A Very Early Morning at Penmaen Burrows and Three Cliffs Bay

A couple of weeks ago, I set the alarm for 3:30am! It may sound early but, as it happened, I was awake from 3am thanks to someone’s dog barking incessantly for half an hour… I left the house just before 4am and drove through the very quiet streets of Pontardawe and Swansea to Penmaen, where I parked and walked out onto the cliffs. I’d had a One to One workshop the previous Friday and had spotted some wild flowers growing on the cliffs that would make interesting foreground interest in a sunrise photo and being summer, that meant a very early alarm call! One of the best things about getting there so early, is I had the place absolutely and completely to myself. I knew that my 24mm tilt-shift lens would be the only way to properly emphasise the small flowers so attached it to the camera, estimated the distance to the closest object (about 40cm) and tilted the lens approximately 3.5 degrees. I then manually focussed the lens (it has no auto-focus) and checked everything was sharp using the Live View – I rarely used Live View, but it is essential for the tilt-shift lens.

4:51am at Three Cliffs Bay

4:51am at Three Cliffs Bay

After I had taken the photo (well, three, as I take one shifted left, one centred, one shifted right and stitch them together in Photoshop. This gives a wider view than 24mm and also lends itself nicely to the square format), I poured a coffee and walked around looking for other potential viewpoints. The sun eventually rose, but I wanted a decent amount of light so waited. Meanwhile, I spotted that there was mist over Pennard so popped my 70-200 lens on the camera and took the photo below:

5:25am at Three Cliffs Bay

5:25am at Three Cliffs Bay

I wanted to try a shot that included the sun, so swapped the 70-200 for my 17-40 lens and carefully cleaned the lens and 0.9 Neutral Density graduated filter as shooting into the sun lends itself to large sun spots and flare on the photo.

5:34am at Three Cliffs Bay

5:34am at Three Cliffs Bay

This photo illustrates the “need” for the tilt-shift lens. I was unable to give the flowers as much prominence with the 17-40 lens. A few metres away, I had spotted a lovely round clump of flowers when walking around earlier so moved the camera and switched back to the 24mm tilt-shift lens and took this photo:

5:43am at Three Cliffs Bay

5:43am at Three Cliffs Bay

As the sun rose higher, the light began to lose it’s golden colour so I went back to the original yellow flowers and took another set of three photos:

5:49am at Three Cliffs Bay

5:49am at Three Cliffs Bay

I walked around a bit more, but was satisfied I had captured the best of the morning – the sun was now high enough to make it very difficult to capture views of Three Cliffs Bay. I packed my gear away, drove back home and had another hour’s sleep!

4 comments

  1. Benedict says

    If only I could stir up that early in the morning!
    A great set of imaages Dan. Well worth checking in to see others work.

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