Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, spring, landscape, Nikon, Owharoa Falls, North Island, New Zealand, Aotearoa, Coromandel, waterfall, clear blue sky, tree ferns, rocks, river, cascade, pool
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, spring, landscape, Nikon, Owharoa Falls, North Island, New Zealand, Aotearoa, Coromandel, waterfall, clear blue sky, tree ferns, rocks, river, cascade, pool
Simon Bourne - Photographer
Simon Bourne - Photographer

Blog - 2022

May 22 - Los Volcanes Natural Park, Lanzarote

We took a wonderful trip around the Los Volcanes Natural Park during the week, with our own personal photographic guide who knew all the best locations.  It was meant to be a tour with up to 8 people, but we were the only ones!  The Los Volcanes Natural Park surrounds the more famous Timanfaya National Park, but has much more to offer photographers than the very prescribed routes that you can only take in Timanfaya.

 

This first picture is of the Volcan El Cuervo, aka the Caldera de Los Cuervos.  When the whole area around Timanfaya erupted from 1730 to 1736, Volcan El Cuervo was the first volcano that exploded on 1 Sep 1730.  As elsewhere on the island, I love all the range of earthy, ochre colours, especially with that contrast to the deep black of the ash slopes, and to the lime green of the spring foliage on the lava plateau.  You can also see clearly that the caldera has a break-out section where the lava escaped on to the plains.  I did several panorama shots here, but this single image was taken at 70mm, ISO 100, f/11 and 1/160s, with a 6,000K White Balance (WB) and the sky held back by 0.6 stops.

 

Not far from the Volcan El Cuervo is the Montana Colorada (coloured mountain, of course).  It’s another volcano and classic caldera, but its far side is covered in a gloriously red colour from the iron oxide in the ash sediments.  It was still quite cloudy/hazy when we got there, but the sunlight came through a few times to really pull the colours out.  Standing quite close to the volcano, I took two images at 28mm and merged them in Photoshop to form a panorama of the whole peak.  The photo was taken at ISO 80, f/11 and 1/125s and ended up at 9,800 by 4,600 pixels, ie 45MP.  The best WB was still 6,000K but I held the sky back a tad more at 0.8 stops.

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, Nikon, Lanzarote, Spain, ochre, volcano, volcanic, Los Volcanes Natural Park, mountains, spring, sunshine, ash, lava, Volcan El Cuervo Volcan El Cuervo 02, Lanzarote 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, Nikon, Lanzarote, Spain, ochre, red, volcano, volcanic, Los Volcanes Natural Park, mountain, spring, sunshine, ash, lava, Montana Colorada Montana Colorada 02, Lanzarote 2022 - panorama

May 22 - Volcanic Scenery, Lanzarote

We got away for a short break to Lanzarote last week – everywhere we’ve been recently, there are volcanoes!  New Zealand, Iceland and now the Canaries; and Jil was up in the volcanoes of Rwanda earlier this year too (with the mountain gorillas).  Lanzarote was very similar in feel to Iceland though, but whereas Iceland was barren, cold and very wet, Lanzarote is barren, hot and very dry.  There is no water on the island at all – no lakes, no rivers, no waterfalls.  And, all their drinking water comes from desalination plants.

 

This image is a panorama of three photos, looking from Puerto Calero, across to the village of Playa Quemada, surrounded by the volcanic remnants of the island’s formation 15 million years ago, although the most recent major volcanic activity, in Timanfaya, was only 300 years ago.  The island of Fuerteventura is in the far distance.  I love the range of those earthy, ochre colours on the mountainsides, ranging from yellows to oranges to reds and purples, all of which were on display in the intermittent sunshine poking through the clouds.

 

I generally use my 24-120mm f/4 lens when I travel light as it gives a good focal length range in a single, high-quality lens.  These three images were taken at 32mm, ISO 80, f/11 and 1/160s before being processed in Lightroom and then stitched together in Photoshop, giving an image 13,100 by 4,400 pixels.  I used my regular adjustments in Lightroom with a White Balance (WB) of 6,500K, while holding the sky back by 0.6 stops with a Sky Mask.  I also added a bit more Dehaze at +20 and darkened the blues a tad by adjusting the Blue Luminance to -20 (this is almost equivalent to a polarising filter).

