Landscape Trip – Cornwall

For my first ever solo landscape photography trip, I decided on going to Lake District. I had planned everything almost to a tee. I knew where I was heading for sunset the night I got there, where I was planning on sleeping and waking up for sunrise and where each of them were going to overlook, where I was going to stop off on the way and what gear I was going to need. But! The main issue was weather, the weather apps I use all suggested I go south west rather than north west and when a good friend Simon Rich mentioned that he was going to shoot Durdle Door, I figured I may as well use the opportunity to go back to Cornwall.

I set off a little late, having no plans now of where exactly I wanted to go and what I wanted to shoot. I decided I’d just head off and take it easy, every service station stop was a weather watch and check out some locations. I already had St. Agnes in mind. It’s one of my favourite places to go in Cornwall but not great for sunrise thanks to being covered up by cliffside. After hitting a little traffic and stopping for coffees along the way it was looking like I was going to miss sunset, but not all was lost as I found I was only an hour or so away from Burnham-on-sea.

Arriving at Burnham on sea, I was greeted with their quaint peer and vast sandy beach. Unfortunately it was accompanied by a blanket of grey cloud and gloomy haze, but nevertheless I walked on and around the pier looking for an interesting subject that I could use and hopefully capture the mood in the atmosphere. As I walked around, I spotted a lovely couple with their child walking along the beach. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a snap of them, but first I had to ask politely. A piece of advice here, although it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, when you have permission it breaks any boundaries that may be guarding your shot and also allows you to interact with people both before and after taking the shot. I approached them calmly and confidently and explained what I was doing (looking for a good photo opportunity), I explained I had travelled across from coast to coast and that the weather was most definitely not ideal. I proceeded to ask their permission to take some candid photos of them doing exactly what they were doing before I had interrupted, they were more than happy to do so and I think I got a nice result from it.

By the time I left it was roughly 9.30pm, with a 2 hour drive to St. Agnes and not looking good for sunrise I decided I would just wonder in, check out a light house and see if there was a place to park and sleep. I stopped off at Trevose Head light house, in the pitch black night it was very difficult to see anything at all. I had my torch but was very conscious of the two motor homes parked up for the night. I decided it was best to take a quick walk with the camera rather than parking up for the night myself as I would no doubt want to be walking about, shining the torch, getting in and out of the car and most likely disturbing the campers. So with no luck of a night shot, I moved on to St. Agnes finally at around 2am.

When I woke up the next morning having only about 3 hours sleep, I took a stroll down the hill to the bay. What awaited me there was crashing waves, deep fog and rain. But I got there so I had to stay there if I was going to have any chance of getting a photo. I took my position inside a shelter hut and just waited for the glimmer of light to show over the cliffs and prayed the rain would stop or at least ease off for me to take a shot. It did and I’m quite pleased with the outcome.

Once the sun had fully risen and my position was no longer good enough for photography, I moved myself down on to the beach. By this time the tide had gone out a lot more and it allowed me to shoot more angles and different styles, none with any success. Then, out of nowhere, along came some surfers! Yes, surfers! Now I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot surfing, action shots so this was fun and kept me alert for the time being. Watching dog walkers come and go and the surfers falling off their boards rather than riding “knarly” waves. It was bliss! And really worth travelling the distance just to sit by a gorgeous beach at sunrise, with stunning views and crisp clean air.

But it was time for me to make my way back home. I knew there was no way I was going to be safe to drive all the way back with that little sleep and I love what I could see of the light house back at Trevose Head. So I made the decision to travel the north of the Cornish coast and back to where I was only a matter of hours before. I was certainly not disappointed when I arrived. On my travels, the sun had broken free of the bad weather and eliminated any cloud that got in it’s way. Temperatures had risen dramatically and my spirits were lifted… a little.

Exchanging a nice calmish breeze in St. Agnes with a belting costal wind at the light house, I braved the gales and headed down the slate cliffside for a better view of the light house. Careful not to allow the wind to take my camera and tripod away, I set my gear down and weighted it with my heavy bag just in case. Framed up and started taking photos. I knew what I wanted so I didn’t take long getting it but if you’re a photographer then you know, once you get what you came for there’s still a different shot to try before you go. Once my tiredness had kicked in again I trekked back to the car, cracked some windows and reclined the seat for a what I hoped would be a 1 hour power nap. I was that exhausted that the hour turned into two and a half hours. But well rested and ready to hit the road I set off for home.

I decided to come back the scenic route, having not much time to stop for photos on the way, I was in no rush to get home. Upon entering Devon I saw a few opportunities and stopped in a lay-by where I managed a lovely panoramic of the countryside and a lonely tree shot. Skies weren’t the best for photography, with a severe lack of clouds and lots of haze in the background so I didn’t stop too long before continuing my long journey.

My travel home took me past Stonehenge and having previously looked at my app, I knew I was heading there for around sunset time. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity I found myself in, having never planned to shoot Stonehenge and certainly not expecting to get there in perfect timing for sunset. I parked up in a lay-by again and just waited, thinking of how I was going to manage the shot. Then as quick as the sun was setting, a thick fog was rolling through behind me heading towards my subject. The sunset was being snuffed out by the low clouds and as quick as a flash my perfect opportunity was hindered. It was as I was pack down to get back on the road that I realised the fog may have presented another golden opportunity, a star shot!

I planted my camera on the roof of my car for a better composition, grabbed the 70-200mm and composed a shot. I was in manual focus and finding it very hard to lock something in, everything was far too dark and I even tried switching to autofocus or finding something close by to focus on. I resorted to aiming my torch at the monument in an attempt to light a stone and find focus. This only resorted in the security on patrol coming out and flashing their own, much brighter torches in my direction. But it made for an interesting shot and I don’t think it matters that my subject isn’t in focus. It’s certainly not going to win awards but it makes for an interesting piece to look at, in my opinion. What do you think?

This trip was never about getting the best shot, or getting something to sell on stock sites. It was about seeing what I was capable of with photography and travelling, what pitfalls do I need to watch out for if I ever do decide to head out for the best shot? Should I bring anything extra with me or did I over pack? How can my planning be improved? Well, the first thing I learned is; if you’ve planned something, stick to it! You really never know what the weather is going to be like and honestly, you can get a shot in any weather with you have the confidence in your ability. I seemed to over pack when it came to food but in terms of camera gear, I was pretty much on point. Travelling relatively light and having options available for an even lighter load.

In the near future, I’ll be investing in a good tent and planning another trip to the Lakes… and sticking to it! For now though, this is it. I’ve made a short video on YouTube of my travels but after the light house I stopped filming. Honestly, I was just too tired to bother. But next time, I’ll be more prepared!