Blog #6 – My Favourite Seascape Images; Cornwall

Out all the images I have shot there a few which remain my absolute favourites. Often this is for very similar reasons.

Although you can plan landscape photography shoots down to the smallest detail, these plans can often be thwarted by conditions on the day that are not what you had expected or anticipated or desired. This is when this type of photography can be very frustrating & annoying…

Therefore, personally speaking, the greatest satisfaction for me in acquiring an image of a location in a specific manner is derived from when all the weather & sea elements materialize in the way you had hoped for – because you know that ultimately, your free time to get out and shoot is limited – and most of the images here are examples of this occurring…

The list below is organised in ascending numerical order – so you need to scroll down to see what’s at number one!

10) Godrevy Lighthouse

This image was shot on a hot summers day during August, 2016. The scene overlooks Godrevy Island and its respective Lighthouse. What I love most about this image is the intense colour saturation – the aqua in the sea, the blue in the sky, the green & brown on the land vegetation. It just scream ‘summer in Cornwall, and as I have discovered – if you will excuse the pun –  lot of people warm to these kind of colours. Therefore making this one of my most popular and biggest sellers.

The green vegetation in the near foreground help to give an excellent entrance point to the scene, and along with the small & distant lighthouse – they help to create that sense of three dimensional space in a 2D image (aka, perspective)….

The rocks in the distant foreground as further foreground interest, taking you eye further in to the frame.

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#9) Land’s End

This image was shot in October 2016 during late Autumn, when the sun was still rising high enough in the sky to produce the vibrant colour saturation evident here. This view point of Lands’ End shows the Enys Dodnan (hollowed out ) rock formation in the immediate foreground. Behind that is the ‘Armed Knight’ – named so as it was originally thought to resemble a Knight of the Realm on Horseback – and further behind in the far distance is the Longships Lighthouse.

Out of all the locations I shoot in Cornwall, this one has to be among my absolute favourites simply because of how iconic and instantly recognizable the location is to people.

The image was taken a low tide which meant the low water level exposed the all rocks you can see in the foreground by the water’s edge. Personally I consider these rocks a vital part of this location and the composition here, as they add an extremely photogenic foreground interest which is simply not present at high tide – when the waters covers them up…

If you look closely enough at the water nearest the rocks you can actually see below the surface and on to the rocks underneath the water. This is another aesthetic quality of the possible compositions that can be achieved at this location – it adds an extra dimension to the image.

I was fortunate enough to experience some fleeting and photogenic cloud formations, and was able to blur both the motion of these and the sea surface with a long exposure of approximately 50 seconds.

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#8) Trevose Lightouse

This image of Trevose Lighthouse was taken around the same time as the Land’s End image above, where I was able to capture the scene still with a decent level of natural colour saturation despite winter being on the way at this time of way (when it is difficult to match the intensity of colours that can be captured in summer)

Overall it is a fairly simple composition with not that much going. Whenever I consider going to photograph this location, I know that a big swell of 10 foot or more is required to produce decent white water and water motion blue, and also a decent Sky filled with nice clouds to maintain the interest in the scene – as it is pretty basic from a technical point of view; the dynamic elements of good sky & a big swell are required to add atmosphere the feel of something actually happening – to create a mood…

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#7) Cape Cornwall

In contrast to the scene above of Trevose Lighthouse, the one here of Cape Cornwall is quite possibly the exact opposite; from a compositional sense the scene is overflowing with lead in lines, geometric shapes, perspective, forground interest, background interest, and a distinct vanishing point too.

This image was shot on a February morning in 2017, on a day with very high pressure for winter where the air pressure was around 1029 millibars – very high for winter! This resulted in the natural colour saturation and vibrancy of the colour in this scene, including a deep blue sky with quite incredible cloud.

The lush greens of the cliffside act as a good counter point and contrast to the blue sky and white cloud, and aqua ocean….

Days likes this are rare in winter, but when present they have the capability to produce images with a highly arresting visual impact reminiscent of conditions in summer…

The slipway down to the cove acts the entrance point to the image and leads the eye in to the frame. The distinct red and blue colours painted on the boats catch the eye in the near forground and allow the viewer to be directed towards the geometric shapes and lines of the stone walls leading in to the distance.

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#6) Bedruthen Steps

This image of Bedruthen Steps was shot in February 2017 a few days apart from the Cape Cornwall image above. The location is somewhere I always enjoy shooting simply as it is so iconic and it is a fairly reliable location in regards to the fact that unless the conditions are truly awful, you can mostly guarantee you will get a good shot.

On this day the light was very soft, being diffused from consistent cloud cover from behind the camera, which meant that intense & un-photogenic shadows which can sometimes be caused by the sun hitting the Sea Stacks in the forground, where not present at all. Which was good!

