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Night Time Landscapes At The North Norfolk Coast

With the recent photographic talk presented by Tony Worobiec on taking night time landscapes, I have been visiting the Norfolk Broads and the North Norfolk Coast to try this out for myself.

Taking images of the night sky is very different to taking nighttime landscapes. When taking images of the night sky, typically cameras are pushed to the limits of high ISO and with the lowest aperture possible to gather as much light before the stars start to blur due to the rotation of the planet. Also added to the fact that a clear sky is desired with no moon which limits the opportunities further. 

With taking landscape images at night, long exposures of at least 2-3 minutes and longer are required to gather enough light to create a properly exposed image to look as if the image was taken during the daytime. This type of photography is much easier to capture as I was mostly using an ISO between 200-400 with an aperture of around F/8.

Burnahm Staithe while standing in inches of moving sea water - a 4 minute exposure  

I can see all modern cameras made within the last 5 years would be capable of these settings and produce acceptable results. As a clear sky is not required, having clouds would be beneficial as moving clouds are very effective with long exposures, the only time when not taking nighttime landscapes could be a challenge would be during rain. Even then that could be possible and interesting if the camera was inside pointing out of a window. 

All that is required is an intervalometer that can be purchased from eBay around £15 and a good sturdy tripod. 

Taking pictures at night can be tricky in terms of setting the focus point, on a manual focus lens such as the stunning Samyang 12mm F/2 (est £140 I spent) where the focus markings are clear and easy to read is fairly straight forward. On auto focus lenses I find a distant light for the lens to lock onto and then turn off the autofocus, if there is no distant light is around then I shine my torch onto something to the desired distance for the camera to set the focus. 

Typically I only visit placed at dark when I have been before in daytime, in the case of Burnahm Staithe and Thornham I have been here a few times and know the layout. Below is a list that I bring with me, not all items are essential but these are what I have found to be useful and change depending on where I plan on going and the likely conditions

What I took with me on my nighttime trip to Burnahm Staithe and Thornham

  • Fuji X-E1
  • Fuji 35mm 1.4
  • Samyang 12mm F/2
  • Tripod
  • Intervalometer
  • Wellington boots and wearing 2-3 pairs of socks for extra comfort and warmth
  • Head torch
  • Normal handheld torch
  • Extra camera batteries 
  • Music to keep me entertained between the 4-6 minute exposures 
  • Battery Bank to charge my phone if needed (Not Used)
  • Flash Gun (Not Used)

Thornham - around 4 Minutes as the battery died during the exposure 

Finding the desired composition can be difficult in the dark even for a mirrorless camera as it was literally "a shot in the dark". The best way I found was to take a quicker snapshot by bumping up the ISO and lowering the aperture and capturing a minutes exposure. Once I found a good composition I the went back to an ISO of around 400 and aperture of F/8 to get a more cleaner image and more movement in the clouds.

These setting I used were from trial and error, I set an initial exposure with a low ISO and mid Aperture and guessed the shutter speed. To bight and I would need a shorter exposure, to dark and a longer exposure would have been needed. If the shutter speed is taking too long then dont be afraid of increasing the ISO.

Ending this post with a word of warning, I took some risky steps that I would not recommend anyone to take. At Burnham I was actually standing the the sea and my wellies only had a few centimetres clearance and the ground was mostly stones making it possible to support myself on the mud.

A couple of years ago I visited Morston which is not too far from Burnham and it was in the daytime. I had the great idea of wanting to stand in the middle of the river as the tide was out to get a better angle of a small boats laying on the mud. Soon as I put one foot into the empty river (wearing wellies) it sank a good few inches and created suction. Not being able to initially move it out I started to panic, I eventually got out of that situation a bit more dirty than I wanted but made me appreciate the potential dangers when out and about.

First attempt at night time landscapes just before dawn a week prior. Not a picture that I like. 

Only because someone else arrived and went into the very low river and started walk around I thought it was worth a try and I used the tripod to test the ground before advancing my next step. As I was in the water, the risk of dropping any equipment in the sea was a very real possibility and I needed to change the lens, increasing the risk further. Not recommended! 

