Postdoc hike to Durdle Door

The Durdle Door. For most of my shots I was using the 50 mm lens, but here I switched to the 20 mm lens and went down low to get a more interesting angle. The photo was still not what I wanted, so in post processing I added a bit of radial blur to the image in a second layer. By using a layer mask I could hide the effect, making some parts of the image sharp.

This past weekend Jean-François organised an officially un-official postdoc hike to Durdle Door. We had originally planned on going in February, but had to postpone due to the big storm that hit the region that particular weekend. I might have been the only one that thought that it would have been a good idea to go anyway. In my mind the giant waves would make for some awesome photos. It was probably a good idea that more practical minds made the decision. Some of the remnants of the destruction were still evident now, with destroyed walking paths and pieces of rock that had been displaced. Due to the change in schedule some people that were originally planning on going were unable to make it. The people in our car had stuck together since the second postdoc hike. But people come and go in a place like Cambridge, and Harnik who was part of the original team had moved back to India. So the last few hikes the team had consisted of Miriam, Andy, Tüzer and myself. However, Miriam made sure that even if there were not always six cars going, our car would still be Team 6. This weekend Tüzer was away in Turkey, so Diana who was visiting our lab got to join the now infamous Team 6 car. Let’s just say we have a bit of a good spirited competition between the cars, especially with Martin, who this time named his car team Martin’s Angels.

At breakfast the sheep were being herded past the window. The boy in the foreground makes this picture come together.

Our car’s plan was to leave a bit early on Friday to avoid the traffic and to make a detour to some scenic places on the way, however our quick lunch turned into a three-course affair at Carluccio’s that lasted about two hours. What we didn’t realise (or perhaps Miriam, our driver did) was that this slight delay meant we would get stuck in the rush-hour traffic on our way out of London. In the end we had to skip our detour to Winchester and make straight for Lulworth Cove. We arrived at the hostel around eight, got the keys and headed to the pub for some well-deserved dinner.

Yasmine had great hair, and I just thought it might be fun if she brushed it all forward and put a pair of sunglasses on. I then asked Martin to stand next to her, to counter balance all the hair in the photo. To further emphasise the difference between them I desaturated everything but the orange hair in post processing. I like the fact that you can see a hint of her mouth and nose under all the hair.

The Durdle Door is a big cliff formation that has been eroded so that there now is an archway standing out in the water. We got up fairly early, had a leisurely breakfast then headed out on the trail. The plan was to walk west, have lunch somewhere along the way, then double back and return in the evening. It was a beautiful walk along the coastline. Getting up early and walking in a new place makes time seem to stretch out, and it was still morning when we reached the Durdle Door. We took a break on the beach and Fjóla brought out a bottle of wine that she had bought en route and shared it.

Taking a break on the beach by the Durdle Door. Fjóla had brought some ginger wine that she shared with the group. This is actually a composite shot. I took two photos, in the first the people in the background looked better, and in the second Fjóla was better. So I manually aligned the two images and applied a layer mask. Here the only problem was the left arm which was overlapping with Yasmine which took a bit of work.

After this relaxing break the walk got a lot steeper, but the view was quite amazing from the peaks that we passed. After lunch the scenery started to change, and we got into a more forested area, passing what looked like an abandoned house with a pirate flag. The original plan was to return by the same route, but we decided to walk a bit further inland to walk on more even ground. This took us through sheep grazing territory. A couple of us started approaching the sheep to try and get a nice close-up photo, but the sheep being sheep were not as interested in the prospect of human interaction. The two closest sheep turned around and ran away, which caused a few other nearby sheep to start baa-ing and moving in the same direction as their peers. This effect cascaded and soon the countryside was filled with baa-ing sheep, with more and more of them coming up the hill and running past us.

I had a few versions of this view. I took a photo a bit further down without the people in it, but I feel like they add something to the photo by providing a foreground. The people on the beach provide a sense of the scale.
The hike was quite taxing, here we were taking a short break before continuing on to our lunch spot. I like how the resting Diana and Angela have their bodies pointing towards Caia who is ready to continue. I desaturated the image to make the viewer more aware of the structure of the grass. There is also a little bit of split toning.
All these photos of us resting are going to make it look like we were really lazy. We ended up walking around 20 km. Here Fjóla is brewing a cup of hot coffee, some people know how to travel in style.

Back at the hostel Fjóla took charge of the cooking, which she had prepared the day before. After a delicious meal we decided to play a game of Mafia. The people playing the game get assigned different roles. The goal of the game for the townspeople is to identify and kill the mafia, while the mafia is trying to kill off the majority of the townspeople before they are discovered. This was the first time I played it, and I drew one of the three paper slips with “Mafia” written on it. This meant I would have to maintain a good poker face, pretending to be just another townsperson. Andy and Miriam also got the Mafia card. We decided to kill Fjóla but our efforts were foiled by the doctor. The game entered the next phase and the first question asked was from Diana who had played the game before. She asked me if I was Mafia. I told her no, but I must have grinned like a fool, because I got voted out pretty much right away. The upside was that now I was free to keep my eyes open all the time, and could capture a few photos of the other people playing. The second and third game I got to be a townsperson, which was a lot more comfortable, but both times we got outsmarted by the Mafia.

Back at the hostel, playing a game of Mafia. Diana’s inquisition just eliminated me from the game. She looks pretty happy about it. Talk about Team 6 team spirit.

On Sunday we packed up our things and headed out with our cars to a second trekking location. Our initial plan had been to walk east, but that part of the coast was closed this weekend for a military exercise. As you can see from the photos this part of the coast was equally beautiful. On the way out we walked on the ridge, and then we returned along the beach. Some parts of the route were a bit tricky, and I went ahead to be able to capture the other people’s descent. The others were silhouetted against the sky, or backlit against the mountainside. After coming back to the village we had lunch out in the sun, and then afternoon tea in a local tea house.

After taking a photo of Martin’s car crew, we of course needed to take a photo of the Team 6 car. Andy came up with the idea of sitting in the trunk, which of course was full of stuff. After a few minutes unloading all our baggage we climbed in. Not much to say about this shot other than that it would have been better if Andy and I had leaned forward. Now only Miriam and Diana had sun in their face, so I had to do a bit of brightening in Photoshop.
We were waiting for one of the other cars to arrive, in reality we were in the wrong place and they were waiting for us, but we did not know that. Anyway, I had a bit of time and decided to try a reflection shot and asked Yasmine to stand next to the window. To make it more interesting I then asked Martin to go back into the warm car and sit on the other side. In post processing I desaturated the left and right half of the image to better separate the faces.
Jean-François Mercure taking a photo of the beautiful landscape. Just a little bit of post processing here. Was getting lazy so I hit the auto-adjust button, and then lowered the exposure. Added an adjustment layer that had increased contrast and painted in a bit on JF and some parts of the mountains.
To get down to the beach we had to climb down a steep hill. I rushed down ahead to be able to photograph the others as they were coming down. I was lucky with the location of the sun as it provided quite interesting shadows. Here I have darkened the sky in post processing with a gradient. The contrast has also been boosted a bit. Again I chose black and white to emphasise the structure of the grass.
One last team photo before heading back! The sun was too bright to keep our eyes open without squinting.

So what new did I learn this time. I guess I am still struggling a bit with the 20 mm lens, need to remember to get closer and fill the frame. Photographing in manual mode is getting easier, and I am starting to become more comfortable with dialling in the settings. Hiking is a lot of fun, and the coast around the Durdle Door is very beautiful.

– Johannes

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