Solo camping is a unique and enjoyable experience and there are many reasons people camp alone! In my case, I wanted to get away for a short while and explore an area of Cornwall I had identified as a perfect location for my upcoming photo workshops.
I live in Newquay, a town on the north coast of Cornwall, in southwest England where we are surrounded by the Atlantic ocean which pumps surf to the surrounding beaches! (if we are lucky). We are also part of the South West Coastal Path; 630 miles of national trails, making it the longest trail in the UK. If you find yourself at any beach, take a left or a right and you won't be far from the path that opens up a whole new experience.
I have run this trail many times, only touching on a small part of it, but covering 20 miles of trail for a run showed me this is something really special. It was while training for a trail marathon this year that I began to develop ideas for the workshops, the trail is a natural location to hone your craft and create the stories that an audience would love to read.
Once the seed had been set I made plans to head out on a solo camping trip, to walk, think and plan the exact route we would take.
Preparing for Camping
As this was to be a super short trip I wanted to pack as minimal as I possibly could, the emphasis was on a solo camping/photo trip, tent & gear were my starting points.
My tent is the superb Heimplanet ‘Cave’ which I have had for 5 years and absolutely could not be without, once you own an inflatable tent it's very hard to imagine going back to conventional poles. With the tent occupying the bottom of my backpack, next up was gear!
I didn’t want to be carrying too much for this trip, but I still wanted to be able to get the shots I hoped to capture. I opted to pack my film camera and one DSLR with the small and budget Canon EF 50mm 1.8 lens (I could of packed a wide lens but when I am pushed for weight reducing I’ll shoot a 50mm and batch merge my shots in post-production) x1 ND filter and x1 Polarising filter, tripod and intervalometer. Following this was my summer sleeping bag, roll mat (premium comfort), waterproofs, water bottle, snacks, toothbrush, torch, board shorts, bodysurfing handplane and my MacBook Pro Laptop.
The route I took was simple. From leaving my house its a short 10-minute walk to the Beach and from there I picked up the coastal path and headed right, in the direction of Watergate Bay, Mawgan Porth, Bedruthan Steps etc…travelling light in T-Shirts and shorts with a freshly shorn head, headphones on, my camera in hand.
The sun was out and it was warm, the UK was on the back of superb summer and I was feeling pumped! First stop for me was Watergate Bay, I have a little spot off the trail that I like to shoot the surf from. For the 2nd time this year my film camera shutter jammed and from past experiences and with this particular camera I knew I wasn't shooting 35mm on this trip.
I carried on my way, everything was cool until about a mile in and the sea mist descended. This was not a huge surprise, we get this in Cornwall, one minute its super sunny, next the beaches are red flagged and it's a whiteout with zero visibility.
Some of my favourite work has been shot with the challenge of sea mist and I was already thinking this could be really cool, particularly challenging if you are on my workshops, so on I went!
PUTTING MYSELF IN THE PICTURE
I’m not a selfie person, and much prefer being behind my camera than in front of it, but i decided on this trip that I would buck that trend and document the camp - in front of the camera. Adding a person to a landscape image shows scale and I love bringing a human element to my work, as this was a recce for my workshop and I am of course Solo Camping, it had to be me!. This was a lot of fun and turned the trip on its head in terms of photography with plenty of humorous moments, albeit solo, running back and forth to get into a position to nail the compositions.
Finding THAT ideal spot
There’s this little spot halfway between Porth beach and Bedruthan Steps that I run through, a gaping valley that runs down to a little bridge which leads to the ocean, that was my planned overnight stop.
By the time I arrived the mist was so thick that the ocean was barely visible and cloud coverage was zero. I quite like this in images, you get this haunting stillness from your shots. I had already envisaged the composition by the time I reached the top of the hill that led down to the valley.
setting up camp and photo gear
Reaching the valley and finding no one around, I was quietly relieved, I had wanted to camp in this spot for a long time, but there was every chance someone else may have had the same idea - they hadn’t and within 10 mins my tent was inflated and I had set up camp. Though I couldn’t actually see the ocean, I set up my tent so I was looking out towards it, I was hoping the mist would clear - it didn’t.
After a pre-prepared dinner of brown rice, sweetcorn and vegetables I began to explore and study the area in finer detail, usually, I am flying through this valley on my runs without stopping so to find an array of different spots within this spot was just what I had hoped for.
I shot for around 3/4 hours that night, both behind and in front of the camera, documenting a solo camping trip! It was that simple! The mist was perfect and I wouldn’t have wanted it any different. My tent, as well as being convenient and brilliant also happens to look killer in images and leads a lot of my imagery here.
The next day was unbelievably still misty! So I edited the images I had shot there and then in my tent before deflating, re-packing and heading home (As I mentioned this really was a short & sweet camping trip)
For a 2 day trip I still packed way too much, my sleeping back was too thick, my matt too clunky and I wished I had brought an inflatable pillow. If push came to shove the smaller Heimplanet tent would have saved a little more space and In addition, 2015 MacBook Pro’s are far too heavy for minimal travel, no matter how near or far!
But! It was a short and sweet solo camping trip which for what its purpose was for, worked really well with the kit I had taken.
A big positive was this particular location I have chosen for the photo workshop is perfect for us all to get out on the trail and learn/teach techniques and compositions in an environment that is brimming with opportunities every step of the way - mist or no mist!
Details of my Upcoming Photo Workshops in Cornwall 2019 will be out there shortly via my newsletters and Instagram - see you there!