Adam Burton Photography

Priest’s Cove, Cape Cornwall

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Located just a few miles away from Land's End near the south west tip of Cornwall, Cape Cornwall is a rugged promontory stretching out into the Atlantic. Once mistakenly believed to be England's most westerly point, an accolade that has long since been corrected to Land's End, the Cape never the less is one of the photographic highlights of any trip to West Cornwall.

The Cape has many qualities making it an ideal location for landscape photography. First and foremost the scenery, like many stretches of the Cornish coastline, is simply breathtaking. High cliffs with rocky outcrops can be found on either side of the Cape, offering dramatic cliff top views stretching out over crashing Atlantic waves to the picturesque headland. Unlike its near neighbour Land's End, Cape Cornwall enjoys a much more peaceful existence, with far less visitors the coast here has a more remote feel to it. And also unlike Land's End, several areas allow sea level access at rugged little coves, bursting with photographic potential, like the subject of today's Viewpoint, Priest's Cove.

I have visited Priest's Cove many times over the years, and almost always had a memorable experience, each time returning with a memory card of pictures.  This particular trip on an October morning proved to be no exception. 

I arrived in darkness and parked in the little car park above the beach.  Ideally, being a west facing beach this is an evening photographic location, but I knew from past experience that it could also offer potential at dawn.  On top of that I knew dawn would give me a far greater chance of enjoying the beach without having to share it with any other photographers, a little selfish maybe but an important consideration which allows greater freedom when composing images.

Like it's popular sister cove Porth Nanven, the typical compositions for any photographs at Priest's Cove involves shooting westwards towards the islands of The Brisons.  On this occasion I opted for something a little different and instead decided to shoot back towards the Cape itself.  I had timed my visit to coincide with a falling tide, as I knew the resulting wet rocky shore would have added appeal to any photographs I captured.  After searching the shoreline for a few minutes I found some rounded granite boulders to use as my foreground in a wide angled composition.  Such boulders and pebbles are a wonderful feature of Priest's Cove, their unusual colour brings some welcome relief to the dark grey rocks of the shoreline. 

I attached my 16-35mm F2.8L wide angle lens to my Canon 1dS Mk3 and set the camera up on the tripod in a low position, which would allow me to feature the beautiful rounded pebbles boldly in the foreground.  I added a .6 Lee ND Graduated filter to balance the dawn sky with the dark foreground and took my first exposure, which was 30 seconds.  This turned the water to a smooth blur, which I often find incredibly appealing in coastal photographs, as it conveys a peaceful tranquillity and simplicity within the picture.

After 30 seconds the picture popped up on my review screen; all looked good but I was a little disappointed by the lack of cloud in the sky.  I decided to try out some alternative viewpoints and return to this composition once the sun had risen. 

An hour later I was back on the shore, camera set up low again on the tripod, and ready to capture my picture.  Fortunately a sky full of beautiful clouds had appeared over the past hour, and were still tinged pink by the sunrise.  This was looking much better!  To improve matters even further, the early morning sunlight was just starting to bathe the Capein a rich golden glow, which left the headland perfectly colour matching my rounded granite foreground boulders.

Now it was daylight the scene was brighter than in my original photograph, meaning that my shutter speed would be much shorter than the 30 seconds of my previous effort an hour ago.  To keep the effect of the long exposure I fitted a Lee ProGlass 0.9 ND filter, which again gave me a welcome 30 seconds and the resulting calm water effect.

Feeling happy with my picture and many others captured on this morning I soon packed up and headed back to the car park.  Another great morning at CapeCornwallhad yielded some more special pictures; I couldn't have asked for more.


Just wanted to know if you used a polariser as well on your seascape work , or do find using a wide angle lens that the polariser does not work that well.

by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12th October 2011

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