Mrs H and I went out this morning to shoot photos as part of the @4amproject (blog | twitter). Our original destination was Cardiff, but it was so busy with staggering drunks that instead we headed off to the quieter location of Penarth and its pier.

The Photos

Steps Up Off The Beach

To try and cut down on the amount of light from the street lights, I headed down onto the beach itself where it was much darker. Whilst I was waiting for Mrs H to finish using the remote cable release, I turned my camera around to take this shot looking up the stairs back to street level.

Looking Across The Bristol Channel

Turning the camera around the other way, the English coast across the Bristol Channel was lit up by the tobacco stain of street lights both near and far. With it being almost low tide, I managed to get some great reflective effects in the wet sand out towards the estuary.

Penarth Pier

This is what we came to photograph. Penarth Pier at 4am, lighting up the sands below as it juts out into the Bristol Channel.

This is Mrs H’s shot of the beach with Penarth Pier beyond.

Mrs H’s shot of the promenade at Penarth, looking east towards the pier.

Mrs H’s shot across the sands towards the lights of the English coast.

Mrs H went down onto the pebble beach for this one, using the foreground to add detail and a focal point to her second shot across the Bristol Channel.

Thoughts On The Day

I’d come across the 4am project by accident on Twitter, and although I’m about as far from being a morning person as you can get, I liked the idea of trying to take photos at a time of day that I normally don’t even see, never mind shoot at. With the cats giving us very strange looks, we grabbed our gear and headed out towards Cardiff to find somewhere interesting to photograph.

Our first choice was the Hayes in Cardiff, but at 4am on Easter Sunday it was just far too busy to do any photography. The city centre was teeming with parties of people and supervising police; after a bit of discussion we decided to go and find somewhere quieter, and Penarth and its pier seemed much more likely to be nice and quiet.

We were very lucky with the weather: nice and dry, and not too cold.

This was our first time out with the wireless remote cable release I bought in Bath on Thursday, and although it’s really great that both of us can share the same cable release, in practice when you’re doing 4 minute exposures, you need your own cable release. Oh, and wireless cable releases are well worth the extra that they cost 🙂

Our first time out doing early morning photography was a lot of fun, and is something we’ll be doing more of this year.

Post Processing

Other than a little bit of sharpening, and a bit of cropping and bringing out of the detail in the shadows on the Penarth Pier shot, I haven’t processed my photos at all. Which made me think … what would these photos look like in black and white?

Steps Up Off The Beach (alternate version)

Looking Across The Bristol Channel (alternate version)

Penarth Pier (alternate version)

Which versions do you prefer?

See Also

If you’d like to know more about the 4am project, check out these links:

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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The caravan park at Font-y-gary has been a popular place for the residents of Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys to escape to for an affordable summer holiday for many years. Overlooking the Bristol Channel, Font-y-gary stands above a rocky beach that affords great views to the west towards Aberthaw and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Thoughts On The Day

We decided to end the weekend with a shoot down on the coast. South Wales has some amazing coastline, much of which we’ve explored in previous photography jaunts, but one place we haven’t been back to since we went digital in 2003 is the coastline around Font-y-gary and Aberthaw. Sadly there wasn’t enough light (or time before the tide came in) for us to make our way along to Aberthaw too this time, but we’ve agreed to head back there soon – perhaps to try a morning shoot as everything interesting is to the west.

We went out there for Kristi to get in some practice with her new Canon rig. Since she dumped her old Nikon D70 for a Canon EOS 500D (I know, I know … I tried to convince her to simply get a better Nikon, but there was no stopping her …), her photography has had a whole new lease of life. I’m just really pleased to see her getting out and about and getting her creativeness back after last summer’s car crash. Today, she wanted to practice a mix of coastal photography and sunset photography, and Font-y-gary offered both a-plenty.

Whilst she did that, I had some fun of my own. It gave me a great opportunity to get some practice in with both my Nikon 70-300mm VR lens (I’m really loving its colour handling) and the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D. To be honest, the light was crap; it was overcast, with little colour in it and little contrast. I’m pleased I managed to get anything at all from it.

The Photos

Fishing By The Shore

My favourite shot of the evening was this gentleman fishing down by the shore. I’ve no idea whether he went home empty handed or not.

The Shape On The Horizon

Right on the edge of the horizon, we could just make out this odd shape. We figured it must be a ship from the way it kept changing shape, but it certainly had us puzzled.

Mrs H's Canon

The main reason we went down to the coast this evening was for Kristi to get some practice in at shooting coastal scenery. She’s recently switched from her aging Nikon D70 to a Canon EOS 500D, and has been greatly enjoying the upgrade.

Me … despite the impressive features that the 500D offers (such as a truly-useful LiveView and in-camera colour curve editing), you’ll have to prise my Nikon out of my cold dead hands!

The Stone

Whilst Kristi practiced shooting waves with her tripod-mounted Canon, I thought I’d get some practice in of my own, playing with the amazing depth of field offered by my new Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens. The best of these shots was this stone, all alone on the sand.

Sunset At Font-y-gary

With the light fading, the tide coming in, and a dodgy knee that wasn’t looking forward to the climb up off of the beach, there was time for one last photo of the sun setting out over the Bristol Channel before we left.

Post Production

Whilst we were down on the shoreline, Kristi showed me how she could adjust the colours that her Canon EOS 500D saw through what she said was the white balance controls, although it looked more like a colour curve system to my eyes. Either way, it looked like she could drag some colour out of the sky in-camera – something my Nikon D200 simply can’t do. (I admit it; there are some things a Canon is better at. Glass isn’t one of them though 🙂 ).

Back at base, I remembered that Aperture 3 now includes a curves tool, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to play with it and see whether or not I could bring a little more colour out of my own photos from the shoot. Post-processing isn’t as good as in-camera, and the curve tool isn’t quite as intuitive as the 500D’s in-camera control, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed these images. More practice required though!

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