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A Close Encounter in Croyde Bay

I was down in North Devon again in Mid October and took some time out to take photographs in Croyde Bay. My aim for the day was to try and capture the turbulent chaos where the break met the rocks at the edge of the bay. However, the outcome was something completely unexpected.

I had pinpointed a likely rock, set up my tripod, lens, filters, cable release and all the paraphernalia of landscape photography, to wait for the perfect wave. When it came, the wave was enormous and had me grabbing my tripod and scrambling for safety before my camera could be washed away! Whilst thus distracted, I was astonished to see a seal surfing in on the wave, right up into the rocky gully beside me. These gullies are deep between high rocks, and if I hadn’t been where I was, or if I had still been focussed on getting the shot, I would never have seen the seal. In fact, over the course of the half hour I spent getting to know this youngster, many people passed by, further up the beach, and remained blissfully unaware.

Fortunately I had a short telephoto zoom in my kit bag. Packing away the filters, tripod, etc was a scramble as I was afraid that I would miss a once in a lifetime opportunity. I dropped things, fell off a rock and made a fool of myself in my haste. Fortunately, only the seal was there to see. I needn’t have worried, the pup was far too interested in her surroundings, and eventually in me, to hurry off again. By remaining low, quiet and un-threatening I was able to observe her at relatively close quarters for about half an hour. She appeared almost as curious about me as I was about her.

Newly independent Grey Seal pup exploring the North Devon coast (Doug King)

Thanks to the lovely people at the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, I now know a lot more about this seal’s likely story.

She is a moulted female pup, probably only 4-5 weeks old, a month at most, and therefore has recently weaned. Given that we met on the North Devon coast, she is likely to have been born to the Grey Seal colony on Lundy Island during August. Apparently, after weaning, seal mothers abandon their pups to fend for themselves. The moulted pups disperse in search of food and have to figure life out for themselves. For me, that explains both the pup’s curiosity about her surroundings, but also her tolerance and naivety to the presence of a human.

Standing at the Edge


I have finally decided what I wanted to do with the shot of these stilted beach huts in Essex, taken on the way for my spring trip to Orford Ness.

There is a much repeated shot of these huts with a square on composition, best taken at high tide. Unfortunately on the day I was there the tide was not quite high enough for that shot. Also, when I arrived there was already a queue of photographers lined up to capture that square on image. I wandered around a little and decided that I preferred the converging lines of clouds with the tide line. The pastels of the dawn light perfectly set off the colours of the huts themselves.

Stilted beach huts on the Blackwater Estuary belong to the Osea Leisure Park near Malden in Essex.

Gear – Filter system for 17mm TSE

For a long time now I have wanted to make better use of my fabulous 17mm TSE Lens. The only thing that has been holding me back is finding a filter system that would allow me to use the full range of movements. I have finally bitten the bullet and bought 165mm Firecrest filters and a Lucroit filter holder. These will largely, but not entirely, supersede my use of Lee filters with this lens.

During my research I noticed a lot of discussion on the Internet forums regarding suitable filters for the 17mm TSE lens so I decided to share what I have learned so far in comparing the two systems.

Gear – Arca Swiss style tripod quick release

A long time ago, when I set out to buy my first tripod, I put a bit of effort into researching tripod heads and quick release systems. This resulted in me buying a set of legs by Manfrotto, but without one of their heads. Like many manufacturers, Manfrotto have a proprietary quick release system which is not compatible with other manufacturers’ equipment. I matched my new Manfrotto legs with a ball head by Really Right Stuff of California, who use the Arca Swiss standard for quick release clamps and plates. Every piece of support equipment I have bought since also complies with the Arca Swiss standard and, so, everything I have is completely interchangeable. This enormously simplifies my life when out in the field making photographs.

Gear – Tenba Reload Pouches

Unfortunately I am not the neatest of photographers and I often end up stuffing small bits of kit into random pockets or parts of my camera bag. This sometimes makes it difficult for me to stay organised out in the field. These small and apparently insignificant pouches from Tenba Tools have really helped me out.

