Porthnanven, Cot Valley, Cornwall

Porthnanven is somewhere I’ve been before.  The dinosaur egg beach as it’s affectionately known is one of my favourite places.  There is something really special about this beach and it’s what got me up at 2 am and out the door by 2.30 to travel an hour’s distance to be on the beach at half past three, waiting for first light.

It came surprisingly quickly as it would this time of year but before the sun rose too far, I was able to do some painting with light.  The flashlight that had got me onto the beach at low tide, in the dark and in one piece, became a useful device for lighting my scene.

When I was processing this shot, I couldn’t decide between the blue hour, ‘straight from the camera, no white balance adjustment’ photograph or the one where I’d adjusted the white balance to compensate for the light at the blue end of the spectrum that dominates at this time of day.  This has the effect of warming the picture slightly.   Which do you prefer?

Click on the images for a sharper, clearer view ;-)

Cot Valley - Porthnanven, Cornwall36mm f/8 180 sec. ISO-100

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70 responses

  1. Oh so cool! I knew you’d do something fabulous with light painting. : )
    It almost seems like a winter scene of snow and ice, which is kind of neat – it makes you question what is happening here.
    Both images are dazzling.

    July 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    • Thank you so much Karen. I really should have acknowledged it was your post the other day that got me thinking I’d just have to have go at this. Crouched over my tripod in the dark just picking out rocks and water, bits and pieces of the scene before me it was all quite ethereal and I think that comes through in the images. Was I on the beach? It does feel like somewhere else entirely.. otherworldly even ;-)

      July 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm

  2. These are quite simply stunning photographs Adrian. I love the first image for the cool blue tones and silvery highlights…..it has a calming moonlit quality. However because of the warmer tones in the second shot, the rock in the mid ground becomes far more prominent, and does add a stronger focal point to the composition, especially as the texture/shape/light in the sand leads you to the rock. One thing is for sure I’d definitely have these available for sale as prints at your next show…..I’d be amazed if they don’t sell!

    July 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    • Thank you Mark. I think you’re right, the rock certainly does become more prominent in the second image as does its reflection. I think it’s hard to choose, both have different qualities. I will certainly be putting these images on my website and will be printing them for sale as framed and mounted prints as well as cards. It’s nice when a plan comes off! :-)

      July 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm

  3. Yvonne Theze

    Hi Adrian,

    Very difficult to choose a favourite both have merit. The warmer one is more natural.

    Hope you had an enjoyable day. Mum x

    Sent from my iPad


    July 3, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    • Thank you Mum, yes we did have a good day! :-)

      July 3, 2014 at 7:15 pm

  4. Bob

    Reblogged this on PATCO Blog It All… and commented:
    Cornwall Photo

    July 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      July 3, 2014 at 6:46 pm

  5. Superb images… your effort should be really appreciated :)

    July 3, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    • Thank you very much Sreejith! :-)

      July 3, 2014 at 7:16 pm

  6. Oh, neat! I must say I’m drawn more to the second image because of that rock becoming more of a focal point. Fascinating idea, producing an image in this way :)

    July 3, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    • Thank you Sue. I too like the highlighting of the rock in the second image. This was a tough one really. Sometimes an image will process in just one neat and tidy way and there are no complications whilst other times, images just throw up infinite choices. This was just two of the options.. I could have gone on. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      • Totally agree!

        July 4, 2014 at 7:00 pm

  7. What a choice! They are both extraordinary! The lighting is such a clever idea. I’d probably go with the second one. Which do you prefer? :)

    July 3, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    • Thank you Jo. I’m really torn, I love the cool tones of the first, it’s more faithful to the ‘blue hour’ before dawn but I do like the way the rock in the second images becomes more of a focal point. I think I can probably get the best of both worlds if I re-process. That’s probably what I’ll do. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 4:51 pm

  8. Difficult to choose – it’s like deciding between silver and gold! The silver toned one looks like it is moonlit and I think after studying them for a while that I prefer that image. Good on you in getting up so early, that’s real dedication. I know I will never be a real photographer until I do that ;-)

    July 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    • Hi Jude, thanks for your comment. It was a little unfair to pose the question really. As I said to Jo, sometimes an image will process in just one way, other times an image will give you infinite choices and this was one of those. I don’t think you have to get up at 2 to be a real photographer but sometimes, to get that shot, it has to be done. I really like dawn but I’m a morning person. Other people like dusk as they’re just getting going by the evening. By that time of day, I’m done and I find it difficult to get creative. I just think we have to choose what works best for us creatively and take pictures. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm

  9. Well worth the early start, Adrian. I prefer the blue mood of the first photo but sense the second photo will be more popular.

