"Why don't you write a blog post about your top 5 locations to photograph for someone when they visit Guernsey", said my inner monologue. "You know the Guernsey coast more intimately than most, it would be easy to write about"...
Oh boy, I couldn't have been much further from the truth!
Guernsey, the stunning rock (I'm allowed to call it that) in the Channel Islands I call my home - nestled close to the Normandy coast in the Bay of St Malo - is a landscape and seascape photographers paradise and herein lies the problem. How could I possibly choose just a top 5? There are dozens of stunning locations where you can practice the solitary art of landscape photography and, looking back through my catalogue and thinking about the locations that resonated with me, it was clear that choosing 5 would be tricky!
But here (for now at least; ask me in a week's time again!) is what I think are my top 5 locations to photograph for someone travelling to Guernsey or indeed for any budding landscape photographers on island already!
#1: Vazon Bay and Albecq headland
Situated on Guernsey's west coast, Vazon Bay and the headland of Albecq offer fantastic opportunities to capture summer sunsets. The wide, sandy bay is a veritable playground for water sports enthusiasts too, particularly surfing, kite boarding and wind surfing.
Standing at nearly 1.5 miles long, it is the longest beach in Guernsey and packed full of photographic options. The west of the bay comprises of sand dunes and is less trodden by the public but is significantly more rocky at low tide.
Moving further north along the bay takes you to the main areas of interest; namely the fabulous wooden groynes that have been relentlessly weathered by the powerful ocean waves, the imposing sea defence wall and, if you are lucky enough, the ancient petrified forest buried beneath the sand other than after the most intense storms.
These areas are best photographed at sunset. The low, oblique lighting can cast the most incredible light on the features and textures of these local landmarks. Although summer has the easiest sun direction to work with it can be busy, so careful planning might be needed to avoid people straying in to the frame. Winter has other challenges, not least the power of the sea that can really thunder in as the tide reaches its peak, so caution should be taken if trying to photograph the groynes and the base of the sea wall.
Further north you then step onto the headland of Albecq and the Fort Hommet Nature Reserve. Dominated by the Victorian-era Fort Hommet, this rugged headland has an abundance of gulleys, rock outcrops and pebble beaches that just cry out to be explored with the camera. Care should be taken that the incoming tide doesn't cut you off though - Guernsey is famous for it's large tidal range; as much as 10 metres (33 feet).
#2: Fermain Valley and the surrounding cliffs
Just a mile from the hustle and bustle of St Peter Port's centre (Guernsey's...capital!) you plunge straight in to the beauty and grandeur of the east coast cliffs. Winding cliff paths, sheer drops, hidden coves and tree lined woodlands dominate the eastern seaboard as it steps up dramatically from the Bathing Pools and Havelet Bay.
One of the many small valleys in the area, and a firm favourite among locals and visitors alike, is Fermain Valley. This deep, wooded valley, terminates at Fermain Bay and is protected by a large sea defence wall with tower number 15 (one of Guernsey's 15 pre-Napoleonic loophole towers) sat proudly at its centre.
Photographic opportunities are in abundance at sunrise, with many options available throughout the year. My favourite time is in winter when a strong, oblique light is possible as you look back up the beach but this is a bay that you can have success at any time of the year, such is its location and direction.
Venturing above the bay, in either a northerly or southerly direction, opens up even more stunning photographic opportunities. Narrow, tree lined cliff paths with fabulous views, the beautiful Fermain Moorings, The Ozanne Steps, Marble Bar and the tiny fishing harbour of Bec du Nez are all within a short walk along the cliff path. But I'm in danger of opening up the whole east coast cliffs as one of my top 5 if I go much further! Dare I mention Bluebell woods...? Stop there, Dan!
#3: The South Coast
OK, like Fermain Valley you could argue that this is a bit of a cop-out given they span 6.5 miles as the crow flies but, put honestly, you cannot beat the range of photographic opportunities from the countless headlands, cliffs, outcrops, valleys, bays and coves along this stunning stretch of Guernsey's coast. This blog post barely scratches the surface but hopefully gives the would be visitor a teaser of what beauty and splendour awaits the intrepid explorer!
