Adventures in Photography Challenge Day One

Today is the first of March and the first day of my new photography challenge.

After the sunshine yesterday I had in mind a sunrise shoot at Bawdsey but having looked at the forecast last night I knew this wasn’t going to be very productive. The day dawned grey and cold and I felt that I needed to find somewhere a bit more suited to the conditions to take my first image.

Half the fun of landscape photography is working out where to go, often in conjunction with what the weather is doing. Normally on a grey, cold day like today I  wouldn’t have ventured out but that is the beauty of a challenge, it forces you to do something you might not normally do. So having shelved my original plan I looked at the tide tables and opted for a lunch time shoot at Orford. My idea was to photograph the old boat wreck on the salmarsh and use its beautiful colours to brighten up an otherwise dull scene.

As this was my first day, the challenge rules say that I am only allowed one image from this shoot, so having arrived at my location I was keen to work out a compelling composition. I had in mind a long exposure to blur the water and try to keep the colours of the river and the sky looking roughly similar. I wanted the boat to stand out as the only colourful part of the picture.

I set the tripod up fairly low so that the top of the boat broke the horizon – this was necessary to obscure a couple of boats on their moorings a bit further along the river. I used a 24 – 70mm lens and set my composition up so that the edge of the saltmarsh circled the boat. To take the shot I used a polarising filter, a 0.6 ND granulated filter and a 6 stop ND filter to slow the shutter speed to 41 seconds.

The image was processed in Lightroom with a few light adjustments on the boat and some darkening of the edges to focus the eye into the centre. I also desaturated the grass on the saltmarsh and cooled down the temperature of the sky and water a little to take away the yellow muddy hue that is often associated with the East Coast on a grey day.

Restricting yourself to one image is difficult and required a lot of preparation before taking the shot. It took me a long time to settle on a composition that I felt worked. I wanted to capture the coolness of the day and felt that this worked best if the boat was depicted within its surroundings rather than making it too prominent within the frame. I also had to carefully consider my exposure and shutter speed to make sure that I achieved the blurring effect of the water that I was after. Despite the challenges I really felt that this was a mindful experience. It forced me to slow down and focus my thoughts on my photography which I found really immersive.

Despite the fact that it was cold and windy, I enjoyed my lunchtime visit. The saltmarsh was deserted and the estuary was full of the cries of wading birds being chased by the advancing tide.