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  • Ashley Cochrane

Denge Sound Mirrors Shoot Journal - 21st April 2021

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Today’s shoot was the most difficult to plan for several reasons. Firstly, the Mulberry Harbour was far out to sea. I had never been here to shoot before, so it was a case of hit and hope. Being stranded around a mile offshore, I knew there was a chance I may not get close enough to it, to shoot it with any clarity or detail. I really wanted to capture just how vast these things are, but the chances of me getting close to it were incredibly slim. All I could do was get here at low tide and hope for the best. I arrived at peak low tide, but even then, it was still at least half submerged under water. The tide may have been at its lowest for the day, but it was not at its lowest due to other atmospheric conditions such as the moons influence on tide. But I was short for time so I could not sit around all year and wait for the tide to get lower. All this would have been in vain anyway as the sludge I would have had to traverse to get anywhere close would have prevented me. I tried to battle the wet sand and find a navigable route, but I made it about 50 yards from the edge of the sand before walking any further would have been incredibly dangerous, and I would have had to walk almost a mile through this stuff to get remotely close. So, I pulled back and shot from a safer platform on the shingle. The subject was so far away, the extra fifty yards did little to alter the perspective, so I thought it would be wise to shoot from the safety of the sea wall. Yet, it did give me a chance to use my 50mm Canon lens which I had not used yet in the project.

Another issue was lighting. The Mulberry Harbour faced West, and the sound mirrors faced East, which meant I would have to sacrifice one to poor lighting. Seeing as the Mulberry Harbour would be a lucky shot to attain anyway, I opted to get down here in prime morning light to best suit the sound mirrors. Fortunately, it had clouded over by the time I got off the bus anyway, so lighting would have been flat no matter where or when I shot today. I did not spend long at the Mulberry Harbour as there was not much opportunity to shoot it. It was so far out I could not experiment with angles; I could not get any closer to it, and there was not much on the beach that I could use to incorporate into the shot either save for a buoy and an old groyne that had decayed into the sands. I was not disheartened however, as I knew I would either need a boat or a swimsuit to get the shot I wanted, but it was worth checking out. I walked the two miles down the beach towards the sound mirrors. On the way I found some sound dunes with some interesting fauna on it. I spent a while here experimenting with shots, but as I turned to face the Mulberry Harbour I noticed I could incorporate the desert like foliage into a shot with the Mulberry Harbour.

With this I hastened down to the sound mirrors, passing through an abandoned holiday park along the way which almost distracted me from my primary goal. I did not get any shots here with my camera, but I did get some nice colour shots on my phone of the empty holiday park. Sticking to the brief, I made my way along the shingle path to the sound mirrors which, despite their sheer size, are relatively hidden. They sit on an island in the middle of a lake, so public access is prohibited. But English Heritage had set up an interesting viewing platform in which to see the dishes. There were limitations to the shooting here, the viewing platform was not all that big so there were only a few angles I could get. Once I got all the basic shots I needed, which did not take long, I decided to attach my 10-stop filter and experiment with some long exposures using the closest two dishes and the reflections of the lake. This comprised my best shooting of the day and made the experience worthwhile. On the way back to the bus stop the sun emerged, so I popped back to the Mulberry Harbour to see if I could shoot it with better light, but it was fruitless. I was fortunate to get here in overcast skies because it turned out to be the most favourable light for both locations.

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