Bringing old Old Harry’s rocks to life

Old Harry’s Rocks Studland, Dorset : Canon 5D : EF17-40mm f/4L USM (30mm): 20 sec : f20 : Cokin ND10 neutral density and ND 3 graduated filters 

Old Harry’s Rocks in Dorset lie at the tip of a chalk headland near the bays of Studland and Swanage. The chalk rocks were formed over thousands of years, with millions of fossils compressed to create these iconic and famous rocks. They stand aloof in the sea making a superb subject for seascape photography in all sorts of weathers.

The walk along the coastal path as you approach the rocks provides ample opportunity to imagine how you might want to capture the rocks. On this occasion, it was bright summer’s day with attractive clouds and the sea a stunning glassy blue. My original intention was to capture the rocks as a series of highly saturated full-colour images. However, I began to recognise that this was in danger of delivering somewhat cliched images. Instead, I turned my attention to black and white, experimenting with a series of Cokin filters. I used a strong neutral density filter to exaggerate the glassy texture of the sea, and a graduated filter to create a dark brooding sky. Fortunately, this had the effect of emphasising the rocks as the rest of the image was rendered darker both through the use of filters and in later in post-production.

I composed this shot, by isolating a last section of the rock formation and allowing a generous use of negative space to create a tension within the photograph, focussing the viewer’s attention on the shape and isolation of the rocks