Castles and Seascapes | Photography trip to Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland Coastline

08th April 2013
Over the Easter bank holiday weekend I had the opportunity to stay with friends right by the coastline in Bamburgh on the Northumberland Coast. Over the Easter weekend we normally go camping and have for past few years had brilliant weather, but this year with easter being so early we decided it might not be such a great idea so we opted to stay at a caravan site with Wigwam huts as part of a Wigwam Holiday for a bit of glamping. The huts were brilliant and toasty warm - much warmer than our Victorian terrace in Sheffield. The weather throughout the weekend was mostly partially cloudy which was a huge improvement on the recent snow and storms leading up to the weekend, the temperatures were however never far above freezing point.

Bamburgh Castle an hour before sunrise

Whilst this wasn’t a dedicated photography trip I managed to squeeze in a few trips down to the areas around Bamburgh Castle to capture it in a variety of lighting conditions. I had to stick to some of the more obvious locations for this trip as I didn’t have much spare time to be hunting for new locations and compositions around the coastline, I have come back with some good spots to investigate on my next trip up north when more time permits. When I aim to shoot seascapes around the British Isles I always make sure I have done my research looking at sun times, lighting direction solar calculator or combining the two the very useful Photographers Ephemeris and most importantly tide times. I much prefer to be down on the beach when I know that the tide is on its way out, knowing the state of the tide is something I find very important and shouldn't be overlooked when planning a trip. If I know that the tide is going out then it gives me the peace of mind to concentrate on the photography without having to think as much about what is going on around me. As we all know with seascape and waterfalls the best viewpoints are often unreachable without wellies and a bit of scrambling, this is particularly true for seascape as the best place to shoot from is often being hit by waves, if I know the tide is on it’s way out shooting from these positions are a little more manageable. One thing I always do when on location is make sure I have an escape route up the beach, the sea can be very unpredictable and I have on a few occasions witnessed huge waves which really come out of nowhere but luckily I have spotted them and made a hasty retreat from the rocks back up the beach before they have hit saving a soaking, an injury and a potential camera insurance claim.

The first evening I was there I managed an hour down on the beach arriving 20 minutes before advertised sunset time, this gave me a little time to make my way to Harkness Point looking away from the Castle and try and capture the amazing light which seemed to burst out of the cloud without warning. The light was so bright it was difficult to capture, I also knew that it would disappear any minute so didn’t get chance to move into a better position. Balanced on the rocks I made a few exposures with different settings, bracketing the exposure so that I knew that I would have a choice of brightness values to work with back on the computer.

View from Harkness Rocks looking towards Budle Bay

View from Harkness Rocks looking towards Budle Bay slightly later in the evening

Once the sun had dropped behind the horizon I made my way around the coast past the golf club and down onto one of the beautifully sandy beaches to capture some post sunset seascapes. The weather conditions out at sea looked amazing, there seemed to be some kind of snow storm occurring which gave a dramatic backdrop to the twilight seascape I was shooting.

Stormy Seascape at Bamburgh - Northumberland

For the final few images of the night I decided to include Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island in the background to add a little interest, the decision to wear wellies on this occasion proved to be a good one as it enabled me to wade through a pool of water to get out to a ledge in order to capture the water without too many distractions as there were a lot of rocks and seaweed mixed with the sand on the shoreline.

Stormy Seascape looking towards Lindisfarne Castle

On the Saturday we took a boat trip from Seahouses out to the Farne Islands with Glad Tiddings Boat Trips, it was a brilliant experience and well worth doing if you are in the area. We saw all kinds of wildlife on the islands with the highlight being the grey seals on Longstone Island.

I managed a quick trip down to the beach on the Saturday evening, taking advantage of the good weather and the strong late afternoon early evening sunlight which illuminated the rocks and the castle perfectly for some seascape photography. The brightness levels were difficult to manage in order to keep the highlights from burning out but keep the movement in the water.

Stormy Seascape at Bamburgh looking towards Holy Island

The sand dunes at Bamburgh provide some great interest and a nice contrast to the rocky beaches. The late afternoon light hits the dunes and illuminates the castle, the unspoilt sand in the dunes seemed to mostly be in areas of shadow so it took a little while to find and area where the dunes were intact.

Bamburgh Castle Sand Dunes

Easter Sunday and with the clocks going forward I was down on the beach an hour before sunrise time so had plenty of time to decide where to get set up. The conditions were very cloudy which meant that there was not going to be the spectacular sunrise I was hoping for but a good band on light on the horizon kept me entertained and gave me something to work with. I took a few long exposure seascapes long before the sun was due to rise.

Bamburgh Castle pre-dawn glow

The band of light on the horizon grew more intense at published sunrise time, Just as the sun was about to rise I turned around to see a group of 4 photographers dashing down to the beach who had obviously mistimed the sunrise and were desperate to capture something from the morning light.

Bamburgh Ledges - Northumberland

The chance of capturing the sunrise and Bamburgh Castle was quite slim as the sunrise was occurring right out to sea over the Farne Islands, I tried a few shots using grad filters to even out the brightness levels, the most successful shots however were seascapes which didn’t include the Castle but were taken looking straight out to sea towards the Farne Islands. I ended the morning stood in waves with tripod firmly buried in the moving sands shooting with short exposures to capture the movement in the water along with the last of the sunrise.

Sunrise over the Farne Islands from the beach at Bamburgh

On the last day of the trip I had the opportunity to go location scouting and have a good afternoon walk down at Dunstanburgh Castle which has always been on the list of places to shoot but have never managed to get down. The scenery around the castle is quite spectacular and is a definite for a sunrise trip later on in the year when the alignment of the sunrise is more suitable for the location.

Dunstanburgh Castle

About Nick
Nick Cockman is a digital photographer from Sheffield specialising in Landscape and Seascape photography.

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Photo comment By Alan: Excellent photos - some amazing shots in what is a lovely part of the coast.

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