Why so early? – Photographing the “Blue Hour”

I was asked the other day “why do i go out so early before sunrise” when photographing landscapes. Well, it was a simple question which i though deserved a little blog post to enlighten those not in the know.

ISO100 27mm f/13 90s Exactly 1 hour before sunrise

ISO100 27mm f/13 90s
Exactly 1 hour before sunrise

The blue hour is a term closely linked to the other term “The golden Hour” and together they represent the hour of light before sunrise and the hour of light after sunrise and conversely the hours before and after sunset. The light produced during these periods goes through some dramatic changes from soft blue hues to the warmer tones of orange and reds. The quality and direction of this light can make or break your photographs. The light and the quality of light at this time of day changes very fast so you need to be on location set up and ready in eager anticipation. Obviously it helps to know your location in advance because it will be very dark before you get those first hints of dawn light, there’s no point being witness to the most magical display of light yet not being on location with a shot composed because of poor planning/timing.

Many people never witness this wonderful display that nature puts on for us, especially in the summer months as the sunrise times are so bloomin early. There is something very calming and mesmerising while watching the light change before you, its very easy to become subdued by it and forget why you were there in the first place – to take some photographs of it, lol. Don’t get me wrong though, there have been many a mornings outing where there was nothing but a flat overcast sky after a 3 hour drive at sillyO’clock, the weather forecasts aren’t always accurate, so, you have to work with what you are given – nobody said this game was easy, its all part of the attraction, for me anyway.

I’ll leave you with a series of images that were all taken in the same location, Saltwick Bay near Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast and all within the hour leading up to sunrise. It gives you visual representation of how the light changes so fast – i hope you like them.

Please feel free top leave a comment and share this blog post if you found it interesting/useful. You can keep up to date with more of my image making and photographic exploits on my website or my Facebook page. Many thanks – Rob.

ISO100 24mm f/18 86sec

ISO100 24mm f/18 86sec

ISO100 24mm f/16 15 sec Even with a wider aperture the exposure time on this image has been drastically reduced showing how quick the light is changing.

ISO100 24mm f/16 15 sec
Even with a wider aperture the exposure time on this image has been drastically reduced showing how quick the light is changing.

ISO100 32mm f/16 6 sec

ISO100 32mm f/16 6 sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 3.2sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 3.2sec

ISO100 24mm f/18 5sec

ISO100 24mm f/18 5sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.8sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.8sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.4 sec

ISO100 24mm f/13 0.4 sec

ISO100 24mm f/22 1.3sec

ISO100 24mm f/22 1.3sec

My guide to Saltwick Bay

The three Icons of Saltwick Bay

Saltwick bay is a little gem of a location on the North Yorkshire coast, situated just south of the fishing port of Whitby.  It offers an abundance of photographic opportunities that are all compacted into a relatively small area.

The bay consists of a small sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs and flanked on either side by flat shale shelves. These shelves hold two local icons, ‘Saltwick Nab’ and the probably more well known, ‘Black Nab’.

Black Nab viewed from the beach

The ‘Black Nab’ is situated on the southern shelf.  It has a distinctive shape similar to that of a submarine coning tower and close to the base of this can be found the remains of the ‘Admiral Von Tromp’, a Scarborough based fishing trawler that ran aground in 1976 with the sad loss of two lives.  There is an abundance of rocks in this area that offer interesting abstract compositions and you may also find ammonite fossils which this area is also famous for.

The 'Whale shaped' Saltwick Nab

On the northern shelf you will find ‘Saltwick Nab’, a somewhat ‘breeching whale’ shaped rock prominence again surrounded by a shale shelf offering similar textured rocks, some of which have very bizarre patterns and deep grooves that seem almost unreal.

One of many abstract composition opportunities

The Bay has another trump card up its sleeve though.  The fact that it is North East facing makes it a very unique location because in the height of summer you can capture the sun rising and setting over the sea, quite novel considering you are on the east coast.

So, you could literaly spend all day here from dawn to dusk, tide permitting.  Talking of which the location really need to be photographed with a falling tide, there is little beach available at high tide, and to get close to the ‘Back Nab’ and wreck site you need the tide to be almost at low water.  Do not photograph the shelves or nabs on a rising tide, there is a real danger of being cut off by the tide.  I use the tide tables here http://www.pol.ac.uk/ntslf/tides/?port=0174 but always consult your usual reliable tidal references.

Now, how to get there.  The bay is located from Hawksker Lane which is the road that takes you to Whitby Abbey.  From there turn left up the lane to Whitby Holiday Park and then park in the layby by the park entrance.  To get down to the bay walk along the cliff top towards the holiday park and you will come across the path that leads down to the bay.  This path can be quite muddy and slippery in places especially after wet weather so take care and wear good suitable footware.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Flickr Explore and two little tips

Well, my Spurn images proved to be very popular on Flickr! Being fairly new to Flickr I often wondered, with the thousands of daily image uploads, how ones own images would fair in the recognition stakes, After all It doesn’t take long for your image to be lost and relegated to the bottom of the cyber pile after all these uploads.

On my return from a photoshoot in Northumberland I had a nice welcome surprise! One of my images had made the front page on Flickr Explore and got to number 44 out of the top 500 selected images uploaded on that day.

I am over the moon at having one of my images recognized and selected but looking at the explore selection at any point in time it shows a very ‘varied’ range in taste and ability, but, at the end of the day, that’s photography, very subjective. To me though, it’s a mile stone in my photographic career to date so I’ll take it as a compliment.

The image in question was, to be honest, a quick grab shot. I was down on the beach taking images of the old groynes and concentrating on the stunning scene before me during a spectacular sunrise when something made me look behind me, I gasped in amazement at what I saw – the dunes were ablaze in a golden glow that just had to be photographed.

I quickly grabbed my gear and shot off up into the dunes before the light changed and scurrying around like an excited child I found a quick composition. I fired off a few exposures and that was it, the light had changed. A little exhausted I headed back down to the beach, elated that I had seen this spectacular scene but somewhat wishing I had spotted it earlier to get a more pleasing composition. So, here comes my first little tip – while working on that stunning scene before you always keep a watchful eye on what’s happening behind, I wonder now how many missed opportunities there have been.

I got many pleasing images from Spurn Point and uploaded them to Flickr and got some equally pleasing responses but they were all surpassed by an image that I hurriedly uploaded before heading to Northumberland, an image that I wasn’t initially pleased with and an image that was a grab shot. So, here it is:

I still feel that my image does not do this scene the justice it deserves and I’m not entirely happy with the composition, but, it was certainly appreciated on Flickr and I am very grateful for all the comments received. So, here comes my second little tip – if a photographic opportunity presents itself – grab it!

Now, I’m off to look at those Northumberland images with a fresh pair of eyes.