The Tenba Tools Reload pouches for batteries and memory cards have vastly simplified my life when out in the field trying to capture the light and not worry about equipment and accessories.
Tenba Reload Battery 2 – around £10-£12
Tenba Reload Universal – around £15-£16

Home Exhibition

I was back in my home town of Bideford last night for the inaugural exhibition of the new Exposure Photography Gallery. Entitled “Home” the exhibition explores authors’ relationships with their home county of North Devon. For me “home”, North Devon, has always been about my relationship with the sea and the coast. I was therefore delighted that the gallery accepted two of my pieces. One of these was a Fugitive Light metal print, so I cannot show that one on the website anymore, but it captured feelings of the surf, beach and green coast. The other was my triptych Mesmerise:

I have always been fascinated by water and the effect of ripples and turbulence at depth in salty water. By focussing through the surface of the deep Pacific Ocean I have tried to capture the sense of being drawn in that I felt staring into the water from a bobbing boat. Limited Edition of 15 Acrylic Gallery Print Triptych 10"x10" each piece £360 + shipping Please contact me if you are outside the UK, using the link at the top, rather than add to basket, so that we can arrange the most convenient method of delivery. (Doug King)

 

WCPF Members’ Exhibition 2019

We spent today travelling down to Bovey Tracey to view the Members Exhibition from the Western Counties Photographic Federation (and to spend the early hours shooting on Haytor). What an amazing range of works on display, including some familiar from Bath Photographic Society members and many completely new from all over the region.

Given that this is the first exhibition I have ever submitted work for, I was especially chuffed when they called me forward to receive a Highly Commended certificate for an architectural shot and a PAGB Silver Medal for:

A Galapagos Sealion Pup greets its mother as she returns to the beach after a hunt in the sea (Doug King)
Sealion Pup Greets Mother

Location – Pin Mill, Suffolk

Image "Two's Company" (Doug King)

I have finally gotten around to sorting and processing the photos from my recent weekend in Suffolk and here’s my favourite image of the entire trip.

I made this shot at Pin Mill on the the River Orwell south east of Ipswich. Pin Mill is a small hamlet just outside the village of Chelmondiston. I had seen a number of shots of rotting hulks and knew that I had to visit, but I really wasn’t prepared for the beautiful anarchy of a wooded riverbank lined with a huge variety of lived in boats and barges. The whole area is National Trust land so there is plenty of opportunity to explore and take it all in. Parking in the Parish Council carpark on the final approach to Pin Mill is convenient and cheap. There is also a pub, The Butt & Oyster, which sounds appealing, but I didn’t get to try it as I finished my shoot at 10am on Monday morning!

This is another location where my new Grubs Boots Stalkers made the difference between getting the shot that I wanted and settling for second best – the mud was really sucky!

Location – Mouthmill, Devon

 (Doug King)Another quick trip to North Devon again prompted me to review sunset and tides. This suggested I would have an opportunity to catch the sun setting into the sea touching Hartland Point if I could find the right location. That location turned out to be Mouthmill, the issuance of a small stream from a deep coombe.

Mouthmill is well known for the spectacular Blackchurch Rock, a double arched, inclined sea stack, that used to be a favourite rock climbing venue in my youth. However, on this occasion the spring tide was far too high to get any good shots of Blackchurch which lies a little way off the cliffs.

After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, immersed in the rumble and suck of the waves on the pebbles, I settled on a collection of driftwood lying in the stream as my foreground. As the sunset developed the colours reflected off both the water and the polished pebbles. Unfortunately the cloud on the horizon was just a little too dense to catch the perfect moment of the sun disk touching both the horizon and the cliff.

Access to Mouthmill involves a good half hour walk from the National Trust Carpark at Brownsham. However, Brownsham Woods offer plenty of photographic opportunities. Even though the return leg of the walk was obviously in the dark, I think it was well worth it. Let me know if you agree.