Portland Bill Lighthouse at dawn by David Gibbeson

Sunrise at Portland Bill


I have been planning to venture further afield with my landscape photography, especially having seen amazing photos of locations beyond my normal day to day range. I decided to head to Portland Bill in Dorset for my first photography trip to the area to shoot the sunrise. I haven’t been out much in the last few weeks and was looking forward to getting out with a fair window of weather to do so.

In the image above I love the subtle tones of the pre-dawn light and the wisp of magenta tinted cloud above the lighthouse.


The dawn sun illuminated the Portland lighthouse by David Gibbeson

The dawn sun illuminated the Portland lighthouse

As the sun broke through the cloud on the horizon the sun illuminated the side of the lighthouse and the house next to it with a vivid golden light. I found myself wishing that I had a tilt shift lens to combat lens distortion. Photographing the lighthouse is challenging at wide angles from so close. It wasn’t intentional, but I like the presence of the small boat in the distance.

After photographing the lighthouse I headed around to the Pulpit Rock, which is apparently an artificial formation that was once an arch before someone butchered it. The morning sun was kissing the top of the rocks which I liked. I also love the texture in the rocky ledges. The size of some of the rocks along the coastline is staggering. When researching the location I thought I may be able to drop down onto the ledges to get more level with the sea but the drops are far too large.


Sunlight kisses the top of the pulpit rock at Portland Bill

Sunlight kisses the top of the pulpit rock at Portland Bill

The sun went behind a cloud when I took the long exposure below. The sea was quite calm; I would have liked a little more drama but I think it suits the peaceful scene. I am really impressed with my Lee Big Stopper. I was easily able to process the image and colour with an accurate colour cast, which was much harder to do using my Hitech one. I think this is one of my favourite images of the morning.


The Pulpit Rock - Portland - Dorset by David Gibbeson

The Pulpit Rock – Long exposure

The high tide wasn’t due for another hour and a half or so, so I made my way to the east of the lighthouse to shoot with the sun behind me. The golden light from the morning sun washed across the coastline, bathing everything in yellow. I like this picture as the path acts as a great leading line.


A path looks towards the Portland Bill lighthouse

A path looks towards the Portland Bill lighthouse

The photo below is one of the small sheds that overlook the sea. I thought this one looked particularly charming with its little chimney and design. The boat next to it completes the maritime theme just nicely.


A small shed overlooks the sea at Portland Bill, Dorset by David Gibbeson

A small shed overlooks the sea

Heading a little further along the coast there were plateaus of rock stretching out into the sea. I love the texture of them and spent quite a lot of time trying to get the incoming tide as it brushed across them. Up close the rocks of the Jurassic coast are truly amazing; containing thousands and thousands of shells in them. As with a lot of the photos I took from the area, the lighthouse is a prominent feature as it dominates the landscape.


The waves crash over the Jurassic coast rocks

The waves crash over the Jurassic coast rocks

Heading back to the Pulpit Rock to make the most of the high tide the light quality had begun to be less photogenic, with the cloud thickening. The sea was still pretty calm so was unable to get the dramatic shots of the waves crashing over the ridge that I had hoped to. I did manage to get some nice long exposures though while using the Lee Big Stopper. I think today was its largest outing since owning it. I like in this image how you can see an essence of structure in the sea including the rocks below the surface.


Long exposure of the pulpit rock

Long exposure of the pulpit rock

Finally I headed to the other side of the Pulpit Rock and while the rock itself is less dramatic, the coastline makes up for it. I loved how this enormous slab of rock had broken off of the main plateau so featured it in my composition. I wish I could have conveyed the scale more. As with some of my other shots what is under the ocean is also very much a part of the composition of the image. I liked this one in black and white and was chasing a mono shot to end the day.


The pulpit rock in mono

The pulpit rock in mono

I have said about it on social media and have finally braved putting my first video on my YouTube channel. I know I have a lot to learn and need to get better equipment but on the whole it was good fun to create. It would be great if you could take the time to watch it, and let me know what you think. I already have ideas on how to improve it and am already planning a new camera to get better results. I have wanted to create videos for a long time and have found great inspiration from people like Thomas Heaton who make it look simple. It really isn’t though! so kudos to him and the other creators out there.

Here is the video. Subscribe to my channel to see my new ones as I make them.




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1 comment

Ken White 7th August 2016 - 6:47 pm

Excellent lighthouse shots. I admire your photo presentations page. Very clean and uncluttered.

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