 

This second image was a single shot taken the next day of the volcano peaks in their glorious colours, using 27mm, ISO 80, f/11 and 1/160s.  I used similar settings again in Lightroom, but the WB was lower at 6,000K.

 

We went inland too to the Los Volcanes Natural Park a few days later, but more of that in the next blog!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, Lanzarote, Spain, Fuerteventura, volcano, volcanic, mountains, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine, panorama Puerto Calero 03, Lanzarote 2022 - panorama
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, Nikon, Lanzarote, Spain, ochre, volcano, volcanic, mountains, spring, sunshine Puerto Calero 09, Lanzarote 2022

Apr 22 - 'The Crowns' Engine Houses, Cape Cornwall, Cornwall

Another beautiful, clear, crisp, windy spring day at Cape Cornwall again – this time just a tad further up the coast at Botallack.  The famous engine houses, The Crowns, are located precariously on the cliff edge, making them very photographic.  As in the rest of this area, the mines have been worked back to Roman times and before, back in to the Bronze Age.  The lower granite building housed a steam pump engine to de-water the mine – it was built in 1830, replacing an older engine from around 1800.  The upper building housed a steam winding engine to lower/raise men and materials – it was built in around 1860.  Staggeringly, the mine was 400-500m deep and went both inland and out to sea by about half a mile!  The mines were closed by the 1890s though, as the world price of tin dropped due to a more plentiful supply from Malaysia, in particular.

 

The first, wider shot was taken at 24mm on my 16-35mm f/4 using ISO 64, f/9 and 1/160s, whereas the closer, but wider, image was taken at 19mm, ISO 64, f/10 and 1/160s.  The optimum White Balance this time was at 6,000K.

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, Cape Cornwall, Botallack, engine house, The Crowns, chimney, tin mining, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine Cape Cornwall 34, Penzance 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, Cape Cornwall, Botallack, engine house, The Crowns, chimney, tin mining, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine Cape Cornwall 40, Penzance 2022

Mar 22 - Surf and Tin Mining at Cape Cornwall, Cornwall

You couldn’t pick a brighter, fresher spring day on the coast.  This time we were just west of St Just and north of Land’s End at the fabulous Cape Cornwall.  It’s a cape as it’s where the North Atlantic Ocean splits in to the Celtic Sea and the English Channel.  It’s also in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing the historic tin mining in the area, along with some copper and arsenic mining.

 

The first photo is right on the top of the western edge of the cliffs with the chimney of the Cape Cornwall Mine dating from 1864, sitting against a stunningly clear, blue sky.  It was taken at 25mm on my 16-35mm f/4 at f/11, 1/160s and ISO 64.  You’d normally expect the White Balance to be Daylight at 5,500K, but that made the image far too blue – in the end though, it was most natural at Cloudy with 6,500K.  I didn’t have my polarising filter on, but you can get some slightly similar effects by reducing the Luminance of the blue (only to -20) – this darkens the blue a tad more, although it really was a deep blue!

 

The second image is looking down in to the adjacent cove of Porth Ledden.  The surf was rolling in to the cove, while on the far side on top of the cliffs are the remains of Kenidjack Castle, an Iron Age promontory fort.  On the right, is the steep-sided Kenidjack Valley with numerous chimneys, mine shafts and abandoned buildings, which are all part of the tin mining heritage.  This was taken at 28mm, f/11, 1/160s and ISO 64.  Tin has been mined around here since the early Bronze Age (c 2200BC).  The rare tin oxide mineral, Cassiterite, was found extensively around Cornwall, within the igneous granites that intrude in to the overlying sedimentary deposits.  Amazingly, the Cornish tin was being traded with Eastern Mediterranean copper from that period onwards.  The resulting bronze is an alloy of copper plus about 10% tin, which makes a stronger, harder and more ductile metal, much more suited to swords and shields, for example.  It’s difficult to imagine the area, and the peoples within it, from nearly 4,000 years ago!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, sea, Nikon, Cape Cornwall, chimney, mine, tin mining, blue sky, spring, sunshine Cape Cornwall 03, Penzance 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, Cape Cornwall, Porth Ledden, Kenidjack, castle, valley, tin mining, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine Cape Cornwall 13, Penzance 2022

