Blackchurch Rock

Return to Blackchurch Rock

Around the coast of Britain you will find many interesting rock formations. Sea stacks by there very nature are impressive. Lone stacks of rock standing tall and in defiance of the constantly crashing waves. Around the south west of England where I live they are fairly common and easy to find. The sea arch on the other hand tends to be a little more on the rare side.

The sea arch is no less impressive than its sea stack cousin, but given its a relative rarity, they can offer something a little bit different to the seascape photographer. I say that, but I forgot all about Durdle Door for which it is rather difficult to get something different due to its popularity. There is also a sea arch at Lands End which is well worth photographing if you don’t mind the drive!

For me though, I’ve always been fascinated by Blackchurch Rock in North Devon. Like many locations I can’t actually remember how I first learnt about it but I suspect it was most likely to be from Flickr. I’ve only been to Blackchurch Rock once before and that was way back in 2015. I didn’t really get the shot I was after but I was impressed by the location and I knew there was plenty of scope for compositions.

So why has it taken me 4 years to return? The simple answer is that because it’s not the easiest of locations to get to I put off returning until I thought the conditions would be ideal. It’s about 1.5 hr drive, plus nearly a 30 minute walk to get to the location. With a journey time of 2 hours there and 2 hours back, I was only going to return for ideal conditions.

For me ideal conditions consist of a number of things. I want good light and in the right direction. The sea arch stands out from the rest of the beach and having it illuminated by good light will make it stand out even more. There are numerous channels and pools around the beach so tide height and water flow are also important. A good sky with interesting clouds illuminated by the setting sun would also be useful. I probably have a set of conditions that rarely come together if I’m honest!

Less Than Ideal Conditions

As you’ll see in the photographs below my most recent visit didn’t really meet any of my criteria for a return visit. When I planned my visit I knew it was going to be a bit of a risk to go there. The tide was in my favour (it was going out), but the weather forecast was a bit 50/50. For me though, photography is sometimes more than just waiting for ideal conditions, it’s also about adventure and friendship.

Blackchurch Rock, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 at 16 mm, f/13, 20 seconds at ISO 64.

The Bottle Stop, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 at 16 mm, f/13, 25 seconds at ISO 64.

Though it was going to be a bit of a punt to go to Blackchurch Rock I knew it was going to be worth the effort because I’d have company. My mate, who also happens to be a photographer, hadn’t been to Blackchruch Rock in a while and fancied going back. As I was in a similar position I thought it was worth a visit. We might get lucky with the conditions (always a possibility), but more than that it would be a good chance to catch up.

As it turned out the conditions were a bit flat. The sky was heavily overcast, the sun was nowhere to be seen, and even though the tide was going out there was barely any movement in the water. It still wasn’t a wasted trip though. Far from it. I got the opportunity to explore the location a bit more and pick out some compositions that I could use on a future visit. Having a good idea of what compositions work in advance can make it easier to capture images when the conditions are ideal.

Most of all though, it wasn’t a wasted trip because I got to catch up with a mate and eat some chips. Sometimes photography is just a bonus!