So I have got an operation on my shoulder on tuesday so I thought that I should go out somewhere new to get some shots before I am put out of action for a few weeks. I have been meaning to go to the Lulworth area for a while now and although it is not that far from Lymington it involves driving through Christchurch and Bournemouth so is a long journey. As it was a sunday this didn’t matter so much.
The weather looked ok and the wind had dropped significantly from the day before. I packed all the camera gear including the tripod, made sure I had memory cards and batteries etc. My plan was to go to Durdle Door to get some landscape shots (Landscape Gallery) of the famous limestone arch and then go back up to Corfe Castle at sunset as I have been told by another photographer that they light it up at night.
Using the new satnav that I got for christmas off I went. I mistakenly thought that Durdle Door was at Lulworth Cove so that was my first destination. After getting there and dealing with parking and an impatient dog I soon realised that I was not in the right place. But I had a lot of time so I thought I would get some photography done here as well. I had two choices. Climb the hill up along the cliffs or go straight to the beach side. I am not fit these days so the climb did not appeal but the view up there had to be checked out.
With the wide angle (Nikon 17-55mm f2.8) on the D7100 and the telephoto (Nikon 70-200mm f2.8) on the D7000 my plan was to focus on wide angle shots on the better camera. The 17-55 seems to work really well with the D7100 creating really sharp images for a non prime. I believe the lack of the Moiré filter on the sensor is half the reason for this but also the capability of this lens. [If you are relatively new to photography and haven’t tried a prime lens (fixed focal length) then you are missing out. For an insanely cheap price you can get some of the sharpest and fastest lenses out there. I have the Nikon 50mm f1.8 and the Nikon Micro 40mm f2.8 and they both cost about £130-150. They are extremely sharp.]
Unlike Lymington the wind was strong and especially at the top of the cliffs. As you may know HDR Photography requires multiple exposures of the same image and even with the D7100 on high speed shooting it was diffcult to get all the shots more or less the same. With the longer lens on the D7000 it was even worse. The sun did actually appear from behind the clouds just as I was getting up the hill but generally the light was a bit grey and murky. It was definitely the time to be using HDR photography. There was no chance of getting those beautiful sunny images that have been done so well of this place so going for the moody look was the best idea not least as I might get something a little different.
I spent my time finding good compositions and keeping the ISO as low as I could bearing in mind the exposure of the longest bracketed shot. Bracketing is photography speak for taking more than one shot and, crucially, with exposures above and below the correct exposure. On both of these Nikons, there is a little button on the left of the lens mount for this and you can choose how many shots you want and the difference in exposure. I nearly always go for 3 shots separated by 1 stop. Once this is set then it’s just a case of setting up your shot as normal and then hold down the shutter release button and the camera will automatically take the 3 shots required. With these Nikons that I have it will take all the shots desired if you use self timer which can be useful too.
After making it up and down the hill, and after a brief rest I moved over to the beach side where I had opportunities for images of a single boat in the bay and some cliffside shots. Then it was time to have another go at getting the correct location set in the satnav. With this done and followed through I found myself at the car park above Durdle Door. Yup it was another long descent and consequently long climb on the way back. This is a special place on the coast of the UK and I was liking the rough seas and moody skies. As I walked down I was getting as many good compositions as possible as well as thinking about what I was going to try out on the beach.
Once I was down there I was trying as long an exposure as I could but there was too much light. I did have a polarising filter on the 17-55 in attempt to assist this but it wasn’t enough. This is really the time for a ND filter (neutral density) to really reduce the light coming into the lens. I do have a couple of these but they are cheap and they leave you with a strong purple cast on the image. It can be corrected in CameraRAW but not without losing some quality.
After nearly dying on the way back up I decided that the sky conditions were not worthy of a trip to Corfe Castle. For that I want there to be clear skies and a nice sunset preferably with no wind to shake the camera on those long exposures.
Back at home with the RAW files on the computer, rated and edited (as in the best ones kept and the others deleted…that sort of editing) on Adobe Bridge it was a case of letting Photoshop do most of the work merging them in to HDR files. Setting the parameters for this sort of image takes some getting used to and it so easy to get carried away with it leaving you with weird looking shots.
All in all I think I got the balance about right and am pleased with the shots. I also think that if I was fitter I would have had more energy and concentration for the actual photography on this trip.
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