Search

Dungeness with the SIGMA fp


I'd wanted to visit Dungeness for many years but admittedly I find myself avoiding driving south. Being a Yorkshireman based in Derbyshire I generally prefer to travel north for my photography shenanigans, usually all the way north to the Highlands and Islands. Less traffic, fewer people, you get the picture; photography is an escape for many of us.

It isn't always about beautiful scenery. I fancied a change of scene and decided to book myself some accommodation in Dungeness. I was dreading the drive for sure, which involves a large stretch of the M25, the horror! The drive was hassle free however and as I approached Dungeness I was already beginning to feel the atmosphere of this sprawling landscape with big skies.

I'm often drawn to these places on the edge, such as Spurn Point in East Yorkshire where I've honed my craft over the years. These are locations where the beauty isn't immediately evident, often at first appearing like some barren wasteland. At these locations is a sense of history, an underlying atmosphere that draws you in; these landscapes have been worked and lived in. Other examples of this type of landscape that I've visited could be Portland in Dorset and some out-of-the-way corners of Unst, Shetland. I'm sure there are many more around the UK.

I'd like to point out that this isn't a review, but as a SIGMA Ambassador I'm very pleased to share that this was my first outing with their new fp camera, so I will talk a little about that and my experiences with it thus far.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

I arrived at Dungeness just after 3pm and the light was already beautiful, quite typical of the kind of luminosity one might encounter in Cornwall. I hurriedly checked in to my accommodation and then ran out of the door with my camera bag. As soon as you pass the sign for Dungeness estate you find yourself in a unique landscape. Feeling a little rushed with the fading light and being unfamiliar with the location I headed straight for the boats out on the shingle. The above is the first image of the trip, not a bad start with nice conditions in which to familiarise myself with a new camera.

The above image is the little SIGMA fp, which happens to be the world's smallest full frame camera.

I don't generally get too excited about new kit announcements; I find what I like and generally stick with it for some time. I've been using SIGMA Foveon cameras with the Art range of lenses for most of my work for around the last four years. I love the medium format quality and rich depth that Foveon brings to my work and prints. The fp is SIGMA's first Bayer sensor camera and has a 24.6MP back illuminated sensor which you can read more about here. The fp has been designed as a modular do-it-all solution for stills and cine. You can customise the fp with Sigma and third party accessories to suit your chosen shooting technique. It is very solid in construction and weather sealed. I was pleased to see that fp has the familiar (to me) Sigma menu system which is highly intuitive and a pleasure to use, one of the main reasons that I enjoy shooting with Sigma cameras. As a photographer who likes long hikes, cycling and occasionally canoeing, I try to keep my kit as lightweight as possible. For this trip I had the new 45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens and the 14-24mm f/2.8 Art lens. These new lenses are much smaller than those I've been using previously. They are also L-mount (read more about the L-mount alliance here). I am excited to get exploring with this new lightweight kit, along with my Benro Travel Angel tripod and equally small LEE Seven5 filter set.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

Back to Dungeness. For the first two days as I explored the weather was bright and sunny, not really what I wanted photographically to evoke the mood of this place. Although a little too bright during the day I did encounter some wonderfully subtle sunsets, with the sea calm and mirror like, making a good opportunity for a zen-like long exposure above.

When conditions are particularly bright I often choose to think about how the images would look in monochrome, as with strong light we obviously get bold shadows which can suit black & white, such as the examples below.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

As I wandered around this strikingly eclectic landscape, the various lighthouses and abandoned buildings felt like ancient monuments. They suited the environment so well it was as if they have been there for all time, firmly planted in the landscape, as alluring to me as Stonehenge. Certainly the random architectural details made for a photographer's dream.

I'd really been enjoying my time roaming around the coast despite the overly bright conditions. I'd almost given up on more favourable light and went to bed on the last night intending to head off home early the next morning. I looked out of the window the following morning and couldn't believe my luck. A hard frost and subtle hazy mist, with the sky looking promising in the dusky light. I definitely wouldn't be heading straight home!

I excitedly grabbed my kit and went outside, then proceeded to come back in again for my gloves as surprisingly the mercury was reading -4 degrees! I headed straight out towards the old weathered boats to capture them in much more favourable conditions.

14-24mm f/2.8 Art lens.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

14-24mm f/2.8 Art lens.

14-24mm f/2.8 Art lens.

14-24mm f/2.8 Art lens.

Now I was a very happy bunny! I couldn't have wished for better conditions for the location. A hard frost transformed the landscape. The image further up with the nuclear power station as the backdrop, I titled 'Nuclear Dawn'. The pink sky and wintry conditions made for an almost apocalyptic scene with the old worn out machinery in the foreground; it all felt very surreal. I couldn't stop on this morning as conditions were so good. After the best light had passed I began to concentrate on the details and textures, rust, weather-beaten machinery and decaying wood.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens.

The final morning then turned out to be one of my most productive for some time. Not that we need proof, but it demonstrates that as photographers it's always good to visit pastures new and explore. I'd thoroughly recommend a visit to this beautiful, desolate, random, quirky and wholly atmospheric location. I'll definitely be back soon. I haven't yet mentioned that it's also an RSPB reserve, so if twitching is your thing you can combine the photography with a spot of wildlife watching, something that I didn't have time for on this visit.

A final word on the fp. I love it. A couple of things for me personally however. I see a lot of people on social media complain that it doesn't have a viewfinder. As mentioned previously this system has been designed to be modular and so one can personalise it to their own needs. I also need a viewfinder as I feel detached from the image making process without one. At the earliest opportunity I will be acquiring Sigma's loupe, which is the same in design as I've been using with my DP Quattro series of cameras. There will also be third party viewfinders available. The only other thing that bothered me is that I kept catching the MODE button, which brings up the mode screen (A, P, S, M mode etc). With that in mind I shall also be needing one of the grips which come in small or large size. Other than that, I am hugely enjoying this camera. Image quality is superb, build quality second to none, a joy to use and the ability to personalise it. I must apologise however for my lack of video knowledge. This camera can also do amazing things in cine mode which isn't really my thing. Perhaps that might change in 2020 however as I familiarise myself with this innovative and exciting little camera.

Thanks for reading.

Best wishes,

Karl.


237 views

© 2015 by Karl Holtby