West Pentire Serenity

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After a day of dull, grey weather, the early evening saw the 10/10 cloud cover looked like it might finally start to break. So I pulled my kit together and headed down the road to West Pentire. I parked the car and set off down the track, over a couple of stiles and came upon the cresting ridge that overlooks Polly joke Bay and Pentire Point West. The still air was thick with the smell of blooming summer flowers and a skylark hovered overhead trilling away to it's heart's content. The thrill of such serenity always sends a frisson of expectation through me and I set off for the cliff edge. Just a few weeks ago I would have been buzzed by the small colony wary Fulmars that nest on a sheltered cliff face but now there was not a single one in sight. Their chicks must have fledged and they had set off back out to sea.

At the cliff's edge I set up for my first shot. The grassy slopes leading down to the sheer drop were covered in a blanket of brightly coloured flowers that added a contrast to the glowing gold in the sky. I selected a Lee Straw Filter to accentuate the sky and overlaid this with an ND3 hard grad filter to help 'hold' the sky. I needed to get down low and had to be mindful of the precarious angle I'd have to lay at to keep my legs and feet out of the shot. Too much and I'd risk rolling away and over the edge. So I splayed my legs wide, framed the shot and fired off a selection of exposures and flash levels. The resulting 'West Pentire Serenity' is a really nice shot that started the evening off well.

From the cliff tops I took the lower track that follows the crest of the cliff edge. At a certain point there's a small ridge that leads you on to a spur of rock that juts out into the sea. Taking extreme care, I slowly made my way down the crags and crevices that reach down to a flattened platform of rock. Just above the tideline I stopped and stashed my rucksack in a wedge and picked out my larger flash unit and pouch of filters and set off on the last leg.

The air at sea level was different again. There was not a breath of wind and its oppressive heaviness was infused with the musty, salty scent of seaweed and wet barnacles. The sound of the incoming tide was strangely muted to the dull thuds of swells hitting the rocks. The horizon was unclear and there were no waves to speak of. Rather the occasional series of brooding swells that would rise up a few hundred metres out and slowly meander to shore. Here the larger ones would seemingly pick up speed to rush up and burst in a crescendo of pluming spray on the rocks at my feet. This had the potential for a good shot, so I began my preparations.

I set up the tripod as low as I dared and attached the remote lead to the camera so that I could keep me away from the sea that would rush around the tripod's legs. Settling the ND6 hard grad filter in place - to hold the sky - I selected manual focus and picked a spot in the mid-ground to keep a lens to horizon depth of field. When satisfied with the composition, I went on to exposure levels. ISO 100, F18 for a long exposure time and I set a large flash gun on the hot-shoe and selected a +2 burst to fill-in the foreground and freeze some detail in the belly of a wave burst. I angled the head up at 30?and pulled over the diffuser. I fired off a few test shots, fiddled with my F-stops and when happy, stood up, flipped the viewfinder cover to stop any unwanted light entering the back of the camera and waited.

The resulting shots are some of my favourite recent efforts. The sky was dappled with ambers, reds and golds and the cloud break added interest. They can be viewed in the Cornish Horizons gallery in the Portfolio section.