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Stormy weather - getting the shot and surviving!

November 09, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This week has seen its fair share of stormy weather in Dorset.  To me that means high seas, dark clouds and the slim possibility of a sunset!  With that in mind and after checking the weather report online I headed out to Portland.  My main motivation was to get a stormy shot of Pulpit Rock - you know the water running off the rocks, white capped wave’s type of shot.

Portland StormPortland Storm

When I got there I found it very windy with sea spray in the air and the light fading fast (traffic through Weymouth was bad).  After a look around for vantage points, I headed up onto the cliffs, passing the very detailed warning sign: SONY DSC

Doesn’t leave much to imagination, does it! - So knowing that my life was in in my own hands I headed up anyway.  The first thing I realised was that although the waves were quite far below, the splash still reached the top - including me!  Soaked (on one side) I managed to get around to White Hole, a deep fissure in the Portland rock, giving me a nice view of Pulpit rock and a grand vista of how rough the sea was.  I managed to get a few shots there and then worked my way down to the edge of the peninsular and finally around to Portland Bill.

Below I have added some information on how to set up and survive the storm:

  1. Be as comfortable as you can be.  Dress accordingly; I wore a waterproof jacket with a base layer beneath, gloves and lightweight trousers (they dry very quickly).  On my feet I would usually wear sturdy hiking boots but this time I knew I would be walking on wet rocks, so I opted for wellies.
  2. Know where you are going and what the weather is doing.  My time in the military has taught me that reconnaissance is essential, before leaving home I did the following:
  • Checked BBC weather for an accurate and up to date forecast.
  • Checked the tide times
  • Used Google Earth to plan my route
  • Used The Photographers Ephemeris app to see where the sun would set (if the sky cleared)
  1. The essential kit I used was:
  • Tripod – In the high wind I had to weigh it down with my rucksack, and press the feet into the ground so that it offered a steady platform.
  • Lens hood – to minimise the amount of spray getting to the face of the lens.
  • A micro fibre cloth to wipe the lens prior to shooting.  You can get 5 for £5 on Ebay!
  • A hand held remote.
  1. Settings:
  • White Balance – AWB due to the changing light (but I shot in RAW so that I could change it in Post Processing If I needed to.
  • I wanted to capture some of the movement of the water so I aimed to get about a 1-2 second exposure.  I shoot manually so this meant trying different apertures and ISO settings.  I could have just shot in TV mode but hey I enjoy playing with the settings - You never know what you will get!

What have I learnt?

The shoot was very rewarding; I managed to get some great shots in terrible conditions and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I learned quite a few things, here are my best tips:

  • A micro fibre cloth is a god send!  The spray gets everywhere and I had to wipe the lens before every shot.
  • Park your car into the wind – this will stop the spray going into the boot and gives you a place out of the wind to get your stuff together.
  • Good planning is key – know where you are going and let someone know where you are, have your mobile available in case of an emergency.
  • Have a towel in the car to wipe yourself and your kit down (it costs a lot to replace).

I hope this has been useful to you all, please let me know if it hits the mark!




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