Exploring Colmer's Hill

A Change of Plan

One of my photographic goals this year is to explore more of Dorset.  I'm very lucky to live in Devon as not only do I have a lot to shoot in my local county, but I also have Cornwall and Dorset as neighbours.  For no particular reason, I seem to have spent more time shooting in Cornwall than Dorset.  So after reading Mark Bauer's new book Photographing Dorset, I was very much inspired to photograph more of Dorset in 2017.

My original plan for the shoot was to head to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage.  However, the weather forecast wasn't concrete for the conditions I wanted.  As it is a 2 hr drive there and a 2 hr drive back I didn't feel it was worth the risk on this occasion so I opted for something a bit more local.  I had visited Colmer's Hill late last year and with it's close proximity to home I thought that would be a better option.

A Hint of Colour

I arrived at my location in plenty of time for sunrise.  Arriving a good hour before official sunrise allows plenty of time to get set up and maybe even have a quick cup of coffee.  From my vantage point, I could clearly see Colmer's Hill and the surrounding landscape which had some low lying mist on it and just a splash of colour in the sky.  However, the only cloud in the sky was a thick blanket of low cloud far down the coast, exactly where the sun would rise.  So unless conditions changed I would have a cloudless sky for my composition and the first light of the day blocked by some coastal cloud.

A New Perspective

The location I was shooting Colmer's Hill from typically requires a long lens to shoot with so the hill can be isolated.  So the first few shots I took were with Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8.  Shooting at around 150mm provided me with the composition I was looking for, but the light was very flat and hazy so the shots weren't very inspiring.  

As I often do when I'm waiting though I decided to take a few shots with my phone for my Instagram feed.  Taking an image from my phone immediately made me realise that I was missing a very different composition.  The phone gave me a much wider perspective of the scene and I realised that rather than just including Colmer's Hill I should be including the wider landscape.

A wider perspective. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 at 42mm, f/11, 1/15 sec, ISO 100.

By opting for a wider composition I could include the distant hills which were surrounded by mist.  The sun had risen above the distant cloud by this time so there was just a little colour on the side of the hills and in the sky.

The tight composition I was so focused on getting had prevented me from looking around to see if there was a better composition to be had.  If I hadn't decided to take an image with my phone I might well have missed out on a better image.  

Same Location, Different View

While it is important to sometimes change lens to give a better composition, it is also important not to stay put in one spot.  With some locations that can't be helped, but you can get a number of different views of Colmer's Hill by simply walking about.  

A slightly different view of Colmer's Hill.

A slightly different view of Colmer's Hill.

Based on the advice from Mark's book I took a little walk northwards to find some undulating ground which again, given the right light, would make for some interesting foreground for a wide angle composition.

Though the sun was quite high by the time I set my shot up at this location I could see how it might work on another day.  I would just some higher cloud and possibly a few less sheep!   

I'll Be Back

It's not been the greatest of starts to the year for my photography.  It's starting to feel like it's been a long time since I managed to capture a great image.  However, I do need to remember that I can really only go out shooting when I have time, not when the conditions are optimal, so I can't expect great results every trip out with the camera.

As always, I will look for the positives from each trip out with the camera.  Firstly I learnt not to get too focused on one composition using one lens.  Getting the mobile phone out really helped me to see a different view!  I've also learnt more about a location that I will probably visit a lot in 2017.  It's good to have multiple spots from one location so you can move about a bit to suit the conditions.

Have you had a good start to your photography this year?  Have you got some new locations you want to visit this year?  Let me know in the comments below.