Daffodils at Sidmouth

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For the last two years I have tried, and failed, to get a photograph of the daffodils at Peak Hill Road in Sidmouth. My vision has been to photograph them against the rising sun in the early morning. Now, I have a self-imposed rule to avoid shooting into the sun, but sometimes I have to break it. Not least because later in the day, when the sun is out of this particular shot, people tend to be in it. And I’m not overly keen on people in my landscapes as a rule.

The other advantage for me, of course, its that sunrises are getting earlier in March. My usual stomping ground of Dartmoor would mean an even earlier rise from bed. Not that that is a problem, but why not stay local when there are such good opportunities close by?

Back to the daffs. These were left to the Sid Vale Association by former RAF pilot and banker, Keith Owen, in his will. More accurately, he gifted £2.3m with a stipulation that the annual interest was to be used to “sustain the ambience and way of life, recognized in Sidmouth and its surroundings“. One of his aspirations , apparently, was to brighten up the area with a million daffodils. Million or not, I don’t think anyone can argue that his wish has not been achieved here.

Last year I failed to photograph the scene, despite several visits, with the weather seemingly against me. I was determined to do better this year. On my first visit the sun resolutely hid behind a bank of distant could. I used the opportunity to do a few recce shots with my mobile phone, but left empty-handed. On my second visit the sky was totally clear. This might have been OK if the sun was further around – yellow daffs and blue sky sound good. But yellow daffs shot into a rising sun and clear sky didn’t appeal. I hung around. There was some cloud in the sky, behind me, and it was moving fast. After a while a bank came over – this was my chance.

I had to wait as I wanted the sun diffused a little by the cloud itself. If I waited too long then I’d lose the sun altogether. As the sun rose into the cloud I took a number of shots for about 5 minutes until it disappeared. Ultimately the photo here was my favourite. I took it at an aperture of f/22 – something I can’t remember doing for ages. And ages. However I wanted a starburst effect around the sun and I wasn’t getting this at wider apertures. The effect is subtle here but better than just a big burnt out blob. The trade off, of course, being a slightly softer photo.

I’m really quite pleased with the resulting image. However, I do tend to be a little picky with my own shots. My recce shots of the previous week had a slightly better composition, but no light. This shot has the dramatic light but a slightly weaker composition. An excuse, if any were needed, to return. If not this year – the flowers don’t last long – then next.


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