There is something special about sea air especially on a winters day. An onshore wind is scouring the already barren and deserted cliff top here at Portland Bill. Sea spray and saltiness is tasted with every breath. The wind is constant and occasional gusts threaten to steal my hat or thrust me wholly to the floor.
A winter storm is blowing in and the white horses prancing across the english channel taunt me to retreat to the comfort and warmth of the cafe with the ‘open’ neon sign beckons invitingly.
Camera and tripod hastily stuffed into bag and off I walk with dogged purpose towards the sanctuary and promise of steaming tea and a light lunch. It is a struggle to open the door but with more than slight effort it slowly relents only to slam into my back as if to reinforce that I should not have been outside on a day reserved solely for the elements.
Peering through the window from my table complete with cloth, teapots and china cup everything looks calm and civilised. Just the distant white tops foaming and prancing give an indication of what might be the other side of the glass.
The Velbon travel tripod stood up well to buffeting from the wind during the 25 second exposures with the light held back by a HiTech 10 stop IRND filter. This created an unnaturally misty and still ocean which looked calm and dare I say it tranquil in the final exposure.
On setting up the next shot just before the shutter was depressed a rogue wave hit the rock I was balancing on and created up spray that shot over my head and soaked me and camera with equal disregard for the damage that salt water can do to sensitive Japanese electronics that live inside the Fuji XPro1.
Dripping and a bit cold I make a hasty retreat to higher ground my mind creating news headlines, “Photographer swept from rocks in worst storm of the winter” My imagination was running free. This was a mild blow, maybe 4 or 5 on the Beaufort scale. It became apparent to me that I had been away from the sea for far too long.
At Portland Bill there are some views that all photographers aim to get. The old jib crane to the Dorset side of the lighthouse. Portland Bill itself with rocky ledges in the foreground. Pulpit Rock and the waves crashing around then maybe the old fisherman’s huts which these days are more likely to store bucket and spade than fishing nets or lobster pots.
View from the ledges by the gib crane
Notice on Pulpit Rock
It seems health and safety gets everywhere these days.
In order to reach this notice you have already risked broken legs clambering over boulders that I’m not sure whether they were left by the sea or quarrymen years ago.
Portland Bill and waves hitting the ledges
I had to lean against Pulpit Rock to get this shot. It was too windy for the tripod and there was little or no protection from the spray. Surprisingly the images have failed to convert the ferocity of the weather or it just felt worse than it actually was. A low tide kept the worst of the waves away from me.
All fairly standard set of pictures from Portland today. This was primarily a scouting trip for a night shoot I hope to do soon. I went with the intention of long exposure images but these didn’t do justice to the weather experienced.
Note the imprint of a fossil in the foreground. This must have been quite a find.
Beaufort Wind Scale
|0||Calm||Sea like a mirror|
|1||Light air||Ripples but without foam crests|
|2||Light breeze||Small wavelets. Crests do not break|
|3||Gentle breeze||Large wavelets. Perhaps scattered white horses|
|4||Moderate breeze||Small waves. Fairly frequent white horses|
|5||Fresh breeze||Moderate waves. Many white horses|
|6||Strong breeze||Large waves begin to form; white foam crests. Probably spray|
|7||Near gale||Sea heaps up and white foam blown in streaks along the direction of the wind|
|8||Gale||Moderately high waves. Crests begin to break into spindrift. The foam is blown in well marked streaks along the direction of the wind|
|9||Severe gale||High waves. Dense foam along the direction of the wind. Crests of waves begin to roll over. Spray may affect visibility|
|10||Storm||Very high waves with long overhanging crests. The surface of the sea takes a white appearance. The tumbling of the sea becomes heavy and shock-like. Visibility affected|