Poldhu Cove Seascape Photography


Article by

Philip Pook


Why Poldhu Cove Why Cornwall?


Poldhu 4 by Philip Pook on 05/06/2012



We are returning to Poldhu Cove!


In November 2012 we return to Poldhu Cove, Cornwall, one of our favourite coastal photography locations. Its South, North and West coastal aspects are all easily accessible from The Chocolate Box Cottage at Trewoon, our base for the trip. We never tire of this area as it has ever-changing light and weather that make seascape photography here so appealing.


When Nicola at Trewoon hung examples of our work in her Lovely Cottages, we were thrilled. Nicola asked if we had anything to say about our work and the area, so we hope the following articles will explain why Poldhu is one of our favourite locations. We plan subsequent articles that explore our photography; what we do, what we use and how we go about shooting the Cove.


We tend to visit Cornwall in the cooler months as we find the light very appealing for our work; the clearer atmosphere at this time of year produces less haze and causes less light distortion. We also enjoy the earlier sunsets and later sunrises, making the ‘golden hour’ for photography that little bit more holiday friendly!


Where It All Began for me

In Philip Plisson’s stunning Photo Book - The Sea - Eliane Georges says “Perhaps our early childhood memories are like a camera shutter: once triggered, they imprint you with very strong sensations, which you will later try to rediscover.” This quote resonates with me, as it frames exactly how I feel about the oceans, water itself and why I revisit them constantly.


One of my earliest recollections…


I was around four years old, on the train to Blackpool (a coastal resort in the UK), when I experienced for the first time "that smell" that distinct, salty, cleansing scent of the sea.  The freshness of that smell as it seeped in through the windows of the train carriage was very different from the steam and grease smells of the trains, and this new and intriguing odour felt like the whisper of a friend encouraging me to “come this way… come and be with me”. That friend still whispers in my ear today - I still feel excitement when approaching the place where land meets water.

 Poldhu 2 by Philip Pook on 05/06/2012My experience was, perhaps, a common enough experience for a young boy on his first adventure to the seaside, yet recalling the experience today can still produce tears laced with emotion. I know I am not alone in my response to the ocean, and I have grown to think that perhaps there is a collective knowledge within us all that informs some innate sense that being at the water's edge is a good place to be?


 I remember, coming closer to the ocean, a growing feeling of anticipation. This feeling, unknown to me then, but revisited many times since, is one of approaching a favourite destination, or perhaps closer to the feeling that I am, in a way, coming home? Many have written of this or a similar experience as if something inside us remembers our collective past.


All life originated in the oceans.  All early civilisations developed exclusively near the sea and other sources of water. Whilst we have evolved to walk on terra firma, we still carry our own internal ocean within us – without water, our bodies are dust. The cells suspended within our blood and body are bathed in solution not unlike the organisms that float in our oceans. We simply can’t survive without water.



I often marvel at the fact that everything organic on our planet is made up of a large percentage of water, including our own bodies; as new-borns we are some 80% water.  Water and light are two of the main elements that support life on this planet, and instinctively inform my photography and especially my Seascapes. Water is my constant yet ever-changing subject, yet I cannot capture it without light.


Eliane Georges, in ‘The Sea’ by Philip Plisson, also said, “If the sea is the womb from which we came – given that life appeared there millions of years before creatures climbed onto dry land, and that the chemical structure of the blood of mammals is very similar to that of the Oceans, just like amniotic fluid – then it also represents our planet’s future. We live in the age of the sea.”


So there I was, a small boy, the taste of salt in the air and also - something else - a feeling that I was close to a large space, a feeling of openness of space, a place where I could breathe, really breathe. Coming from the city of Manchester, this was a brand-new feeling.


