The skyline of the little fishing village of Craster on the Northumberland Coast is dominated by the historic Dustanburgh Castle which sits about a mile to the North. It really is a wonderful place to visit and when you are there, no doubt, you will be tempted to buy some of the world famous Kippers.
Craster sits almost in the middle of my favourite stretch of Northumbrian Coastline. To the North you have castle and walking past you will soon come across the classic image, of the locally called "Death Rocks". These rocks create an amazing leading line and foreground interest when photographing the back of the castle. Keep walking and you will soon be on the golden sweeping sands of Embelton Bay before rounding the headland can coming to Low Newton where The Ship Inn welcomes lots of tourists. After another half mile or so you will end up Newton Point which gives great views of Beadnel Bay. Heading south from Craster you will soon to come Cullernose Point and then you follow the cliff top path, past the famous Bathing House towards Howick Haven before eventually ending up at Sugar Sands which is a collection of bays. Finally after passing the "fence to nowhere" you will end up in Boulmer. The Fishing Boat Inn ( or FBI as its locally known) is another great watering hole with just the most amazing views.
So why is this part of the coastline so wonderful from a photography point of view and what makes it stand out from the rest of the amazing Northumberland coast? It all comes down to the Whin Sill which was created 295 million years ago. There are 3 different areas in Northumberland, all of which were formed by separate flows of magma but roughly about the same time. They are the Holy Island Sill, Alnwick Sill and Hadrian's Wall - Pennines Sill. Craster and the surrounding coast that I have mentioned, sits on top of the Alnwick Sill and it is what makes this stretch of coast so unique. Many of you many have visited Bamburgh or Holy Island Castle - they still perched on top of the Holy Island Sill. Hadrians Wall as you have no doubt guessed by the name sits proudly on it's own Sill.
For this part of the Alphabet Challenge, all of the images that I took (with the exception of the one above, as I wanted to show you the Winn Sill ) where taken in and around the harbour area. I didn't want to venture further along the coast as that would have probably had you commenting that it should have been D for Dunstanbugh. On arriving at Craster, you will see signs for Quarry Car Park, which is only a 100 meters or so from the village itself. There are signs asking you not to enter the village with you car and it is really important that you follow these requests. Granted it may cost you a couple of pounds to park but the area is popular with tourists, especially in the summer that there has to be parking restrictions in place. Trust me, it is worth some of your hard earned cash not to mention that it limits the impact on the locals who call Craster their home. Being on the east coast, from a photography perspective, I have always found the it works best for sunrise as opposed to sunset. Knowing where the sun will rise during the year is also important as in the summer months, the rising sun could interfere with your images. In the winter however you will have it either at your back or it will give you some great side light.
There are a collection of boats either in the harbour itself or on the slip way. These can make some great foreground interest and the image above was taken just before 7am in late January during blue hour. You will have to contend with the street lights, however a little bit of dodging and burning in post will help you get a decent image. My advice would be to get here early before the tourist arrive. Lens wise, this this image certainly benefits from a wide angle.
There are 2 small breakwaters which make up the harbour. Both offer decent opportunities for a composition. I favour the one at the south side as you are then looking over the harbour towards the castle, however you can equally shoot off the walls of the north breakwater, up the coast. A long telephoto lens will help compress the image, bringing the castle much closer. At this time of year, you will also have the rising sun behind the south breakwater and the village. Yesterday, was that classic quandary where the best light is behind you but you know once the sun rises it will add colour to the image that you want to capture. Problem being, you might not have enough time to get to where you want to be, so you just have to commit to your image. I did manage to perch the tripod on the south breakwater and make some sort of an image which shows the fantastic early morning light but ideally I would have liked to have a lot more foreground interest in the image.
Shooting from the South breakwater, you can include the harbour in your image. You need to take care if there are any boats in the harbour itself, especially for a long exposure as whilst they may not look like they are moving, they will be bobbing gently and will look very soft in your image. I choose to compose the image at the start of this blog, without the fishing boat in it, for that very reason. It took a while to find the right composition and care should be taken if you are taking this shot that you pay attention to the headland around the castle and don't cut part of it off with the breakwater.
The final image that I took yesterday, incorporates the end of the south pier which creates a perfect frame for the castle. It is just a shame that the top and bottom aren't parallel as it would make the framing so much better. It's a different type of shot, which you will need to get very low to capture. This image was taken from as far back as I could get and the focal length was 340mm. To get everything lined up correctly, I would certainly recommend using a tripod. Again, it helps to be there very early when you don't need to worry about anyone else being in your image.
So there you have it - C for Craster in the Alphabet Challenge. Its a great place to visit and in reality, I only scratched the surface of what this place has to offer.