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Story behind the image | First Light

By 24th January 2018 January 29th, 2018 No Comments

‘First Light’ ISO50 | 17mm | F/11 | 30 seconds

In this article, I aim to lay down my thoughts on the above photograph. This involves recollecting what inspired me, what happened before and after I took the shot and the reasons why I like this image.

On the day

The image was taken at Selwick Bay in Flamborough, North Yorkshire. My intention on this morning was to shoot the sunrise which rose to the left on the above shot. I set my alarm for 6 am and arrived at the car park. Arriving in the dark, I grabbed my gear and head-torch (although the lighthouse did help for a while) and made my way down to the bay.

There can be something very surreal about arriving at an isolated location in the dark; almost like you shouldn’t be there. All I could hear was the waves crashing as I made my way down the creaky metal steps onto the bay. I would be later accompanied by two Polish photographers, who randomly also went to the location I was at the following weekend. Great minds think alike!

I remember the sunrise being very nice but couldn’t quite find a composition I was happy with, due to the tide being very high. You can see a time-lapse I shot here where you can see I’m working very hard to find a composition:

Change of scenery

As the tide receded the beautiful white rocks which symbolise the area started to appear. This offered a nice opportunity to include them as foreground and I shot some images of the cliffs, but they turned out to be nothing to write home about. Noticing how the rocks to my right and the lighthouse were being illuminated I set up a vertical composition instantly. I knew this shot had potential and that the light wouldn’t last long as the sun was rising behind a thick layer of cloud. I opted for a long exposure of 30 seconds; this allowed the water to be smoothed out in the middle left and also resulted in some subtle movement in the clouds.

In predictable fashion; the light did disappear shortly after this. For me, this nails home one of the best traits a landscape photographer can have, patience. Often the optimal light only lasts for 5 minutes so you have to be on location and prepared in order to capture it. Sometimes I have packed up and when walking back to the car I have frustratingly seen epic light behind me. I think this is just down to experience. You get better at reading the landscape the more you are out in it.

What I really like about this image is the strong diagonal shapes created in the foreground. I think this creates the foundation to lead the viewer through the image and eventually to the main subject; Flamborough lighthouse. I also like how the green headland and darker sand anchors the middle of the image and provides contrast against the lighter colours of the rock and lighthouse.

Post processing and overall thoughts

Post processing allowed me to emphasise the complementary colours of yellow and blue. My typical process involves importing the image into Lightroom, applying basic corrections and adjustments, then I use Google’s Color Efex Pro to add contrast and colour grading. I usually try and stick to the 3:2 ratio unless I pre-visualise a different ratio when taking the shot.

Side-lit images are something I really want to concentrate on going forward. Naturally, I have been drawn to sunrise and sunset seascapes but whenever I have shot side-lit scenes I have often come away with great results. I think they have great power and depth; really bringing scenes to life.

Overall I took a lot away from the experience of taking this image and I am very proud of the end result.

This image is available to purchase from my Etsy Shop. It is available as a fine art print, canvas or acrylic print in a range of sizes from 12 x 8 inches to 45 x 30 inches.

Sam Norland

About Sam Norland

Landscape Photographer from North Yorkshire