I didn't actually see the ocean until the next day, when we walked toward the vast openness. As the sea in this part of the country is behind a defence, proudly dressed as a Promenade, it is not visible  at first, hidden behind the sloping defence until, as the summit is reached, the vista is revealed in one rush of visual excitement.  This is where I first saw the endless blue-green of it all. The sparkling shards of light reflected off the moving swell, as far as I could see, the horizon melting into the pale blue sky which darkened in hue as I raised my eyes in awe.


Suddenly, I felt I had come home. I knew then that this young city boy had found his place. Yes, I could breathe here and all that was wrongly connected in my life seemed somehow corrected. All was as it should be.  I even wondered if I had been born by the sea? Or from this water?  Much later, I would learn this is was nearer the truth than I could have realised at the time.


From there on, I could often be found by, or on, the water, but more often in it! Moving to Bakewell in Derbyshire at six years old I discovered the River Wye and added another watery environment to my repertoire.  First the ocean, now a river.  Many days after school, I would return home soaked to the skin and, after a little tuition from the local boys, with a tickled trout in my pocket too! So water can feed us!


Poldhu 3 by Philip Pook on 05/06/2012


I suppose, at that young age, I was at the beginning of a learning curve that has been travelled by humans and our fellow creatures for millennia, the learning curve that leads us to water. After all, it is where we have found most of our food, whether that food resides in the water or comes to drink or to graze the fodder that grows with the waters help.


And now, I am back in Poldhu Cove, with my camera, experiencingwater through my photography more often these days, standing back and watching it more than that little boy who needed to be immersed in it as often as possible.


Having captured coastal images in many places over the years, I find the light in Poldhu Cove has a character all of its own. Around those golden hours in the morning and at dusk the light can be an intriguing mix of warm and cooler colours and as the coastal shelf into the cove has a shallow gradient, the beach can, at times, hold a layer of water that reflects the sky's canopy of light beautifully. This enables me to photograph in the cove later into the evening, even after sunset, as the wet beach acts as an extra source of light that helps to extend the amount of available light and help to balance the contrast of the scene.


In the next article, I will list the equipment we would use to capture these light qualities. As my photography has developed (if you will pardon the pun), I have learned more about exposure and light and now prefer to capture as much of the scene naturally, within the camera itself, relying on post-production editing only in order to tweak the finish.  Although I do sometimes produce images using many layers and effects, I prefer to make it obvious when I do this. 


 My most recent collection of images and Limited Edition Prints cover Poldhu Cove in Cornwall and also several “On The Water Front” exhibitions staged over the last few years, and it is a celebration of the ocean, its water, beauty, subtlety, power and fragility - and the qualities of light needed to capture this beauty with our cameras.


Whilst I enjoy being by the water's edge anywhere, the coast is my particular love, whether the ocean is lapping the coast gently with that soft hiss of water onto shale, or the curling caress of small waves, or especially when thundering onto a beach, bay or harbour.  I am lost in wonder at the forces driving those thousand white horses to crash onto the shores, the remnants of winds and storms from, sometimes, thousands of miles away finally throwing the last of their energy at our feet – the Moon’s effect from an even greater distance.


Poldhu 1 by Philip Pook on 05/06/2012



One last comment before we start.


Seascape photography can be a dangerous art. In my earlier photo trips to the coast, I have, on occasion, been close to being washed into the sea, tripod, camera and all. I have developed a respect for the sea and have learned that she is a fickle element, oblivious to our presence, unpredictable and, in a way, unknowable. Many sailors of experience have lost their wager with the sea.


If you are close to crashing sea waves, don't think it will do you any good to count the waves, or to measure just how far they are reaching today. You can do this for as long as you like, but there will always be that one wave that comes from  nowhere, higher, wider, faster, altogether different from those you’ve counted. Take care - this beautiful changeling will not notice you as she delivers the final surge of energy onto your little piece of the coast.  Oh, but how she lifts the spirit...


you can find our Poldhu cove on-line gallery at


Pick up the first of our Free Screensavers of the Poldhu Collection at


or email us at jeanette@studiopookini.co.uk if you would like to know anymore about what we do!

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