Hartland Peninsula Landscape Photography Workshop by Anne Whitely
On a bright, sunny and mild October morning 5 keen amateur photographers met with Robert Harvey on Hartland Quay, North Devon. We were all looking forward to a day of landscape photography on this dramatic, unspoilt and relatively unknown area of the North Devon Coast. Robert outlined plans for the day, advising on lenses and suitable footwear for each location - 3 in total on the itinerary. He then told us something of the amazing geological history of this coastline, which was laid down during a time when it was in a shallow sea and then the sedimentary rocks were twisted and contorted through shifting movements of the Earth’s surface.
Our first location was from the viewing area on the rocky promontory close to the Hartland Quay hotel where the waves crashed over the jagged dark rocks. There were a number of photographic considerations given the wide dynamic range of highlights and shadows and the amount of white water covering the sea. Robert advised us to bracket our shots and to experiment with different shutter speeds. Eventually we settled for 15 stops of light using Neutral Density filters to smooth out the white water and to capture the water running from the rocks. Eliminating the distraction of the white water helped to focus our attention on the rocks and water flow, anticipating when to release the shutter. We considered climbing down the rock wall onto the beach where the shiny black large boulders were beginning to appear. Having discussed the health and safety issues we all decided that this was a ‘step too far’ at the start of the day and decided to move to our next location at Welcombe Beach.
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Hartland Quay Waves © Anne Whitely
Hartland Quay Rocks © Anne Whitely
Rock Ledges Welcombe Beach © Anne Whitely
The narrow lanes in this area are like a ‘spiders web’ and a test of navigation. Fortunately they are not too busy and our small convoy of cars was able to follow Robert as he sped up and down deep valleys often with grass growing up the middle of the many potholed lanes. The track down to Welcombe is especially challenging as it is narrow, long and has no passing places, at the end however is a small car park with no facilities, but we were rewarded with a magnificent vista. This is a stunning beach - mainly rocky with long ridges reaching into the sea - resembling large jagged teeth.This beach is famous for the Crackington fault formation which can be seen in the cliffs and echoed in the twisted sedimentary rocks out to the sea. On a falling tide we were again looking to maximise wave movement amongst the interesting rocks and without totally submerging them in water. Lighting conditions were testing as sunlight glistened on the rock tops leaving strong highlights. Robert advised on bracketing 3 exposures (2 stops either side of the mid point) and also positioning tripods on rock as opposed to sand, which only sinks as the waves retreat down the beach. At most times we were the only people on this beach - solitude, seclusion and spectacular scenery, what more could a landscape photographer want? There is a small waterfall here and also lots of colourful geological formations of sandstone and mudstone, which would make good abstract images.
Black Church Rock © Anne Whitely
Our last location was Mouthmill beach and Black Church Rock and another journey through the lanes. The weather was still fine with more clouds building and rain forecast. As is often typical in photography we had sunshine all day - these locations work best in overcast light - but for the last location we really wanted sunlight to shine on the rock arch and bring out its colour. There is a NT car park at Brownsham and then a walk down to Mouthmill beach which is just over a mile; the track is modestly sloping, very wide and muddy in places. Arriving at the beach we were again alone amongst the elements - the deserted beach, dramatic rock formations and the huge rock arch help to create that sense of mystery, remoteness and a landscape which is like something from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. We had about an hour before the obliging sun slid behind the hill but during those last moments we were able to capture the rock arch cast in a golden glow, reflected in a rock pool. Most of us had wet feet, you need walking boots here to grip the wet rocks and traverse the large boulder field to get into a position to photograph the rock arch.
Waterfall Mouthmill © Anne Whitely
I used a wide angle lens - 16-35 mm on a full frame camera. We used bracketing and focus stacking to secure the image. We walked back to our cars as light was fading around 6.30 pm and the first drops of rain fell. A full days shoot - excellent value, well planned and organised by Robert who was attentive and instructive; suggesting compositional aspects and techniques applicable to individual’s needs. A very good day in South West England - thanks to the RPS landscape group and Robert’s guidance - please can we have more field trips in ‘our neck of the woods’? The equipment I used - Canon EOS R5 mirrorless with EF 16 -35 mm, EF 24- 70 mm and RF 70- 200mm lens, remote release and filters, together with my iPhone . Anne Whiteley LRPS 17th October 2022
Last Light Mouthmill © Anne Whitely