Last year I challenged myself to use just a single camera, a single lens and a single film simulation when I visited London as it was just coming out of lockdown. All the pictures were shot in monochrome which suited the sombre mood of the Capital. In this video I give myself the same challenge but using a colourful film simulation Velvia on a recent summer visit to St Ives in Cornwall. I spent the day walking round the town looking for interesting things to photograph. Watch the video to see how I got on.
I have been asked to talk about photography in Cornwall on BBC Radio Cornwall and thought I’d share some of my favourite pictures I have taken.
Here are some things you might want to consider to make the best of your photography opportunities in Cornwall
For me, I like to find some peace and solitude so I seek out places that are perhaps a little less busy than the main tourist hotspots. You can find these by walking half a mile along the coast from most villages and you’ll usually find you have the location to yourself. Also if you want to shoot the most photographed locations, go either early or late. Remember some of the best light is before the sunrise or around 20 minutes after sunset.
Here are some of my favourite places
Land’s End (Half a mile in the opposite direction to Sennen)
St Ives (esp. Porthmeor and Porthgwidden)
The mines at Chapel Porth and at Botallack
Marazion (St Michael’s Mount)
I love the old fishing villages of Mevagissey, Port Issac, Polperro, Padstowe, and, of course, St Ives. Go early to capture fewer people and better light.
Capturing the scene
Virtually all cameras and most phones these days are capable of taking outstanding images. Here are some ideas to think about.
The best light (and therefore best images) is usually at the beginning and the end of the day. Blue skies are wonderful to enjoy but blue skies in the middle of the day can make for somewhat harsh images.
A sunrise/sunset doesn’t make a great picture in and of itself. Think about some foreground interest
Check the tide times on an app like “My Tide Times” and if you not sure about how to find a location/parking area, look at Google Earth.
Sometimes the best light and views are behind you. If you are looking at a sunset, the light from the falling sun will be making beautiful golden light on the things behind you.
In addition to taking big vistas, take pictures of small details that give the flavour and tell the story of your visit to a location (doorways, fliower pots, cobbles, steps, sand, shop windows, people).
Remember to capture your group – you’ll be pleased you have a picture of your granny in years to come.
A tripod can be useful if you want to capture moving water (waves – a 0.5 second exposure can be very pleasing). You might need to adjust your camera to make this happen.
Try using a wide aperture (the lower the “f-stop” number the wider the aperture to make backgrounds out of focus to make your subject stand out)
Move about (up/down/left/right) to find the best composition – small changes in where you shoot from can make big differences to the image
Using filters/editing software to bring the best out of your image
Phone apps like Snapseed and VSCO and even Instagram have some great features to edit and improve your image. Be careful as a little editing goes a long way. I prefer to edit carefully so the final image looks natural.
During August I was lucky enough to spend some time in Cornwall, and used a sunrise shoot to take some wave movement shots. For some I used a long lens, got down low to capture the rising son on the waves, pre-focused and shot at a fast aperture. For another set, I chose a wide lens, set the aperture to half a second and moved the camera as I shot for these evocations of the beach.
Last week I had a holiday in South Wales and Cornwall with my lovely wife, and new puppy. Most of the time was spent chasing the puppy around, visiting friends and relations, and strolling on the beach and there was not much time for photography. However, on the advice of a taxi driver that the evening was going to be exceptionally clear, that there would be no moonlight (which stymies astrophotography), I went out for a sunset shoot at Cape Cornwall (I’ll post separately), and then moved onto the Crown Mines at Botallack. Now, given that I went out on this shoot on a whim, I didn’t have a torch and my phone was nearly dead, so when I got to the base of the cliffs to set up a shot of the mines on the cliff face, I realised that the 300 ft drop I had struggled to make my way down would be in total darkness on the way back up. I was not confident that I could make the climb in the dark and felt I might fall, so I packed up and climbed back up the cliff in last light. Walking back towards the car, fairly disgruntled, I saw the pump house and mine chimney silhouetted against the darkening night sky filled with stars. Confident that I could now get back to the car safely, I set up and took this shot. I hope you think it was worth it. Best, Keith
I got up ridiculously early to head down to Porthcurno to capture sunrise. I got there early enough that I caught some stars before the sun rose. Below is some of the images I captured on a beautiful morning of photography, peace and tranquility.
I was pleased to get to Cornwall after a busy few weeks or work. I went down to Marazion and tried my hand at intention camera movement for the first time. I also captured some classic St Michael’s Mount images as the sunset over Penzance.
Nanjizal is about a two mile walk along the coast from Lands End. It is a beautiful beach, not easily accessible, and with no facilities. But it has this beautiful fissure through the rocks and a tidal pool that fills and empties with the tide. I was chest deep when I took this. I would love to sit out a complete tide cycle here to explore how differently it can look as the tide changes. One for another day. I hope you enjoy this one.
After quite a few grey days, the forecast for the next morning was great, so at 04:20 I set an alarm and went down to the harbour for some blue hour and sunrise photography. I was pleased to find the tide was out but there was still some water across the harbour. This meant that the boats were not afloat (and therefore liable to move on the water during long exposures), and the sunrise was a treat.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been down at my home in St Ives. Whilst it’s always great to be there, the summer is always full of tourists, and you can spot the locals by their rapid progress along Fore Street (the main shopping street), or along the harbour as they dash into secret short cuts and by pass as many dawdling holidaymakers (they are holiday so why not dawdle?) as possible. This year, the busy areas offer no opportunity to social distance, so my time was spent walking the coast path (more of that in another post), and seeking out places where people were likely to be fewer with more space to spread out.
With a promise of some good cloud cover (some high clouds, but limited coverage), and very little wind, the chance of a good sunset was promised down at Godrevy. I went early, picked a spot to shoot from, and waited. The sunset got better and better, and then after the sun dipped over the horizon, I waited for, what turned out to be quite a lightshow. I hope you enjoy.