    July 3, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    • Thank you Malcolm. I too like the cool mood of the first and it’s more faithful to the blue hour prior to sunrise. I think opinion is pretty evenly split so far. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm

  10. Janice

    Both are very nice but i especially like the second one, nice warm tones :)

    July 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    • Thank you Janice! So far opinion is pretty evenly split with this one mirroring my own difficulty in making the choice. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm

  11. I’ve the same doubts when I process photos taken at dawn, but in this case the intense blue of the first is my favourite.

    July 4, 2014 at 3:54 am

    • Thank you Francis. It can be a difficult choice as sometimes the blue is just too overwhelming. Other times, you just can’t get a satisfactory adjustment. I think the blue of the blue hour works with this image though. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm

  12. They’re both stunning images, Adrian. If I had to choose one it would be the first, I like the cooler tones.

    July 4, 2014 at 4:35 am

    • Thank you very much Simon. I think on reflection I’d go with the fist image also, I might just make an adjustment with the rock though. I do like the way it stands out more in the second.

      July 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      • Yes, that sounds a great way of processing the image. Will look stunning.

        July 5, 2014 at 5:31 am

      • I’ll give it a go.. :-)

        July 5, 2014 at 8:31 am

  13. Fantastic shots (and you know how much I admire your gumption for getting out there at that ungodly hour!) They’re both lovely in their own way, but I think I prefer the warmer tones. The first version tilts a bit too much toward monochromatic for my taste, but then that probably means just about everyone else will naturally like that one. :o

    July 4, 2014 at 8:25 am

    • Thank you Gunta. Opinion seems to be pretty evenly split which suggests this was a difficult choice. I do like the way the colour balance adjustment gives life to some of the colours so I think a merging of the two is probably in order. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:19 pm

  14. I prefer the second image with the white balance adjustment as it has brought some tones out in the sky, never tried light painting should give it ago.

    July 4, 2014 at 8:30 am

    • Hello Ben. Thanks for your comment. This was my first shot at this, I’ve experimented a little in the garden before now. It does seem to be a pretty hit or miss process and that time of day, you don’t get too many second chances before it’s too light. I think I’ll have another go when I have more time to experiment. Of course then it’s likely to be the tide that limits choices. I think it would be quite useful to diffuse the light a little, with my torch there’s a marked series of rings of light that were getting in the way a little, and perhaps add some colour to the diffusion. A red sock perhaps. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

  15. Both pics worthy of a wall Adrian. If I have to choose then the warmer version would be my first choice. I think that it produces a little extra detail and the central rock looks a lot nicer :-)

    July 4, 2014 at 8:44 am

    • Thank you David. I think I’ll probably have a look at the images again and see how I can bring out the best of both worlds using luminosity masks perhaps.

      July 4, 2014 at 5:24 pm

  16. Absolutely beautiful

    July 4, 2014 at 9:18 am

    • Thank you ever so much Kit! :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:24 pm

  17. I prefer the cool one, it is very cool!

    July 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

    • Thank you Bente, much appreciated! :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm

  18. poppytump

    Nature’s secret tidal sand sculptures exposed …. oh this little Cot valley is magical for sure ChillB … I’ll be checking those tide times too come Winter …
    The flash light and long exposure has thrown up some lovely wave patterns . Ideal me thinks for watercolour study ;-)

    July 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    • Ahh now that would be a challenge Poppy. I’ve checked the tide times for December and low tide will be between 9 and 10 in the morning and 9 and 10 in the evening. Not a lot of moon unfortunately but with dawn coming quite late in December, the tide should be quite low at that point. Nice to follow the tide downward rather than being chases back up the beach which seem to be the way it usually goes. :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm

  19. So it are super photo’s.I like de 2

    July 4, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    • Thank you very much Lou! :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm

  20. WOW! Beautiful.

    July 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    • Thank you Marissa! :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm

  21. So blue, so gorgeous!

    July 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    • Thank you so much Robyn! :-)

      July 4, 2014 at 5:45 pm

  22. Well done for that early wake-up call, Adrian. I am in awe! I think the first one is my favourite, but that huge golden nugget in the second one, really draws me in. I’m on the fence. :?

