The unassuming Pier
Sometimes the most unassuming subject can deliver your favourite photo of a trip. During the 2015 #Europhotowalk in Scotland, I had minimal expectations for our final stop of the day at Portencross Pier in West Kilbride, a small concrete and wooden structure dipping into the Firth of Clyde. We'd arrived in time for sunset here and at the nearby Castle, but steady drizzle had consumed any potential colour from the sky, further cementing my belief it'd be a wash-out.
However three guys fishing at the end of the pier caught my eye: one of the left, one on the right and one in the middle. It was pleasant symmetry, so I walked along a little to grab a shot with my phone. But as I adjusted my position, I noticed what at first had looked like a broken surface turned out to be a large gaping hole with the water visible below. I quickly put my phone away and extended the legs of my tripod to prepare for a long exposure.
Normally this kind of composition would cry out for a portrait aspect ratio to me, but I stuck with landscape for two reasons: first, I wanted it to work in the square format for Instagram and in order to protect the top and bottom from cropping, it's easiest to frame in the landscape orientation. Secondly I was conscious the rest of the group were behind me and I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible to get out of their compositions.
I shot this with my Fujifilm XT1 and XF 10-24mm, set to 13mm to avoid vignetting with my compact Neutral Density filter system. With my Lee Big Stopper fitted, I first tried a 'quick' exposure of 30 seconds at f8 and 200 ISO. Like most cameras, the XT1 allows you to dial-in a 30 second exposure without the need for Bulb mode or any timers, so it meant I could get away as quickly as possible. The result ended-up being too dark, but the image was tantalizingly promising. I couldn't bring myself to walk away with this result, but equally I knew I only really had one more chance before annoying my friends. So I connected a Triggertrap cable to my phone, set it to 90 seconds and kept my fingers crossed. As soon as the exposure ended I quickly retreated, apologizing for getting in the way for so long. Thank goodness I didn't have long exposure noise reduction enabled - another 90 seconds could have justifiably seen me shoved into the Firth.
I had a quick glance at the shot and it looked promising, but with rapidly deteriorating conditions, I dispensed with the chimping and got one with some additional compositions. Later I was delighted to discover the image contained a sufficient tonal range to be used without further adjustment. So here it is, the unassuming pier, straight out of camera using the Velvia (vivid) Film Simulation. Two out of the three fishermen which initially caught my eye may be blurred, but it's become my favourite shot of the trip.
Many thanks again to Athena Carey, John Dunne and Andy Bitterer for organizing the event. It was wonderful to catch up with old friends, meet some new ones and come home with the bonus of several good images!PS - the image quality from the new Fujifilm XT10 matches the XT1 I used here. I'm working on my full review at the moment, but in the meantime, my sample images and preview are at the link below.