Below is the copy I wrote for Outdoor Photography’s Viewpoint of the Month, for the April 2015 issue.
As a result of growing up by the coast in Dorset, I love being by the sea which I can also combine with my interest in photography. This means I am often drawn to seaside locations such as Clevedon, Somerset, with it’s grade 1 listed Victorian pier, the only complete graded pier left in the UK.
From many visits to Clevedon, as well as other areas on this coastline during my time in Bath, I know it looks it’s best during a mid to high tide when the sea covers the unsightly mud below. I timed this April visit for when high tide coincided roughly with sunset & dusk so I could also combine this with the sun setting out to the left of frame which would enable me to get a nice side light on the pier.
The tide moves quickly here, the Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal flow in the world, and as such I find it best to shoot with the tide coming in so you can spot your compositions and plan for them before the moment is too late. With this in mind I would advise shooting higher up the beach, where there is less mud and you also have access back to the shingle above the high tide mark. I feel a visit should be timed so that high tide is slightly after sunset, as the best foreground subjects are normally submerged by the time the tide is at its highest.
I wanted a shot that still had some foreground just above the height of the sea, so I got down to Clevedon an hour or so before sunset so that I was ready in good time to get the shots I wanted. Bring wellies for this location as you’ll soon find you have wet feet and dirty muddy shoes!
With my desire to get a strong foreground that lead the eye nicely into the pier, I composed this shot with the camera as low to the sea as possible. I also kept the sun just out of frame so the gradient of light across the sky would be as strong as possible. The luminosity of the light meant I needed a Lee 0.9 hard grad ND to balance the exposure, later recovering some of the shadows in the pier in post production. As well as the foreground interest, I wanted the shot to have a feeling of calm and serenity, so I added a 10-stop ND filter to smooth out the sea and show the reflections of the pier.
Even with this exposure of 30 seconds, by the time I had set the shot up, composed, metered, added filters, exposed and reviewed on the back of the camera, the sea had risen such that it was very close to the camera so it goes to show just how quickly it moves here. I was very happy I had got the shot I wanted in one take.
Later, after sunset, I waited for the tail end of the blue hour so I could also get a shot of the pier with it’s lights reflecting back into the sea at the point the tide was at it’s highest, another shot which had long been on my wish list.
Clevedon is the location that keeps giving, as well as the shingle beach I took this photo from you can also shoot from the hill further up the road so that you can shoot the pier from above or the more adventurous can climb the rocks underneath the pier to shoot from below or the waters edge. It’ll keep me coming back anyway.