Focus editor Philip walks through how he captured an ethereal blue hour scene at the Northumberland coast

Beginner
In this guide:

- Long exposure settings
- Drawing out detail with texture
- Clarity reduction
- Vignetting

My favourite shooting conditions


This shot, Otherworldly twilight at Cresswell Sands, is one of my favourite images from the Coastal North photographic series that I've been working on as an ongoing project. It comprises three of my favourite elements for a photograph; a coastal location, long exposure settings, and blue hour light.

I found this location at Cresswell, Northumberland, by looking at places along the coastline that looked interesting to photograph (and had proven popular with other photographers). For me, anything that brings a human element to an otherwise natural scene interests me. With the long and imposing concrete walkway stretching out into the abyss of the sea, this location ticked all the boxes.

I headed out after doing some further research for the best date and time to visit; for example, I looked at the tide times to find the safest time to visit and what the general weather conditions would be like. I initially hadn't planned for a blue hour shot, but when I got there, I found that the golden hour conditions weren't the most inspiring; but waiting until the blue hour brought some beautiful conditions. You can never guarantee you'll get the optimal light conditions when you head out for a shoot, but you can always find a way to work with what you've got.

Here's how I got that shot:

"Otherworldly Twilight at Cresswell Sands is one of my favourite images... because it comprises three of my favourite elements for a photograph; a coastal location, long exposure settings, and blue hour light."

What could I have done better?

As much as I'm pleased with this image (which like many photographers, is a real rarity) I feel there was more that I could have done to get a better shot, or at least something to take on board next time round. First and foremost I wish I had increased the long exposure time to about 2-3 minutes. This would have reduced the amount of detail in both the water and clouds and enhanced the smooth elements in the image.

"I wish I had increased the long exposure time to about 2-3 minutes. This would have reduced the amount of detail in both the water and clouds and enhanced the smooth elements in the image."

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Kit shopping:

- Camera:
Fujifilm
- Filters: NiSi
- Tripod: Manfrotto

Further reading:

- 7 expert tips for blue hour photography
- A beginner's guide to long exposure photography