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  • Ashley Cochrane

Abbot's Cliff Shoot Journal - 14th April 2021

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I have been here a few times already, so I knew the chances for good shots was certain. I had endeavoured to come to this location during the evening golden hour for some contrasted shots. When I last came to the sound mirror, I noticed that the concave dish was difficult to light, to light it all would remove the shadows that gave the dish a 3D effect. It is difficult to tell it is a concave dish when it is lit face on. I came out when I knew the sun would be positioned at its side to give it that shadow and therefore depth. Unfortunately, however, when I arrived the sun had just fallen behind the dish casting it all into shadow. This was a huge shame as it meant I would have to revise my lighting strategy and return to this location to attain my shot. On a plus note, the south-facing bunker was facing the setting sun, so I made sure to get that shot and moved on.

I took a few shots of the sound mirror to try and figure out the best place to shoot from. The sound mirror sits less than thirty paces away from the cliff edge so shooting this is difficult and often dangerous. Ideally I would be stood a good while back to shoot the dish face on, but to do that would mean an unfortunate plunge into the English Channel. I was therefore limited to shooting from the side which meant including a lot of noise in the background. I knew these shots of the sound mirror would need extensive editing in post-production, to bring out the shadows on the dish and to eliminate the unwanted noise in the background. By this point I knew I would have to return to get the shots I needed so I left the dish and headed towards Hougham Battery.

At Hougham there is a huge transmitting pylon which can be seen from almost everywhere in south-east Kent, especially at night when its illuminated. By now I was almost directly under it, even though it was a good mile or so away. It is easy to forget how eerie and daunting these structures are until you are stood underneath gawping up towards it. However, it did make for some interesting shots. As I made my way towards Hougham Battery, I stopped frequently to try and get a shot of the mast, experimenting with different foregrounds. I tried some with hedgerows, cows, fence posts. I even stopped on the way back through to wait for a small cloud to perch over its summit. Although it had nothing to do with my concept, I believe some of my best shooting of the day came from this mast, I ended up with some very minimal shots. And it was a surprise too that with the Canon 5D, the resolution was so high and clear that you could see the wires and steel that support this huge mast, wires that can barely be seen with the human eye.

I marched towards Hougham Battery, but by this point the sun had set low enough that almost everything was cast into a deep shadow. Not that it mattered really, I do not think there was enough here to shoot anyway. There are a few abandoned buildings, but they are not particularly interesting. I did not exhaust much time here due to the light conditions and decided to head back to the sound mirror to try again to get the shot composition correct. I fired off a few more shots from a bit further back, the advantage of walking back towards the dish from a different angle meant I could get a new perspective. I found a shot standing on a small elevation around fifty yards or so from the dish, this would likely be the best place to attain this shot from. I shot a few silhouettes of the bunker too and experimented with having the sun beam through the viewing window which worked quite well.

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