A dark clear night, a stroll along Southwold sea front and suddenly, wow! A dash back for my trusty camera and tripod. I knew it was going to be a good experimental night shoot. The subject was Southwold lighthouse. There must have been a major refit in the illumination room because I have never seen a lighthouse emit such beams as this.
My wife and I discussed various options to grab that dream shot; too close to the road and the sodium street lamps would cause a problem. How fast a lens would we need in order to capture the lighthouse and the rotating beams? We tried various options and eventually settled for a 50mm lens (my Canon "Nifty Fifty", f/1.8 was best suited for the challenge).
Looking through the viewfinder using manual focus was nearly impossible because of the blinding white light on such a dark night. Fortunately for me this was one of the rare occasions when LiveView came into its own. In order to get the glass lattice ironwork in sharp focus we needed to make use of the zoom magnification function. This brought the lantern part of the lighthouse up sharp when used with manual focus. This had to be spot on because f/1.8 gives little latitude with depth of field; auto focus just couldn't hack it in such extreme illumination conditions. For extra stability we used our massive Benbo No.1, cumbersome but perfect for the job!
The next problem was shutter speed. We had already opted for a wide open aperture of f/1.8 so that was fixed, as of course was the focus. Too long a shutter opening time and we would lose the beam definition, too short and we might have caught the beams but the rest of the image would have been underexposed. After some experimentation and calculations we settled on 1/2 sec for the exposure time. This enabled the beams to appear as beams with a little bit of movement which just thickened the beams enough not to spoil the majesty and realism of the shot.
Even at the chosen aperture and shutter speed there was still some underexposure in the photograph. To combat this we cranked up the ISO to 1250 and it worked. So using these settings we set up the shot in a narrow dark ally way. Then as the lighthouse poked its radiating beam fingers across Sole Bay, we took the shot!
The results were astounding, it took 2-hours to perfect this shot but it really was worth the effort. Technically this was one of the hardest assignments we have undertaken but I know that our art-lovers really appreciate the processes involved to get that one single shot. We grind out that extra mile to bring our art-lovers something to treasure.
As this was such a high contrast image, we naturally adopted the monochrome format.
As always we will only ever produce 10 original prints of this shot. When we say limited print run we mean 10. We hope that you enjoy this photograph as my wife and I enjoyed taking and producing it.
Mark and Kay Lupton [Exclusive Landscapes Fine Art Photography]
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