I have lived in Cornwall for twenty six years after moving down from Cambridgeshire as a child with my family. We moved to the most southerly tip possible, The Lizard peninsula and to The Lizard village itself. To say that for the majority of the winter you couldn’t see the coastline for fog is rather an understatement, but when it was clearer it was quite something. I used to be able to walk from my house to the ever popular Kynance Cove and sit on the cliff tops, watching the huge waves batter the rocks in storms, golden light fall over the cove itself at the end of the day, and watch the wide range of beautiful wildlife there. From Peregrines and other wonderful birds, to Seals and even the odd Whale out to sea if you were lucky.
I spent ten years on this peninsula walking the clifftops, often on my own, learning more and more about how the weather, landscape and it’s wildlife all worked in harmony, how it changed with the seasons, and I grew to know it well. As an adult I expanded the areas to which I visited in Cornwall, walking the coastal paths in all conditions and applying everything that I had learnt as a child, and this has helped me greatly with photographing it. I now know what to look out for, when and where, although at times it all doesn’t necessarily fall into place as I’d like it to. Mother Nature, as we all know, is very unpredictable.
For a landscape photographer Cornwall in winter can be a frustrating place. It’s well known that during this season it can be incredibly stormy, very wet, and also very grey, so trying to get those spectacular well lit photographs of the coastline is quite a challenge. You are forever watching the forecasts, listening to the radio, and looking at your favourite surf and tide apps on your phone to keep abreast of the ever changing conditions ready to grab your gear and pounce when you think it’s all going to come together at the right place and at the time. Quite often, it still doesn’t work out and you end up with nothing at the end of your efforts. It doesn’t put me off though, I love a good bit of stormy weather.
I have wedged myself between rocks, been buffeted as if in a rally car in an absolute gale on the cliffs, and got absolutely soaked by waves in order to get what I wanted photographically. However, one thing I must stress is that I never put myself in danger whilst doing so, and this is when using the knowledge that I’ve built up about the Cornish coast over the years comes into it’s own. Us coastal photographers are constantly faced with other issues too, like sea spray on lenses, salt on equipment, and tripods being rendered pretty much useless in the battle to shoot a sharp image. All of these things though simply add to the enjoyment, excitement, and challenge of photography in Cornwall during the winter. I for one relish it.
It’s not always stormy however, and we do get some beautiful moments of calm and tranquility. One of my most favourite spots for photographing during the winter is where I live now in Penryn, on Exchequer Quay down by the tidal river. I tend to go there before dawn to set up my gear and simply sit, wait and take it all in. If you listen you can hear the familiar ‘pip’ of Kingfishers up and down the river, and are sometimes lucky enough to get a fly past or two. Plus as the sun begins to rise, and if the tide is right, other wading birds like Little Egrets, the amber status Redshank, and red status Curlew start waking up and feeding amongst the mud flats. Another lovely thing about photographing here during the winter is that for part of the season we get the sun rising directly down the river making for some wonderful reflections and colour.
I think what I’m trying to say in this little blog is, wherever you decided to photograph, to get the most out of it that you can, you need to take the time out to learn as much as you possibly can about it. Spend time on your own in it, read about it, walk around it, and most importantly keep your eyes and ears wide open in order for your mind to collect as much information about it as possible. This knowledge will then go on to help you immensely when on a mission to photograph it.
Many thanks indeed to Alice for inviting me to write a guest blog for her website, and don’t forget to check out her fantastic work and personal blog posts also.
I do hope that you’ve enjoyed my ramblings. Regards, Phil.
Phil is a photographer from Penryn in Cornwall, and has a great love for the county that she lives in and the surrounding south west. She enjoys walking all over Cornwall with her camera, in almost all weathers, in search of it’s stunning landscapes and fantastic nature. Her interest in photography started when her son was younger, and like any parent snapped away with a little compact. This soon progressed into wanting to know more about how to shoot for a better image. After a lot of reading up she decided to buy an old 35mm film Canon 100 SLR and this is where the journey began. She now enjoys photographing anything that interests her, however landscapes are a firm favourite. See her website for more beautiful images. She also tweets at @PhilStarkey and has her own Facebook page.