PHLEARN MagazineMartin Dolan Battles Tough Conditions to Capture Jurassic Coast

Martin Dolan Battles Tough Conditions to Capture Jurassic Coast

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast offers a spectacular opportunity to step back in time and see what the landscape might have looked like millions of years ago. This prehistoric location is a draw for photographers from around the world – and Martin Dolan, who lives in nearby Verwood, is fortunate to have easy access to the inspiring views.

Martin has been exploring the English coast for the past three years, shooting landscapes up and down the ancient coastline. During one of his visits, he noticed that as the tide receded from the shore, it exposed a beautiful stretch of Dolomite bedrock – a scene he eagerly sought to capture on camera.

“It’s a location that requires a bit of effort to access and, as a result, is off the beaten track,” he says. “At this time of year, the sun still sets over the land and it was important for me to capture the color and light being reflected off the wet bedrock. This would accentuate the textures of the rock and the shape of the ledges.”

But it wasn’t just the out-of-the-way spot that made getting the right shot challenging for Martin – the weather conditions along the rocky coast made the photoshoot especially difficult.

“There was a fierce wind, and although the tide was falling, it was high enough for the crashing waves to cause an enormous amount of sea spray,” he says. “Repeated attempts at shooting this composition were had, and each time, I had to retreat back 10 meters or so to wipe the camera and filters down with a cloth.”

Camera & Settings

Canon 5D Mark III

DSLR camera with 22-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and wide range ISO setting of 100 – 25600

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Canon EF 16-35mm

Aperture Range: f/4 to f/22, Ring-Type Ultrasonic Motor AF System, Weather-Sealed Construction

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With the light slipping below the horizon, Martin had no time to waste. Using his Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 lens set to a focal distance of 16mm and an aperture of f/16, Martin shot a five-second exposure at ISO 50.

To accurately portray the details in the rock and the colors of the sunset, he also used several filters – a LEE Landscape Polarizer, a LEE 3-stop Neutral Density filter, and a LEE 3-stop reverse grad ND filter.

While the filters helped ensure that his RAW image featured a balanced, natural exposure, Martin still used Adobe Lightroom to enhance the details of his capture even further.

“The clone tool was used to remove a few water spots, and a curve adjustment was applied to bring out the contrast and create a feeling of depth within the image,” he says. “And a vignette was applied, to focus the viewer to the main rock ledge.”

Martin’s final image showcases the raw, rugged beauty of this World Heritage Site – one of the most widely-recognized natural wonders of the world. While the shooting conditions might have been an unexpected challenge for Martin, they ultimately resulted in a more interesting image.

“The rock features here are spectacular, but in my opinion, they need additional elements to create an emotive image,” he says. “The interaction of the sea crashing into the ledges, along with the rain-filled clouds catching the light at sunset, bathing everything in an otherworldly glow – it’s a brief moment of time in a place that has taken millions of years to evolve into its current state.”

Thanks to the Dorset coast’s gorgeous scenery, it’s hard to take a bad photo in the area – but Martin’s eye for composition and his carefully balanced exposures make his vision of this popular landscape stand out. See more on his website, or find him on Facebook or Flickr.

Jessi Gowan

Jessi Gowan is an award-winning writer and photographer who specializes in rural landscapes and fine art abstracts, with a focus on form and composition. Her photography has been included in a variety of publications, as well as in exhibitions in Canada and the United States.

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