Thornham just up the road was a very different environment and was like walking on ice with the wet mud, again walking with great care was essential. 



Top 22 Of 2015 Photos Part 2

Continuing from part 1 of my 2015 collection where I show 22 of my favorite images taken in 2015.

Image 12

I had recently purchased a second hand Samyang 12mm f2.0 to fit my Fuji X-E1 which at £140 which was a bargain that I intended to use for my increasing interest in astrophotography.

This new lens has opened up a new genre of photography and the images that I have been able to capture with it have been very pleasing to say the least and has become my lens of choice for normal daytime photography. Being a 67mm threaded lens my 10 stop filter also fits which is a real bonus. 

The the Milky Way can clearly be seen behind the beach huts in Wells in this image and I just love it. 

Image 13

This year I have changed my job and now based in Norwich which has given me access new places to explore easily before, lunch break and after work. St James Hill near the prison is in easy walking distance to the office and I have visited this spot on countless occasions and offer views over the entire city. Although the walk up the very steep hill always reminds me on how unfit I am.

The spot is great to see the sunset and I have included a few images in my 2015 collection from this spot. As with most of my landscape images I try and use HDR to achieve a good exposure which I have used in this image. 

Image 14

Another image taken from St James Hill in Norwich on a different day to image 13.

The man sitting on the Memorial makes the image. 

Image 15

Taken at Winterton-on-Sea not far from Great Yarmouth. I decided to travel to the coast after work one evening in October. 

Typically when I go and photograph the night sky or sunsets and sunrises I like to have been there before in daylight just so I know the area. Currently this has been the one and only time I have visited Winterton.

The Milky Way can be seen dropping down behind these sheds and the bright small cluster M31 Andromeda Galaxy can be seen in the top right, or so I have been told.

Image 16

Taken at Thompson Water a nature reserve nearby that I decided to visit very early on an October Sunday morning for a sunrise.

As I have recently discovered, the real interesting stuff happens long before the sun is actually visible. Now when planning a sunrise I need to be at the location ideally at least an hour before the sun comes up. While driving to this location the sky was even more dramatic but I am still happy with what I have captured. 

Image 17 

One of the more modern building in Norwich and next to one of the oldest.

I got into the city a little earlier than normal to see what I can capture as the sun rises. Taken with the Samyang 12mm f2.0 lens using the 10 Stop filter to capture the movement in the clouds and smooth out the water enhancing the reflections.

Image 18

With the clocks going back the when I leave the office it's now dark, while capturing sunsets is no longer convenient I alter my photography to the conditions that are presented to me. 

Taken in Norwich in late October I was walking along the river towards the Riverside Leisure Park and captured this iconic and well photographed location. As this is a long exposure the water has become smooth enhancing the reflection of this medieval building. 

Image 19

After photographing the fireworks display organised by the council with a fellow photographer we walked past a queue for fish and chips on a slow walk back to the car.

After some trial and error I settled on this angle while using HDR to capture the colour inside the buildings and in the wet cobble pavement.

That fish and chip shop has now become one of my favorite places to get lunch. It can be quite busy and I often have to go elsewhere as I have little time to wait due to the time it takes to walk there. 

Image 20 

This November trip into London was with the camera club which means I wasn't worried about wasting their time as they were also taking images. 

Like with most of my images its usually the case of being in the right place at the right time as you never know what the conditions will be. When we first arrived it was raining very heavily and ending up with this sunset was unexpected. I was using a 10 stop filter on 12mm lense to create the dramatic sky along with the reflections. 

Image 21

With the nights getting longer taking images of the stars is becoming easier, this image was taken at around 9pm which is much better than midnight compared to the images taken at Wells.

Taken at Little Cressingham which is just down the road from Watton I wanted to see if I could do anything with this building and this ruined roof worked really well. In this situation I wish I had the newer cameras that you can control with a smartphone as I had to lay on my back on gravel to see what I was doing. At Least I was sheltered from the wind and it was surprisingly fairly comfortable laying down.

