Whitby by night

Back in October, Philippa and I went camping in Whitby. We had rented a small wooden hut which was surprisingly pleasant and warm. It’s definitely not the last time we’ll be doing that!

Before the trip, I spent some time planning how I wanted to photograph the very pretty Abbey ruins there. There is a great tool called The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) which allows you to check the position of the sun and the moon at any given day and time at any given place on earth. It can even do tricky things like telling you when the sun is going to rise over the mountains if you’re standing in a valley.

Best of all, it’s free for use on a PC. There’s also a very reasonably priced version for iPad/iPhone.

Anyway… I wanted a shot of the ruins in front of the setting sun, and the google map in TPE showed that there is a quiet road running behind the abbey. And it showed me precisely when the sun was going to behind the abbey. Perfect!

So at the predetermined time I showed up behind the abbey, only to find that someone (presumably the National Trust which looks after the abbey ruins and charges for entry) had built a rock wall all the way around it. Bummer!

But… sometimes you’re lucky. And there were a few places where I could just manage to look over the wall to gauge what the view was like. And there was even a place where the rocks were a bit uneven, so I could quickly get a few feet up, given me plenty of view to shoot a handful of pictures.

I guess it goes to show that it’s great to prepare, but sometimes you also need a bit of luck.

Picture of Whitby Abbey in front of the setting sun

Whitby Abbey

It’s a very peaceful image, and going by the theory I’ve lately been through in my TAOP course, I’d say that is because of the large triangle the abbey forms. It’s solid. It gives the impression of stability. Of course Mother Nature’s involvement in creating the gorgeous colours on the sky should not be dismissed either!

After the abbey, we went down to the beach. The tide was out, and there were some gorgeous patterns in the sand, which I used as foreground for this shot of the hotels overlooking the beach.

Picture of hotels high on a cliff with the beach in the foreground

Beach hotels in Whitby

It wasn’t until I came home to the computer and started to play around with alternative crops of the picture that I realised there was an even better picture hidden inside this. By cropping tightly on the lower right corner, I got an almost abstract view with shapes, patterns and rhythm from the sand and the gulls.

Lines, patterns, rhythm, ... all in a beach shot

Lines, patterns, rhythm, … all in a beach shot

The next morning we had set the alarm clock for 4.45 so there was time for a quick cup of coffee before leaving the camp site while still being in the centre of town, high above the harbour, for 5:30.

The time and location was again courtesy of The Photographer’s Ephemeris that I’ve mentioned before. It showed me that the moon would rise at 4:45 and the sun only at 7:30, and that the moon would move across the sky from the harbour towards the abbey where it would be low in the sky at around 6:30. I was hoping to get some shots in with the moon, before the sun made an appearance and made the moon invisble.

Nature vastly surpassed my expectations. It was dark, and the stars were just fantastic. Despite the moonlight and the light from the town, there were millions of the buggers. At the camp site, we could even see the milky way with the naked eye. Wow!

The waning moon has turned into a disc; it is simply overexposed, but that was the price to pay for getting some stars bright enough in the frame. The bright spot above the moon is Venus. I’m afraid I’m not enough of an amateur astronomer to tell which constellations the stars are. The faint stripe of sunlight was barely more than a glow on the horizon to the naked eye.

Oh, and the red and white stripes in the foreground is from a fishing boat’s lanterns. They gave name to the picture.

Picture of the sunrise, moon, stars and a fishing boat setting off to sea

A fisherman goes to work

This is my third edit of the picture. The first two came out looking too contrasty for my taste. The challenge was in incresing the exposure and contrast of the sky to make the stars visible while not doing the same for the village, and to try to find a suitable white balance that shows the soft light from the sun still under the horizon while not warming up the sky which I wanted in blue, cold tones. I don’t know why the right side of the image is purple – could be reflections in the sky from the town on my side of the harbour.

I think this one is destined for the wall. Initially by my staircase, but I do also have room for another large canvas print, so who knows….

The last picture from the morning was taken around 8 a.m. when the sun was still low above the horizon. The statue is captain James Cook who passed his apprenticeship in the merchant navy in the Walkers of Whitby’s small fleet of vessels. Cook, obviously, later went on to become a famous explorer who, amongst other things, made detailed maps of Newfoundland. So it’s only fitting that the statue was unveiled in 1978 as a gift from the people of Canada by High Commissioner Paul Martin. The whale-bone arch that balances the statue on the right side of the picture symbolises the whaling industry which brought wealth to the small town.

Status of Captain Cook in Whitby

Statue of Captain James Cook who served his apprenticeship in Whitby

Each of the images on this page serves as a hyperlink to a larger version. Enjoy!

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