A Blue Place

Yesterday we drove up to Another Place, an art installation by Antony Gormly consisting of 100 life-size Antony Gormlys staring at what I can only describe as a less than scintillating coastal view, Crosby Beach really being on a slightly industrial estuary. We were there from just after midday for almost two hours yesterday but, let’s face it, landscape photographers aren’t happy unless they’re out and about at unsociable hours. Favoured times seem to be the hour just before sunrise and the hour just after sunset; the so-called blue hours when the light takes on a mainly blue hue. It’s the sort of thing that can make you think you’ve got your white balance set wrongly. The morning blue hour has you up and about before the sun has arisen; the evening blue hour ruins your wine-accompanied dinner. Anyway, it came as no surprise that Francine wanted to return to Another Place early this morning for blue hour.

We had stayed overnight in a seafront hotel in Southport, which is about 40 minutes north of the Gormleys. Sunrise was to be at 06:45, which meant we had to be there and ready to go a tad before 06:00. That meant an uncomfortable alarm being set for 04:45 so we could be on the road by 05:15 after the essential cup of tea. Now we see the problem with a campsite, where firing up the old diesel engine and driving out pre-dawn would be less than popular.

When the alarm went off, to my surprise getting out of bed proved less than popular with Francine, too. She was weakening. Having driven 200 miles to get to an area I’d rather avoid in the first place, I applied some gentle encouragement and reminded her that she really wanted to do this. Now the alarm had roused us, what else were we going to do? We had our tea and set off with Francine thinking we would not be the only people playing with shutters on the beach.

J16_0439 Virgin Blue Hour shotWrong! We arrived at the free car park with not another idiot soul in sight. Francine wrapped up [it was about 5°C], donned Wellington boots [it’s wet and sandy/muddy] and a head torch [you can’t see the blasted camera controls before dawn] and set off to find her viewpoint. Slightly less than enthusiastically, I followed suit without a head torch and picked a viewpoint of my own. I was a blue hour virgin; I’d never done this before. I looked at the back of one of the life-size Gormleys thinking it didn’t look much but here’s the thing: the camera sees what little light there is somewhat differently to our less than nocturnal eyes. I found the shutter release in the dark, took a trial shot and was reasonable amazed at what showed on the rear screen of the camera. For blue hour photography, we could do with the eyes of a Bush Baby. I fumbled around blindly to tweak the exposure a bit and had another go. What I didn’t see but the camera did, was some pink detritus that either some joker or the tide had placed on my chosen Gormley’s arm. Bother! Never mind, OK, I’ll play too.

Being far more experienced at this game, naturally Francine had found a very pleasing Gormley and line-up. She’s also quite adept at a little Lightroom post-processing wizardry to bring out the best in her shots. As blue hour advance towards dawn, a stopper got deployed to smooth out the moving water further down the beach, Here’s a few of Francine’s favourite blue Gormleys.


J16_0454 Misty GormleysAs time progressed but light was still low, I tried a long lens shot slowed as much as I could given my lack of stopper; ISO 100 and f32 got me to 2 seconds. The result seemed like statues looming out of mist; I quite liked it and I think it works better in monochrome, there being little colour anyway.

Right, blue hour virginity forever lost, time to go back for breakfast which starts at 08:00.

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