© Robert Small

Photographing The Exmoor Coast

With Nigel Hicks, photographer for National Geographic


Nigel Hicks is a professional photographer for National Geographic. Here he gives us his top tips to taking great photographs on the Exmoor coast.


Exmoor offers some of England's most dramatic and stunning coastline, so it’s no wonder that everyone wants to get the best possible photos of the landscapes and seascapes. Of course, great photography on Exmoor's coast follows essentially the same golden photography rules as anywhere else, but there are a few issues specific to this coastline. Paramount among these is the fact that the great majority of Exmoor's coast faces north, and so for much of the year the cliffs have no sunshine directly on them. 


So, with that little conundrum in mind, here are my top tips for Exmoor coastal photography.

1. Shooting The Best Light

© Nigel Hicks

Generally speaking, shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon/evening at times when the sun is low, giving good shadows and bathing the landscape in a golden light. That said, in mid-winter there's no need to stick rigidly with this rule as you'll get this kind of light all day long (if there's any sunlight at all!).

2. Coastal Cliffs

© Nigel Hicks

When photographing coastal cliffs try to choose those sections that face east or west (rather than north-facing cliffs) which as a result receive sunlight at least for a few hours of the day. If you're shooting a west-facing cliff, photograph it in the afternoon or evening. Similarly, if you're looking at an east-facing cliff photograph it in the morning. 

3. Keep Your Compositions Simple

© Nigel Hicks

Keep your compositions simple and containing a single strong subject that dominates (but doesn't necessarily fill) the image frame. Most people try to cram too many elements into their photos, with the result that they look cluttered and lack any impact. Shoot those scenes that contain a strong subject, making that the main subject of your image frame and then try to compose it in such a way that the rest of the frame is free of clutter and distractions. Easier said than done, but this is the crux of great photography.

4. Photographing A View

© Nigel Hicks

When photographing a view in which you have to have some foreground visible, make sure it's an interesting foreground; not just dull rough grassland or tangled brown brambles or bracken, which will distract from the final photo. Select your viewpoint carefully so that your foreground contains something interesting, such as an angular rock that points towards your subject further into the frame, or a meandering stream or track, again 'leading the way' towards your subject.

5. Photographing At Dawn Or Dusk

© Robert Small

If photographing at dawn, dusk or on a very dull day when light levels are low put the camera on a tripod, and let the camera use a long exposure. It is very hard to hold a camera still enough to get a sharp, high quality image in these conditions, so don't even bother trying!

Sticking to these golden rules will help you generate some great photos of Exmoor's coast, so this coming spring and summer get out there with the camera and get shooting!



Posted By 

Nigel Hicks 


Nigel is a highly experienced professional photographer and is qualified as a Fellow with the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP). To see some of Nigel’s work, pick up a copy of Wild Southwest, his latest book about the landscapes and wildlife of southwest England. It is available through all good bookshops and online at both Amazon and at www.aquaterrapublishing.co.uk.

Plan your own photography expedition to the Exmoor coast, using the South West Coast Path Association’s walk finder tool or check out their favourite springtime Exmoor walks 

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