Coate Water Dawn

Generally by the middle of the week I am starting to get an itchy shutter finger. So, Thursday morning saw me make a quick dash up to Swindon to check out the old concrete diving structure at Coate Water. This was followed by an equally quick dash back again in time for a 9am client meeting.

The old diving structure at Coate Water is now simply a home for roosting pigeons. (Doug King)
The old diving structure at Coate Water is now simply a home for roosting pigeons. (Doug King)

Not my finest accomplishment perhaps, but much needed light therapy. At this time of the year we need to take whenever opportunities arise as who knows when the weather will allow again.

Porlock – Salt Marsh Skeletons

 

Porlock Marsh is a SSSI allowing the study of the transition of habitats, as the salt poisoned the existing vegetation and salt tolerant species took over. (Doug King)

I have wanted to make this photograph since I first encountered this tree, nine years ago. Unfortunately many other things have gotten in the way in the meantime and, on the rare occasions that the conditions might have come together, I was unavailable to travel down to Exmoor. Anyway, this weekend looked like it was lining up to present me with the shot and I was free.

The salt marsh in Porlock Bay is a new and evolving piece of landscape. Originally farmland with freshwater marshes, this low lying area had been protected from the sea by an extensive, natural pebble bank. This bank was breached by a storm in 1996, inundating the land. The authorities decided to let nature takes its course and the site is now a SSSI allowing the study of the transition of habitats, as the salt poisoned the existing vegetation and salt tolerant species took over.

So, yesterday morning involved a very early start from Bath to get down to Porlock well before dawn. As I arrived on location I was surprised to find that, with nearly two hours to go until High Tide, the water was already rising over the ground. Well, I shouldn’t have been surprised, I had deliberately chosen one of the highest tides of the year in order to ensure an uncluttered foreground. 

I found a convenient mound to stand on, hoping to stay above the water for as long as possible. The composition presents itself, so even in near total darkness I was able to frame the silhouettes of the trees. The race was now on, would my perch hold out, or would I have to escape the rising tide before getting my shot? Such is the nail-biting excitement of landscape photography!

The light arrived at almost the same moment that the tide rose above the last grass stalks, presenting an unbroken surface to the horizon. Perfection. Unfortunately the tide was running fast enough to ripple the surface and my exposure times were initially in minutes, so it was not possible to get sharp reflections. As the light came up I could capture shorter exposures, down to half a minute at the end. A couple of test exposures and then I got my shot. 

All this time I had been carefully watching the water rise around my rapidly diminishing perch and, more importantly, behind me on my route back to dry land. By the time I got my shot the water was already over the toes of my boots. I quickly returned my camera to the safety of my bag, as I could see that I was going to want my tripod as a support for a tiptoe wade through deep water. Once again, I was so glad that I invested in a really good (and tall) pair of wellies. I was just in time to wade back to shore with dry feet, but literally on tiptoe with the water lapping at the top of my boots.

Storm Alex at Corfe Castle

I took a chance last night to try for a shot I had been planning for ages. All day yesterday I had been agonising over whether to make the four hour round trip to Corfe Castle. I was watching five kinds of weather forecast; from general forecasts and cloud radar to follow the advance of Storm Alex, to the aviation forecast for Gatwick Airport, trying to predict the height of cloud base above the horizon at sunset. In the end, I thought that there was a slight chance of a unique combination of conditions, and off I went.

I had left it quite late while still trying to determine the likely outcome and arrived with barely enough time to get to my planned shooting position. However, the moment I got out of the car I could smell the rain, and the race was on.

I didn’t get to my planned shot location. In fact I barely managed to get above the trees before realising I had but minutes. I hurriedly set up my tripod and snapped off seven shots in total. This was the fifth and the rain had just slammed into my back. By the seventh shot you could barely see the castle through the rain and I was getting thoroughly soaked. I spent all of three and a half minutes doing photography yesterday evening and I didn’t get even close to the shot I originally wanted. In the end though, I don’t think that I wasted my trip.

The ruins of Corfe Castle silhouetted against the last light at the moment storm clouds arrive overhead. Storm Alex, 1st October 2020. (Doug King/Doug King Photography)
The ruins of Corfe Castle silhouetted against the last light at the moment storm clouds arrive overhead. Storm Alex, 1st October 2020. (Doug King/Doug King Photography)