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Monday, September 15

Along the coast

A couple of years ago the Angus coastline was a regular stopping off point for me particularly as I was doing a fair bit of long exposure photography with exposures running into the tens of seconds and longer. But much as I've grown weary lately of the inland scenes, I also tired of the North Sea.

However, still looking for a bit of inspiration, I had a drive along the coast last week and was fortunate enough to find a nice light over the water. This was something new to me as I can't recall ever being there with a camera at 9 a.m. before, tending to prefer afternoon visits by which time the sun is high enough in the sky that it's not really possible to get it and the water in the frame unless a super wide lens is used.

On this occasion I knew almost right away that there were some nice pics to be had but the tide was quite far out which necessitated a precarious hike over unbelievably slippery rocks to reach an interesting foreground. I had on an old pair of trainers which offered no grip at all. It was hard going but after some minutes of banging my ankles off jagged rocks and a few whirling arm moments as I desperately tried to remain upright, I reached the spot I was after.


I'm normally quite conservative when it comes to exposing film, taking my time and trying to make each exposure count but this time I rattled through two 36-exposure films in about 30 minutes which is a lot for me. The most successful pic of the day was the one at the top of this post. I was standing on top of some sort of outlet system which had a flat surface about four feet wide and steeply sloping sides, all liberally coated with a deadly-looking slime.

To be honest,  the photograph I wanted to take would have involved me moving about 15ft to my right where I think the camera would have been roughly in the middle of the outlet pipe and the arc of water. I have a feeling that the composition would have been better but that would have meant stepping onto the slippery sloping side of the outlet and clambering up some more rocks and I reckoned my chances of staying on my feet were virtually nil.

One has to be sensible when out in these locations which aren't exactly teeming with other people. I foresaw a situation where I slipped off the outlet, banged by noggin off a rock and remained unconscious in a prone position as the incoming tide began squirting up my nose. In short, I chickened out. Don't think I'd have made a war photographer…

Still, I like the photograph which was taken on the OM2 with a 24mm Zuiko. The film was Adox Silvermax rated at 50 ISO and developed in Spur HRX for 10 minutes.

The second pic was taken at another spot about a mile away with the standard lens on the OM2. This time I'm standing on a breakwater of some sort that was much easier to reach involving a pleasant walk across a grassy area of foreshore - something I can just about manage to negotiate without falling on my arse.

At first look, the composition appears unbalanced - and I'm not sure if a second look does much to help it! But balancing the weight of the breakwater are the elements on the right of the frame including the sun and its reflections on the water. When I look at the photograph my eye goes to the bright patch of concrete at the bottom of the frame, up the breakwater and then curves around to the the sun and down to the water.  I think I just about got a way with it.

This was one of the last frames on a roll of Silvermax before I moved along to the scene of the first pic where I burned through the other two. Not surprisingly, then, I've got quite a few negatives showing various bit of coastline with a fairly dramatic sky above. I'll post some of the others once I've scanned the negs.

These pics have whetted my appetite for the long exposure stuff which people either seem to love or hate. The photograph below is an LE shot taken a few years ago whilst standing on the same pipe outlet as the first image on this post. When I did it in the past I tended to go out on stormy days with in-rushing tides so that there was plenty of foamy movement in the water. This has the drawback of being potentially dangerous to expensive camera equipment (and old trainers). Seeing the huge front element of a 40mm Zeiss Distagon for the SL66E covered in salty spray gives me the willies.

The SL66E is an amazing bit of kit but I think it would lose out pretty heavily in a reliability/longevity contest with a Hasselblad 500 CM so I'm inclined to treat it with some respect. In 35mm terms, though, I have the perfect camera. It's an Olympus OM2SP, a later and inferior version of the OM2 that is famous for eating batteries at a near-ruinous rate.

So why would this be any good for long exposures? Because the B setting is mechanical so I can go out without a battery at all and just use my trusty Sekonic for light readings. Which is just as well as the OM2SP has a metering fault anyway! Amongst my small legion of Zuiko lenses (can you have a small legion?) are a few old fifties and a 28mm f3.5 that's cosmetically challenged. Ideal, then, for tackling all that Scotland's east coast has to throw at them.

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Richard Sintchak said...

That first one is really something! Gorgeous!

Doug H said...

Brett Weston used the term "glowdacious" to describe his images that had such spectral highlights as your first image. Nice work!

Herman Sheephouse said...

Lovely stuff Bruce and cracking story of daring-do!
I know exactly what you mean about coastal/mountain slime - it is deadly stuff, and there's no decent solution really, though I would recommend you take a monopod with you (a sturdy one) - that would work well in helping you 'tripod' yourself about!

David M said...

We agonise over composition, lighting and timing; worry over development and printing; film and paper; meaning, significance and sequencing; matting and framing, but in the end it all comes down to boots. A lesson for us all.

Bruce Robbins said...

Phil, it would have to be a very sturdy monopod to have any chance of supporting me at the moment...

Herman Sheephouse said...

I've got one - Gitzo Series 4 (I think) . . when it isn't operating as a monopod, it works very well as a sleeping teenager poker . . .
Seriously, I have used it for moving around safely in the hills - very solid.