the coast of cornwall




sea stacks

I have been living in Britain for forty years, so it's odd that until this year I had never been to the far south west, to the county of Cornwall.  It is one of the most remote parts of the country, and it even developed its own language, Cornish, which is currently being revived and taught in schools. The drive from London to the tip of the peninsular takes the best part of a day, and it's a good idea to plan a couple of stops on the way.

The peninsular runs south-west, so the northern coast is exposed to the prevailing winds from the west, while the southern coast is more sheltered. The image 'sea stacks' is taken at Bedruthan Steps, which is on the north coast between Newquay and Padstow. The image is improved by the two human figures which give scale to the scene, and low angle of the setting sun. This is taken in March, so in midsummer the sun will set further north and the shot will be contre jour. It's an amazing location, and reminded me of my visit to California's Big Sur back in 2004. I'm not suggesting that Cornwall is quite in the same league as California ( I will happy to publish any reader's thoughts on this ), because the California coast has a superb backdrop of mountains and forests which Cornwall can't compete with. But I don't think my pictures from Big Sur were as good as those from Cornwall, perhaps illustrating the value of research and timing.


gazing into the blue

I chose the town of St Ives as the base for the trip. This is a charming little town that sits on a mini-peninsular of its own, and therefore has two beaches, one facing east and the other west. The shot above, 'gazing into the blue', is dominated by the colors of the sand, sea and sky. To highlight these I have applied an 'Orton effect' in photoshop, combining a blurred image layer with the original using overlay mode. For most of the trip the sky was completely clear, without any cloud or haze even on the horizon, just a deep blue. This was pleasing, but at times I wished for a few fluffy clouds to add to the composition. In this shot I have used the two figures and the rocks on the beach as elements of composition instead. The figures seem to be looking into a vast blue void.

The shot below, 'causeway' was one that I had planned in advance to get low tide coinciding with sunset. I like strong lines of perspective so this is a natural shot for me. This shot might be improved in midsummer when the sunlight should be coming more from behind the camera. In this shot part of the causeway is still under water, and I have seen some pictures of it fully exposed. The height of high and low tide varies so maybe this was a 'high' low tide, if you see what I mean. The island is called St Michael's Mount.



The sea around the west of Cornwall is turquoise in color. My research has failed to find a good explanation for this, I can only say that it looks wonderful and I wish more of our coast had this quality.  The image below 'high tide at Pothcurno' was taken from near the Minack Theatre, looking towards one of the small secluded beaches near Porthcurno. The two figures in the picture are clearer in print than on a web page ( move the mouse over the image for a closer look ), but again they give scale, and the one on the left is trying communicate with the woman sitting on the rocks and leaves me wondering what was said. It looks as if she may have been trapped by a rising tide.

high tide at Porthcurno for photography