The next in our series of interviews with Light & Land leaders on specific tours, which they have recently run. This time, it’s our Cornwall tour which took place in mid-March, led by one of our newest tutors, Carla Regler.
Can you tell us a little about how this trip worked?
The Cornwall tour was for was for three nights, from 3pm on a Friday to lunchtime the following Monday. Our hotel, the Godolphin Arms, was directly above Marazion Beach looking out towards St Michael’s Mount, which was brilliant. We chose the hotel for its location of course, and that particular weekend as the tides and the sunrise/sunset times worked well around the overall timings for each day.
We all arrived at the hotel on the Friday afternoon, in time to enjoy a traditional Cornish cream tea before our first sunset shoot. This was a great way for all the clients to meet and have a chat after some long journeys, and then just to get outside and relax with our cameras. We then enjoyed dinner at the hotel together on the Friday evening, and discussed options for photography sessions the next day. It was a great way to find out a little about each other, and the all-important question that happens on every trip. Are you Canon or Nikon?! We had a mix of both, and also one client with a Panasonic Lumix mirrorless camera, which held up very well against the DSLRs.
The following morning we met outside the hotel at 6am for a sunrise shoot on the beach. Our location was right on our doorstep, so no travelling involved - then back into the hotel for a hearty breakfast! A quick freshen up and a recharge of batteries (camera ones that is) and we were off to Godrevy Lighthouse for our next shoot together. Having a minivan organised on site means we can all travel everywhere together. You know your group has gelled well when it’s quiet on the first trip in the bus, but by the last trip you can’t get a word in edgeways. In fact I think that happened pretty much straight away with this particular group!
On both the Saturday and Sunday we were able to stay out for most of the day, with a packed lunch provided by the hotel, and then find a location for sunset before heading back for dinner and a well-earned rest. And on the final morning we enjoyed a last sunrise shoot together in St. Ives, before a final breakfast together at the hotel.
Without giving away any trade secrets, can you tell us which locations you visited and at what times of day?
Given the location of our hotel, we spent quite a bit of time on the beach enjoying the view of St. Michael’s Mount, both for sunrise and sunset. As I mentioned, we also went to Godrevy Lighthouse, on a pinnacle off the coast of Gwithian Beach. This gave us some fantastic sand patterns, features in the sand, rocks and wonderful waves, and of course the lighthouse itself. It was a daytime visit, so the sunlight behind us worked well to add light and texture to both the beach and lighthouse.
We also went to Land’s End for an evening shoot, and there are many photo opportunities here if you can move away from the more typical tourist areas. The coast path leads to the most amazing views and rock formations, which many of the group were not aware of. This was sunset location, however on our occasion the sun did not perform, so we used the time to be a little more creative with long exposures of the wave movement on the rocks below, and some time spent concentrating on bringing the texture out of the cloudy sky.
Our main location on Sunday was Botallack Tin Mines. These are just stunning buildings and can be captured in many ways – they kept us entertained for hours! As a daytime location this is great for when the sun is behind you, lighting up the tin mines on the cliffs above the coastline and the crashing waves.
Then lastly on Monday, St Ives as a sunrise location was also excellent, definitely best in the early morning before it gets too busy – and in this instance ideal for wave patterns as the tide was coming in over the beach.
I think my highlight, location-wise, ended up being a totally unplanned one. We were driving back from Land’s End on the Sunday evening, just in time for dinner, and as we drove into Marazion we realised that the Mount had been lit up for Mother’s Day. So food was briefly forgotten as we all leapt out of the van and lined up on the jetty to try to capture the illuminated buildings and the reflection in the incoming tide. Some of us even ventured down onto the beach in the pitch black, making us a little late for dinner – but the shots we got were well worth it!
In addition to technical and compositional tuition, do you cover areas such as filters and so on?
Yes, definitely. Most of Cornwall’s locations are water based, so these can be greatly enhanced by the use of filters. Coming onto a tour that’s based near the water means filters are widely used, and if you are considering investing in some, it’s an excellent idea to pick up some tips on a your like this before you go out and buy. This really gives you the idea of how best to use them, what filters you might use for which situations, and how other clients get on with them. Lee Filters, your ears must have been burning!
For most of our locations we were able to use Neutral Density filters to change the speed of the waves, and to create different image effects, and for those who have never used filters before, it opened their minds to new possibilities. We also worked with graduated filters - which helped the group to realise that, even with dull skies, great images are possible. The textures in the cloud allowed me to show those with filters, and those new to filters, how by adding a ‘grad’ as they tend to be known, it enhances the sky and really enhances an otherwise flat image.
How was the weather on the tour, did it present any challenges?
The weather was certainly interesting, as you might expect in Cornwall. We had sunshine, mist, fog and cloud, but hardly any rain. I’d planned ahead though, having spotted some handy clear shower caps in the hotel rooms. Perfect for placing over your filters during rain, as you can still focus though them and then whip them off for the actual shot! But the weather was pretty perfect really, with plenty of variety, as just solid blue skies would have been terribly boring.
On that note, whilst working on the coastline can have its dangers, so can working in or near the sea - and this was highlighted when we were photographing close to rock pools at Godrevy Lighthouse, with tide going out. Suddenly massive wave swept in from nowhere, getting one poor client wet from the knees down, and with wellies full of water. Luckily the funny side was steaming socks on a radiator in the café afterwards, and a great candid shot of the water being literally poured out of said wellies into a handy teacup!
On a tour of this type, do you find time to review people’s images and give advice on post-processing?
Because the weather was dry and photo opportunities were good, we made the most of staying out in the field as much as possible - to capitalise on the Cornish surroundings. This left us a little short of time for editing and critiquing, but we did manage to fit in as much as we could. Some clients preferred to retire to bed earlier than others, and so this was a good time to look at images and work through different techniques with those who wanted to - showing clients how a particular image can look if processed a little differently, or even converted to black and white.
I also made sure that we had a few hours before everyone left on the last day, to go through some editing as a group, and during this session I was able to demonstrate some new techniques, and some different software options which many had not come across before. We looked at converting images into black and white, colour processing, removing dust spots and simply cropping the image a different way to give a completely different perspective on the shot. This type of session is also useful as it enables people to look at the locations through the eyes of someone else, and this really helped everyone.
On that note, we now have a Flickr group set up for everyone who was on the tour. If you’d like to have a look at the shots they were able to capture, please visit https://www.flickr.com/groups/lightandlandcornwall/
Post By Charlie Waite