Turning Night into Day

On January’s full moon, Mike Bentley and I went down to Clovelly and onto Black Church Rock at Mill Mouth. The night was unbelievably clear with a huge, bright, full moon. We’d brought torches with us but hardly needed to use them. Walking down the track at 9pm was an eerie experience as, without warning, roosting pheasants would fly, startled, out of trees and old misshaped oaks would spread contorted shadows over the path ahead. At one stage we had to traverse a fallen tree, it’s trunks width being equal to our height.

The forest had managed to keep the frost at bay but as we got onto the beach the pebbles were suddenly very slippy. Moving down the beach, ice soon turned to water and still further to dry stone thanks to the breeze. Travelling over a rocky shore is always dangerous and I wouldn’t recommend trying it at night to anyone, the harsh moon light confuses any spacial awareness, the shadows blacker than black.

Black Church Rock was magnificent in this dream world, our photographs describe the colour far better than the rods in our eyes. The landscape format picture above is of me taking the portrait format, by Mike Bentley. I believed I could see well in this light but to give you an idea of the amount of light the photograph above was 400iso, f2.8 and 1 minute exposure; the limits of my camera without my (broken) cable release. It’s noticeable from the image that the horizon isn’t straight – seeing to compose is so difficult and focusing complete guesswork. Even focusing with torchlight or with the camera flash is impossible with this dark rock.The colour in these pictures is amazing though. The reflected daylight and harsh shadow is evocative of a hot, bright, summers day. However the addition of a coloured light in the above photograph and the stars in the sky do much to question this assumption.

Home Start Window – Bideford

I continue to get support from Home Start on Bridgeland Street, Bideford to dress their window and inside wall with images. This gives then something interesting on their wall to discuss and a partial shield from the stares of passers by, who hopefully look at my canvas instead. There is a 6 week turn-a-round of pictures, so the one above will be there until late-May.

Home-Start is a voluntary organisation offering support, friendship and practical help to families at home with children under 5. Home-Start recruits, supports and prepares volunteers who are parents, grandparents or have parenting experience to visit families who are under pressure.

The current print on canvas is of a place very dear to me that I visited recently on my birthday. It is Black Church Rock, Mouth Mill, North Devon. If Black Church Rock was in the USA there would be a car park at its trail head and an interpretive board explaining it geological history and deconstruction. This is an amazing piece of natural land art close to our foremost visitor destination, Clovelly; yet I?d be surprised if even 1% of it?s visitors ever experience it. This is one of the easiest parts of our wild coast to get to. A gradual walk down a stone track from Clovelly Court will take you all the way to Mouth Mill; and once on the beach a glance to the right is all that?s needed to see the spectacle.

Black Church Rock, as the name suggests, is constructed of very dark rock and the 24 photographs for this image were taken at sunset when there is a golden glow to the arches in high summer.Tthe rock face was exposed for longer than the sky to emphasise the colour it takes from the setting sun. The images were ?stitched together? on a computer using Photoshop.

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.