Image 22

Last image making my 2015 collection was taken on Christmas Eve. Finishing work earlier than normal allowed me to capture a sunset which I have not been able to do in a few months. Again this is looking over Norwich from St James Hill.

Due to a quick drink with colleagues I arrived just as the sun went under the horizon. I just love the color in the horizon and then the rain to the right which is very different to what I have seen before from this same location that I keep visiting. I did capture a set of images to make into a HDR image but I think the silhouette if the city skyline is much better.

 

If you have made it this far then thank you for taking the time to view my work. What I love about photography is that I get to see these beautiful scenes and places that I would otherwise have no idea about and being able to share these makes it all the more worthwhile.

Tools I use

BBC Weather https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=bbc.mobile.weather&hl=en

AccuWeather https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.accuweather.android&hl=en

Blitzortung Lightning Monitor https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.blitzortung.android.app&hl=en

The Photo Ephemeris (Phone - Paid) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.crookneckconsulting.tpeandroid&hl=en

The Photo Ephemeris (Desktop - Free) http://app.photoephemeris.com/?ll=52.629152,1.294935&center=52.6899,1.3622&dt=20151226082600%2B0000&z=10&spn=0.40,1.85

 

Perseids Meteor Shower

Over the last few weeks with the nights starting to get longer I am now trying to take pictures at night with the aim of photographing the night sky. On August the 12th saw the Annual Perseids Meteor Shower reach its peak. Being a Wednesday I wouldnt normally travel so far as Wells Next The Sea with being at work the next day. I eventually got home around 1.30am with my alarm set for the usual time of 6am making my purchase of Redbull energy drink essential, surprisingly I was fine till about lunchtime. 

The weather forecast kept changing throughout the week and I wasn't hopeful the sky was going to be visible to see the meteors through the clouds, I only decided to go at the last minute. Leaving early enough I had time to scout the area I intended to set up in daylight and to photograph the sunset on the same trip to make it worthwhile incase the sky was too cloudy for the meteor shower. Clouds may not be good for taking images of the night sky but I think they are essential to good sunset images as you capture different colours in the clouds. 

Can I call this a selfie?

I selected Wells because I thought the beach huts would add interest to a potential image other than the night sky which I think can be boring on its own. Also I like the fish and chips there and not having eaten anything before I left home I simply was determined to have a big tray of chips which made Wells the ideal place to go. I could have easily gone to Brancaster or Burnham Staithe further along as alternative locations.

Soon as I arrived at the beach my mind was focused on foreseeing potential images with a sunset using the beach huts as a primary point of interest. Using my Nikon D7100 and the 35mm 1.8 lens on a tripod I set the camera on self timer mode with the bracketing set to 5 images at +/- 2 stops, to later merge into a HDR image to ensure I create an image with good exposure and detail which works well with the top image.

With the self timer on the camera will automatically take 5 images in quick succession which makes HDR easy, more so with Lightroom 6.  The picture at the top of this article would be impossible with a single picture, not without loosing quality in the beach huts as they would be in silhouette as you would need to expose for the sun which is far brighter than the beach.  

Wells Next The Sea Town

After the sun had set I walked back to the high street to get my chips while the sky turns to darkness. Once I return to the beach and pointing the camera towards the town as I was advised the best place to look was north east. Using an intervalometer which arrived only a couple days prior I was all set. I was convinced the bright and frequent meteors were going across the sky everywhere but where the camera was pointing. Only once I reviewed the images the next day and altered the exposure I noticed a couple of images had captured a meteor or two.

Created from 2 images to get three meteors

On the initial image I used a torch to illuminate the beach huts, with the involomitor automatically triggering the camera every 18 seconds I just watched the show with my own eyes. Being on the beach at 11pm was very peaceful and stress free. 

The sunset alone was worth the trip out to Wells after work and watching the Perseids Meteor Shower only made it better. One of the main reasons why I love photography is because I would never have an interest in events such as the Meteor shower or exploring the countryside. 

I entered the beach huts sunset into #wexmondys on Twitter and was lucky to get second place on this weekly competition which is a good personal achievement. Been trying for months but the standard of images entered on a weekly basis is very high.

Cant wait till next year to try again !