Same Spot, Different Photo

The Perfect Location?

I like shooting at Trevose Head on the north Cornish coast.  I never seem to leave that location without having taken a decent photograph.  Sometimes I even leave there with a great photograph.  I also just enjoy being there.  It's an amazing bit of coastline with its lighthouse, rocky cliffs and crashing waves.  It can get very windy, and salt spray on your equipment can be a challenge, but just being there and watching the sunset over the coast is a pleasure.

If you want to see what I'm talking about then you should check out my 5 Minute Photo Adventure video from Trevose Head.

But what makes Trevose Head so special?  Why do I keep putting my tripod legs in the same spot?  I think one of the great appeals with Trevose Head is that it works in a variety of weather conditions.  It doesn't seem to matter if the weather is good or bad, overcast, windy, or even what season it is.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not the perfect location.  No location is.  However, if you can vary your technique and adjust your style to the conditions then it's one of those locations where you stand a good chance of making a decent image.

Here are some of my previous images from Trevose Head.

Whose Tripod Holes Are They?

I've just returned from another visit to Trevose Head and the image I captured there inspired me to write this blog post.  Though I've previously captured some images that I'm really happy with from Trevose Head, I still thought I could capture something new.  So when my friend asked me if I wanted to join him for an evening's shoot at Trevose Head there was only one answer. 

It was going to be tough to get there before sunset though.  The earliest I could leave home was 7 pm, and given that it is around a 90-minute drive that would only leave me about 40 minutes to jump out the car, make the short walk, setup, and capture something.  But the weather forecast looked good and based on my previous experience from that location, I knew the journey would probably be worth it.

When I got there my friend had been shooting for a while and after a quick catch up, I got to work.  For me, the best location to shoot Trevose Head is from Stincking Cove looking north east towards the lighthouse.  Being a cliff top location there isn't a huge amount of room to move about, so my tripod legs were probably placed in the same spot as they usually are.  However, even with my inability to move around a lot there is still plenty of variation to be had by shooting different focal lengths and exposure times.

What made my image different this night was the light.  Photographers, including myself, do talk about the "light" an awful lot, but hopefully in this image you can see what a difference the light can make:

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 @ 22mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 100, f/16, Lee Filters circular polariser, ND grad.

I'm not saying this image is necessarily any better than some of my other images taken from the same spot, but it is a very different image from my darker, moodier images that I've taken there previously.  The light was only there for a few minutes but I love the way it reflects off the sea, the cliffs and the lighthouse.  It just shows you that every visit to a location can be unique and therefore produce a unique image.

To ND or Not To ND

I'm a big fan of the ND filter.  I use them a lot and you can see how I use them in this video.  That doesn't mean I will use them in all my images though.  I try to use them creatively if I think the image will benefit from a slightly longer exposure.  I do tend to go for longer exposures for my seascapes as I like the resulting smooth water or the patterns that are painted by the moving water.  You'll maybe have noticed though that the image I've just shared above isn't a long exposure.  At the time I felt that smoothing out the water wouldn't be the right thing to do for the image I wanted to create.  I liked the choppy water and the way the light reflected off the tops of the waves.

I did take a long exposure and while I am of course very happy with it, I still very much prefer the shorter exposure.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 @ 22mm, 30 secs, ISO 100, f/16, Lee Filters circular polariser, ND grad.

Ignore Those Who Say...

All this talk of returning to a location to take the "same" picture reminds me of a Twitter post that I saw recently.  I can't remember what it said exactly but it seemed to involve a number of photographers talking about a photograph of a few sets of tripod legs all crammed into the same spot.  The general gist of the conversation was that these photographers lacked any original thought and were just copying each other or those that were there before them.

Though I didn't reply to the Twitter post, I couldn't have disagreed more for two reasons.  Firstly, who's to say that just because a photograph has been taken from a spot before that another photographer can't take a similar image.  If you are just starting out in photography I would actively encourage you to visit locations that you've seen in other peoples images.  I even don't see any problem with trying to replicate the composition.  It's often a good way of learning.  If you have been inspired by an image you have seen then why not try your hand at that location. 

I bring this topic up now because even though I have visited Trevose Head a few times and taken photos from the same spot, I get different results each time.  So I would encourage you to put your tripod legs where my legs were and take the same photo.  Your image will be unique and hopefully special to you. 

The other reason I disagree with that Twitter post is that if you put two photographers in the same location at the same time you'll likely end up with two different images.  An example of this was when I met a very nice photographer called Johnny Baird during a trip up to Scotland to photograph Glencoe.  We both stood in the middle of the River Coupall, photographing Buachaille Etive Mor at sunset and despite the close proximity of our tripod legs, we shot very different images.  Just because we were in the same location at the same time, how we choose to interpret the scene, choice of equipment and setup all meant we ended up with different images. 

Don't let anyone tell you that a location has been overshot or that you must find a unique location for your photograph to be worth anything.  So next time you're in Dorset, go to some of its most iconic locations such a Durdle Door and join the dozen other photographers that will be there and get your very own image. 

Do you have a location that always delivers results for you?   Did you prefer the long or short exposure that I took?  What are your thoughts on visiting well shot or iconic locations?  Let me know in the comments below.