The view of St Catherine's Chapel viewed from the B3157 coast road at Abbotsbury Hill has to be one of the most famous in the country. Tourists flock to the hill to see the panoramic view of the chapel with its backdrop of The Fleet, Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland in the distance. It is also one of those must have pictures for every visiting photographer. This means getting a picture that is unique is quite difficult.
Over the years I have shot this view from different vantage points from Abbotsbury Hill with wide angles to 300mm telephoto lenses, but have always thought the compositions were too busy.
Having recently purchased an old Nikon 500mm F4 AFS lens, I returned to try to capture an image which is not possible for most photographers. It has been a bit of a learning curve to photograph using such a long lens for landscape photography as problems which you would never be an issue with shorter lenses show their ugly face. Camera shake is a problem with this length of lens. The slightest breeze can impart enough vibration on the lens to make images unusable due to blurring. Also the mirror on the camera causes vibrations which blurs the images. This can be solved by introducing extra support to aid the tripod by attaching a monopod to the camera base so the camera body is not left hanging in the air from the lens and helps dampen any vibrations. I also shoot with the mirror in the up position on the camera and have a 3 second exposure delay after the shutter button is pressed to allow the vibrations to cease before the shutter fires.
Another problem is the atmosphere. The further the subject is away from the camera the more distortion is caused due to the movements of the gasses in the air. Straight edges turn into wiggly lines and the further away your subject, the worse it gets, and with some elements of a picture which could be many miles away, this rippling effect is a problem. To mitigate this you have to be choosy when it comes to the time day and time of year you shoot. Summer is when the atmosphere is at its most active due to the warmer temperatures and a stronger sun heating it and is best avoided. I have found it is best to shoot during the cooler late autumn, winter and early spring months during the morning and late afternoons.
For the image of St Catherine's Chapel above, which I took a couple of days ago at about 2:30-3pm in the the afternoon had been long in the planning. I had waited weeks for the conditions to be perfect as this winter has been one of the wettest and windiest for many years and this image needed to be taken when the visibility was at its best and with a low sun off to the side of the camera at about 90 degrees. Using the 500mm, I have been able to crop out a lot of the clutter and just focus on St Catherine's Chapel, The Fleet and Chesil Beach. I have also cropped the image to a 2x1 ratio which I feel helps draw the viewers attention through the picture.
This was not the last picture of the day as I then headed to Portland Bill to capture the sunset to cap off a good days shooting which had started in the morning at Sidmouth.