Whitby Abbey


I love Yorkshire. I was born in Yorkshire so it somehow (despite spending my entire growing-up years in boring Bedfordshire) feels like coming home. I’d been up in York, Harrogate and Nidderdale for a gloriously enjoyable client shoot and had been lucky with just enough interesting light to get the required shots, but I’d been itching to get to the seaside and was hoping the sky gods would bless me with a bit more of the same when I got to Sandsend. But, alas, no. It was flat and white and my seascapes were lifeless.

Not to be too despondent, I whiled away some more daylight hours by driving around to see what I could see. But after conceding that rush-hour traffic hold-ups weren’t the best of what the region could offer, I headed up the the Abbey car park to ponder. It hadn’t quite reached the magic hour of 6pm when free car parking commenced so I hovered near the car till I was certain there weren’t any payment enforcement types lurking to whack a ticket on my windscreen, and then set off to recce for the evening light. Perhaps I could do something with that there gothic ruin?

The faint sounds of walkers’ chatter on the nearby Cleveland Way receded and the late summer evening warmth had a hint of autumn bite to it. I wandered around waiting for the day to disappear into the night. The wind whistled eerily through the trees and the occasional bat darted overhead. Oh, wait. I think I imagined that bit.

I knew about the pool of water behind the Abbey and it was this that I wanted to capture. The only trouble is that there’s a 5ft stone wall around the perimeter of the Abbey grounds and it’s not the easiest of things to pop a tripod on or over. I left the tripod in the car and instead used the wall and a pair of gloves to prop the camera up and, broadly speaking, in the right position. (A little bit of wonkiness is nothing Lightroom can’t handle.) I took plenty of long exposures from different vantage points, all with me hanging off the wall (thank god I’d learned basic rock climbing techniques only a matter of weeks earlier) or putting the camera on live view to see what the composition looked like. During one exposure, a family of flying ducks noisily but deftly landed on the water. They didn’t really enhance that particular frame, I must say.  Next time, though, I shall endeavour to be less law abiding and maybe shimmy right over the wall for that optimal composition with the abbey reflected in the water.