Tag Archives: dawn raid

Finding my photographic mojo

With one of the wettest winters on record, 2014 didn’t seem to hold much promise for photographic expeditions. Having killed the Shutterbugs last year, I found much of my time involved elsewhere (that’s the workbench, obviously), and I completely lost my interest in photography somewhere along the line. The gear sat in the cupboard, unused and unloved.

Even the promise of some pretty good weather for much of the summer didn’t make my trigger finger itch like it used to. Perhaps the travails with the car, too much work to do and various other things taking what little spare time I had that just made me wonder what I ever found interesting in going out with the camera gear.

As the weather begins to turn at the end of what has turned out to be a pretty good summer, the prospect of a fine start and a sunrise at a reasonably sensible hour began to make me think it might be worth a trip. I charged batteries, formatted cards, cleaned things, chose some lenses and packed the bag.

After a short night’s sleep, I got up at 0445hrs BST, jumped in the car and headed off to the Isle of Grain. As I drove down the M2 I wondered about my sanity…

Reflections

Floating

Weathered

Blue

You can see the full set over at my Flickr stream. I think it was well worth the effort, and I think it may have helped me find my photographic mojo. My next planned trip is to an agricultural fair on the Hoo Peninsula, in about three weeks. I hope it doesn’t rain!

The best laid plans

As you may be aware I am partial to what I term “Dawn Raids”. This is where I head out very early to catch the sun rising over the Medway. In the summer, this can mean getting up at very silly times of the night, but nearing midwinter the sun gets up at a more civilised hour.

The weather forecast looked good, with perhaps a smattering of cloud. It would be a low tide at around 8am, and the sun was due to rise at about the same time. It all looked set fair for a December Dawn Raid to Upnor.

I got there in plenty of time, set the EOS 7D up on the tripod with the Sigma 10–20mm wide angle, pointed at the horizon where the sun would appear, and I waited. While I waited, I took a couple of shots with the PowerShot G9. A church clock tolled the hour, more cloud rolled in, and there was the merest hint of pink … and that was it. I had been hoping for some blazing oranges and golds, moody cloudscapes, lit from below, something worth all the effort. It was a bit disappointing, to be honest, but I suppose that’s the chance you take. You can never guarantee anything in life.

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Upnor – a set on Flickr

Another Dawn Raid. Another visit to Upnor, because it’s not too far from home and I hadn’t really planned anything further afield.

I was surprised to discover it’s been almost a year since my last visit, and you’d have thought I might have exhausted the photographic possibilities of the village. However, I found quite a lot to feast my lens on.

As ever, for iDevices, the Flash-free link to my Flickr photostream set.

The nights are getting shorter

As the seasons roll round, and the summer heads our way, thoughts turn again to getting out at the crack of dawn to make pictures.

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I thought I was alone in my early bird habits, but a friend of mine is keen enough to learn more about his new camera that he suggested we head out together.

So, Friday morning it is. We’ll be heading for my favourite spot of Hoo St Werburgh, by the Kingsnorth power station on the river Medway. The tide will be in, the weather looks set fair-ish, and the sun will rise at a not unreasonable 06.39 BST.

I have to say, I am really looking forward to the trip. 

Isle of Grain

The Hoo Peninsula is a sparsely-populated collection of mudflats and farmland, situated between the Thames and Medway estuaries. It’s a strange landscape, home to wildlife and bird sanctuaries as well as a string of power stations and oil and gas storage facilities. Right at the end, you come to the Isle of Grain.

I’d like to be charitable about Grain. It has a couple of pubs, a primary school, a fire station, supermarket, a church with an oddly stubby tower, and some sea views. Otherwise, it’s 1960s and 1970s housing estate with a socking great power station next door. I’m not entirely sure why people want to live in Grain. It has to be a self-sufficient community, since it’s nearly an hour to get to Chatham and Rochester. Perhaps the community grew up to service the numerous power stations strung along the north shore of the Medway.

I have been to Grain before. A couple of times on business, and a couple of times to see what was there. Despite various attempts at getting things moving out there, the latest being Thamesport, an earlier one being Port Victoria, the place remains a curious mix of industry and bleak landscape.

Having done some of the Saxon Shore Way closer to the Medway Towns—Hoo St Werburgh and Upnor, chiefly—I decided it was time to venture to the end of the peninsula to see what it was like. I think the journey was worth taking, and I took the opportunity to reconnoitre other likely locations to visit.

Dawn at Hoo St Werburgh – a set on Flickr

(For those on i-Devices, see the set here.)

Once again, I got up stupidly early. I was hoping to hit the Hoo Marina in a Dawn Raid that coincided with a high tide and sunrise, which were both due around 0530hrs BST.

As I parked the car, with about half an hour to spare, I began to walk down the footpath to the river. Those of us who generally never surface before the sun rises often don’t realise how bright it can be in that hour before dawn, when the sky is clear. I adopted a brisk pace to ensure I reached my selected vantage point in plenty of time to set things up. I felt good. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. It was great to be out in the fresh air, just me, the sky and the local wildlife.

Sadly, my chosen location perhaps wasn’t the best in hindsight. While it still afforded some good shots across the Medway, the early August sun peeps over the horizon between the power stations on the north bank. I was hoping for more reflections in my shots.

After getting a sequence as the sun appeared and rose into the sky, I quickly collected everything and shifted position further upstream, where there would be more water in front of me.

The wind, coming offshore, was preventing me from getting the mirror calmness I’ve seen at this location before around slack tide. Still, the rising sun, glittering off the wavelets, was worth capturing.

Once I had had my fill of the rising sun, and noting that clouds were looming from the landward side, I wandered back to the car, stopping to switch the camera to black and white mode for shots across the boat graveyard and into the fields. The “golden hour” seemed to have passed remarkably quickly, probably not helped by the increasing clouds.

It was well worth the effort, I think. Oddly, I feel I have exhausted most of the opportunities at this location. Then again, I haven’t visited on a cold, frosty morning. I think I need to plan a trip for the winter. At least the sun rises later in the day then!

Hoo St Werburgh, revisited – a set on Flickr

I’m always drawn back to the north shore of the Medway for some reason. Hoo St Werburgh is blessed with a marina, but is also the final resting place of many working boats. I visited for the first time towards the end of September 2009, and I made a return visit this morning.

I tend to be a fair weather photographer, for no real reason than I like to be comfortable when I am out with the camera. I ought to pay the river a visit when it is cold and wet, later in the year. I think I also ought to try and catch the tide when it’s in. There’s only so much mud you can photograph!

Kit’s Coty House – a set on Flickr

At some point about 5,000 years ago, a person or persons died. Their friends and relations saw fit to bury them in a long barrow, on the south side of the North Downs overlooking the Medway Valley in Kent.

Over the centuries the earth mound eroded away, although apparently the remains of the mound were still visible in the middle of the 20th century, leaving three standing stones with a cap stone. Known as Kit’s Coty House, the remaining stones stand isolated, near a field edge and the North Downs Way footpath.

I’ve lived in the area for nearly a quarter of a century. I have known of Kit’s Coty House, and the nearby Countless Stones, all that time but never before managed to visit. The monument, one of the first Ancient Scheduled Monuments in the country, is some way off the beaten track, with no easy parking, so despite it only being a couple of miles from home, it’s a proper expedition in order to find it. Well worth the effort, though.