Adam Burton Photography

On the Rocks


My new friend looks up at me with a strange expression as I stand beside my tripod on the slippery rocks, close to the fierce Atlantic waves crashing into the Faroe Islands.  He doesn't say anything, but I can see from his behaviour that he feels uncomfortable being this close to the sea.  Occasionally he moves backwards a few metres from the edge, before turning and looking at me some more, his eyes encouraging me to do the same.

And he has good reason.  Every so often an explosive wave breaks over the rocks and surges over the black basalt ledge towards us. Living in the nearby village, he knows this area better than anyone, maybe he has seen a few foolish tourists being swept into the sea over the years.

To be honest it feels strange for me also.  Other than the occasional photographer I am mostly alone when photographing such locations.  As I am waiting for more waves to crash in, I consider how unusual this behaviour must look to non-photographers.  We visit picturesque locations at times when most other people have long since gone home or are still in bed, times when darkness is creeping in all around us and nobody is there to help if things go wrong.  We wait for menacing skies, rough seas and crashing waves before venturing out over slippery wet rocks to vantage points as close to the edge as we dare.  Then we set up our expensive and very precious camera gear, and keep shooting until its so dark that we struggle to see our safe passage back.

It's all very normal behaviour for a landscape photographer, but you can understand why non-photographers sometimes give us very strange looks!

My friend takes another few steps backwards as an enormous wave crashes in front of me.  I shield my filters from any stray splashes with my hand, and then go to work, capturing several images as water drains all around me in endless rock pools.  Exhilarating stuff, but after a quick review of the pictures I decide I need another, larger wave to come crashing.  With the tide increasing I know by waiting for another shot I am risking at least a soaking, or at worse slipping on the rocks resulting in broken bones, and camera gear.  But do I see sense and retreat? Of course not.  That is what happens to us landscape photographers in such moments; we are either addicted to the picture or the adrenaline rush of capturing the picture, maybe both.

As I wait that little bit longer my friend gives up trying to save me and wanders off home, casting a few more looks my way before disappearing into the village.  Even dogs think us landscape photographers are an odd bunch!


He he, such a familiar story! I personally feel totally alive in such circumstances. Yes I know it’s not natural to enjoy this type of danger, but the elation felt, the oneness with the environment, the peace and energy of our natural world is addictive. I suppose the fear is a good natural concentrator and it’s the compliancy that is the killer. Personally I’ve seen some very stupid people risking their lives (and that of their children) playing with such conditions. Oh yes fishermen tend to get washed off the rocks with worrying frequency, but I haven’t yet heard of a photographer falling victim to such events!

by Jason Theaker on 10th October 2012

Very well put Adam, I too get caught up in it all. I get a sense of bravado when other people are around which make me do stupid things.

by Lee Duguid on 10th October 2012

I’ve had similar experiences with people who feel uncomfortable being close to the edge - whether it’s water or a drop of many metres. I only step back when my fear of my own safety outweighs my want to experience the decisive moment - usually the scales are tipped heavily towards the experience! Someone described it as wanting to touch the sun. Maybe landscape photographers have a lot in common with moths?!

by Steve Spraggon on 10th October 2012

A very familiar story Adam, on these occasions when we do have the light and incoming tide its very hard to leave, always thinking if i go now will i miss that special picture, i did same at Hartland Quay last July, perfect sunset etc, still standing in 2 ft of Atlantic at 10pm but loved every minute….................

by Antony Burch on 28th January 2013

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