Peveril Point

When I bought a variable ND filter a month ago I knew exactly where I wanted to try it out first: Peveril Point in Swanage, Dorset. I’ve shot there several times before, as well as visiting it countless times throughout my life, and I knew that it contained some interesting rocky outcrops that would work really well with long exposures of water.

15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 32mm
15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 32mm

If you’ve not familiar with them, ND or neutral density filters simply reduce the amount of light coming into your camera. Unlike polarising filters or colour filters they don’t make any changes to the light, they just evenly reduce the light in a neutral way, hence the name. A variable neutral density filter simply allows you to adjust the amount of light that is being let in. The practical upshot of all this is that you can get longer exposures in fuller daylight, such as the image above taken in the early afternoon, albeit on a cloudy day.

To get the result, I set my new ND filter to its maximum setting (apparently ND400 if you’re technically minded), closed up the aperture to its smallest setting (f/22 on my 24-105mm), set the sensitivity to ISO 100, and plonked my camera on a tripod to ensure the shot wasn’t just a blurry incomprehensible mess.

The tip of Peveril Point has seen a fair amount of erosion and subsidence over the years, and it’s Jurassic geology leaves rocky islands jutting out of the water. My plan was to let these play alongside the effect of water under a long exposure.

20sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm
20sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm

Long before I took this trip I knew most of these images would be processed in black and white. My inspiration for the shots came from this set of long exposures by a guy called Darren Moore. I haven’t got particularly close to those great shots, of course.

15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm
15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm

I tried taking some shots of the rocks further out. These were better at capturing a ghostly, in the clouds sort of feel.

15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 67mm
15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 67mm

Initially I tried leaving my camera in aperture priority and letting it set its own exposure, but it seemed to struggle with the filter at times and usually underexposed, so I soon started shooting in manual. I didn’t get it perfect however so I think I often overexposed whilst chasing longer exposure times.

I was pretty pleased to also discover that the wide angle lens I’ve borrowed has the same filter size as my 24-105, so I had a play about with some wider angle shots.

4sec, f/22, ISO 100, 10mm
4sec, f/22, ISO 100, 10mm
1.3sec, f/22, ISO 100, 16mm
1.3sec, f/22, ISO 100, 16mm

As you can see, I’ve also kept some in colour. For these I’ve tweaked the white balance towards the blue, to add a bit of colour to the water and the sky and dull the rocks a bit. These two shots are very similar in composition – see how they compare.

3.2sec, f/22, ISO 100, 16mm
3.2sec, f/22, ISO 100, 16mm
3.2sec, f/22, ISO 100, 20mm
3.2sec, f/22, ISO 100, 20mm

Even when I got much shorter exposures, I was still able to capture waves in action.

1/4sec, f/22, ISO 100, 20mm
1/4sec, f/22, ISO 100, 20mm

With a shutter speed of a quarter of a second, the image above is by far the shortest exposure in this entire post.

I turned back from the tip of Peveril Point towards Swanage itself, and captured what little I could see of the town itself from my vantage point.

1.3sec, f/32, ISO 100, 20mm
1.3sec, f/32, ISO 100, 20mm

I also took a shot towards Old Harry Rocks and, behind them, Bournemouth.

4sec, f/32, ISO 100, 20mm
4sec, f/32, ISO 100, 20mm

I then looped back onto the cliff top of Peveril Point to get a higher angle on the rocks, and swapped back to my 24-105.

13sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm
13sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm

Slightly disappointingly, from this angle the water looks calm rather than misty.

8sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm
8sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm

The effect in this instance certainly seems to look better in black and white.

13sec, f/22, ISO 100, 55mm
13sec, f/22, ISO 100, 55mm

I spent a bit of time shooting this particular outcrop in a couple of different ways.

10sec, f/22, ISO 100, 50mm
10sec, f/22, ISO 100, 50mm
10sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm
10sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm

Right by this outcrop was a smaller rock which also caught my eye.

8sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm
8sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm

I also tried framing it with the beach.

10sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm
10sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm

Also from Peveril Point you can see down the coast across Durlston Bay to Durlston Point, where there is a Victorian castle and a nature reserve I’ve never visited despite visiting Durlston many times. The walk along the bay remains one of my favourites.

8sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm
8sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm

I’m pretty pleased with these results for first attempts at a new technique. I’m already planning to go out to the Twickenham Riverside later this week to play about some more.

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Related Posts:

Random Images from Dorset and Devon
Random Gems
Swanage
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4 Comments

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  1. This is the best way to learn trial and error – experimentation etc (you only succeed by failing) these shots are a great insight to the impact of shutter speed on creating a mood. I have only got myself some ND grads and a lee big stopper but have not fully explored how to get a result. Your blog has completely fallen off my feed for some reason so I shall have to proceed on a catch up Rob – but for now I am away out to fire off some shots with my latest toy a Hasselblad 500C medium format film camera – cant wait tbh 🙂

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    • I was eying up a Lee Big Stopper at the Canon Day. It’s definitely on my list of things to play about with more. Next step, before a Lee stopper, is a non-variable ND filter which shouldn’t band at the extreme of its power (I was lucky enough to talk to a Lee rep who pointed out, quite accurately, that that’s just physics).

      I look forward to reading what you think about all of the other posts you’ve missed whilst my blog has apparently been hiding!

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      • I understand if you change your theme – it can have the effect of unfollowing the blog on the reader ( but not the blog itself) – I know that I can’t keep up with all the blogs I want to – I accepted that a while back – so I just have bursts when prompted by a great post or blogger I want to catch up on. It seems to work I am still enjoying blogging and it generates real inspiration watching what others can do 🙂

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    • Oh yes, and have fun with the Hasselblad – can’t wait to see the results!

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