that’s a real pain in the neck. It is so easy to miss the thread, to drop the filter or to move the camera accidentally. With the snap-on filters, one just needs to pull up the filter (it will still remain in the holder), recompose/adjust the shot and slide the filter back in. It is soooo much faster, easier and safer!
The other thing about LE photography is getting the exposure right. While it is possible to use a conversation table (provides conversion between normal exposure values and adjusted exposure for a given ND filter density), because the exposure times are frequently measured in tens of seconds or even minutes, it is almost certain that the lighting conditions will at least partly change during the exposure. As a result, the value from the conversation table is mostly indicative and ‘real-time’ adjustments need to be made by the photographer to get the exposure right. In all honesty, at least in our case, it is generally a hit-and-miss. And that means for every one correctly exposed photograph, we normally need a number of attempts before we get it right.
Another filter-related challenge is water. Taking pictures on the shore ‘surprisingly’ involves a lot of splashing and spraying water. And sometimes if you really want to get great shots with action and drama, you need to get really close to it. Unfortunately, that inevitably means that tiny water droplets will end up on your filter. This, of course, degrades picture quality and that’s obviously the last thing you’d want. We did not find a way to tackle this problem elegantly apart from frequent cleaning. It is slowing us down and every now and then makes us miss a potentially great photo moment, but there’s really no other way. Or is there?
Again, the weather forecast looks good, so our plan for tomorrow is to visit Clavell Tower, Old Swanage Pier, Anvil Point House and Old Harry Rocks. As all these places are more distant, and to Martin’s great disappointment, we are likely to miss our breakfast tomorrow. But we hope our ‘sacrifice’ will be rewarded by the great photos we’ll take!
Dorset Field Notes will be published again tomorrow. Make sure you don’t miss it!
Milan & Martin