Cambois Beach Blues

I haven’t done any landscape photography in ages.

I couldn’t be bothered to be honest. I’ve had loads of other things going on and it just felt like too much effort. But for some reason the other night I was at a loose end so I thought, ‘You know what? Get over yourself and see if you still like it.’

I charged batteries, packed my camera bag and tripod into the car and headed out.

My initial plan was to head for Seaton Sluice or Whitley Bay Beach – both very nearby, but also spaces I’d photographed many, many times. So I kept driving north and headed for Cambois.

Cambois is pronounced ‘cam-muss’ – possibly the best of all Northumbrian place-name pronunciation traps we set for non-locals. There’s not much there – a few terraces of pit cottages and an empty lot where the colliery was.

The beach is wide and empty, bounded by a giant rusting outfall pipe and the River Wansbeck to the north and the offshore works at Battleship Wharf and Blyth to the south. The outfall pipe has some potential for shots but I couldn’t get a composition I was happy with, so I headed south along the beach instead.

For a while I wasn’t convinced I’d get any shots at all. The sky was empty of clouds, and the beach had been churned by the footprints of dog-walkers all day. The tide was coming in too. Maybe this wasn’t the best time to get back into landscape photography.

Eventually I found a stream washing down from the dunes into the sea, cutting a myriad of tiny deltas across the last few yards of the beach. This had potential. I set up and started shooting…

Slide Away – Cambois Beach

[Sometimes people ask how I get shots, so the next few paragraphs should hopefully explain. If that’s not your thing, or you know how it’s done already, just scroll. 🙂 ]

To get this shot, I used a wide angle lens and neutral density filters stacked in front of it. The filters don’t change the colour of the light (hence ‘neutral’), but they do affect the time it takes to create an exposure. The effect is to render water as a white mist – the longer the shutter is open, the mistier the effect. For this shot, the shutter was open for 25 seconds, so all the white crests of the waves breaking on the shore effectively merge into one, creating a slab of white.

One of the filters I used was a graduated filter – one half of it is dark, the other is transparent. This is really handy to use when one part of your composition is brighter than the other. In this case the sea and sky were brighter than the sand, so by positioning the line of the filter over the horizon, I could balance the exposure so that each part appeared equally as bright.

The blue hues of the image come from the time of day I was shooting at – dusk, or the ‘blue hour’. The sun had set, so the remaining available light is tipped towards the blue and violet end of the spectrum and is picked up by the camera’s sensor. It can be corrected in post-production, but I wanted to keep it.

Anyway. That’s the technical bit out of the way. Apologies if you know how it’s done already, but people sometimes ask.

Having messed about in this stream getting a few variations on the same shot, I headed further south to a set of navigation poles that sit a few hundred yards out to sea.

Same principle here – using filters to blur the motion of the waves and to allow more light in. As it was gradually getting darker, but I didn’t want to go beyond a 30 second exposure, I opened the lens’ aperture wider, to allow more light in.

‘Arrival’ Cambois Beach

I lingered here for a while. It soon became too dark to make more images. Nevertheless I stayed and watched the waves roll in, listening to the hiss and rush of them on the beach. I’d forgotten how much I missed that sense of being out in the landscape. By the time I packed up I didn’t care if I had any images worth keeping. The hurdle had been cleared – I’d got over myself. Maybe I’ll keep on doing this…

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