The wooden hand rail fence in the forground initially leads the eye in to the frame and acts as an excellent entrance point. The cliff faces then lead the eye around from the far right to middle left with the peninsula of land extending in to the distance.

The mid-tide level means there is a good level of water in the mid forground, and along with the huge Sea Stacks, provide a sense of perspective as they disappear in to the distance…

Although the light was very soft on this particular day, it still allowed for a nice level of natural colour saturation which here is evident in the blue/ aqua colour of the sea and blue in the cloud.

The cloud cover was excellent on this day and fast moving too which I knew if shot on a long exposure would make it appear highly photogenic and blurred, as it does here. It is very similar cloud to that encountered in the image at no 4 – of Botallack Crowns..

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#5) Porthnanven

This image depicts a small cove located at bottom of what is referred to as ‘Cot Valley’, a short walk from Cape Cornwall, in St Just.

The huge boulders here are actually a geological feature protected by law and it is illegal for them to be removed from Porthanven.

Such foreground interest is a seascape photographers dream, when they appear as they do here. The boulders you see in the foreground here have been repeatedly smashed by the incoming tide. This has made them all wet and covered in fresh sea water. This wetness creates a ‘sheen’ when the sun is shining directly on them as here, and as such is a highly photogenic effect. To see the full effect of this ‘water & sheen’ phenomenon, look at the big boulder protruding from the water, on it own – in the mid foreground.

The exposure time here was around 3 minutes which allowed the water surface of the sea to be completely smoothed out. It is this long-exposure time which created the ‘misty’ white water effect of the sea in the immediate foreground.

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#4) Botallack Crowns 

This image was taken in February 2017 on a bright winters day – the same day as the Cape Cornwall image above when the air pressure was high for winter. This resulted in the fantastic colour saturation you see here and is also partially responsible for the quality of light exhibited in the image, too.

The three big rock formations act as the features which lead the eye in to the frame. The Botallack Crowns Engine House can be clearly seen and is the main feature in the image here.

The blurred water & cloud motion was achieved using an exposure just over 3 minutes, which itself was achieved using 6 stop, 3 stop, and 2 stop ND filters, totaling 11 stops of light reduction.

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#3) Land’s End; Pordenack Point

This image was shot at Pordenack Point at Land’s End – around a 20 minute walk south from the main visitor’s complex. It overlooks the coast which leads south down towards Porthcurno and in terms of the foreground elements which make up the composition – it is simply a photographers dream….

This was shot during February 2017 on a day with a huge swell of around 15 foot which created the large amount of white water at the foot of cliffs. The photogenic effect of water motion blur was again achieved using a 3 minutes + exposure time, with around 11 stops of light reduction coming via a combined amount of neutral density filters.

The two big rock formations either side of the frame in the foreground serve to lead the eye in to the image and on to the big rock formation protruding from the cliff side and then on to the coastal formation which recedes in to the distance.

Overall, it is a fairly simple composition and does only really work on a days with a large swell – to allow the nice effect of the white water. However, the overall simplicity is what allows the image, in opinion, to stand out as something different…

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#2) St Michael’s Mount 

This image of St Michael’s Mount was shot in the summer of 2015 around 6pm, on an evening with a rare combination of northerly winds (offshore on the south coast of cornwall) and a completely clear sky without cloud, and some fantastic soft light shining on the coast & Mount, as the began to set.

The green vegetation and fence serves as the primary foreground interest here and the fence in particular does an excellent job of the leading the eye further in to the frame. The high tide line of the water has a similar effect – leading the eye up through to the middle of the frame, where the water and coast and other objects become smaller and finally disappear in to the distance – making good use of the ‘vanishing point’ principle of converging horizontal lines…

The water motion of the sea was blurred slightly using a 5 second exposure and if you look closely enough at the water nearest the frame you will be able to observe a slightly ‘dimpled’ effect. This is the result of the wind blowing across the water surface an can only be captured using an exposure time of between 5 – 15 seconds.

This image is one of my all time favourites simply because of the location and how rare the conditions encountered are, and also the sky – it is very rare to encounter this type of sky without a cloud at all, allowing the camera to capture the full & subtle tonal gradation  from blue at the top to a slight pink near the horizon. This effect was enhance using an slot in Reverse ND Graduated Filter, over the other 3 stop filter. The reverse ND Grad has the darkest part of the graduated filter along the horizon line – where images taken near to or at sunset often have the brightest part of the sky along the horizon. This type of filter therefore helps to control the highlights of the sky more effectively than a traditional ND Grad, where the darkest part of the filter is actually at the top of the sky, or at least, certainly not in the middle as is the case with sunsets…

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


#1) Wheal Coates Tin Mine – St Agnes Head

This image is my favourite Cornwall image simply due to the iconic location and the conditions encountered on this day. I believe it is a fair comment to say almost all people recognize this location, partially through its eleveated fame via the BBC’s ‘Poldark’ TV Show, and partially because of how many promotional materials it has been on the cover of over the years.