Mar 22 - Long Exposure Seascapes at Trevean Cove, Cornwall

Continuing my theme of long exposure seascapes, I took quite a few over the last week down at our local cove.  The first was at low tide, while the second was four days later at a mid-tide.  Both are looking across to Perranuthnoe beach and village, with St Michael’s Mount and Penzance in the background.  The first day was nice and crisp with clear blue skies, whereas the second day was still clear, but more hazy.  You often seem to get haze on clear days of high pressure, whereas the visibility is generally much better on slightly cloudy, low pressure days.  It’s partly to do with the ability of the air to hold water vapour.  At lower pressures, the air can hold more, but at higher pressures, the water vapour condenses our more readily, forming a haze.  The heavier and stiller nature of the higher pressure air also exacerbates the haziness.

 

Both images were taken at 18mm on my 16-35mm f/4 with a 10-stop ND filter and ISO 64.  The first used f/11 and 10s and the second f/14 and 20s.  I held the sky back in Lightroom by 0.5 stops and adjusted the White Balance (WB) to 13,000K to compensate for the blue colour cast in the filter.  I have now just purchased a new Lee Filters ProGlass IRND 10-stop filter – so, no WB adjustments (or vignetting) anymore!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, Rosudgeon, Trevean Cove, Perranuthnoe, St Michael's Mount, Penzance, Cornwall, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine, long exposure, ND filters Trevean Cove 10, Penzance 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, Rosudgeon, Trevean Cove, Perranuthnoe, St Michael's Mount, Penzance, Cornwall, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine, long exposure, ND filters Trevean Cove 18, Penzance 2022

Mar 22 - Long Exposure Seascapes at Kynance Cove, Cornwall

As noted in my last blog, I went back to the wonderful Kynance Cove a few days later to take some long exposure seascapes, which I have now finished processing!  It was a gloriously sunny spring day again with clear blue skies, but still with quite a bit of dramatic surf.

 

Whereas with waterfalls, you take long exposures at around 1/8s to 2s (although, generally it’s best at about 1/8s to 1/2s), surf and seascapes work better with longer times.  The sensible range seems to be around 1s to 20s, with the best images captured at around 2s to 5s.  It all depends on the speed of the water – waterfalls being much faster falling need faster times, whereas breaking waves are slower, which then need slower times.  It’s a fine balance each time – it’s obviously best to take quite a few shots at a good range of speeds (a sort of bracketing).  It’s only when you view them all at full size on a big computer screen that you see what looks good anyway.  Too fast a shutter speed and the image just looks blurred, whereas too slow a speed and the photo becomes too milky.  I prefer a bit of milkiness but with some visible texture in the white water too.

 

The first photo was taken at 20mm on my 16-35mm f/4 with a 10-stop Lee Big Stopper ND filter, using 5s, f/9 and ISO 64.  It’s looking down from the cliff top in to the cove from the east side looking west.  The second image is from the opposite west side, a little lower down to the water, showing the waves breaking right in to the beach.  It was taken at 18mm using 2.5s, f/8 and ISO 80.

 

Besides the usual tweaks in Lightroom, the only major adjustment was to get rid of the blue colour cast from the Big Stopper - this entailed boosting the White Balance to 13,000K and increasing the tint to +30.  I really must get a new 10-stop filter - the old ones made from dyed glass have this issue (as well as some vignetting), whereas the new ones (ProGlass IRND) do not, as they are made with evaporated metal, with perfect colours and no vignetting.

 

The long exposure are a different aesthetic from images taken at 1/200s – sometimes the high-speed natural shots capture the moment and look great, and other times the longer exposures with the ND filters work really well.  I haven’t done much long exposure work here in Cornwall, but will continue to use it more regularly, as long as I take my tripod and filters along, of course!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, The Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove, Asparagus Island, Cornwall, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine, long exposure, ND filters Kynance Cove 20, Lizard 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, The Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove, Cornwall, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine, long exposure, ND filters Kynance Cove 27, Lizard 2022

Mar 22 - Glorious Spring Day at Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Having had weeks of warm, wet, windy days, the first gloriously, sharp, sunny days of spring appeared last week.  We took the opportunity to go to the wonderful Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula – we had been there about 25 years ago when our boys were very young, but not since.  It’s a short trek from the car park to a really beautiful and spectacular cove.  You might be in Iceland or New Zealand!

