Chasing the light in St Ives

The early morning glow and smooth water of St Ives Bay.
Picture: Richard Packard

Capturing the beauty of a Cornish town on camera.

Perched on the end of the granite pier, I waited with chilly anticipation for the first rays of warm sunlight to breach the Atlantic horizon. Suddenly and without warning five…six ... seven jet trails streaked across the scarlet sky above me, all heading on parallel courses towards unknown intercontinental destinations.

Our own journey had started only a few days before, leaving Perth with our family of five, towards my childhood home town of St Ives in Cornwall, England. Apart from its natural beauty, temperate climate and historical charm, St Ives is said to experience a quality of light rarely seen. Over almost 100 years this phenomenon has resulted in many famous artists calling the seaside town their home.

So this morning, as an enthusiastic photographer, my mission was to try to capture the dawn light as it painted this tranquil fishing harbour with saturated colour. I prepared the night before, cleaned, charged and loaded my gear, ready for an early start.

At 5am, I was already making my way on foot through the narrow, cobbled backstreets of the town, stopping momentarily to clamber down a set of stone steps to the water’s edge and a chance for a long-exposure shot. My destination was the end of West Pier and what I hoped was the perfect spot from which to greet the sunrise.

I needed to take every opportunity to capture the scene, I changed positions and compositions (loving the benefits of digital photography) before the sun finally broke through and climbed out from behind the 1890s Smeatons Pier lighthouse, opposite me. Fishermen arrived, preparing lobster pots and their boats for high tide and a day of fishing along the rugged north-Cornish coast.

The light was changing again, its golden hues now making the clear harbour water sparkle and dance, reflecting moored pleasure craft and Cornish gigs.

I walked the perimeter of the harbour following Wharf Road and experimented with angles, settings and lenses, pausing for a moment to take in the scene and to reminisce about childhood ice-creams and sandcastles.

As the sun continued to climb into the morning sky, I grabbed a coffee and started on my way home for breakfast with the family — I had seen the light!

Top image: The early morning glow and smooth water of St Ives Bay by Richard Packard.


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