It was shot on an October day in 2016, and as with previous entries was on a day with high air pressure which allowed for the high natural colour saturation. The swell was also in excess of 10 feet on this day which permitted the large amount of white water which can be seen at the bottom of the cliffs…

In regards to foreground interest, lead in lines & entrance points , the small rocks and coastal footpath all serve this purpose here with footpath leading well in to the main feature of the image and beyond.

The Wheal Coates Tin Mine can be seen midway in to the image and the two footpaths leading towards help to create a ‘vanishing point’ effect. The primary vanishinh point in the image however is where the horizon/ water level meets the cliff face – in the far distance…

As with previous images, the Sky & Water motion blur was created with a 3 minute exposure and a ligh reduction of 11 stops in ND filters.

During October although the colour stauration can still be good, the sun does not rise as high as in summer and therefore can create longer shadows than in summer even at its zenith which was around 12pm on this day. This image was shot at around 11am and therefore – as you will see if you observe – there are soft shadows throughout this image, from the coast path in the immediate foreground to the cliff side shadow created by the Tin Mine itself (left of the mine), and even a faint shadow on the water surface caused by the cliff in the far distance. This adds a superb extra dimension to the image.

You can buy this image as a canvas or print here


I hope you enjoyed reading the above insights in to a small selection of my favourite Cornwall images. 

Please do leave a comment in the box on the right if you would like to leave a message, thanks – Matt. 

From a compositional perspective, as you can probably see from viewing my portfolio and as a starting point in the discussion of style, a large percentage of my images are shot low down on the ground (as opposed to cliff tops) with specific foreground elements such as rocks and coastal formations. Aside from what this contributes to the overall image (more about this in the Tutorials) I find adding such a compositional element in the near foreground allows for you to the ability to create a greater sense of a three dimensional space within a 2D image (read Depth of Field tutorial) in a limited focal range.

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My coastal seascape photography has a strongly weighted focus toward images which capture the drama & evocative nature of Cornwall’s rugged Atlantic Ocean coastline as it is exposed to the dynamic power of the sea and the fleeting, monetary nature of cloud & sunlight that can make for images which have a truly arresting visual impact.

From a compositional perspective, as you can probably see from viewing my portfolio and as a starting point in the discussion of style, a large percentage of my images are shot low down on the ground (as opposed to cliff tops) with specific foreground elements such as rocks and coastal formations. Aside from what this contributes to the overall image (more about this in the Tutorials) I find adding such a compositional element in the near foreground allows for you to the ability to create a greater sense of a three dimensional space within a 2D image (read Depth of Field tutorial) in a limited focal range.

I also like to include translucent water in the foreground rocky elements – still water where you can see through the surface of the water and to the submerged rocks below the surface. To me, this gives a whole extra dimension to the image by allowing the viewer to see below the surface of the water (making additional use of those dynamic elements). Aside from that – I also think it looks fantastic from an aesthetic point of view.

In bullet points I would say my style is weighted towards –

Rocky coastlines & Beaches of Cornwall

Coastal landmarks framed by nearshore objects to give perspective

Capturing motion blur of water in the form of; spray, streaks or smoothed out

Translucent water to see below the surface

Golden Light – shot at either sunrise or sunset to reveal detail in rocks & sand

If nothing else, my photography is all about conveying water movement & motion as it hits coastlines on either beaches or rocky shores. I like to capture an image whereby the motion of the water is explicitly characterized, shot in great light – to create an evocative, distinctive & unique image with ‘atmosphere’ – a characteristic you cannot quantify, but that the brain registers.

If you can master your equipment with an excellent working knowledge of the natural environment around you, you are putting yourself in excellent position to excel at outdoor photography, and create images in a style unique to you.

While no style is inimitable (just look at the hordes of photographers hoping their 30 second long exposures of lands’ end will catapult them to photography superstardom), to espouse a specific style and stick to it consistently will allow you to create images in a mould that over time become synonymous with your name.

With this in mind – I like to create images that are considered ‘different’, shot in a manner and in conditions that even today with digital photography as popular as it is, you would not normally see. So for example, star trails or landscape astro-photography of the Milky Way galaxy, shot well in to the night.

As with all other art forms, to create something different you often have to present something seen or experienced a hundred times previously in a new way that surprises people. For this – take home the phrase, “subvert the known subject matter – twist it on its head, and present the subject in a way nobody has seen before”

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