This summer I spent in Southampton in the UK and although it´s been a while already, I made some experiences I´d like to share with you.
Just South of Southampton is the Isle of Wight, which is known for its beautiful landscape, so I decided to give it a shot and do a day tour there. I wanted to do it right, so I searched online for pictures other photographers had taken there and checked for locations with the direction of sunrise and -set. It seemed ideal for me to go to Compton Bay in the Southwest of the island as a sunset location, so I took a ferry over to the Island and a bus to the other side. In the afternoon, I did a hike along the cliffs on the coastline towards Compton Bay. Indeed, the landscape is just beautiful, but with the sun being high in the sky and the air quite hazy, it was no time for landscape photography.
Shortly after I arrived, I spotted a kestrel hovering right above my had. My camera was still burried deep inside my backpack with the wide-angle lens on... there was no way I could get it out in time! But who knew? There could be other opportunities, so I should rather have my camera at hand. So I opened my backpack, took out my camera, put on the telephoto lens... and the kestrel was still there! It was hunting, completely focused on its prey and didn´t mind me at all. I went closer, the falcon came lower and lower, suddenly went down into the grass and after a moment came back up again with a large grasshopper in its beak. Sometimes it´s really just luck - being at the right spot in the right time - that makes for the best images!
I arrived at Compton Bay earlier than I had planned, so I wandered around the area looking for images and compositions for later in the evening and found a spot on the beach to relax and read a book. A small part of the beach, just about a meter wide and a few meters long, was made of pitch black sand with a few large pebbles, so when the light became better, I put my camera on a tripod and began experimenting with longer exposure times for creative effects as the quickly moving water gets blurred while the subject stays still and clear.
But I had come for the sunset. Sunsets are a very challenging subject. You wait forever until it finally happens but then you have to shoot super quickly as the light changes so fast. I had found a stretch of large round boulder perfectly facing Northeast with the sunset behind. And it was beautiful - right after the sun had disappeared below the horizon, the sky began turning into beautiful pastel colors. I used a strong ND filter to achieve a very long exyposure time, that made the sea completely smooth and took my picture. And it seemed to be over. The colors began to fade, it became darker and darker, and I had to catch the bus. The bus stop was 6km away and if I didn´t catch the last one, I would have to stay outside (of course I had not thought of bringing a sleeping bag). So I hurried, packed away my camera, made my way down the beach, up the cliffs, and onto the road.
And all of a sudden it returned. The sky burst into color, a few clouds had appeared and were lit from below... and I had no camera at hand and no foreground composition to photograph. I was so frustrated! Every photographer knows those moments when you think about all the things you could have done better for a picture, and I am used to that. But I had planned this trip and I wanted to get the best picture I could and failed at simply being not patient enough.
But that is not a reason to not be satisfied with the trip. It was a great experience, I still got several nice pictures that day, and I can´t even complain about the sunset picture I ended up with. Plus I learned a valuable lesson: always plan with enough time before and after the picture and make the whole process a nice experience. At least I think that´s what´s giving me the most creative freedom.