Saltburn Pier in Twilight

Saltburn by the Sea at Sunset

Pink Sky over Huntcliff
Pink Sky over Huntcliff, Saltburn by the Sea

One of the things we try to get across on our workshops is how great twilight can be for landscape photography.  As the light starts to fade at the end of the day and you’re starting to feel a bit cold (especially at this time of year) then there’s always an urge to pack away the camera and tripod and head for home.  But it’s always worth hanging on for a few more minutes, until it really gets too dark and all the colour is gone from the sky, as very often these few moments can be the most magical.  So it proved on a recent trip to Saltburn.

I arrived about an hour and a half before sunset at the end of a cold but sunny December day.  The light was quite nice with the sun low in the sky, so I set about taking a few shots of the pier and the blue sky reflecting off the sea.  Pleasant though this was, the images seemed a bit flat somehow.  The weather forecast had been for sun all day with limited cloud and I’d been hoping for a good sunset so I went for a cup of coffee on the seafront and came back out to take a few more shots as the sun went down.

Saltburn Pier at Sunset
Saltburn Pier at Sunset

By now the sky was turning a pleasant shade of pink, and as the sun descended below the horizon the pink colour became more and more intense with the calm sea offering a great reflection of the sky and just adding to the effect (see the Pink Sky over Huntcliff image at the top).

Storm Damaged Railings at Saltburn by the Sea
Storm Damaged Railings at Saltburn by the Sea

It’s worth noting that this pink colour was looking away from the sunset.  In the other direction, toward the setting sun, with evidence of recent storm damage along the promenade in the foreground, the sky had a more orange hue.

As the pink light faded after sunset the sky returned to a grey-blue shade and the exposures were climbing up to 30 seconds, evening out the ripples in the sea and starting to give it a mirror like quality.  It’s at this point that thoughts of packing up and going home start to set in, but I knew that as it got darker the light might get more interesting.

Saltburn Pier in Twilight
Saltburn Pier in Twilight (ten minutes after the previous shot)

Sure enough, a good twenty minutes to half an hour after sunset, the “blue hour” colours were at their peak and with the long exposure smoothing out the sea it was just a completely flat reflection of the intense blue of the sky, producing a lovely simple near-monochrome image.

Even I thought that was the end of the show, as it was now getting pretty dark, but just as I was thinking of packing up, the huge disc of a bright pink moon popped over the horizon, producing an extra seascape image that I hadn’t really been expecting!

Moonrise at Saltburn Pier
Moonrise at Saltburn Pier

In the fading light I moved round to capture the moonrise over the pier too.  As the sky finally got too dark to make any more images I headed back to the railway station happy that I’d waited around long enough to get the best light – and when I came to process the shoot a few days later these final few images did indeed prove to be the best of the set.

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