It was my birthday last week (side note: all of your birthday cards, and the cheques they contained, appear to have gotten lost in the post). To celebrate, my wife and I decided to stay in Swanage, one of my favourite places in the world, and have a nice relaxing time away from everything for a while.
For me, it wouldn’t be an enjoyable break if I weren’t taking photos. Fortunately I was prepared for this, and brought all my gear, including my tripod and variable ND filter.
We arrived late on Wednesday evening, too late even to eat – but we woke the next morning (my actual birthday) to a brilliant cooked breakfast (including black pudding, which all true cooked breakfasts contain) and went out for a walk into the town.
It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was windy, grey and overcast, so there wasn’t much light about and the sea was a bit choppy. Above all it was quiet, so I didn’t feel too self-conscious in setting up my tripod and taking some long exposures.
A few of the exposures I put through Silver Efex Pro 2 to make them a dramatic monochrome.
I also grabbed a closeup of the rocks at the side of the slipway, which when framed out of their context just look like an outcrop in a foggy swamp.
Looking back at these shots, it’s literally only just occurred to me I had a lot more leeway to close up the aperture for even longer exposures. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that at the time but it apparently occurred to me not long after as the rest of my shots are at a tighter aperture.
I walked a bit further along the promenade and took some shots of the same slipway from the reverse angle.
I followed this up by photographing the quayside along the other direction.
The sun then started to peek out from behind the clouds, so I returned to my original spot to shoot into the sun and get a bit of colour in the shot (especially in the rusty railings).
With the sun out we headed to the pier (my wife happily finding spots to sit down and read whilst I was taking photographs). Before that, as we started our stroll along the pier, I took a HDR shot back towards the town.
And also a shot of my colourful wife.
Partway along the pier you can see the remnants of the old pier, which fell into disrepair earlier in the last century. The sun had mostly returned to behind the clouds at this point, but there was enough of it around to give a bit of colour to the water.
I’m sure these have been photographed many times over the years but the shot I had in mind when I was shooting here was this great shot I found on Flickr a while ago. I wasn’t expecting to get anywhere near that sort of image – my ND filter is cheap and the light wasn’t as good, but I wanted to capture what I could regardless.
Whilst I was playing about with this shot, Holly pointed out a sight further along the pier, so I quickly left my tripod where it was, unscrewed my filter, and grabbed this shot.
And then I went back to the old pier.
The latter image is my favourite, it’s the sharpest of the photos I got, the colour looks nice and I got a decent length of exposure too.
I also tried a slightly different perspective on the ruins of the pier, ignoring the larger two sections and focussing more on the individual poles.
We finished our walk along the pier and headed on to Peveril Point, the first place I’d tried out my ND filter. This time there was hints of sun peeking out from the clouds, so I once again used some HDR to bring out the details.
This also worked pretty well in harsh monochrome.
I also tried some bracketed shots which showed a bit more of the foreground.
Meanwhile nearby some canoeists braved the water.
When the clouds came in, they were thick enough to rob the sun of most of its power, allowing me to get this moody, night-like exposure.
And similarly, this HDR bracket.
I also tried something I’ve not done very much at all in the past – a multi-shot panorama with my DSLR. Stitched together in Photoshop, it didn’t come out too badly.
We climbed up to the clifftop for me to get some more traditional shots of the rocks at the Point.
Also atop the cliff is a signpost, showing the coastal path routes both back towards Swanage and along Durlston Bay to Durlston Castle (which is one of my favourite walks in the world).
I soon broke out my variable ND again.
As you can see I pushed it a bit far for this shot, using the filter beyond its max setting, which allowed me a 75 second exposure but has darkened the top left and bottom right corners. For this particular shot it’s not so noticeable – unless you compare it to this next shot, which is at a more normal setting for the filter.
A lot of photographs taken, we strolled back to the hotel at a leisurely pace, where we sat in the bar and relaxed for a bit by a fire where I edited some of these photos on my laptop, before going for a very nice three course dinner.
The next morning was quite a bit more breezy, and with that the sea was a lot choppier. We checked out of the hotel then headed into town, where I got a few shots of the sea’s fury.
There was just enough time for a catalogue shot of my wife’s hat before we decided to make tracks home.
All told it was a great couple of days and I honestly can’t think of a better way to celebrate my thirtieth birthday.
Random Images from Dorset and Devon