A Longing for Distant Shores, 2015

It does seem I get inspired by bad weather. I just needed 50 seconds between squalls to get the long exposure shot, and I wasn’t getting them.

One of a number of occasional posts telling the back story of some of my own images.

It does seem I get inspired by bad weather. It was a wet and blustery spring afternoon on the Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland. We had been walking along the coast in drizzle looking for the King’s Cave where Robert the Bruce met his legendary spider.

The legend goes like this:

The story goes that the Bruce had escaped to Arran to lick his wounds while the King of England took his revenge on Bruce’s wife and family. On the west coast of Arran there’s a series of caves just above the shore which, with a bit of connivance from the local inhabitants, would have remained pretty obscure. Just the place to consider his next move.

Enter the spider. Possibly a psychotherapist in arachnid form. In any event the Bruce girded his loins, summoned his troops and went back into the fray. The rest is history.

But while he was hanging out in his cave, communing with spiders and cursing his luck, he would have seen this view across the Kilbrannon Sound towards Campbelltown way down towards the Mull of Kintyre. Further west and further away from his enemies. A place of uncertain safety, maybe. A retreat certainly. But it must have been tempting, especially when the sun lit up the far shore under the encroaching storm clouds.

He would have seen the far coast line, almost near enough to touch, with the same folds of hills. He would have known it in storm and in calm.

And I was seeing it in storm, or near enough. I knew if I could keep the tripod still, a long exposure would simplify the water and, with luck, smear the nearer fast moving clouds across the sky. Meanwhile the far shore and clouds would remain in sharp focus.

I was perched on a shingle bank, just a couple of yards from the water’s edge. There was a fierce westerly blowing bring squalls of rain in at regular intervals. I had set up my tripod and was desperately trying to keep the rain off the lens. I just needed 50 seconds between squalls to get the long exposure shot, and I wasn’t getting them. Every 20 seconds or so there was another blast from the weather and that was another shot ruined. But eventually I caught a break. The rain stayed off, just, and the wind relented long enough for the tripod to stay upright, and still.

A Longing for Distant Shores

The outcome is an image that gets mixed reviews. Some people are quite vehement in their dislike for it, the explosive cloud movement being too extreme for their taste. Others are moved deeply by it. What more can a photographer want from his images – such strong reactions? I think that’s what you call a result.

Despite my misgivings about talking too much about camera settings and other configuration matters which aren’t too important, these are the bits of technical information about this picture some folk find useful:

  • Camera: Canon 5D Mkii
  • Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f4
  • Focal length: 20mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Exposure: 51 seconds at f22 on a tripod on a shingle beach in a gale
  • I use Lightroom and NIK software for sharpening and noise reduction.

More back stories

The Farnes, 2019

Going back through my pictures, I’ve been finding it far easier to identify interesting monochrome images to document rather than colour ones. Better? Or just different?
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Time’s Arrow, 2016

The story behind the image. There was something about the line of gravestones not just leading to the door but also taking you back in time as you walk along beside them.
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The Fin, 2011

Way back in 2011, I was fascinated by the buildings in Manchester – mainly the Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture. There was lots to go at, and much that was in an attractive state of dilapidation. But there’s lots of modern buildings too and I regret not photographing more while I was there.
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Late bar, Venice, 2008

The story behind the image. By daylight the scene is nothing to write home about. But at night, nearly midnight, all those extraneous elements and colours just disappeared, and the atmosphere of the Venetian night took over.
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