Playing the waiting game…

St. Aubins, a Channel Island challenge willingly accepted - despite the constant rain!

St. Aubins, a Channel Island challenge willingly accepted – despite the constant rain!

You’ve got to love the camaraderie among photographers these days.

Thankfully, gone are the days when secrets were kept, and most of us willingly share information about locations, settings used, time of day etc. After all, most of this information is stored digitally inside the picture file and can easily be accessed.

There are still some secretive ‘togs out there – which reminds me about the day I was in a gallery, paying some quite grand compliments to the displaying photographer. On one particular night sky image, I commented along the lines of “that must have taken a long exposure to stop down the lens to get that depth of field at night” – not even a smile or nod, just a tap of his pen on the “Please note; no technical information will be discussed regarding the taking of my images”. Funnily enough, I didn’t buy anything!

Thankfully, these instances are very few and far between and, on the whole, we’re a friendly bunch who just enjoy photography. One evening at La Corbiere, Jersey, I got talking to some photographers (as you do). We’d had a great evening capturing the rising tide with the distant lighthouse and setting sun providing plenty to shoot (see Rushing Tide and Pink Tide). La Corbiere attracts a lot of photographers on a nice evening, and there were a few of us eyeing up each others compositions and openly discussing what we thought worked, and what we thought didn’t.

One of my new Channel Island photographer buddies made the comment “Corbiere is relatively easy to compose…” and she was right. The causeway provides a great lead-in line, helps smooth the rushing incoming tide, and is lined either side by dramatic granite rock formations – maybe not “easy”, but certainly not too demanding. It was the second half of her statement that intrigued me though “…but St. Aubins fort is very difficult to get right.

That sounded like a challenge to me! After discussing St. Aubins more, my heart was set on at least giving it a go. I didn’t have many days left on our Jersey trip, and the weather wasn’t looking great – but let’s not let that put us off! I’ve always been a firm believer that weather fronts give dramatic light, and the lack-of-days/wet-weather-forecast position I was in was providing a prime opportunity to prove this right (hopefully!).

Proving I’m a true landscape photographer by obsessing over at least three different weather forecasts on a less than hourly basis, I picked Thursday morning as a best bet. A weather front was due to pass over Jersey, with light rain stopping right around sunrise. Time to set my alarm clock

It’s not always easy to get out of a warm, comfortable bed several hours before the sun rises, but it’s even harder when you can hear the rain falling outside. However, this was my last proper chance, so I had to go for it – and after all, I had faith in the forecasts; two of them were saying the same thing, so it had to be right – didn’t it..?

On arrival at St. Aubins, it looked far from photogenic. The wind was blowing, the rain was falling and it was fairly cold – not a great start. Not to be put off though, I pulled on my waterproofs and slipped the waterproof cover over my camera bag, and headed off in search of compositions.

Just to fill you in a little, low tides in Jersey are generally very low, and St. Aubins fort is easily accessible at low tide. There is also a small harbour, and slipways down to the beach/water with smaller fishing boats spread across the beach waiting for the sea to reach them.

While walking around the harbour, the most pleasing composition I found is the one you see featured here. It was also the driest as the persistent rain was falling at an angle, and the harbour wall (which I was huddled under) was keeping a lot of the rain off me. The foreground granite sets make up one of the boat slipways and I liked how the edges of the sets and mortar acted as lead-in lines to lift your eyes to the distant fort. All I needed now was for the rain to stop and the sun to come out – after all, it was time for sunrise and the forecaster’s suggested improvement in conditions should be along any second.

I couldn’t help but keep looking at my watch. The rain was still falling, and sunrise time had now been and gone. Had I wasted a morning? Was I going home with a blank memory card? I suddenly realised I was squinting – the clouds had parted, the rain had stopped and the newly risen sun was washing the scene in bright pinks and purples!

Thankfully, a long time ago, I got into the habit of storing my camera in “landscape mode” (set to Av, ISO100, f/11, Mirror Lockup etc) and I can be shooting within seconds of my Canon locking into the head of my trusty Manfrotto tripod. I’d already worked out the composition and my focus point for maximum depth of field; all I had to do was line everything up and shoot…

I quite liked the initial image captured, but thought the sky needed a bit more drama, like some movement and tension in the clouds. Dropping to f/22 and slipping a 0.9 Neutral Density filter stretched the exposure to 10 seconds, just enough to add a touch of drama. The clouds still needed a brooding boost though, so the 0.3 Neutral density Graduated filter I had been using was replaced with a stronger 0.6. This added the extra contrast to the clouds I wanted, and my next image captured is the one you see here.

Before I could reach for my 10-stop ND to really extend the exposure into minutes, the gap in the clouds had closed, the rain had started again (even harder) and my photography was over for another morning.


Exposure information:   10 secs @ f/22, ISO100.

Filters used:                      0.6 Neutral Density Graduated and 0.9 Neutral Density filters.

Post Processing:              RAW file tweaked in Lightroom, converted to TIFF and checked at 100% for dust bunnies.

Prints of my images are available for purchase from my website.

All images protected by copyright laws for Andrew Stevens Photography 2014.


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