Wild, Wild Grosnez

Yesterday I headed up to Grosnez on a day of brutal winds and savage hailstorms. When a westerly is blowing it’s one of the most exposed spots in the island, and yesterday was a showcase for wild weather. Having waxed lyrical in my previous post about the beauty of film photography, I found the conditions this time were made for digital. Standing on the cliff edges I was battered so much it was impossible to hold a camera steady, so I was indebted to image stabilised lenses and autofocus for returning at least some shots that weren’t blurred.


Not only that, but I needed the expendability of digital: I took over 200 photos in the search for a select few that would capture the power of the pounding seas. To be honest, I don’t think I really succeeded. The sheer scale of movement in the water, the massive surges, the repetitive onslaught – none of these are really captured in these photos. Always I have the feeling that the killer photo lurked just out of reach. Better framing, shutter pressed a fraction earlier or later, a little more patience…

Note the maniac youths climbing in the top right of shot, fully exposed to the power of the wind. The figures also gives you some idea of the size of the waves, but still the overall impression is not one of colossal scale
This shot better captures the power of the pounding seas, but the figures are right on the edge of frame, and don’t quite work compositionally. (The reason is that at this point I hadn’t seen them!)

With film I would have been hesitating to fire the shutter, aware of the cost of each mistake, whereas digital allowed me to make mistakes by the dozen with impunity. The three shots below were all taken of the same spot; none of them quite nails what I was after.

Sometimes it is the little details that tell the bigger story.

Spume blowing up the cliff, driven so hard by the wind that even at 1/320 of a second it has blurred during the exposure.
This shot is a more spectacular version of the same thing, backlit by the setting sun, but frustratingly it suffers marginally from camera shake. Another near miss…

Slightly further south from Grosnez I realised that the sky was developing in an interesting way. What was initially a small sliver of orange began to spread right across the horizon. It was a brief burst of rain, backlit by the setting sun.

The first sliver of orange…
I moved higher up the cliff to position the rocky promontory below the horizon
Focusing just on the cloud
Taken moments later, but with a wider angle view. I think was the best shot of the sequence

Then the rain hit, and the light changed completely. Now the sun was almost out from the clouds – a gorgeous, celestial light. Something else I’ve only just noticed looking back at the photos is how the surface of the sea changes once it’s being hit by the rain.

Note how smooth the surface of the water has become compared to the previous photo, which was taken just a minute or two earlier

Moments later the shower came through, and the lens was spattered with water.


I headed back to Grosnez, but just in time to catch the post sunset glow on the clouds above the ruins.

IMG_7415I have come to realise over the years that I am perhaps a better photographer of calm and tranquil landscapes than I am of action.

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