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.
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.
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.
I tried taking some shots of the rocks further out. These were better at capturing a ghostly, in the clouds sort of feel.
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.
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.
Even when I got much shorter exposures, I was still able to capture waves in action.
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.
I also took a shot towards Old Harry Rocks and, behind them, Bournemouth.
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.
Slightly disappointingly, from this angle the water looks calm rather than misty.
The effect in this instance certainly seems to look better in black and white.
I spent a bit of time shooting this particular outcrop in a couple of different ways.
Right by this outcrop was a smaller rock which also caught my eye.
I also tried framing it with the beach.
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.
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.
—————————————————————————————————————-Random Images from Dorset and Devon