Regrets? I’ve had a few. And this is one of them.
Several times over the past year year I have been put off by other photographers when going out on early morning shoots. Maybe I should start finding less popular locations as I quite like the solitude at first thing — just me, my camera, and a rising sun. But, hey, I want to get my own versions of what others call the photographic clichés so I guess I’ll have to put up with company every now and then — after all I certainly don’t have “first dibs” on anywhere. I have found, however, that I am easily put off by these other photographers and this was never more evident to me than on a recent trip to Dovercourt Low Lighthouse to shoot the sunrise.
I first found out about this location back in 2008 when I was an active Pbase user and saw an excellent photo by Katie Jones on the same site. My usual photographic patch is Devon but, as my in-laws live in Essex and I spend several weekends a year up there with the family, I immediately put it onto my to-shoot list. It is a long drive from the in-laws’ house in Wickford to Dovercourt and getting there for sunrise after a few too many beers the previous night has proved beyond my weak willpower until now.
I was determined to make my own photo out of the location and not just copy what I had seen elsewhere. Turning up 20 minutes or so before sunrise the tide was perfect (about 3/4 out and receding) so I set up my tripod on the beach and composed a pleasing (to my eye) composition using the foreground groynes and more distant walkway to create a zigzag lead in to the main attraction. I took two shots with this composition, the best of which is below (another shot, omitting the groynes, is on my Flickr photostream):
I like the composition and actually quite like the almost monochromatic feel to this image. However, shortly after taking it, I was distracted by the other early riser on the beach — another photographer who was setting up his shot 30 yards or so to my left. “Aha”, I thought, “he’s a local and he must know the best compo’s”. Not wanting to miss out, I moved further up the beach towards him and started making different compositions waiting for the sunrise and the accompanying lightshow. None of these compositions really worked as well for me as the first one had and, by the time I returned to my original location after about half an hour, the sun was up, tide had receded too far, and the compo didn’t work any more.
Now, as it happens, I hadn’t missed a fantastic sunrise so no real damage done but, on closer inspection, I hadn’t focussed properly and the foreground groynes were sharp at the expense of an ever so slightly out of focus lighthouse. The effect is minimal but noticeable to me — and therefore very annoying. If I had only stuck to my guns and worked on my original composition I hope I would have noticed this and put it right, coming away with an image I was 100% satisfied with and not thinking that I must return (and at this rate it will be 2016 before I do so …).
Another example is when I visited Hay Tor in Devon in March (image below):
Again, another photographer was there and he put me off — probably more so than the one at Dovercourt because this one was aloof and ignored my presence and attempts to even say hello to him while waiting for sunrise (at least I had a good chat with the chap on the beach). I spent far too long more aware of what he was doing rather than concentrating on the scene before me and doing the best that I could. As it happens I quite like what I came away from Hay Tor with, so not much damage done there.
I have had similar experiences at other locations: Lyme Regis Cobb and Teignmouth Pier to name but two.
I have more than enough photographic experience to trust my own instincts. Why is it, therefore, that I always get distracted by the other guy? Resolution for the rest of the year: put the blinkers on and stick to my guns. Either that or avoid the photographic honeypots …