Usan (east coast), night shoot

Location: Usan – Time: 1900-2100

Another Friday night and another night shoot for the PK crew! Sarah had come over to my place to edit and organise our last wedding shoot (at which she was a bridemaid) so by the time we were ready to go it was dinnertime. Usan was to be our destination and there just happens to be a McDonalds en-route in Arbroath – diet of champions!

waterfall in the middle of the sea
Waterfall in the middle of the sea!?

It was starting to get dark as we parked up near the coastline at Usan which was perfect for the kind of shots I was looking to take. The village is very small and is mainly farmland and fishing gear. Add that to the beautiful coastline and you have a small photographers paradise waiting to be shot!

moon trails at usanMy first target was a waterfall that is situated on a rocky outlet in the middle of the water – the strangest thing I ever saw. The massive waves crashing on the other side of the rocks I believe are what feed this odd spectacle and it was just asking to be shot. My trusty walking boots (£40 from TK Maxx) took me safely over the seaweed and rock pools but I was worried about the fading light and so made the shot a fast one.

A long shutter of about 20 seconds provided the image you see above, but the exposure times were soon above the two minute mark by the time I returned to shore.

My intention was to shoot some star trails but was foiled by the huge full moon that was blowing out the sky after about five minutes of exposure. I tried a time lapse instead, shooting constant 30 second images for 45 minutes. Using the startrails application (download it free at I got home and produced a moon trail shot and a 7 second video – yes, 45 minutes of shooting got me a whole 7 second video…

I had the choice to go to a 40th birthday party or stand on a freezing coastline in the dark, and obviously I chose the cold yet beautiful east coast. We headed up to Usan by Montrose which I had been to before in the daytime. It is a fabulous little place with a wee bay and lots of rocks and gullies, which have easier to traverse in my boots instead of my street trainers, and in the daylight.

Star trail behind tractor. Ian helped me set up this shot so bit of a joint success

The moon was out and it was a stunning clear full moon, a proper harvest moon and it lit the area well, so well we didn’t need a torch and long shutter speeds gave the illusion it was daytime. So it was tripods outs and shutter speeds of a few minutes, which gave enough to get the idea of night time and also the movement of the stars. The odd abandoned tractor, the lobster pots and the little boats moored on the high ground helped make great foreground interest and also something to play around the flash as Ian did his time lapse with his camera. Basically we set my camera in position and with the help of Ian and his phone I managed to focus on something (lens was struggling with focus in the lack of light), put the shutter on remote control on bulb mode (which works like a shutter release) and went to work. Leaving the shutter open for a good 5 mins one of us would run in and hide behind the tractor or pots and flash the flash gun a few times and run back out. As long as we moved fast enough the camera didn’t pick us up. The results were great.

Harvest moon over the lobster pots, it looks a lot lighter than it was to the eye.

All in all it was a fabulous shoot, though pretty damn nippy even with my 2 jumpers on! But must admit really starting to like these night shoots and think I’m getting the hang of them.

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