Celtic legend has it that a few thousand years ago, Mount’s Bay was a dense forest that became the submerged victim of rising sea-levels. Evidence of preserved tree trunks from an ancient forest can still be seen in parts of Mount’s Bay at low tide. It has since suffered ship-wrecks, smugglers, Spanish attacks and a tsunami.
Nowadays, St Michael’s Mount is a Mecca for photographers, it has much to offer in the quest for the perfect coastal vista and is consequently one of the most photographed places in Cornwall. The wonderful challenge of iconic locations like this is to try and come away with something different, something original.
I was standing in the swirling tide in the darkening blue Cornish twilight when this training gig approached the shore complete with crew. Despite their obvious hurried intent to pack up and leave I begged them to let me photograph their boat. I had been capturing images of the mount with a similar composition minus the gig, so I quickly repositioned my tripod, recomposed, and during a frantic two minutes I made a series of exposures while the crew patiently looked on. Double-check the settings, click, check histogram, adjust, click, bracket, click, bracket, click. I managed to obtain 14 shots at varying apertures and shutter-speeds, it’s not often that an opportunity like this arises, so I made sure I covered every option. The serene nature of the image conceals the hastiness of the capture.
Back at the hotel, I examined the results, the 5 second exposure of this chosen version was just long enough to create some subtle blurring of the water and clouds. One of my favourite techniques when using wide angle lenses is to position myself so that the prevailing wind is blowing either directly towards me or away from me and then to capture images using long-exposures. Because of the wide-angle perspective, clouds which are actually moving along parallel straight paths directly above will appear to be moving along converging paths in the final image, often creating wonderful leading-lines. The actual ‘breeze’ was blowing in from the sea directly towards me creating this ‘fanning-out’ appearance of the clouds in the top of the image which support the strong yellow line of the boat and the swirling patterns of the water in leading the viewer’s eye towards the Mount.
The sun had set just ten minutes previously in a less than spectacular fashion, there were no brilliant orange or red highlights, but I think the resultant monochromatic blue twilight hues help the image work better, perhaps helping to impart a mood more fitting of this legendary icon.
This article first appeared in my column ‘One Month, One Picture’, in the September 2009 issue of Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission. Get more inspiring content on a monthly basis by becoming a subscriber.
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