 

I used my 16-35mm f/4 wide angle zoom on my D810.  The first image is looking across the cove itself from the west side to the east.  It was quite windy still, though nothing close to any of the storms that we have had recently.  Nevertheless, the sea was pretty rough still with great surf and waves, and it was getting close to low tide.  You can see the black rocks of the Lion Rock on the right, while the rest of the mainland rocks had a rich array of greys and browns, but also deep red and purple colours.  It was taken at 20mm, f/11, 1/200s and ISO 100.

 

The second photo was about half an hour later, as it got to late afternoon with longer shadows.  This was taken from the east side of the cove looking west, across to the Asparagus Island, with The Bishop on the left and Gull Rock in the middle.  Between the island and the mainland is The Bellows, which is open and sandy at low tide, but covered by the sea at high tide.  The waves come in from all sorts of directions around here as they get reflected around the walls of the island and the cove.  As this shot was looking more towards the sun, it was taken at 19mm, f/14, 1/200s and ISO 64.

 

I also took some long exposures at 1s with a 5-stop ND filter (using f/16 and ‘ISO’ 32), but realised later that I should have done them at 2-10s, using my 10-stop Big Stopper.  I went back a few days later to capture those, but haven’t processed them yet!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, The Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove, Cornwall, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine Kynance Cove 13, Lizard 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, seascape, sea, Nikon, The Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove, Asparagus Island, Cornwall, surf, waves, spring, beach, sunshine Kynance Cove 16, Lizard 2022

Feb 22 - The Winter Hexagon in Penzance, Cornwall

After taking a photo of the Winter Hexagon in early January with a bright moon, I had been waiting for a night that was both clear and moonless.  I took the image later in the evening, just before Orion set – in that case, Capella, which is often straight up, was rolled over to the side, enabling a landscape shot.  I could then get the local trees in the foreground too, which I lit briefly with a torch.

 

There are six stars that make up the Winter Hexagon - Sirius, the Dog Star in Canis Major, and Rigel at the base of Orion, are just above the trees.  At the top of the frame are Pollux (paired with its twin Castor to its right) in Gemini and Capella, the Goat Star in Auriga.  Finally, in the middle frame, is Procyon in Canis Minor and the orange Aldebaran in Taurus.  Note the Pleiades cluster aka The Seven Sisters on the right.  The other asterism, the Winter Triangle is also very clear, with ProcyonSirius and the red Betelgeuse forming an equilateral triangle.

 

I used my 16-35mm f/4 to get a wider angle for the single shot, and then used this at 18mm and f/5.6, where the image quality is very good – although it does need the exposure to be a tad longer.  I usually use a 15-20s exposure on my 24mm prime, but increased it here to 25s on the zoom lens - anything longer generates much more noticeable star trails.  You’re then left to adjust the ISO to suit - out in the country on a moonless night, the light is at about EV-4, resulting in ISO 1,600.  It was very windy too, which put a bit more blur in to the trees than I had ideally wanted, but that’s fine for a long exposure.

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, Penzance, Cornwall, portfolio, image, winter hexagon, night sky, stars, moon, winter circle, Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor & Pollux, Procyon, Orion's Belt, Orion, constellations, Pleiades Winter Hexagon 04, Penzance 2022

Feb 22 - The Warmth of Last Summer, London

On a cold, wet, windy day in Cornwall during February, it’s good to finish processing some macro garden images from last summer – these two were both taken last August in the back garden on our previous London house.  A pinky-red Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ and the fiery orange of a Crocosmia ‘Orange River’, both with wonderful bokeh against the background of green ferns.

 

Both were taken using my well-proven macro techniques with the wonderful 105mm f/2.8 lens, all at ISO 64 on my D810.

