October 2016

Cretaceous Coastline Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Whale Chine, Isle of Wight

Posted by on Oct 29, 2016 in Photography, Travel, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

I was Visiting Chale Bay Farm B&B for a well-known online Travel company (hem hem trip advisor cough cough). It’s a well placed B&B close to St Catherine’s Point and with good prices and smart owners so i can recommend you stay there if you wish to escape the seething elderly hordes and coach parties of shanklin and Sandown… see the note at the end if you want info on accommodation).

As the crow flies the fastest access to the fossil rich cliffs and beaches from here is via the old footpath at Whale Chine. The path is heavily eroded and has been shut for a while now but anyone with a liberal attitude to personal safety can still use it…..

In the picture below you can clearly see Whale Chine with a couple of people on top of the cliff and with the remnants of the old wooden stairs to the right and descending the cleft in the cliff. If you look really closely you’ll see one of the trickier parts of the remaining path way in the form of a ladder descending a sheer part of the rock face.

The descent is worth it as it takes you back in time to the Cretaceous Period – 65 million years ago and just before the mass dinosaur extinction. In other words this is home to T Rex and all those other rather groovy dinosaurs that make great film stars.

Whale Chine Isle of Wight, UK

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

A little closer and the ladder (which is in fact two ladders strapped together) is indicated.

Details of Path at Whale Chine Isle of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

In the picture below i’ve indicated the pathway with a thin green line. The ladder(s) are secured at the top with a piton driven into the earth/rock at top. The piton is a little wobbly and as the ladders are bound together at centre with old rope the feel of the descent is…… enough to give you a cheap thrill.

Access Path at Whale Chine

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

I made the descent with a camera bag slung over a shoulder and carrying a tripod in one hand. I would not have done this had conditions been wet as the slope is full of loose earth and prone to becoming very muddy. The descent when the slope and cliffs are dry is reasonable for anyone with a head for heights and good footwear…. but it would i think be foolhardy to attempt in wet conditions. There are areas where you need to stand on heavily sloped mud and once you start to slip…. you aren’t going to stop until you reach the bottom.

If that happens you may be leaving the beach via a helicopter and a stretcher.

One more thing….. there’s a rather nasty section after the ladder where you may need to hold onto some rope and swing around on a ledge…… I didn’t photograph this as….. i had my hands rather full at the time. It’s not as bad as it sound though and if you can come down the ladder… you can ‘do’ the rope section.

Whale Chine, Isle Of Wight UK

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Once at the bottom of Whale Chine,  the beach is often deserted simply because  it’s hard to get to. There won’t be any elderly folk or fat people with lardy thighs bad tattoos and mobility scooters…. and at best you will encounter another rambler and the occasional fossil-hunter or photographer.

The atmosphere is serene and all you can hear are the waves hitting shingle; It’s really a little ‘other-worldly’ and truly peaceful.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The Jurassic layer is below sea -level here… with the cretaceous at sea-level and above. This means cliff erosion of the friable materials facing the sea reveals new cretaceous fossils at regular intervals. Large ammonites are regularly found here and at low tide on this coastline dinosaur footprints and casts are very much in evidence. (Although for the footprints I think you really need to be at Compton Beach  – slightly further North West of Whale Chine and the tide needs to be a spring low rather than at Neap levels).

The area here is attractive to fossil hunters primarily because it is harder to get to than other areas and therefore there is less competition for ‘finds’. Good luck with getting that 20lb Ammonite in your back pack and up the ladders though…. you may be better off lugging it up the coast to Compton Beach and taking an easier route back to civilisation.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

My Own Footprints Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The cliff strata and the beach itself seem rich in Iron – hence the lovely reds and oranges.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Closer to the rock face there are plenty of signs of ancient plantlike, burrowing, and coral or aquatic creatures. There are rocks that seem agglomerated with coral remains (correct me if i’m wrong) and there are many rocks that seems to show ancient tree stumps.

