Discovering Prawle Point and Gammon Head

Exploring New Landscape Photography Locations

I have to admit that I think one of my weaknesses with my photography is allocating enough time to go out and find new locations.  It's not that I've got any shortage of inspiration.  My custom Google map is awash with locations not visited.  It's just that I always seem to be short of time, so I think I tend to go to locations that I know to try and increase the chances of getting a good image.

Recently I have been trying to do a little more exploring as you might have seen in my Froward Point and My Photography is Not a Priority blog posts.  However, sometimes the best way to find something new is to head out with someone.  So when I met up with fellow local photographer Neil Burnell recently, I asked him to suggest a location that we could photograph.  You may remember Neil's work from a recent episode of On My Bookshelf where I took a look at his rather excellent book, Seascapes.  You can see that video here.

Great Gammon Head

Neil knows the south Devon coast extremely well and given the weather and tide conditions he suggested we try photographing around the Prawle Point area.  I've visited Prawle Point a couple of times with the family so I knew of the coastline there, but I'd never taken the time to explore it properly so I was excited to see what I could discover.

Neil suggested I take a look at Gammon Head, so while he did some IR photography I took a walk along the South West Coast Path.  My instinct was to get up high, but as I ascended Gammon Head, I noticed an interesting rocky outcrop (Ball Rock I believe) down on the waters edge.  There was no path down to the waters edge, and while it wasn't very steep, the descent was made difficult due to the thick vegetation.

When I finally made it down there I realised how exposed and hidden this part of the coastline was.  If I was to have an accident I would have no chance of been spotted by someone walking the main path and with no mobile phone signal, I wouldn't be able to call for help.  I decided that if I visit this location again I wouldn't do so on my own.

All that said, I was down there now and it was time to take some photographs.  The light was fading fast by this point so I had to work fast.

My gut feeling for shots at these types of locations is to go with a long exposure, but as you can see below, an exposure of just 0.5 seconds can produce pleasing results.  The wider view of the sea looks a bit messy, but I really like the texture of the water around the rocks.

The Rocks at Gammon Head #1, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 at 24 mm, 0.5 seconds at ISO 64, f/13, Lee Filters Circular Polariser.

Below is the same image but with a 6 stop IR ND filter from Lee.  This has given me a 30-second exposure which has resulted in the image I originally had in mind.  However, I'm a bit torn between this image and the version before it.  Which one do you prefer?

The Rocks at Gammon Head #2, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 at 24 mm, 30 seconds at ISO 64, f/13, Lee Filters Circular Polariser and 6 Stop IR ND.

So while the first two images are pleasing enough, I wanted to fine-tune my composition.  This is can be rather tricky when your down on a bit of coastline like this.  Just stepping to right can mean a swim in the sea!  I think I prefer the composition below as the furthest away rock now sits just above the horizon, rather than on it.  

The Rocks at Gammon Head #3, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 VR at 24 mm, 30 seconds at ISO 64, f/13, Lee Filters Circular Polariser and 6 Stop IR ND.

Ideally, I would have liked for that furthest away rock to not only have separation from the horizon but from the mass of rock to its left.  But as I mentioned earlier, that would have meant walking on water!

For the final composition at Gammon Head, I headed down as close to the waters edge as I could and decided to take a vertical image.

The Rocks at Gammon Head #4, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 VR at 27 mm, 30 seconds at ISO 64, f/13, Lee Filters Circular Polariser and 6 Stop IR ND.

I wouldn't normally publish so many similar images in the same blog post, but I wanted to share with you what I was doing and why.  Hopefully, you found it interesting.  Moving around a scene just a little can yield very different photographs.

Stars at Prawle Point

One of the other benefits of shooting with someone else is that you may find yourself photographing something a little different.  As the sunset, the clouds started to clear so we decided to head up to the coastguard lookout at Prawle Point.  Neil suggested this would make for an ideal location for some night sky photography.

I am in no way a night sky / astro photographer.  I've done a bit of reading on the subject so I understand some of the basics around camera setup.  I have even taken the odd night sky photograph, but nothing really serious.  So capturing an image of this location in the dark was going to be a challenge.  This challenge became even more obvious as I watched Neil set up his camera and take photographs like it was the middle of the day!

Anyway, I was having fun and I wasn't not going to let a thing like experience put me off having a go!  So while the image below is not going to win any awards, I rather like it.  I have to admit that there was a little luck involved in getting the shot.  I couldn't really see very much, making focusing on anything difficult.  I did have a head torch, but the beam wasn't strong enough to light the building, so I either guessed it or get Neil to use his head torch.  Composition in the dark wasn't exactly easy either!

A Stary Night at Prawle Point Coastguard Lookout, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 at 16 mm, 15 seconds at ISO 1600, f/14.

Every year I promise myself that this will be the year that I get into astrophotography.  I find the night sky fascinating, and now that I've got a little extra motivation, maybe this is the time I follow through on my promise.

I really enjoyed my time at Prawle Point and Gammon Head.  It was really good to explore somewhere new and to try out something a little different.  I was glad I didn't just head out to somewhere I knew and played it safe!

So which of my Gammon Head shots do you prefer?  Do you do any astrophotography?  How much time to do you spend just exploring new locations?  Let me know in the comments below.