Bamburgh, 2016

Bamburgh, 2016: bringing myths to life – the story behind the image.

The beach at Bamburgh is a favourite location for taking photographs. I’ve been here on afternoons when it was hard to find a place for the tripod amongst the serried ranks of other landscape photographers. But this time I was fortunate. There was hardly a soul to be seen, and an interesting sky to work with into the bargain.

Aiming for different

Most of the time at Bamburgh, the classic image is the castle looming over a sandy beach with waves crashing in. Dawn is ideal, almost cliched these days. But I wanted to try and get something a bit different this time.

As I picked my through the rock pools to the north of the bay, the castle jumped in and out of sight, and inspiration started to take hold. I had spotted the various layers of things in the rock pools – water, seaweed, different colour and textures of rocks, the sky, the clouds and I wanted to make something of them all. Then there was the castle hovering in the sky above all those textured layers.

Normally when you photograph the castle at Bamburgh, you have to jump through hoops to avoid getting the houses in the village in the shot. But I realised as I sat at the bottom of a ditch in the rock pools, all I could see was the castle. No houses. No churches. Well maybe a little, but taking the colour away would deal with them. Even better the light was becoming just a little bit hazy.


And so to the picture. The castle hovered above the rocks on a cushion of mist. I considered briefly it as a colour image but I was not convinced by the rather literal appearance of the scene. For once I wanted the main subject to blend in to the scene much more, and I had in mind something much more legendary.

In the end the monochrome treatment of the image made the castle look as though it was just floating out of the ground. It gave it the feel of a mythical fortress, Camelot even. Was it fanciful to imagine King Arthur putting in an appearance? Probably, but it did have that mysterious quality more usually associated with places like Tintagel. In the middle of the afternoon. On the North Sea coast of Northumberland.

Bamburgh, 2016

Back at base, it was the job of moments to nudge the clarity slider leftwards in Lightroom to complete the effect beneath the castle. According to one of my friends: “You always seem to find the unique viewpoints”. Well, maybe. Did I mention sometimes I just get lucky?

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

  • Camera: Canon 5Dmkii
  • Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f4 L
  • Focal length: 40mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Exposure: 1/10 at f16
  • I use Lightroom and NIK software for sharpening and noise reduction.

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