Fresh Air Required

After days of hot weather, where temperatures were over 30 degrees inside our home, day and night, we decided to take an impromptu trip to the coast in the evening to try and cool off.

The weather was forecast to be clear and bright, with a slight sea breeze, which would still be better than the stifling heat of the town.

To our surprise, on the hour long drive to our chosen destination, the skies clouded over, hiding the sun.

When we arrived, we were greeted with an amazing red sky sunset, but the light was fading fast, so we had to make some quick decisions on where to park and where to set up to take photos.

We decided to head to Birling Gap itself, and park in the National Trust car park as I really wanted to photograph the sunset from the beach – but this turned out to be a huge mistake. It had obviously been heaving with people, with cars in the overflow car parks, and all down each side of the road – there was even someone playing loud dance music on the cliff edge from a set of mixing desks!! What has the world come too??

We quickly bailed, as crowds and loud music at a beauty spot are really not our thing, and we headed back to Belle Tout car park where it was quieter.

I ran ahead to get to the top of the hill before we missed the chance for photos, as we were now very close to sunset. I tried to get a shot from the east of the lighthouse, looking west towards the sunset, but it was too dangerous to get close enough to the cliff edge – in fact, the spot where I photographed the lighthouse from before was now completely missing due to a cliff collapse – see below!!

The spot where I took this shot is now completely gone due to cliff fall!!

I ran to the other side of the lighthouse and set up the tripod. From the off it was very difficult to get a lock with the auto focus…..I really need to work on my low light focusing technique as I feel I didn’t make the most of the situation at all.

I tried a few shots, using the 2 sec timer to avoid moving the camera when pushing the shutter – exposure times where already quite long, even with no filter and bumping the ISO up to 500.

No Filter – 34mm – f11 – 1/6th – ISO500

I tried to bring the shutter speed slightly lower, and also the ISO to try to improve picture quality – but i’m not sure it made any difference.

No Filter – 55mm – f11 – 1sec – ISO140

I did try some long exposures, but by this time the wind was increasing, and we had started to see lightning across the channel. I was having trouble keeping the camera still enough on the 30 second shutter that was required, and none of the attempts produced a photo that was usable.

I had my partner stand in front of the camera to give some perspective.

Perspective – 35mm – F9 – 1sec – ISO140

After this – I got to a point where I could no longer auto focus at all – so I had to admit defeat and vow to learn how to cope with the low light better for next time.

I did turn the tripod around, and photograph Belle Tout from the opposite side to my previous attempts – it is a holiday let nowadays, and there were some people staying there that were also watching the sunset from their amazing vantage point.

Belle Tout – 48mm – f11 – 1sec – ISO250

My partner was now watching the amazing lightning storm that was firing up in the English Channel, so I packed away the camera, and stood with her – there were flashes and forked lightning every few seconds!! Before we knew what was happening, the storm was upon us, and we could hear rain behind us in the fields a few hundred yards away, even though no rain was falling where we stood, which was really strange.

We had to run for the car, which was about a half mile away at this point – no mean feat in the semi dark as the ground was very uneven.

We only got a few drops of rain fall on us, until we got into the car, then the heavens opened in spectacular style. In fact, the whole drive home was a bit dodgy after that point, with torrential rain, standing water in the roads, and a terrific lightning storm – none of which was forecast earlier before we left home!!

All in all, another great trip to the coast – I really like that area, and look forward to returning when the area has quietened down more and the crowds are gone. I do need to work on my technique for low light though ready for next time that situation arises.

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