MS Johanna

My working practice seems to have the construction of an image as an inherent part of it. This picture of the MS Johanna in a gale at high tide wrecked on Hartland Point was constructed from 4 photographic frames taken over a 10 minute period. I made 54 separate RAW images from a fixed camera viewpoint between 09.31 and 09.41 on December 16th 2011. The finished print reflects my memory of the place and of the experience of being there at that time.
The key reason for needing to combine frames for this image has to do with the limitations of the camera. Our eyes instantly focus as we observe a scene so that the foreground, middle and background appear all in focus to us. To achieve this depth of vision I am forced to use a very small aperture in the camera lens and compensate this with a slow shutter speed. But my memory of these terrific waves breaking on the quay is of that frozen moment when they reach their zenith before they come crashing down again. To capture that moment I needed to use a fast shutter speed and compromise that with a wide aperture which made the background, and the all important shipwreck, out-of-focus.
Other reasons for combining frames in this image was the sky which I was able to make more like I saw it by exposing it for less time and making it darker. The aperture in our eyes alters automatically; as we look at something lighter it closes and as I have found in many dark caves the aperture opens and in time the rods in the eye take over from the cones. I also chose a frame where the MS Johanna was both visible and light enough to make out against the background cliffs.
It had always been my intention in the planning of this photograph that it should be a combination of the wind, storm, high tide, waves, the wreck of the Johanna and to include a stretch of the Hartland cliffs as a setting. Although I shot 126 photographs in total within a ? hour period I had done this with the goal of this one image in mind.
As a comparison I?ve included a picture made last summer of the same shipwreck.

Communication with Bats

I was making the most of the spring tide on Friday 18th September and exploring a bit of the North Devon coast I hadn?t accessed before, via Mouth Mill, on the Hartland Coast. At low tide, midday, I found a shallow but very high cave under Windbury Head with 2 grand pillars of rock holding the cliff up at it?s entrance. The shallowness of the cavern meant I couldn?t photograph it from the back as I usually would so I snuggled up to the wall on the left-hand-side and started to make my constructed image, photographing the boulders at my feet first and moving along the floor and up the right-hand wall with my camera. As my Olympus E3 focuses it emits a high pitched sound; this sound attracted the bats, I?m assuming, as I made no sound and used no flash. The bats, (I?m rubbish at identifying them, bigger than those seen on the Tarka Trail South of Bideford, you could clearly see their ears!) 2 of them flew in formation around the inside of the cave mapping it, then back to the top, out-of-sight, then after seconds, came out again and flew lower down until they were within a few feet of me; then they were gone taking exactly the same flight path back to their roost. I had stayed still all of this time, happy to watch them, and didn?t take anymore pictures whilst they were flying; I was shooting at 1/10 of a second anyway so I couldn?t have photographed them. It seemed as though as soon as they had discovered that it wasn?t another bat making the noise they were happy to go back to bed. I finished taking photographs and didn?t see them again.

It?s unusual to find bats in these sea caves because at high tide the sea is well inside of them and the surf is pounding up the sides and back. In fact, it?s rare to find any life in these places because the environment at high tide is so violent, only the most stubborn limpet will cling onto these walls. However, in this cave, the ceiling was so high, a good 30 feet, and with plenty of jagged crevices to make a home for a bat. I?ve only found bats in one other cave in the cliffs here, and that one was always dry.