 

With outside pictures, you tend to have a focus distance of around 500mm, giving a Depth of Field (DoF) of only 16mm, using f/22.  This seems the best balance for most images, as using a wider aperture generates an even smaller DoF that requires quite a lot of focus stacking, while a smaller aperture, giving greater DoF, introduces a slightly softer image due to diffraction.  Mind you, with this exceptional lens, even though the diffraction does get a little worse at f/32, it can still be better to have more DoF with some softness, than less (that also looks soft) with more sharpness.  In the end, using f/22 at a 500mm focus distance, most images can be captured in one shot, although some, like the second image here, were actually focus stacked from two images.

 

In this case, I find it best to have one image for the majority of the frame, the background, and then to manually add the second image as a layer in Photoshop for just the very closest parts of the flower head, which are not quite in focus in the background picture.  This takes a little bit of time, but gives a much better result than the Auto-Blend tool.  This is because the flower head will have moved a tad between shots and generally, even with the Auto-Align feature, that movement causes problems for the Auto-Blend.

 

Outside, with a bit of wind and movement, you also have to use flash.  I treat objects as one would in portrait photography, using twin flashes at 450 to the side and 450 upwards.  You then set the shutter speed at around 1/200s, which blunts some of the ambient light, and use the flash power and distance to determine the best balance of light.  You can usually only get the flashes placed about 400mm away, needing around 1/2 power for the main Speedlight and 1/4 power for the secondary, infill Speedlight.

 

Crocosmia are very common in the hedgerows around Cornwall too, but we’ll have to wait until this summer now to see more of them here.

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, north London, portfolio, image, gardens, summer, Persicaria amplexicaulis, Firetail, London, garden designer, SGD, Jilayne Rickards, outside, pink flower, shade, ferns, bokeh Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' 01, London 2021
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, north London, portfolio, image, gardens, summer, Crocosmia, Orange River, Cornwall, garden designer, SGD, Jilayne Rickards, outside, orange flower, shade, ferns, bokeh Crocosmia 'Orange River' 01, London 2021 - stacked

Feb 22 - Lambeth Bridge at Dusk, London

With so much going on over the last 6 months, I have only just finished processing my dusk pictures of Lambeth Bridge, which I took last May.  Lambeth Bridge is the last one that I wanted to photograph of the set of major (and aesthetically pleasing) London bridges from East to West.  I had taken some here in 2019, but was waiting for the new lighting to be installed, which had only happened a few weeks before.  Whereas Westminster Bridge has a wide spectrum of green lights (to reflect the benches in the House of Commons), Lambeth Bridge varies from orange to red to purple to reflect the red benches in the House of Lords.

 

I set up on the East side of the Thames on the Albert Embankment, south of the bridge itself and opposite the MI5 Building.  This gave the best view of the bridge, with the Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament being the main element behind the bridge.  To the right, you can also see the Elizabeth Tower (housing Big Ben), although most of it was still covered in scaffolding.  Between these two towers, you can also see the top of the BT Tower, and to the left of the Victoria Tower, the top of Westminster Abbey is just poking through the trees too.

 

The first picture was taken 35 minutes after the sunset with quite a bit of light in the sky still.  As usual, I had started the evening using a 10-stop ND filter, before moving to a 5-stop one.  By the time of this image though, I had removed them all – this was taken at 20mm on my 16-35mm f/4 using ISO 64, f/14 & 20s.  The bridge lights were an orangey-red.  The second picture was then taken 50 minutes after sunset, with a darker sky, but with the bridge lights and water reflections being more pronounced.  Here the bridge lights were a purpley-red, almost entirely purple in fact.  The bridge lights are constantly changing in colour and intensity, so you do get a bit of a composite view with the 20-25s long exposures that I was using.  This second shot used the same 20mm and ISO 64, but with f/11 & 25s.

 

In Lightroom, I was still holding the sky back by 0.2 stops for the first image, but by nothing for the second.  The White Balance is very variable in the evening too – it started off close to 10,000K (even with no ND filters), with the first photo at 8,500K, but dropped closer 4,500-5,000K as the artificial lights became more dominant.

