Friday, March 20, 2015

Dorset Day 1 - Corfe Castle morning and evening

I had arrived upon the Jurassic coast of Dorset, Swanage to be exact, the day before, hoping to get a few pictures from this most picturesque of places, and hoping even more, that the weather was going to be kind to me this time, as most of my previous visits had been affected by somewhat gloomy conditions.

That evening it looked like the weather was intent on serving up more of the same, presenting a grey, soupy sky for the main, with a sharp, blustery wind on the side. But there was no point in sitting around, so I headed over to Corfe Castle to see what, if anything, I could see. 

I had never gotten a decent picture of this iconic ruin before, every effort I’d made had been scuppered by the weather, either flat, dull light, or impenetrable fog seemed to be the main culprits. So I was dead set on capturing something of it on this trip, no matter how many times I had to visit it over the next few days.

After parking up along the small lane that runs from the village, then up under the railway line, I quickly scrambled up East Hill in an effort to catch the last of the evening light. Arriving at the top decidedly out of breath, and vowing to myself that this would kick start an attempt to get properly fit (as it always does after I exert myself in the name of photography, and as it never actually does in real life), I set up the tripod and waited to see if the sky would do anything interesting.

A wide view of the castle and countryside beyond.

As it turns out, it was worth the effort, as although the clouds stuck around, they weren’t substantial enough to completely block the fading light of the evening sun, which meant that, as dusk began to settle, there was a nice shift in colour above the castle and surrounding landscape. It was a delicate effect, but I was happy to take it, and counted myself lucky I’d got even that much.

I hung around beyond the conclusion of sunset in the hope that the little village of Corfe Castle would light up below me, creating a cosy village tableau, but beyond a sprinkling of lights appearing through windows it stayed resolutely dim. Most of the lights I could see in fact, came from the almost non-stop traffic that snaked its way through the narrow main street at that time of the evening. Not exactly the Constable-esque scene I was hoping for, so after a while I packed up and took a careful walk back down the steep hill in the encroaching gloom.

Corfe Castle with it's accompanying village.

5.30 am and it was a bright and early start the next day for a return visit to Corfe. The sky had cleared and I was eager to have another crack at the old girl. This time though I would be going up West Hill, with a vantage point over the other side of the castle, and the sun rising behind it, fingers crossed.

Taking the range road that starts opposite the visitors centre, I found a parking spot at the base of the hill, and began my climb, looking out for a suitable perch along the way. Once I’d found a reasonable spot, and regained my composure, I set up and like so many times before, waited to see if the conditions would play ball.

A swathe of colour appears across the sky bringing the clouds to life.

It seems that landscape photography is split into three distinct activities; a third is travelling to the intended destination, a third is waiting around for the light, and a third is actually taking the images. In reality though I suspect the last one probably consists of around 10% of the overall effort. As with most things, it’s the preparation that takes the time.

As I stood around in the mightily cold morning air, stomping and flapping about in an effort to warm the extremities, it seemed as if the preparation was going on a bit too long for my tastes. This wasn’t helped by the thick ribbon of cloud that stretched along the horizon, thus delaying the onset of the morning light.

A bit of morning colour in the sky and the foreground gorse bush.

At last though a glimmer of golden warmth began to blush the undersides of the scattered clouds, a subtle yellow at first, it soon bloomed orange through to red as the clouds seemed to soak up the colour like a procession of gossamer sponges, gliding over the rapidly brightening countryside far below.

It wasn’t long before a glowing blaze above the distant band of cloud heralded the arrival of the morning sun, rising over the lip, it made short work of any remaining colour in the sky and, as if it were laying claim to the day ahead, bathed everything on the ground in a deep, burnished orange light.

With the sun just appearing, the landscape was about to receive a thorough warming.

And just like that, it was over, so I walked back down the hill to the car, threw everything inside and took off sharpish. While the light was good I wanted to head over to Kimmeridge Bay in the hope that the tide was out….

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