Earlier this month (October 2016), I headed over to the Isle of Wight with a friend for a spot of wild camping. I’ve seen the island pretty much every day for the last 20 years, and it’s even guest appeared in one of two of my photographs, but this was my first time appreciating it up close.
It was a challenge; we’d need to find somewhere suitable to set up camp and it would have to be near a stretch of beach which was both photographic and in line with the sun’s early-morning movements.
Safe to say we found it – eventually – on a part of the island called Freshwater. Right next to the road, along a short stretch of pebble beach lies this rock stack. Luck was definitely on our side; not only was the sun due to rise right behind it – perfect – but we’d also ultimately get a decent tide height. So far so good, now we just needed good weather conditions and a decent sunrise.
So after a great night’s sleep under a sky full of stars (that’s a complete lie, I got 20 minutes at best), we packed up, followed the wild camping code of leaving the place exactly as we found it, and drove the short journey to the beach.
Shooting in a brand new location at sunrise is a real challenge, there’s a lot to do and very little time to do it. There’s the practical element – getting the lay of the land, seeing what angle it looks best from and predicting what the tide and weather are going to do and how this will impact on the scene.
Then there’s what you might call the philosophical element; how do you feel about the place, what’s the subject or unifying theme, what do you want to express about it and how do you want people to feel when they look at it?
Finally is the technical part of making this happen; the composition, focussing, exposing, filtration etc., the bit you do on the camera.
If you’re shooting towards the sun, all this has to be done very quickly; you’ve got from nautical sunrise – when the very first morning light just about allows you to see what’s in front of you – till the moment the sun peaks its head up over the horizon. Sometimes that can happen in as little as 25 minutes, which really isn’t long at all when you’ve never seen the place before. The worst case scenario is standing there watching an incredible sunrise without doing the above well enough to get a shot, it’s how I imagine it must feel to watch a train leave the station knowing you’ve left your phone on it.
Pressure, a real test, making it all the more fulfilling when you grab a photograph which meets your own exacting standards.
And here it is, my first photograph from the Isle of Wight, a beautiful sunrise after an incredible night staring up with wonder at a star-filled sky, wishing I could just get some bloody sleep!
Part of the Everywhere else collection.