I had a free weekend so headed up to Northumberland to explore the amazing coastline up there. I headed up on Friday night and got an early night, the hotel receptionist taunted me with the prospect of a cooked breakfast from 8am onwards but I knew that by 8am I would be more than likely just packing my kit up either happy that the sunrise was good, or sad that it was too cloudy.
The alarm woke me at 4.30am, it seemed to have come around quickly!. A half hour or so drive from the hotel North up the A1 to Bamburgh Castle was easy enough, there seemed only to be me, taxis and the police about at that time of night. A quick recce saw me avoid the main car parks and park a little further up the road towards the golf course. I put my wellies on (essential gear for seascapes, there is nothing worse than wet feet) and clambered down onto the beach by the light of my headtorch, another essential. At this stage it was still pitch black and with minimal moonlight I was grateful for the floodlights on the castle itself. I took up a position on a rocky ledge, high enough to keep me out of the waves and with the tide swirling below.
I quickly set up my camera on its tripod, I like to have quite a lot of foreground interest in my shots and to keep everything sharp I used a small aperture, f16, which gave me loads of depth of field but is within the sharpest range of the lens I was using, the Canon 17-40 F4. On a full frame camera body like my 1Ds Mkii this is a very wide angle lens, you get lots in the frame. I set an initial exposure running as there was now the first glimmers of light on the horizon. Whilst this exposure was running I started to set up my filters, the sun would soon be up and with the dark rocks I would have to use filters to balance the scene.
A camera can only record so many brightness levels between black and white at any one time so if I exposed for the rocks to keep detail in them the sky would end up bright white without detail, if I exposed for the sky then the rocks would end up being completely black with no detail in the shadows. The way around this is to use filters which are pieces of coloured plastic with one end darker than the other, you line up the dark bit with the bright bit of the image and it keeps the whole shot in the range that the camera is capable of recording.
As the sky got brighter I was treated to one of the finest sunrises I've ever witnessed, the colours started off blue,
purple and pink,
into blood red and yellows
and then into orange and yellow,
a real spectacle of nature. As the sun rose I had to change filters to keep pace with the changing light, initially a 3 stop reverse grad (the darkest section in the centre, ideal for sunrises), then adding a 2 stop hard grad and then swapping that for a 3 stop hard grad.
I changed viewpoints a few times, as the tide receded I had to move to keep the water in the shot, I like how it swirls during the course of a long exposure.
By 7.30am the sun was up and the vivid colours had died back, it was time to head back to the car and up to the local butchers in Bamburgh for a very welcome meat and potato pie for breakfast. A really successful trip to a beautiful place.