Sometimes muted grey skies can be a blessing in disguise, as was the case with this shot. High contrast full summer light can be tricky to contend with during the day. This soft pastel palette of sea lavender in Holkham bay was only possible thanks to some heavy leaden grey cloud skies creating soft even light conditions. Taken with the new Olympus 300mm pro-lens.
On my last landscape trip I witnessed a truly beautiful natural phenomenon. As I arrived at Hunstanton beach and gazed at the sunset it appeared as if there were not one but two setting suns in the sky, both positioned low on the horizon, the second with a hint of a rainbow-hued glimmer in an arc shape. This optical atmospheric effect is called a parhelion, or sun dog and is one of many types of ice halos caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight through small ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. I discovered that the atmospheric conditions had also created the faint sun pillar in the photograph, which is not caused by a vertical ray of light at all, but by the glinting of many tiny hexagonal-shaped plate ice crystals, the same shape of ice crystals that create sundogs.
Many thanks to atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley for his assistance in identifying the specific type of atmospheric optical effects I observed and photographed in this image and to the clear scientific explanations provided by his website of the many unusual atmospheric phenomenon that can be observed by day and night. Click here to see a scientific diagram explaining the optical effects in my image
Though we have long nights, its a tad chilly right now to be outside doing star trail shots, so I confess this long exposure night scene was taken from the balcony in a rather warmer Tenerife. Many star trail shots are composite images made up of multiple photos of exactly the same scene blended together in post processing using software in the same kind of way that HDR images are, however it is possible to take a long exposure to create shorter star trails in-camera in just a single image.
It was a blustery evening and not really ideal conditions for taking razor sharp long exposures, but Tenerife is renowned for its clear skies, even being home to a well regarded observatory, so I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity. I was particularly fortunate to have the pole star so visible and placed above the cliffs. It was amazing how many more stars became visible even in the 4 second photograph than could be seen with the naked eye.
In the second image you can see the starry sky as we humans see it, taken using a shockingly high ISO of 6400 and a 4 second exposure and then as the camera captured it over a period of 20 minutes (1236 seconds). Both shots used an aperture of f 4.0 and had long exposure noise reduction switched on. One other thing to remember is that it will take as long to store the image on completing the shot as it did to expose it in the first place, so this definitely isn’t something to try in a rush.
December 2013 brought unusally mild winter weather to the UK in terms of temperature, but instead the jet stream lashed us with a dangerous and violently destructive combination of high tides, and strong storm force winds that caused a sea surge on the North Norfolk Coast that was more severe than the infamous North Sea Flood of 1953. Thankfully in the intervening years sea defences were improved and held well. This time though the flood water was higher we had good warning that saved many lives despite wreaking havoc at many of the beaches and coastal reserves. The storm event has dramatically re-shaped the coastal environment, permanently changing the profile of the East Anglian coastline.
A visit to Wells beach about a week after the incident brought home to me the full force and elemental power of nature that had been unleashed. The sheer strength of the sea surge breached the two landmark giant dunes as well as sections of the previously dune-sheltered tidal lagoon channel towards Holkham beach, ripping out the wind smoothed sand hills, and the dune grasses that held their forms in place and ploughing thousands of tonnes of sand across the beach plain towards the beach huts and smashing a new vertical sand cliff when it reached the edge of the Corsican pine plantation.
Here is a small gallery from my visit showing the damage and changed profile of the beach