Saturday, 15 September 2012

North Devon (and a bit of Cornwall)

I've been back nearly a week now so a blog post is long overdue.

My wife and I are regular visitors to Cornwall and have recently discovered some of the delights of North Devon. We had a fantastic week, much of it spent in warm and unbroken sunshine. From our base at Woodford Bridge Country Club we were equidistant (about 15 miles) from Bideford, Bude and RHS Rosemoor.

One of the key photographic draws was Hartland Quay and before going away I searched for some other nearby photo opportunities. One potential gem I found was Docton Mill Gardens.

Docton Mill Gardens

View back to the gardens from the tea room
We visited here early in the week and it didn't disappoint! Not only were the grounds and gardens beautiful, but the owners and staff have a really laid back approach to life: just what is needed at the start of any holiday. Oh - and they serve a great seafood platter in their tea room.

One of the features of the garden is the header stream for the mill that bisects the lower and upper sections and is planted very naturally.

Water-loving plants line the edges of the mill stream
The garden hosted a plethora of Hydrangeas, ranging from deep blues and purples to the pure white.
Hydrangea flower head
A few yards across the road from the entrance to the garden is a small weir where the mill stream is fed off from the river. I made a mental note of this and went back early the following morning to take some photos, taking advantage of the low light to get some long exposures to blur the movement of the water.

Wide-angle view upstream with the weir in the distance
I used the moss-covered fallen tree to provide a lead-in line to this shot. Controlling the exposure and DOF was very tricky here as the weir was a good few stops brighter than the foreground: a combination of polariser and graduated ND did the trick in the end.

'The fallen tree'

Speke's Mill

After photographing the stream I followed it the mile or so down its course to Speke's Mill, where it meets the sea. This was the one day when the weather was unfavourable and I was soon enveloped by light 'mizzle', so I checked out the area in the hope of coming back some time in better conditions. I was acutely aware that to get the best shots I would have to clamber over the rocks and, on my own, this would be too dangerous.

To give you an idea of the potential here's a grab shot of the Speke Mill waterfall. The light was awful but there's plenty to work with on the right day.

Speke's Mill


Retracing Wonky steps to Trebarwith Strand

The first Wonky Horizons photo trip was to Rock on the North Cornwall coast in March last year and one of the places we visited was Trebarwith Strand. We all got some good shots there and I was keen to pay it another visit. We arrived about an hour before sunset and had dinner in the Port William pub, perched on the rocks, looking over the cove.

Outside the Port William pub waiting for the sun to go down
After dinner I made my way down to the rocks and got my camera gear out of the car boot. I was not alone however and two other like-minded photographers beat me to it by just a couple of minutes. If I had set up for my composition of choice I would have had the both of them in view, so I had to adjust my strategy - bugger. This was a shame as the light was fantastic - double bugger.

'Blood on the rocks' - not quite what I had in mind but the best I could achieve.
I should thank Anthony here for lending me his Lee hard graduated ND filters. I've only got the soft graduated and they are just not as good for seascapes.

So, two leaning points for me: get there early and claim the space; wear wellingtons for extra grip on the wet rocks and to keep your trousers dry for that 'bigger-than-the-average wave'.

Hartland Quay

As mentioned earlier, Hartland Quay is a must-do photographic spot and, like Trebarwith, it has become ever more popular thanks to exposure via magazines, flickr and blogs (yes, I'm guilty too!). However, unlike Trebarwith, there is more than one vantage point; in fact there are many. With four other photographers there at the same time during my evening visit managed not to get in each other's way too much.

There are two big attractions to Hartland Quay. Firstly, the strata of the rocks jutting out into the sea give it an almost Martian appearance. Secondly, it faces due west, making it amenable to later evening photography.

The shot below was taken about 10 minutes after sunset and is pretty much straight out of camera. That said, I did use 5 stops of hard ND grads to keep the exposure of the sky down and bring out the details in the rocks. An 8 second exposure, 24mm focal length at f/16 - job done.

'After the sun has gone' - Hartland Quay
In contrast to the really warm tones at sunset, I also visited early in the morning (30 minutes before sunrise) to capture the cool blue tones. No filters needed here as the dynamic range was very narrow. 30 second exposure, 80mm focal length at f/20 (taken from the car park in true John Wigmore style).

Strata and surf - Hartland Quay
Hartland Quay is certainly a place that is high on the list for a future visit by the Wonky group. 

Hartland Abbey

Just a couple of miles away is Hartland Abbey and Gardens which, like Docton Mill, lies naturally in its surroundings. We spent a very pleasant time there, exploring the estate, from the formal walled garden, the woodland walks and the tree-lined track that leads out to the coast - stunning.

Julia pretending to be 'The Lady of the Manor'
Steps and archway separating sections of the walled garden

Raised bed and greenhouse

Back-lit gunerra leaf
Artichoke flower
View from the coast, showing the track leading back to the abbey and Stoke church breaking the horizon

RHS Rosemoor

Julia is a member of the RHS so there was no excuse not to go to Rosemoor. It would be our second visit there, our first being in June last year: a different season and a different experience. Rather than waffle on I'll just let you see the photos.

Home via Exmoor

Julia's aunt lives on the North Somerset coast and we took a small diversion to drop in on her on our way home, deciding to go across Exmoor National Park on the way, rather than stick to the main roads.

Having checked out we left North Devon with the most fantastic cloud formations adorning the sky. I was keen to try and capture these but struggled to find anywhere good to stop. By about midday I came across a good vista but by then the light had turned a bit too harsh and the clouds had dissipated somewhat.

Sky across Exmoor
I really must get a polarising filter for my wide-angle lens to help give some punch to my landscapes. Unfortunately it's an 82mm thread and my other lenses, for which I have a polariser, are 77mm. It will go on the shopping list along with the hard graduated NDs.

I found a nice stretch of river near Tarr Steps and spent a while doing some more long exposures using the rocks for interest and, as our holiday drew to a close, there was a reminder in the colour of the fallen leaves that Autumn is just round the corner.

Autumnal flow

1 comment:

  1. Those photos are so nice and the place is really beautiful indeed. I would love to spend holidays at Cornwall cottages near those places.