Fossilised tree stumps

Fossilised tree stumps, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Fossilised tree stump

Fossilised tree stump, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

It’s easy to see the sedimentary strata on this side of the isle of Wight and the area at Whale Chine – although harder to get to quickly as you need to walk a long way along the beach from one of the more accessible areas or take the perilous ladder descent it’s well worth a visit simply for the relative isolation and sense of peace. For any geologists or fossil hunters it’s really a splendid place to spend some time – certainly at low tides.

Rock Strata and erosion

Rock Strata and erosion, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

As noted above, the closest B&B near here and by far the most reasonable  – (with excellent bang for your buck) – is called Chale Bay Farm B&B. It’s got some scenic views and a good choice of accommodation with excellent parking and easy access to both ends of the Island and many top spots such as St Catherines Lighthouse and the Oratory. The owners are well travelled folk with a real grasp of hospitality and it’s really good alternative to any of the resort hotels in nearby towns.


Bembridge Windmill Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Bembridge Isle of Wight

Posted by on Oct 22, 2016 in Photography, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

There are a couple of spots in Bembridge on the East coast of the Isle of Wight that attract regular photographers – the windmill and the RNLI Lifeboat slipway that officially houses and provides a launchway for lifeboats, and unofficially provides a nice little pier and vantage spot from where to view shipping and the Portsmouth Mainland.

I grabbed the windmill using a Canon 50mm 1.8 STM lens – a cheap and cheerful lens that i pretty much always have on me and takes up no room and little weight in the bag and on camera.

Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Being prime you need to run around a bit to create different frames but it’s worth the effort and the windmill si approachable from many sides via a public a walkway so there’s no need to pay National Trust to get close to it (unless you wan to photograph the insides).

Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

In the setting sun the windmill is lit beautifully from the west and has a rosy glow to it that is so powerful i felt the need to knock back the saturation otherwise it looked unnatural…..despite the fact that it was natural.


Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

I often suck colour out of a picture via a gradient map  – the result is a very controllable ‘semi’-black & White picture where you have fine control over saturation that is slightly more pleasing that a simple saturation adjustment alone.


Ont to the Pier or Lifeboat slipway….. it’s a popular place for photographers early morning and at dusk. When the tide is fully low there is a rock shelf that extends out to the end of the pier and in which water pools…. at low tide it’s not too pretty and i prefer to see it at high-water…. which meant i need to be there for dusk.

Bembridge Lifeboat

Bembridge Lifeboat launchway, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The large construction at the end houses the lifeboat which can launch even at the lowest of tides – courtesy of the concrete pier way. A 50mm lens isn’t going to be very effective here – so i’m at about 20mm via a Canon 17-40mm Zoom.

Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat launchway

Bembridge Lifeboat launchway, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Being concrete is has an interesting texture and from underneath the single pillar supports make an interesting line out to the channel.

All the pier pictures here were taken using a circular polariser and a 10-stop ND filter which allowed a minute exposure at ISO 100, F.8.

Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat launchway

Bembridge Lifeboat launchway, Isle of Wight, at dusk. 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Up above and on the walkway the public area allowed access to the station and it’s a pretty cool diversion for eat kids to be allowed to tour the station and see the RNLI at work.

The circular polariser limits the amount of reflection off the water and gives clearer definition to what clouds there are….. it also deepens the colour of the water and sky and is pretty much an essential part of any landscape photographers kit.

Update to Canon 5D MKIV?

Posted by on Oct 7, 2016 in Cinematography and Film, Photography, Photography Gear

WARNING –  this is written from a very personal standpoint – however it may help you decide whether the 5D MKIV is for you just yet.

Canon 5D MKIV

Canon 5D MKIV

I was waiting (like pretty much every other 5D MKiii owner) for the arrival of the EOS 5D MKIV.

