Stormy Skies

For some the onset of Winter will be a perfect excuse to hunker down beside a nice warm fire but to the landscape photographer, well, let’s just say we are made of different stuff. Those long, boring blue sky days are gone, replaced with far more dramatic weather that can bring our photography to life. There is nothing like crashing seas, dark threatening clouds, snow or the dramatic lighting that comes from Wintery weather.

A recent Sunday was forecast to be cloudy in the morning followed by a period of clear sky before wind and heavy rain swept up the Bristol channel arriving around sunset. This forecast sounded promising not due to the period of blue sky and thus sunshine but because of the approaching windy and wet weather! So, just before lunch I set out for a part of the Welsh coast just South of Bridgend as it’s somewhere not too far from home and easily accessible. Leaving home the sky was a thick grey, water laden mass of cloud but on crossing the Prince of Wales bridge from England into Wales it miraculously cleared and I had to reach for the sun glasses! This is rare! It’s normally just the opposite!

At the coast the sky was still almost entirely clear, the light extremely harsh with strong reflections from the sea, rock pools and every wet rock recently uncovered by the receding tide. The level of glare and contrast was huge. 🙁

That part of the Welsh coast isn’t sandy nor does it have pretty rocks. The land appears to be formed in layers of rock – see the cliffs in the first photograph – and where the sea has eroded the land it’s left a pock-marked pavement which extends out under the sea at high tide. I’m sure there will be a geological name for this type of feature. Perhaps a reader can let me know? At low tide, as on that day, the pavement presents a grippy surface that’s easy to walk on as its covered in barnacles. This makes moving around with camera gear really easy.

I pottered around the beach for some time searching for compositions. The obvious ones included the long straight lines formed by the edges between different layers of the pavement. Colour was scarce. In fact it was either the dark brown of the pavement rock or the mid-tone grey of small, round boulders. There was no coloured seaweed, no coloured rocks, actually very little of interest. The sea and tide must carry everything away that can move. In the end it wasn’t my eye that found something but my ears. I became aware of a bell ringing and noticed a navigation buoy about 50m off-shore bobbing around in the swell. I felt this when composed with the pavement lines and the sky worked well.

Stood there on the beach in bright sunshine I could see the distant English coast as a black stripe on the horizon covered by dark stormy clouds. That part of England was getting hammered! I was there for some time watching the clouds and it became obvious that the main interest lay the clouds. Sure enough it wasn’t long before those clouds started to get closer but then they faded away just when it looked like it may get interesting. Fortunately they soon returned, building much as before. The weather forecast wasn’t going to be wrong and I didn’t want to be on the beach when the rain and wind finally arrived.

Sure enough about 45 minutes before sunset the cloud made it across the water and it started to spit with rain. That was my cue to retreat back up the cliff to my vehicle. Just after the camera gear was stowed and I had jumped in, the skies opened and it started raining – heavily!

With a big smug smile,

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