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  • Writer's picturesamkitephotography

Chasing the perfect photo.

Updated: May 14, 2019

I woke up at 3:45am and set off to Bempton Cliffs - Europe’s largest mainland sea bird colony. Being on the east coast, I thought what better time to go than sunrise. I set off with a photo in mind – a gannet, back lit by the most beautiful Yorkshire sunrise, but oh how I was wrong.

The famous Bempton Cliffs in their early morning glory

So there I was, 4am, in the dark, in the cold getting into a car where the sight of my breath was clearer to me than why I was up at this time. I am aware that this is a normal time for adventure/wildlife/outdoors photographers - I just haven’t quite grasped the reality of the early mornings yet. But within 10 minutes, the early morning blow had been softened, before leaving my village, I got my second ever viewing of a fox in my village.  I guess that’s why they say “the early bird catches a glimpse of a fox” –  well I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes.The rest of the drive wasn’t massively eventful until we were about 15 minutes from Bempton. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the ghostly white flash of a barn owl as it darted in front of the car. 

We parked up in a completely empty car park, made our way down the path and the early morning proved to be worth it as we saw another barn owl (potentially the same one) sat on a post in the distance, no chance of a photo but the binoculars allowed a lovely view. 

A slightly longer exposure allowed me to catch faint trails of the flying gannets.

Only when you approach the edge of the cliffs do you really get an appreciation for the vastness of this reserve, the noise is spectacular, gannets, guillemots, razorbills, gulls, kittiwakes and puffins all orchestrating themselves together. I made my way down to the most southern viewpoint, set up my camera and awaited sunrise. 

The time eventually came, the sun was rising, and I must admit, it was anything but what I had pictured in my head. A not-so-lovely thick blanket of cloud lay on the horizon and the next thing I knew the sun was high in the sky and no pictures had been taken, let alone my backlit gannet. 

As anyone knows, perseverance is a photographer’s best friend, so I waited it out and finally a hole in the clouds allowed the sun to pop through and cast some rays on the sea below. My camera was put through its paces, I didn’t have long, but I tried to capture it all, the sun kissed sea, cliffs and birds. 

The best sunrise picture I got

A couple of hours later we made our way further along the coast and furthered our quest for the perfect photo. Unfortunately, it never came, but if it did, the quest would be finished, photography would be boring, it would be easy and everyone would be winning photography awards. 

Don't be afraid to use your family and friends as models.

Most days out with your camera won’t end the way you wanted them to, but keep persevering, stay passionate, get out and keep shooting!

Thanks for reading, 


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