‘Infinity’, Watergate Bay, Cornwall
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, EF17-40mm f/4 L USM @ 17mm, 4 minutes @ f/8 ISO 400
LEE Big-Stopper and 2-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“A four minute exposure has created an image in which the dynamic elements take centre stage.”


This vast expansive Cornish bay is a coastal photographer’s dream location. It was a cloudy evening, so although the overcast sky thwarted a colourful dusk, the conditions were perfect for an aquamarine dreamscape. Choosing subjects that can be intentionally rendered with a limited number of colours is a powerful technique to employ in any genre of photography, and coastal locations naturally gravitate towards monochromatic blue.

There were some seductive large rocks with reflective pools begging for foreground inclusion, but I remained resolute in my quest for a more minimal vista. I also chose not to shoot from a low viewpoint, which would maximise depth by enhancing perspective, but with the tripod legs fully extended. Shooting from head-height lessened the presence of the small stones and textural detail in the sand at my feet, rendering an understated foreground, more appropriate to the nature of the scene. Such sharply focused texture in the foreground still allows an ‘entrance’ for the viewer and provides an appropriate counterbalance to the indistinct dynamic cloudscape forming the immediate background. Despite the relatively high viewpoint, because of the blurring of the dynamic elements, there is no detail in the middle-ground to distract from the simplicity.

The use of such a short focal length allowed me to point the camera upwards; so although the clouds were moving along a straight path directly overhead, perspective has been emphasised, creating this dramatic convergence suggesting an invisible focal point, hidden somewhere in the centre. If the prevailing wind is obliging, creating converging cloud paths like this is easy. We can simply point our camera in the same (or opposite) direction as the path followed by the moving clouds, making use of a wide-angle lens to create this fanning out appearance.

The composition yearns for the inclusion of a main subject; perhaps a human figure to provide scale and resonance for the viewer, but the absence of such an obvious focal point or main subject provides a degree of tension to balance the otherwise relaxed nature created by this simple, symmetrical sapphire seascape. A four minute exposure has created an image in which the dynamic elements take centre stage. The main subject, although not immediately obvious, is the cloudscape itself.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.