Why I love Bempton Cliffs so much.
The constant chorus from various species of sea birds puts you in a place of pure happiness. Reliable sightings, special sightings and photographic opportunities make it one of my favourite places to be.
The view along the cliffs is rather spectacular
Over the past several weeks I have been lucky enough to visit Bempton Cliffs twice, leaving home at about 2:30am to make sure we were on the cliffs for sunrise. I will be the first to admit that I LOVE my sleep, but I will happily miss out if it means getting out into nature.
Even the journey for our first trip was incredibly rewarding, two foxes and two barn owls before we even reached the reserve, proving the early morning was definitely worth it! We reached the cliffs at about 3:50am and there wasn't another soul there as we waited for sunrise, and what a beautiful sunrise it was! The second trip was in the hope that we would see the black browed albatross, but unfortunately, we had no luck.
Anyway, onto why I love this place so much. When walking down the path to the first viewing platform the dawn chorus from our most melodious bird, the blackbird, slowly gets drowned out by the incredibly loud calls of the hundreds of gannets, kittiwakes and herring gulls.
When someone mentions the call of a seabird, I’m sure lots of people picture a big gull waking you up at a ridiculous hour on your coastal getaway, but I could listen to the birds here for hours.
A gannet catching the early morning sunshine
I could spend hours walking along the clifftops of Bempton soaking it all up, the sea, the flowers and the birds, the mixing of one of, if not the favourite location of mine with wildlife photography is only a recipe for success. (Fun fact: flowing water releases negative ions which upon arrival to our bloodstream produce biochemical reactions that increase the levels of serotonin! - perhaps why I love the coast so much).
Although I love being in nature no matter what, I love it even more when there are plenty of photographic opportunities and Bempton has them aplenty. If you visit Bempton around this time of year you are certain to see a range of seabirds; gannets, kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars, puffins and herring gulls and if you’re lucky… barn owls, long eared owls and peregrines (I also saw my first ever great skua on my most recent visit!). Whilst you’d be very fortunate to even get a picture of the latter few, there are copious opportunities to get some great photos of Bempton’s usual suspects.
Heavily cropped picture of my first British long eared owl!
Aren't puffins just gorgeous?
Gannets are definitely one of my favourites, with wingspans as wide as 180cm, they are dinosaurs of the sea, often soaring past at head height allowing you to snap away and get some great shots. Not only is it the variety of birds that makes Bempton so fantastic for photographers, but it also allows you to experiment with different shots and build up your portfolio with a range of different styles.
One of my favourite things to do is to capture birds in flight and this is a great place to practise photographing moving subjects as the birds fly past pretty quickly but not too quickly that it makes it impossible to get a shot! Gannets are a great one to practise on as they are very large birds so focusing will be easier than on, say a puffin for example. I was lucky enough to capture both a gannet and fulmar in flight this time.
A beautiful fulmar
An equally beautiful northern gannet
If you follow me on social media or have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am a big fan of minimalist photography and Bempton Cliffs offers a great opportunity to try your hand at minimalism. I was watching gannets fly in the distance and decided this could make for a beautiful composition if I could only get one by its self. I do have to hold my hands up here, I actually removed one bird from this shot, but only as it was slightly distracting to the eye - photo manipulation is something I am going to cover in a future blog!
I do have to admit that one drawback of Bempton (solely from a photography point of view) is that you are often looking down on the birds, something I really try to avoid capturing at all costs, but fear not, with a bit of patience, perseverance and re-positioning you can reduce the severity of the angle and get some lovely ‘eye-level’ shots.
So if you’re looking for a day out, Bempton Cliffs is a great choice, just make sure to check their twitter account for the latest information regarding COVID and times at which they are likely to be really busy.
I have made a BBC Springwatch Mindful Moments style video from my visit to Bempton which you can find here; https://vimeo.com/441037550
Thanks for reading,