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  • Ashley Cochrane

Martello Tower No.3 Shoot Journal - 12th April 2021

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I started the day at Folkestone Harbour which sits under the tower. Looking towards Dover I spotted the ruins of an offshore tower which was used during the construction of Folkestone’s sewage outflow pipe which can be seen at low tide. I did not intend to use these shots, but I wanted to experiment with the long exposure settings on my new Canon 5D Mark II, using a ten-stop filter. Being on the sea I felt this was a good chance to do just that and if I was fortunate I may end up with some extra shots for the project. It was here I noticed a beautiful rolling cloud coming off the land which seemed to run perfectly with the shoreline. This made for some interesting shots, but I do not think any of it is relevant to the project, so I moved on up to the Martello tower. On the way up the staircase to the cliff top I noticed a tree perched off the cliff face. I set the exposure down low to get a lovely silhouette of the tree. Again, nothing contextual for the project but at this point I am just getting to know the features of my new camera.

With the new camera came a new approach to the way I shot. With my 35mm lens which had an aperture size of f/1.8, I could afford to be a bit more creative with my landscapes. For example, I could play with depth of field by focussing on a subject and creatively blurring out foreground noise. Onto the Martello Tower, and I was disappointed to find the clouds that worked well in my favour earlier were going to be a hindrance this time around. I decided to shoot on a clear day because I had a clear image of how I wanted this shot to look. When I came here previously I got a great shot of the Martello in resplendent white, juxtaposed against a heavy black sky. Admittedly, I used a lot of post-production to achieve that effect, which led to the subsequent degradation of that image. It has been almost five years since I took that picture, and I know my knowledge of lighting and photography has improved massively since that day, importantly now, I know to keep my RAW files and to have them backed up so when I get a good shot like that I can frequently come back to edit it how I wish. But unfortunately, today would not be that day as the cloud cover was significant enough to complicate almost every angle I tried to get.

That is not to say the shots were not good, in some instances the cloud really helped the shot, there is enough texture and depth in the clouds to make it work, but it’s not the shot I wanted, and I knew I would be disappointed if I did not get this shot before I left Kent. Luckily, the Martello Tower is within walking distance of my home so I could easily reshoot it. I also want to come here later in the day, because the lower in the sun that sky is, the darker the sky around the tower is going to be, but it’s not essential because I know a competent post-production job will give me what I need. I spent some time trying different angles, for the most part I was using the tripod, so it was a case of getting down low and shooting up towards the tower, I was even fortunate enough to have a dog skip through one of the shots which lined up very nicely with the composition.

I stopped by the bunkers, but the sun was too low that the structures were almost completely cast in shadow, so I did not shoot them, I instead turned to face the sea and sit for a spot of lunch. I took some interesting shots of the cliff edge, and even got some video shots of a boat passing by and into the harbour. All in all, a good day of shooting. I did not get exactly what I wanted, but I now knew exactly how to get it. I needed to come in the evening, with zero cloud cover and take advantage of the low light.

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