Dunstanburgh Castle – constantly changing stillness

What does this title mean exactly? Let me explain.

Whenever I visit a beautiful location for the first time, there comes a point when I have to leave, to head home and then long to return another day. I distinctly remember when I first witnessed the glorious Lake District. It was many, many years ago and I was on my way back from Scotland with my parents. We decided to take a detour through The Lakes as we had never visited this part of the UK before. We didn’t stop or stay, just drove through and admired the view.

Like countless other people I was captivated by the beauty of its landscape, the ever changing light, the reflections in the water and the colours of autumn. I knew I would like to return one day but I had no idea when this might be. If and when I did, I didn’t want anything to have changed. I wanted it to be just as it was during that first fleeting visit. As naive as this may sound now, I had to remind myself that the mountains and the lakes would still be there tomorrow and the next day. In fact they will still be there long after I have departed this world. What would of course be different would be the weather, the light and the affect of the changing seasons.

These changes are taking place all the time of course. In fact every moment is unique, never to be repeated. The landscape and its features are changing, but they do so at a considerably slower pace. The differences are virtually imperceptible from one generation to the next.

Photography is all about capturing a very brief moment in time, that moment when the shutter is released for maybe just 1/1000 of a second. When applied to the landscape in particular, that moment in time is totally unique. Even a long exposure of several seconds or perhaps a minute still only records one image of how time has been merged.

When my wife and I visited Northumberland recently it reminded me of the first time I saw The Lakes. Once again I was captivated by the scenery, the wonderful unspoilt coastline and mile upon mile of sandy beaches. Northumberland is also famous for its castles and Dunstanburgh Castle is arguably one the finest. The location is simply beautiful. The ruins stand on a remote headland with Embleton Bay to the north. The castle which dates from 1313 conveys both magnificence and mystery. It goes without saying that Dunstanburgh is a photographer’s paradise.

We were staying just a few miles from Embleton so we were able to visit this location several times. I had the opportunity to capture the same scene on different days. The images in this post were all taken from an almost identical spot, with a 90mm lens mounted on the same camera. However the weather, tide and light were never the same. Although my equipment and position were similar from one shot to the next, I was using a variety of shutter speeds to create different effects.

Each of these photographs is unique. Never to be repeated. If I return again to Embleton Bay, then I can be confident the headland and the castle will look the same. The sea and beach will still be interacting with one another, but I will not be able to replicate these pictures, and nor can anyone else.

The land is still and constant but the moment in time has passed.



4 Responses to “Dunstanburgh Castle – constantly changing stillness”

  1. Vicki

    Your images are full of atmosphere and you’re so right (about capturing that moment in time).

    There’s almost an Ansel Adams feel about your third image. It must be those ominous clouds that I’ve seen in one of his images that rings a bell.


  2. Simon Howlett

    Superb series from a magnificent location, Alan. I agree, each photograph we make is unique and cannot be replicated. As photographers, the brief moment we capture with our cameras is an intriguing and addictive process.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: