Adam Burton Photography

Seacombe, Dorset

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You could be forgiven for thinking that Dorset’s Jurassic Coast consisted only of its Premier League sites; places of notoriety such as Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and Portland Bill.  It’s true that these spectacular coastal landmarks are incredible locations to visit, but Dorset also offers many hidden gems to the photographer willing to look for them.  Seacombe is one of those gems.  Its obscurity is one of the major factors in its appeal; a trip to Seacombe will get you away from the tourists and other photographers and quite often leave you with a cove all to yourself. 

But just because this cove is not well known don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s not worth the trip.  While only small, Seacombe provides a wealth of geological interest which makes it perfect for coastal landscape photography.  The layered cliffs and ledges consist of Portland Stone which, as well as being a famous building material (used in the building of both Buckingham Palace and St Pauls Cathedral) is a fossil rich sedimentary rock.  If you are fortunate enough to stumble across the fossilised remains of an ammonite embedded in the rock you could boast a 60 million year old creature as foreground subject interest in your composition.  Where else could you do such a thing!

Like most places along the Dorset coast Seacombe is best photographed in the winter months when the sun rises over the sea to the east.  I always try to arrive on location well before the sun has risen as I favour the pre dawn show of colours. 

With this in mind, I arrived at Seacombe with around 30 minutes before sunrise.  After a quick search over the rocky ledge I found a small channel looking eastwards towards the dawn glow.  I set up my Canon EOS 5D on my Manfrotto tripod and composed the shot low to include the channel of water.  I used a .9 Neutral Density graduated filter to give me a balanced exposure between the bright sky and dark foreground.  Unfortunately I knew this would turn the headland almost completely black but it was a compromise that I was prepared to make.

I waited for a wave to crash through the channel, and then when the water retreated I took several exposures, capturing the white foam as it drained back towards the sea.  Experience has taught me that this splash of white can really help to add interest to a dark foreground.

Once the sun had risen the difference in exposure between the foreground and sky proved too much, so I changed my viewpoint to shoot with the sun behind me.  Already being slightly yellow in colour the cliffs along this stretch of coast turn to pure gold when bathed in early morning light.  This was what I had come to capture, and I was ready for it!  I again opted for a low viewpoint to maximise the detail in the cracked ledges, and orientated the camera this time in landscape position to fully capture the ledge and golden cliffs as they stretched westwards.

With the sun behind me casting its light throughout the cove, the exposure was far more balanced.  I used a polariser to further bolster the colours and took several more exposures over the next few minutes until the rising sun desaturated the intense gold.  Feeling satisfied with a successful trip I packed up and headed back up the footpath, encountering not a single person en route.  I felt fortunate that this stretch of Dorsetremains a hidden gem.

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