Stretching time…

60 seconds amongst millions of years

So, having said in my last “In Focus” that I prefer shooting fresh new views, here’s a tale about an oft photographed but iconic landscape!

Kimmeridge is a fairly small bay that forms part of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. That may not sound much of an iconic venue, but when you add in a land owner’s folly tower, “nodding donkey” oil wells, fossils, dinosaur footprints, WWII defences and rugged rocky shoreline, it starts to sound more interesting.

If you Google “Kimmeridge”, and check the “Images” tab, you’ll see many versions of Clavell’s Tower, rocky ledges and the subject of this image – Clavell’s Pier.

Clavell was a local landowner, living on the nearby Smedmore Estate, which includes Kimmeridge. The “pier” is a natural rock formation that sits next to the small harbour in the bay. The pier is only really visible from the seaward side, and at low tide, so strong footwear is recommended if you fancy visiting this local landmark. And if you’re thinking of visiting, keep an eye on the time as the gates are locked at 10pm, sharp!

The pier points West, so the best time to shoot is evening and sunset. Having been keeping my usual eye on multiple weather forecasts, a Monday evening was chosen to head out. On arrival, I spent the early part of the evening on the rock ledges to be found on the main shoreline of the bay, trying different compositions and angles. Then, as the sun started to lower, I headed around to the pier.

The advantage of shooting iconic landscapes on a weekday, is the lack of other photographers jostling for space – you can get queues waiting sometimes for “that view”, which is another reason why I prefer fresh locations; I had the place to myself except for a couple of fishermen and surfers.

Subjects like Clavell’s Pier actually help you with your composition. As you will have seen if you’ve Googled the place, you only ever see images made from the seaward, or left hand side. Once onsite, it’s easy to see why as there really isn’t a view to be had from the right hand side.

So, it was decided for me, the Pier will be leading in from bottom right, so the end should really sit somewhere around the top left “third” (the point where the imaginary lines of the left and upper rules of thirds compositional lines cross). You’d think “job done”, but far from it. With so many interestingly shaped boulders at my feet, it was a question of choosing the best rocks and composing the pier and sky around them. The light wasn’t looking favourable for a colourful sunset, so I was already thinking in Mono terms – shape, texture, contrast…

Several compositions were made, but this square rock in the foreground was my favourite. Even though it was square from above, it seemed to sit perfectly amongst all the other angles going on around it. I deliberately placed this rock under the tip of the Pier for balance in the image, and then started thinking about shutter speeds…

To get my Mono image, I needed to add extra textural elements. To do this, I needed smooth water, rough rocks and plenty of texture in the sky – a long exposure would provide these for me! As well as smoothing the sea, a longer exposure would also allow several waves to wash over the rocks while remaining unrecorded, which leaves a lovely glossy look.

I had already calculated a 0.9 (3-Stop) Neutral Density Graduated filter would be required to balance the exposure of sky, sea and rocks and it was now a question of guesstimating the travelling speed of the clouds, and selecting the right shutter speed to give the desired amount of sea blur and sky streak.

After some experimentation, I had to switch to Manual mode from my usual Av (Aperture Priority) mode. Due to my camera’s programming, the longest shutter speed I could get in Av mode was 30 seconds; while this was blurring the sea nicely, I wasn’t getting enough movement in the clouds.

The 30 second exposure had been at f/16, so by using the Bulb function in Manual (which basically lets you keep the shutter open as long as you like), I could select a 1-stop smaller aperture of f/22 and use the corresponding doubling effect to give me a 1 minute exposure – bingo! I had my image!!

Exposure information 60 secs at f/22, ISO100 with 0.9 ND Grad filter.

Prints of this image are available from my website.

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