Storms, Sunset and Start Point

Favourite Location, New Viewpoint

In my video Top 5 Locations in Devon to Shoot Landscape Photography I took you to Start Point on the south Devon coast.  I've shot there numerous times and thanks to the coastal weather I've come away with a wide variety of images.  All my visits to Start Point do have one thing in common, they have been shot at dawn and all, roughly speaking, from the same viewpoint.  

Just recently though I was inspired to shoot Start Point from a slightly different location.  I've written about the power of inspiration on this blog before and how important it is to my development as a photography.  However, it was a post by one of my favourite local photographers Matt Davis on Instagram that showed me a viewpoint that I hadn't considered before.  It was still clearly Start Point, but you could see more of the rugged coastline and it was ideal for shooting at sunset.  I had a plan!

Incoming!

 

It's about 1hr 15m drive from home to Start Point and while it's not that far as the crow flies, it does involve the navigation of a few of the smaller country roads that Devon has to offer so it often feels like a longer drive.  With the weather forecast predicting cloud at different heights I felt the drive would be worth it for a great sunset and some drama in the sky.

Watching the storm approach from the west.

Watching the storm approach from the west.

I arrived at the Start Point car park, got my bag, and headed down to the view point.  As I looked west and out to sea I could see a very large rain shower coming my way.  I knew from the forecast there might be the odd bit of rain but this looked a little more than just a shower.  I stuck to my location, kept my camera in the bag, and waited.  Firstly the wind picked up, then the rain started, and then the rain got very heavy!

Determined not to be put off though I decided to shelter on the other side of the ridge that runs down to Start Point lighthouse.  It was a lot less windy by still wet.  I got my phone out and checked my favourite rain app, Rain Today.  All I could see over my location was a big, dark blue blob, indicating heavy rainfall.  the good news was that it was only forecast to last 30 minutes, and once it had passed I would still have 30 minutes before sunset.

So I did the sensible thing and went back to the car, had a cup of coffee and ate some chocolate.

Run Julian, Run!

As I sat in my car drinking my coffee I could see what was going on in most directions.  To the east, the direction the storm was going, it was looking very dark.  To the west, it wasn't really looking much better.  I was beginning to think I might not even take a single frame.  Then the thunder and lightning started and it was at that point I was very happy to have made the decision to wait it out in the car.

Spectacular conditions immediately after the storm had passed.  I had to be quick just to grab this shot with the phone.

Spectacular conditions immediately after the storm had passed.  I had to be quick just to grab this shot with the phone.

As forecast, I could eventually start to see a break in the cloud to the west.  I waited to the rain had stopped and then I grabbed my stuff and went for it again.  As soon as I got outside I spotted a double rainbow out to sea.  It looked spectacular.  Photographers often say you get some of the most dramatic conditions for photography just after a storm and from what I could see this was certainly the case.

I knew these conditions wouldn't last too long so I instinctively grabbed my phone and grabbed a shot.  I then got to work getting my DSLR out and all the associated gear.  As I feared, by the time I actually got all setup the best of the action had gone.  Not to worry, I still had time to get back to my original viewpoint and shoot the lighthouse and dark sky, but I would have to run.  Which isn't that easy with the amount of gear I had and the muddy ground but if I didn't get there in time I would only regret it.

Drama Everywhere

I got to my view point and frantically got to work getting my shot ready.  There was still plenty of drama going on.  The sky was still dark and brooding, and the rugged cliffs along Start Point were getting pounded by the sea.  Over to my right (to the west) the clouds were breaking and the low sun was producing some lovely colours.  That particular bit of action was still just out of frame, so while I had a long exposure running I grabbed a quick panorama with my mobile phone.  

I managed to grab this quick panoramic using my Nexus 6p phone.  It's not perfect but it shows the scene as it was.

I managed to grab this quick panoramic using my Nexus 6p phone.  It's not perfect but it shows the scene as it was.

I kept shooting, varying my compositions slightly but the break in the cloud was just too far over to make for an interesting composition.  In hindsight, I probably should have shot a panorama with the DSLR, but there was a lot going on and I didn't have much daylight left.  However, I was still very happy with the moody shots I was getting like this one.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 40mm, f/11, 129 seconds, ISO 100, Lee Filters Circular Polariser, Lee Filters Little Stopper.

I Must Be Mad

I have to admit that when the rain really started to chuck it down and I went back to the car to wait it out, I did question my sanity.  It was looking like it was going to be one of those days where not only do I not get a decent image, but I don't even get the camera out of the bag.  However, having read so many times about how some of the best images were captured right after a storm I decided to hold out.  And I'm so glad I did.  

Perhaps the only thing I should have done would be to have left the car when I had started to see the sky clear, and not when the rain had stopped.  This would have given me a bit more time to get back to my location and start shooting immediately after the storm had passed.  However, given that I still wouldn't have been able to get a break in cloud or light from the setting sun into my scene I was pretty happy with the results.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 27mm, f/9, 60 seconds, ISO 100, Lee Filters Circular Polariser, Lee Filters Little Stopper.

Have you ever stayed out in horrible weather only to be treated for your perseverance?  Do you sometimes think that landscape photographers are a little mad?  Let me know in the comments.