Piers and Lighthouses with Justin Minns
By Ian Morris
The northeast corner of the Norfolk coast has many beautiful beaches and provides, as the workshop group was to discover, a variety of interesting photographic subject matter.
Fortunately, Justin’s itinerary for the workshop stressed the need for all attendees to bring a range of suitable clothing, which was prophetic. The sun blazed down at the start of the workshop, yet by the time we reached the the final session on Cromer beach the temperatures had dropped considerably.
The objective of the workshop was for attendees, six including myself, to improve their coastal landscape photography through the effective use of composition, lens selection, filters, different shutter speeds and other related elements aided by Justin’s support and guidance.
Standing surrounded by fields some 200m or so from the cliff edge, the Happisburgh lighthouse is not one of the ‘Seashaken Houses’ vividly portrayed in Tom Nancollas’s book. However, it dominates the landscape, although the position of the sun and the rather featureless sky did not make for any dramatic images on the day of the workshop. Running along the cliff top closest to the lighthouse can be found several old military observation block houses that provided an interesting contrast to the serene setting of the lighthouse, fields and the beach below.
Happisburgh Lighthouse © Ian Morris
The location provided the group with opportunities to assess different compositional structures and how the challenge of the bright sunlight could be addressed and used to advantage by the photographer.
Thirty minutes car drive from the Happisburgh Lighthouse lies Overstrand beach, step two of the workshop’s itinerary. Justin had selected this location for the group to develop their long exposure photography skills and it was ideal for this purpose given the strong waves and presence of several small decaying wooden piers in the water.
The sloping access to the beach enabled the group to take numerous long exposure images of the beach and its various elements from several heights, so providing the opportunity to experiment with differing perspectives.
Overstrand Beach 4 © Ian Morris
Overstrand Beach 001 © Ian Morris
This was my first real attempt at long exposure photography, and I was fairly pleased with the results achieved following Justin’s advice and a little (a lot) of trial and error on my part.
The third step on our itinerary was a fish and chip dinner at the originally named No 1 Restaurant in Cromer (its address is No 1, New Street).
This was absolutely not an opportunity to take more images but rather one to relax and enjoy the friendly company of my fellow workshop attendees, chatting about all sorts of topics whilst also enjoying the excellent fish and chips!
The final stop in the itinerary was Cromer Pier. At this location Justin explained there were two objectives for the group. The first objective, whilst the sun was still reasonably high, was to obtain some high dynamic range images with the sunlight in sharp contrast to the dark shadows of the pier. The second objective was to shoot images of the sunset as it fell behind the pier.
It was at this point that the temperature began to drop somewhat. It was cold!
The high dynamic range images presented a challenge that was best met by capturing the sun between the pillars and struts of the pier, but this required much experimentation with composition, angles and camera settings.
For me, the highlight of the workshop was the sunset with the sun dropping behind Cromer pier. The golden rays of the sun reflecting off the water and the beach set against the contrast of the darker tones of the pier.
Cromer Sunset © Ian Morris
This was my first attendance at an RPS Workshop but will most definitely not be my last.
The workshop was well organised, Justin was very helpful and informative, whilst allowing each attendee their own time and space. The workshop group comprised a very friendly, well-informed and supportive set of people which helped to make the day go well.
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable workshop which provided great locations, excellent learning opportunities to help develop my photography, a great group of people and excellent fish and chips.
What more could you ask for?
Header Image: Cromer Sunset © Ian Morris