Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Day 5 - Sennen.  Just a couple of miles round from Lands End is Sennen, with a beautiful long, sandy cove.  When researching this trip on 500px and Flickr, there were so many potential locations to visit.  But Sennen kept popping up, with its strong surf and arching beach.  Access to the beach is not for the unfit/faint hearted, as there is a mad scramble back up the steep hill back to the car park - exhausting with a full frame kit on your back!  This was definitely one of those moments that tempted me to get rid of my Nikon kit completely for more Fuji glass....we will see.... Ray of light 3-1077

After our visit to the Geevor tin mine, the weather had got a bit more interesting and there was some great cloud cover coming in off the sea.  This made the landscape in front of us much more interesting to capture, and created some contrast suitable for black and white.

My main problem on the beach was avoiding a tripod-based sinking disaster!  I wanted to be close to the surf to create some nice effects with the rocks on the beach, but that brought me a little too close to the rough seas.

Rock in the surf-1031

Islands in the sea-1053

I did take some images without the Lee filter system, but there's something that the filters do tonally to the image that you just don't get without them, but I can't put my finger on it!


Surf_2-1052 Surf_4-1063 Surf_3-1054

Again, the Nikon raw files do take more work it seems than the images produced by the Fuji x-trans sensor.  But depending on the style of image you want, there is a lot of leeway when it comes to editing.  The images above (hopefully) show you this.

This was one of the last major sites for landscape photography on our trip.  Cornwall is a beautiful location, however much of the coast gives you a very similar image (large granite rock formations, big surf, sandy beaches).  So, I felt a little limited in finding different looks.  All in all though, I was pleased with some of the shots I was able to capture, and it definitely allowed me to assess the two different kits (Nikon and Fuji) that I now own.  There's a little more to come (a trip to a delightfully quaint steam railway) in this series, and I will also be launching a new personal project soon.  Stay tuned.

Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall

Day 5 - Geevor tin mine.  The weather picked up dramatically from the first few days (if you saw a previous post, we were engulfed by some murky weather), and we headed off to one of the best known tin mine museums in Cornwall.  Tin mining used to be a huge industry here, and the landscape is covered in old stacks and derelict shells of former mining outfits.  There is even a Poldark mine...Geevor tin mine is home to a fantastic wealth of information about mining, and you can even walk through a shallow mine shaft which is manned by people who used to work here.  Claustrophobic individuals might want to avoid that!  One of the best parts of the mine (especially for a photographer) are the buildings devoted to the workers themselves, where they came in in the morning, where they prepared for the long day in the dark, and where they cleaned up after a hard day mining tin.  I tried to capture the feel of the place in a photo story style, with a number of images trying to show the conditions they faced and the spirit they had while working here. At the bottom of this structure you could see the shaft this lift was using and how deep it was. Certainly not for the faint hearted.

This was part of the lift construction to transport miners and their equipment underground.

Next to this structure was the building complex for the miners.  You could see the company had tried to provide some home comforts for them considering the difficult working conditions, but it did seem quite bleak.  The whole area was called "the dry", purely because the miners would dry their overalls here, and have a shower to get clean and dry.  There was a very clear sense of hierarchy in the dry, with separate mess areas and shower areas for the bosses.  The more interesting part was the mass locker room for the "grunts" of the mine, the workers.  So much of their stuff had just been left when the mine was suddenly closed in 1986, and the museum has left many of these items, dust and all, to give a sense of what it was like.

Shirts, pants, socks, jackets, so many items were left behind.

The personality of the miners shone through. A few bikers' lockers were grouped together, showing a shared love of machinery.

Some of these men also seemed pretty good at riding, with some stickers from competitions they had entered.

Photographically this area was quite challenging.  The light was both low level and of varying quality, including a mixture of different light sources.  It took a little while to recognise the white balance that was needed (although granted, shooting in RAW meant this could be corrected in Lightroom).  Also, I had to open the lenses and shoot at a higher ISO - ISO is less of a problem with the Fuji X system as it produces pleasing film-like grain, but the wide aperture meant that I missed good focus sometimes.

Clocking in for the last time in '84.

The sense of humour of the miners was clear to see.

Alongside the items left by the workers were photographs of themselves, along with some stories of times in the mine.  It was eerie to read these in the quiet calm of the empty dry, especially with their property hung up around you.

Shower time in the Dry. This shower was for the normal shift workers. There was little privacy.

Abandoned tokens, for the abandoned possessions.

Mono conversions are fantastic with the files from the Fuji X-Pro1.  The RAW files have such nice tones directly out of the camera, it takes little work in Lightroom to bring out a little more contrast.  The more I use this camera, the more it seems the files take less work than with the Nikon D750.  The files don't react well to sharpening, but if you get it right when taking the image (i.e. minimising camera shake), you don't need to add sharpening in post-production as the files are that good.  Particularly with the 35mm f/1.4 and the 18mm f/2.

The workshop.

This was a nice break of routine for me, as it allowed me to consider a set of images to convey a sense of a place full of history.  Normally I'm more accustomed to finding the "one" image with landscapes, but I really enjoyed our day at the mine.  As I would relish the chance to photograph a wedding in the future, this kind of storytelling is great practice, except for the lack of people of course...

