Shooting The Storm

‘Lands End’, Lands End, Cornwall
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L @ 40mm, 15 seconds @ f/22, ISO 100
LEE 2-Stop ProGlass ND + 3-Stop ProGlass ND + 2-Stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“Within seconds, I found myself in the middle of a hail storm.”

Shooting The Storm

I have visited this place several times in the hope of capturing a pre-visualised image of these huge rocks receding into the distance like giant stepping stones towards Longships Lighthouse. A simple but powerful image of the beautiful pink afterglow once the sun has set, complementing the deep blues of dusk. Alas, on this particular visit, I was no closer to realising my intended scene.

Coastal locations can be extremely demanding of photographers in bad weather conditions. Cold temperatures can test ones tolerance, high winds can make long exposures almost impossible and sea-spray can coat cameras, lenses and filters with salt-water requiring constant attention and cleaning. Rain can often strike, introducing a third hindrance. It is hardly surprising that most of us prefer to stay indoors in such miserable conditions, but a consequence of our disinclination is that such images are far less commonplace than those made in mild conditions. Despite poor lighting, and hence contrast, grim weather often facilitates compelling images full of feeling and drama.

It was a cold stormy day and high winds were coming in from the sea, blowing sea-spray up above the cliffs. I was using all my strength to hold a large umbrella on my left side buffeting the wind as I lay tucked underneath the camera and tripod with it’s legs angled outwards for maximum stability. I used an elasticated shower-cap from my hotel bathroom to cover the camera and filter between shots and I had a plentiful supply of kitchen towels and a spray-bottle full of water to keep washing the sea-salt from the neutral-density graduated filter that was positioned in front of the lens. Hopefully the umbrella would diminish the sea-spray coating my lens and prevent the high winds from creating camera shake and ruining my plans for a long enough exposure to slightly blur the swell of the ocean.

As I was sitting there under my tripod juggling with the umbrella, paper towels, water spray and remote shutter-release on top of the cliffs, my attention turned to a widening white band over the horizon. I immediately assumed there was a storm approaching, made this exposure and then hastily packed away the camera. Within seconds, I found myself in the middle of a hail storm. How fortunate to have taken my umbrella !

I like the limited palette here, consisting only of shades of cold blue-grey, I think it helps to accentuate the characteristics of the both the place and the weather. I’ve created an image which I hope portrays both the magnificence and the hostile unforgiving nature of Land’s End.

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