Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MS Johanna

My working practice seems to have the construction of an image as an inherent part of it. This picture of the MS Johanna in a gale at high tide wrecked on Hartland Point was constructed from 4 photographic frames taken over a 10 minute period. I made 54 separate RAW images from a fixed camera viewpoint between 09.31 and 09.41 on December 16th 2011. The finished print reflects my memory of the place and of the experience of being there at that time.

The key reason for needing to combine frames for this image has to do with the limitations of the camera. Our eyes instantly focus as we observe a scene so that the foreground, middle and background appear all in focus to us. To achieve this depth of vision I am forced to use a very small aperture in the camera lens and compensate this with a slow shutter speed. But my memory of these terrific waves breaking on the quay is of that frozen moment when they reach their zenith before they come crashing down again. To capture that moment I needed to use a fast shutter speed and compromise that with a wide aperture which made the background, and the all important shipwreck, out-of-focus.

Other reasons for combining frames in this image was the sky which I was able to make more like I saw it by exposing it for less time and making it darker. The aperture in our eyes alters automatically; as we look at something lighter it closes and as I have found in many dark caves the aperture opens and in time the rods in the eye take over from the cones. I also chose a frame where the MS Johanna was both visible and light enough to make out against the background cliffs.

It had always been my intention in the planning of this photograph that it should be a combination of the wind, storm, high tide, waves, the wreck of the Johanna and to include a stretch of the Hartland cliffs as a setting. Although I shot 126 photographs in total within a ½ hour period I had done this with the goal of this one image in mind.

As a comparison I’ve included a picture made last summer of the same shipwreck.


  1. I love these images Dave and the direction your work is going with layers of history and time as well as images.

    1. You never know were your work is going until it gets there and it amazes me that my work can look so different now to what how it was with 35mm last century; however even though the technology, subject matter and approach have changed there is still the common thread.