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

Day 3 - the north Cornish coast.  After a brief visit to the impossibly busy Padstow, hunting down decent landscape images was back on the agenda.  Fuelled by a delicious chick pea and potato curry pasty, we headed along the coastal road towards the Bedruthan steps (find them here -  Again, like many of the National Trust locations in Cornwall, there is parking, and as we arrived late in the afternoon it was free.  The north Cornwall coast is extremely breezy because of its exposed location, which is why surfers flock here in their VW Transporters.  But this breeze made it pretty tricky for us to keep the camera steady for longer exposures!  So after a mild period of quiet panic, we hooked the gear bag onto the tripod and started shooting... bedruthan-steps-1-0923

Once again (like many of my coastal adventures) I broke out the Lee filters - both the ND grad (2 stops) and the Big Stopper were used.  I just can't get away from blurring the motion in the ocean!  When setting up a shot like this, I always take a series of images:  first one is for checking composition only, next one checks the exposure using a ND grad, and then the next few I use to get the exposure time right for the right look in the water.  I would always recommend this approach, because sometimes I find that the image without certain filters actually appeals to me more.

Bedruthan steps 2-0925

These two images were made right on the edge of a pretty fragile cliff (there were warning signs a little way along the soily edge to our left), but the platform was stable enough for the tripod.  The breeze was up, but there wasn't too much blur in the image from wind shake...we were lucky!

Heading north slightly, we made our way down a pretty steep (but well-paved) set of steps to the first lookout over the Bedruthan steps area.  The wind (and the spray) was picking up so we opted against going down the famous steps and instead stayed up on the cliff above the beach.  Avoiding some camera shake here seemed pretty much impossible and so the images from this location weren't as sharp as they could be, but the view was excellent.

Bedruthan steps

The beach was quite busy with people walking their dogs, but with the longer exposure their movement nicely compliments and matches the motion in the water lapping up onto the beach.  The colour of the ocean was fantastically blue, but it needed some help from Lightroom in order to make the images match what my eyes saw.  Generally though, colour reproduction from the Nikon is usually excellent.

Bedruthan steps beach

We continued on for another half mile or so (it felt further with the rolling terrain) till we reached the headland that had been a feature in the background of the images we'd produced so far.  From this position, we could also see Newquay in the far distance.  Combined with the rough sea, you could really see from this point why the north Cornish coast is a mecca for surfers.

Distant Newquay 1-0946

The sun was pretty much directly to our right in this location, so it was making the contrast a little trickier to control, and the colours of both the sea and the surrounding foliage was not quite as vibrant.  However, the new dehaze slider in Lightroom worked wonders to clear this up slightly.

Colour version

Monochrome conversion

Because of this weird side light and high contrast, a mono conversion seemed a good bet to combat this.  I have included both versions for you to compare.  With time getting on we decided to call it a day and start to head back to our rented cottage.  It would have been amazing to stay for a sunset, but this wasn't just a photography trip, and I owed my husband some dinner...

Cornwall's fishing heritage

Being surrounded by cool seas, Britain has a long history of being an excellent fishing country.  Some of the most popular seafood and fish live off our coast, and this has led to some counties being dominated by the fishing industry.  Cornwall has one of the lowest populations per square km, and many of the settlements are by the coast.  So, pretty much any coastal town you visit will have a fishing industry of some kind.  This makes for some great subjects to photograph, particularly if you're into street or documentary photography. Falmouth harbour

Falmouth is one of the bigger towns in south-west Cornwall, and it had a pretty nice vibrant feel.  There's a relatively new university, and when we visited there was a food festival on just outside the National Maritime Museum.  Being busy and full of people cooking up a storm (I was sorely tempted by the barbequed meat stand!), it was a great place to practice street photography.  This is a hard one to get right, as you don't want to come across as a creepy stalker, but you still want to capture the atmosphere of the place.

Falmouth food festival

Besides Falmouth, there are the smaller fishing towns like Padstow and Penzance.  Padstow has sometimes been called "Padstein", after chef Rick Stein's empire in the town (I think he has 4 different properties, all within a couple of square miles), and it is uncomfortably crowded in the summer.

Padstow harbour

There's less visible fishing going on in Padstow, but it seems that every child was walking around with their crabbing bucket and line.  Because of this, I mostly kept the Fuji in the bag, as sadly the culture in our country now means more and more that people are both wary and suspicious of anyone with a camera around their children.  It's a shame.

Penzance sailing club

Penzance sailing

Penzance's fishing industry is much more visible, with a huge dry dock seemingly (and hopefully) going through some restoration, and a whole host of loading bays for the fish market.  But, because of this industry and the lack of money going into it from the big supermarkets, Penzance had a pretty sad feel about it.  Run-down, tired, derelict in parts, but still retaining some charm in other parts.  Strangely, you don't see many fishermen around despite this, and I was a little disappointed there weren't more opportunities for some candid portraits.

Mullion cove harbour

Some of the best examples of the fishing heritage in Cornwall was found in Mullion cove on the Lizard.  A lovely, sleepy cove on the west coast of the Peninsula, with tens of crab pots and small fishing vessels just waiting on the water's edge ready for the next run.

Knots on the pot

Mullion cove crab pots

I'm often drawn to objects like crab pots, they produce great contrast with the bright floats and ropes against the dark skeleton of the pot itself.  They would be ideal for people with macro lenses, or if some fishermen were around for some environmental portraits with them.  Even without, they make for interesting subjects which reflect the heritage of this beautiful county.