Use coastal ar­chi­tec­ture

In­clude man-made struc­tures to add an ex­tra di­men­sion

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

The in­flu­ence of man on the land­scape is ob­vi­ous and no more so than on the coast, where man-made struc­tures abound: light­houses to guide ships to safety, piers for en­ter­tain­ment, jet­ties and slip­ways for launch­ing boats, and groynes for pro­tect­ing the shore­line against the ef­fects of ero­sion. All of these struc­tures can play im­por­tant roles in com­po­si­tion: as fore­ground in­ter­est, back­ground fo­cal points or as sub­jects in their own right.

If you like more struc­tured images, piers are ex­cel­lent sub­jects. Work­ing piers have a more in­dus­trial look and make great choices for bold, graphic com­po­si­tions, es­pe­cially if you are con­sid­er­ing mono­chrome con­ver­sions. Plea­sure piers are gen­er­ally Vic­to­rian struc­tures, of­ten featuring or­nate ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails, which can be in­cluded in wider com­po­si­tions or make su­perb de­tail stud­ies.

There are a num­ber of ru­ined piers around the UK. Some of the more fa­mous ones are the Old Pier in Swan­age, Brighton’s West Pier and Birn­beck Pier near We­ston-su­per-Mare. Struc­tures such as these are prime can­di­dates for min­i­mal­ist seascapes and are par­tic­u­larly suited to the ethe­real at­mos­phere cre­ated by long ex­po­sures.

Light­houses of­fer won­der­ful po­ten­tial for show­ing the power of na­ture. Of­ten stand­ing near cliff edges, with dan­ger­ous rocks be­low, it is not un­com­mon to see enor­mous waves crash­ing near them. Long ex­po­sures are not the best ap­proach here – although it won’t be nec­es­sary to freeze ev­ery dro­plet of wa­ter, you’ll want to keep the shape of the wave as it breaks onto the rocks. Ex­per­i­ment with tim­ing, too – re­leas­ing the shut­ter just a frac­tion of a sec­ond be­fore or af­ter the wave hits can make a huge dif­fer­ence.

Groynes can pro­vide a nat­u­ral fore­ground or lead-in for a wide-an­gle shot of the beach, or again can be the main sub­ject of a com­po­si­tion. It’s prob­a­bly fair to say that wooden groynes are the most pho­to­genic and the more weath­ered the bet­ter. One op­tion is to go for sym­me­try, with the groyne cut­ting straight through the mid­dle of the com­po­si­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, get in close and cre­ate an acute an­gle with the groyne point­ing out into an empty sea.

Right Tin minesthe tin mines on the cliffs pro­vide a sense of scale and the waves crash­ing on the rocks be­low tell the clas­sic story of man ver­sus the el­e­ments

the sim­ple com­po­si­tion has just two el­e­ments – the groyne and the sun the weath­ered groyne has lots of char­ac­ter and the ap­pear­ance of be­ing re­claimed by na­ture the groyne en­ters the frame at a dy­namic an­gle and is a strong lead­ing line the 15-sec­ond ex­po­sure smooths the sea’s tex­ture and sim­pli­fies the com­po­si­tion

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