Posted by: Stu Bert | March 15, 2009

Yorkshire 1st Mar – 8th Mar ’09


If anyone tells you that photography is not personal, don’t believe them.

It’s very personal. It’s one of the reasons I have never done competitions – no judge is impartial, they are always going to be biased in terms of their own personal style of photography.

And I’m just the same.

I can be browsing a book or magazine, and the photos likely to catch my eye are those which ring true with my own style of photography – or perhaps what I aspire it to be! A friend of mine told me about a podcast where the photographer was discussing style. And he suggested that rather than consciously try to develop your style, just take pictures of the subjects in the manner that you enjoy, and over time this is likely to become your style. Which for me pretty-well sums it up. Technique will hopefully improve over time, as will composition, but your style should not.

And I reflected on this whilst up in Yorkshire this week.

I have a fascination with mountains and water – well there aren’t too many mountains in Yorkshire, so during the trip I focused on rivers, waterfalls and the sea. My style with water errs towards longer exposures and blurring the water. With some shots the blur is less intense to give the feeling of more motion – but often I like the “dreamy whites” from longer shots. With waterfalls shots I have a tendancy for the detail in a shot, capturing part of the waterfall as opposed to the complete scene. For me, there is more beauty in the parts then there normally is in the whole. And of course there are exceptions.Like many photographers I love the golden hour – but often take more pleasure in the hour before dawn and after sunset, when the colours are if anything more dramatic and captivating.

Now in Winter, pre-dawn is a real labour of love.

Sunrise is around 6:30am so you look to get to the site by 5 / 5:30 at the latest. Factor in travelling and getting ready and if you really want the best light then you’re alarm is going off at 4am. No that was not a typo! Who needs newborn babies for sleep depravation ? 🙂

Of course your research helps refine whether the effort is justified. For this particular trip that meant scouting appropriate locations through books and on the net, followed by close scrutiny of the tides around Britain and the likely weather forecast. These all concluded that Yorkshire should have the best elements for this particular week. Then you’re balancing the 24 / 48 hr forecasts with the tidal information. I had a couple of false starts, but it all came together on the Friday. Low tide was at 5:06am and the alarm was duly set for 4am – and it all started well as I heard it.

And then hit snooze and woke with a jump at 4:45, followed by my best Hugh Grant / Four Weddings impersonation!

At 5:30am, I am standing at the top of a slippery path down to Saltwick Bay, with 4 layers of clothing on, and my new best friends – a pair of trusty wellington boots 🙂 Most of the ground is still frozen, but there’s enough mud and moisture to check any enthusiasm to get to your quarry quickly. The bay is very flat, with Saltwick nab to the north, and the Black Nab, where I spent that session, 5 minutes south. Yet despite wearing the wellingtons you still tred cautiously – even rock pools can be deep, and everywhere is amazingly slippery.

And then it is a race…

You have an hour before the sun rises and a further half an hour after that before it is too strong to be maleable. The tide has turned and you are mindful of having to clamber over rocks again for the return journey.Your mind races with the possibilities, your senses are awash with information – the smell of the seaweed, the crashing of the waves, the cold against your skin. Your desire is to take a picture (or four) that justifies this ungodly hour. But you’re working with slow exposures, each one between 10 and 30 seconds – which in part slows you down but also makes you rush as your time seems to be vanishing as quick as the rocks you’re standing on are swallowed by the returning tide.

Fortunately, there is good reason why Saltwick bay is very popular with photographers – it is incredibly picturesque. In one of my previous blog entries, I said it was incredibly difficult to take a bad pciture in the Lake District – the same would be true of the Scottish Highlands, Southern Utah and indeed Saltwick Bay. Now I know that lots of photographers want to make their own mark by being unique – being different. Not taking the same shots as others. But it is incredibly difficult producing something that is different from all the other pictures taken in such popular locations, unless you’re going to spend 2 or 3 trips working the location. I guess that is one of the reasons why photography will remain a passion but not a job. My shots don’t have to stand out in a crowd, they don’t have to sell. They just have to make me happy. Like I said, photography is a very personal matter.

Hope you get some pleasure from the enclosed shots.

There are 3 Panoramas here (will leave you to spot which ones!),  one using a special tilt and shift lens and 3 shots, the others just with a wide angle lens and a good tripod / head 🙂

This is Saltwick bay looking towards Whitby Harbour in the evening. No joke, it took me 5 minutes to descend the 7 ft down on to the rocks from the ledge above. Never had anything *that* slippery.

This is the black nab part of Saltwick bay at sunrise, right on the edge of the beach. Where the waves crash is a small ledge. This part of the beach is not sand but stone – slippery as heck, even in 6″ of water!

This is indeed the black nab, formed by a combination of human excavation and the elements.

This is the northumberland coast, just up from Bamburgh Castle just after Sunset.

This is a waterfall as part of the Ingleton Falls Walk, a 4.5mile walk starting and ending in Ingleton. I had rain, snow, hail, sunshine and of course wind. In fact this shot was taken whilst I was hiding under a large tree, protecting my kit from the snow.

This is downstream from the falls at West Burton

These are the cliffs and lighthouse at Flamborough, about 30 minutes south of Scarborough.

Another shot downstream from the falls at West Burton

And finally, this is Scarborough beach, just after sunset.

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