 

No more dusk lights across the River Thames for me any more – it’s all sunrises and sunsets on stormy Cornish beaches now!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, Cornwall, portfolio, image, central London, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, River Thames, Lambeth Bridge, dusk, sunset, night, long exposure, landscape, reflection, lights, traffic trails, bridge lights Lambeth Bridge 06, London 2021
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, Cornwall, portfolio, image, central London, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, River Thames, Lambeth Bridge, dusk, sunset, night, long exposure, landscape, reflection, lights, traffic trails, bridge lights Lambeth Bridge 09, London 2021

Jan 22 - Rocky Beach Wildlife, Cornwall

With quite a few sunny days recently, it was a good time to capture some winter wildlife at our local, rocky cove.  As well as the assortment of gulls and smaller coastal birds, we’ve seen Kestrels, Cormorants, Gannets, Curlew, Little Egrets and Oystercatchers so far, plus the occasional Grey Seal at high tide.  A pair of Kestrels is nearly always hunting over the cliff tops, but never when I have my D500 and 200-500mm f/5.6 lens with me!

 

These two images show a pair of Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and a group of Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus).  Both sets of birds are very jumpy, meaning that you can’t get very close to them at all, and once they flee, they don’t come back for an hour, or more.  They both seem to feed on things in the washed-up kelp, around the high tide mark.

 

When it’s very sunny (EV15), you can use 1/1,000s, f/5.6 and still get the native ISO of 100.  Once it gets overcast though, at around EV12, you need to boost the ISO to at least 800, which clearly loses some quality and generates more noise.  The two Egrets were taken at 500mm, 1/800s, f/5.6 and ISO 400 (as the afternoon sun was starting to go down), whereas the group of Oystercatchers was taken when it was slightly brighter at 330mm, 1/800s, f/5.6 and ISO 180.  I use Auto-ISO for these wildlife shots, as it allows you to control the aperture and the shutter speed, leaving only the ISO to be determined by the camera.  Normally for all my other photos, I use Manual for everything, but with the need to take pictures potentially very quickly, the Auto-ISO is a great tool for wildlife.  Obviously, I always use back-button focussing with the AF-ON button.

 

1/500s is a bit slow for most images, whereas speeds of 1/1,600s or more are only really needed for birds in flight – so, I tend to use 1/800s or 1/1,000s.  Strictly, the VR should probably only be used when the speeds are lower than 1/500s and should definitely not be used at 1/1,600s or more.  However, I find that the VR still works well at those intermediate speeds of 1/800s or 1/1,000s, even when using a monopod, which I often do. 3.5kg of camera and lens is tricky to hold still for any length of time!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, wildlife, birds, beach, sea, Nikon, Penzance, Trevean Cove, Cornwall, Rosudgeon, rocky, kelp, winter, sunshine, Little Egret, pair Little Egret 07, Trevean Cove 2022
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, wildlife, birds, beach, sea, Nikon, Penzance, Trevean Cove, Cornwall, Rosudgeon, rocky, kelp, winter, sunshine, Oystercatcher, group Oystercatcher 01, Trevean Cove 2022

Jan 22 - Winter Hexagon in Rosudgeon, Cornwall

The skies are darker here than in London, but surprisingly, not as dark as you would think – there are still enough major towns around to give some light pollution.  Still, this time of year is great for viewing the asterism known as the Winter Hexagon or Winter Circle on a clear winter’s evening.  It covers a big expanse of the sky, over six constellations, ranging from the horizon to almost straight up.  This was the view from our garden last night – the waxing gibbous moon was also out (and at 85% illumination), which doesn’t help in viewing the stars, of course, but it does add some drama to the image though.