Now that it’s here I can think of too many reasons not to buy it just yet but i wanted to write something about it – if only to make it clear in my own mind why that is so.

Bear in mind that this is written from the standpoint of someone who works in both film and photography – but if you’re only into one of those games then what i say here may still resonate. As i write this i’m in the middle of covering the London Film Festival for Associated Press – so stills cameras are very much ‘on my mind’.

I make all my money using cameras and for me a camera is a work tool  – different tools all come with limitations and it’s the job of the DOP/Photographer to work with those limitations. As a purchaser i simply need to assess which limitations affect me – or truly limit me the most. This isn’t a “bash the 5D MKIV” piece – it’s a fabulous camera, but before shelling out about £3k (& yes i get the VAT back) i need to assess how that cash is going to advantage me.

There was a beautiful (or terrible depending on your point of view) point in time when the technical needs of HD film and stills  cameras were somewhat in alignment. As we’ve moved into 4K film those requirements (particularly on the sensor) have once gain diverged and this is why we see a parting of the ways between stills and film cameras. The 5D MKIV perfectly illustrates this point in that the 4K capabilities  it does have are handicapped by the fact that in capturing 4K footage it’s forced to use cropping which alters the focal length of the expensive L-Series lenses i have weighing down the front of the camera (and my wallet). Worse still is the capture codec it will use – I’d rather have HD footage with a lot of latitude that i can grade and make great than 4K footage delivered with a Motion JPEG codec. Frankly the Motion JPEG compression format you’ll get from this camera at 4K carries very little latitude for colour balancing and grading.

The film camera i’d be looking at right now is an URSA Mini for about £2k – which delivers 4K in a codec with plenty of latitude that’s ripe for grading. If I was a low-light freak i may even be looking at the Sony a7s MKII (or even the MKI – which is still excellent). Ergonomically though the Ursa is more of a traditional film camera with some weight behind it and without the need to buy adapters for either Canon or PL mount lenses.

Right now – even the 5D MKIII when paired with an atomos external recorder will deliver great film through the clean HDMI out port. OK it’s HD but it can be shown at any film festival in the world and i’d still rather show a glorious HD film than a lacklustre 4K one.

As for stills i’d say this is really where the compulsion to purchase gets stronger. As i write this i’m about an hour away from heading up to Leicester Square in London to cover a Red Carpet Premiere for the Associated Press – and yes if i had the MKIV to hand i’d grab it like a shot and rejoice. Fact is the 5D MKIII will do for now though. I’ll get more shots per second with the MKIV and i’ll be able to WIFI them direct to laptop for captioning and sending to the picture desk but these advantages are slight for the price increase. Generally you take a card out of camera and start ingesting whist sticking another one in the camera to keep shooting…..so the WiFi isn’t a game changer unless your picture editor is screaming at you to get a picture in seconds before other agencies. My experience in the field is that small speed step ups like this make little difference to my revenue. Hell i still occasionally take stills with a 5DMKII and they sell ok.

In the Press Pit where time is money and pictures are money those that have the EOS 1DX are sticking to that. Those with the 5D MKIII are sticking with that and the upgrade is not ‘sexy’ enough a proposition. I’ve seen a few EOS 1DX MK1’s around in good condition for only a little more than the price of the MKIV so given the choice i’d take one of those for stills because it outperforms the MKIV on speed and versatility. Perhaps this is why so far i’ve only seen one MKIV in anyone’s hands other than a Canon Rep.

The new feature being touted is the dual pixel feature which will allow focus shifts in the final image. This is certainly something worth having but in all honesty the only demonstrations i’ve seen of it in action show that the shift is minimal.

If you have the money, and money’s no object  – go buy the MKIV because it’s a great stills camera with better and faster focussing than the MKIII – but if like me you need value for money i really don’t think the price tag is there yet – especially when considering the usual price hike we get here in the UK.  Will i buy one in future?. Durrrh…yes most probably….er..maybe….. perhaps.