    July 4, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    • A good albeit slightly uncomfortable place to sit Sylvia. Thank you! :-)

      July 5, 2014 at 8:32 am

  23. Wow! What a beautiful place, I can see why this is one of your favourite places. I love both versions, but especially the first one with the cold moonlight. But you don’t have to choose, keep both!! :)

    July 5, 2014 at 9:23 am

    • Thank you Camilla, yes it’s a beautiful place indeed!. I will keep both! :-)

      July 5, 2014 at 11:12 am

  24. cool shot! great work!

    July 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    • Thank you Dominik!

      July 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm

  25. mk

    Hands down – the first one is my favorite.

    July 6, 2014 at 1:04 am

    • :-) Thank you!

      July 6, 2014 at 7:26 am

  26. Coming from the great white north, my initial and ongoing reaction to these photos is that the foreground of both – including the colourless rocks on the right – reminds me of snow lit by car headlights. I would crop both photos just below where the wave breaks on the right. It also bothers me that the rock, mid-ground, is lit, but the rocks on the horizon are not (but I understand that you artificially lit it) I prefer the first photo because I son’t like the purple ‘snow’.

    July 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    • Thank you Bunty. I appreciate your comment. Nothing I could do about lighting the rocks over a mile away on the horizon unfortunately. I can’t quite follow your crop suggestion though I’d like to. Always looking for ways I might improve an image. This is a picture of a stream running into the sea. I wanted to retain the dry sand on the right, I liked the way the fresh water was cutting through it so I don’t really want to lose that. Did you mean to crop from the left? Another look at the image and adjustment of the magenta/green slider in colour balance has improved things greatly so thank you for that. Retained the improved warmth without the artificial magenta imposing.

      July 7, 2014 at 11:46 am

      • The crop suggestion was to get rid of the foreground entirely by creating a long narrow panorama with the breaking wave at the bottom edge. (To me, the rocks/sand on the right look like snow drifts.) I understand that you couldn’t light the far rocks but my scientific mind wonders how the foreground can be sunlit while the higher background is not. Guess it’s just not my kind of photo! I do like your other work a lot.

        July 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      • I’ll give your suggestion a go. Thanks for your comments. I really do appreciate them. :-)

        July 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

  27. My first thought when I saw the top image on the reader was to wonder how there was ice and snow on the beach. It creates an almost surreal image. On balance I prefer the second – there is something special in those golden painted colours. Beautiful shots, Adrian.

    July 7, 2014 at 7:43 am

  28. I couldn’t begin to choose, Adrian…they’re both incredible.

    July 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    • Thank you Scott, I couldn’t choose either obviously.. :-)

      July 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm

  29. this looks wonderful :)

    July 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

    • Thank you Joshi! It is a wonderful place.

      July 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm

  30. These images caused me to question where the place is-always a good thing:)

    July 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm

  31. Generally I prefer the ‘blue’ version but the rock is too green for my taste so, if I HAD to choose, it would be the warmer version. Great experiment though!

    July 10, 2014 at 7:47 am

    • Thanks Noeline. I think I need to tweak the processing a little to get the best of both worlds here.

      July 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm

  32. Mmmmmmm it looks like a snowy scene. Stunning x

    July 18, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    • The effect was interesting that’s for sure. I’ve got to experiment with that a little more! Thanks Angi! :-)

      July 18, 2014 at 8:44 pm

  33. Wow, these shots are a bit spell-binding. I have enjoyed my time on your site today ~ really inspirational stuff Adrian, makes me want to get out and shoot :-)

    July 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    • That is such a lovely compliment Randall. Thank you so much. Inspiring other photographers to take pictures, it doesn’t get much better than that.

      July 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      • :-) So true!

        July 22, 2014 at 6:09 pm