 

The six stars that make up the Winter Hexagon are:

 

1. Bottom, slightly right - Sirius, the Dog Star in Canis Major – the brightest star in the night sky;

2. Lower right - Rigel, the bottom right star in Orion - 7th brightest star, which is slightly blue;

3. Upper right, just below the moon - Aldebaran in Taurus, which is definitely orange;

4. Top, slightly left - Capella, the Goat Star in Auriga, which was almost straight upwards - 6th brightest star;

5. Middle left - Pollux lower down (paired with its twin, Castor, directly above it) in Gemini, which is slightly yellow; and

6. Lower left - Procyon in Canis Minor – the 8th brightest star.

 

Another asterism, the Winter Triangle is also clear - ProcyonSirius and Betelgeuse forming an equilateral triangle.  Betelgeuse is the top left star in Orion and is definitely red, while also being the 10th brightest star.  Betelgeuse is a red supergiant that is likely to explode as a supernova shortly, i.e. within the next 100,000 years, by which time we’ll be able to see it on Earth during the daytime for several weeks, but as we’ll most likely also be experiencing the next Ice Age, we’ll be under 1km of ice!  It’s Beetle Juice, of course, not Betel Gerz.  Just above the moon, in the top right corner, you can also easily see Pleiades -  a cluster of seven hot, blue stars, aka The Seven Sisters.

 

I started off using my 24mm f/1.8 wide angle prime lens on the D810, but the hexagon only just fits in the frame and it is very difficult to ensure that all the correct stars are in place.  It’s quite soft wide open and so for night shots, I always use it at f/4.  However, in the end I switched to my 16-35mm f/4 to get a wider angle for a single shot, and then used this at 19mm and f/5.6, where the image quality is just as good – although it does need the exposure to be bumped up a bit.

 

I usually use a 15s exposure on my 24mm prime, but increased it here to 25s on the zoom lens, using the 500-rule (exposure = 500/focal length) - anything longer generates much more noticeable star trails.  You’re then left to adjust the ISO to suit.  For very dark skies at EV-6, you might well need to use ISO 6,400, while normally out in the country at EV-4, you would use ISO 1,600, but with the moon out too, the best exposure was at ISO 800.

 

It is quite difficult to focus on individual stars, even with Live View – so, you just need to ensure that you have focussed on something more than about 5m away, as the hyperfocal distance at f/5.6 is only about 3m.  Best to be safe and use something at least 100m away.

 

In Lightroom, the optimum WB was at 5,000K and you then have to really boost all the other settings to get a more powerful picture, with higher levels of contrast, clarity, sharpening and noise reduction to suit.  I’ll try it again in a few weeks’ time, when the moon is not around to wash out the stars as much – but it does need a clear night as well, of which there have been very few recently!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, Penzance, Cornwall, portfolio, image, winter hexagon, night sky, stars, moon, winter circle, Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor & Pollux, Procyon, Orion's Belt, Orion, constellations, Pleiades Winter Hexagon 02, Penzance 2022

Jan 22 - Stormy Day at Porthleven, Cornwall

Porthleven is one of the classic storm locations in Cornwall, where the huge surf can be very spectacular, especially when it crashes over the harbour church and clock tower at high tide - although it’s not actually a church, but the Bickford-Smith Institute.  We had been there during the last named storm, Storm Barra in nearly December, but the tide was low at the time.  So, we went back just after Xmas, on a very windy day at high tide – it wasn’t a named storm but the waves were enormous.  The steep beach at Porthleven seems to really increase the height of the waves here.

 

The waves were not quite crashing over the Institute, but they were having a good go at the harbour pier and the main beach defences.  The morning was beautifully bright and clear, and this first image was of one of the many huge waves bashing the end of the pier - this was taken at 62mm on my 24-70mm f/2.8 using ISO 80, f/10 and 1/320s.  The most natural white balance (WB) was 6,500K and I held the sky back by 0.3 stops.

 

The second shot looking south along the main beach shows the maelstrom as the incoming waves hit the water rushing back down the beach from the previous waves – all very impressive.  This was taken at 66mm using ISO 100, f/10 and 1/320s.  Facing more towards the sun, the better WB was at 5,750K, with the sky held back a tad more, at 0.7 stops.

 

You can’t beat a good storm!

Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, Cornwall, seascape, sea, surf, beach, Nikon, Porthleven, waves, tide, Atlantic, storm, gale, harbour, pier, sun Porthleven 07, Penzance 2021
Simon Bourne, photography, photographer, portfolio, image, landscape, Cornwall, seascape, sea, surf, beach, Nikon, Porthleven, waves, tide, Atlantic, storm, gale, sand, rocks, sun Porthleven 08, Penzance 2021
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