Certainly winter is the best time of year for the dramatic light displays at sunset and sunrise but don't let that put you off if you visit in the summer months. The displays of wild flowers and local bird life is as equally beautiful (if you're really lucky you may even spot pods of dolphins in the water far below) and it's a pleasure to spend time wandering the excellent path network we are fortunate enough to have.
But this post is all about locations, right? Well, wait no further! In no order of preference (and certainly not an exhaustive list) we have Petit Bot, Saints Bay Moorings, Petit Port, Moulin Huet, La Bette Bay, Le Jaonnet, Le Gouffre, The Pea Stacks...I could go on. All of which are either visible from the cliff paths or accessible coves and bays in their own right. I could try and detail when, how and where to photograph each location but there's probably a blog post for each of these alone! Suffice to say, any landscape photographer will have no issue at all finding pleasing and original compositions of these stunning locations. How about I just let the photos do the talking....?
If time is short and I were to single out two locations that are a must visit, I would choose Petit Port and Moulin Huet (pronounced Moolon Wet. Don't worry, you're not the first to get it wrong!).
I'd choose Petit Port for it's feeling of solitude and pristine sand at low tide but with 270 steep steps to access the bay, it's not one for the weak hearted! Meanwhile, Moulin Huet needs no introduction if you are familiar with Pierre-Auguste Renoir's work. A visit to Guernsey in 1883 proved the inspiration for the famous renaissance painter to create 15 famous pieces of the bay during his month long stay. I swear he was quicker at painting than I am at taking photos!
As you'd expect from any sea cliff, care should be taken at all times. There are some serious drops and unstable sections if you venture off the paths. As much as it may seem a good idea to push the envelope to get that perfect Instagram composition (I've witnessed it too many times over the years), believe me, having friends in our local cliff rescue team, I can safely say it's not!
#4: Pleinmont Headland
Locations don't come more spectacular than the Pleinmont Headland, especially in a big storm. The unrelenting power and noise of the crashing waves and the battering wind, which has on occasion knocked me to the ground, is nothing short of breath taking. Mother Nature really does show her colours on days like these.
But there's more to this headland than violent storms. Follow the cliff paths from Portelet Beach, to the Fairy Rings and then take the steep steps up the cliffs to a wildflower matted headland. On a still summers day you'd be forgiven if you completely forgot what things can be like when the wind whips up.
Access is easy via several car parks and the pleasant walk from Portelet Beach. Photographic opportunities are aplenty in this area. Wide open panoramas, telephoto captures of Hanois lighthouse, long exposure when the sea is calm and super fast shutters to catch breaking waves when it's not. The chance to test all your photographic skills means you are not short of subjects here.
For the history lovers there are also several WWII German relics to photograph. The MP3 Observation and MP4 L'Angle Towers, Batterie Dollman Gun Pit and various other bunkers are dotted all along this mile long stretch of headland.
Being a climber, I also have the fortune of knowing the climbing crags in the area, which offer even more unique photographic opportunities. Although care should be taken if attempting to scramble down the cliffs - they are a serious undertaking.
#5: The Bathing Pools (La Vallette)
Last but by no means least are La Vallette Bathing Pools, completed in 1865 to allow our ancestors to have safe access to swimming as St Peter Port harbour expanded. Their heyday may have been in decades past but they still remain a treasure of Guernsey and it's clear to see why.
For a photographer, these manmade pools offer a huge wealth of compositions and view points. If you're a fan of wide angle perspectives then the views over to Castle Cornet and the islands of Herm and Sark offer ample opportunity to capture that perfect composition. If you enjoy more intimate landscapes then the detail on the railings and stunning granite work looks incredible against a long exposure of the waves. There really is something for everyone here.
La Vallette consists of four separate tidal pools. The Gent’s, Horsehoe, Ladies’ and Children's pools. Each one has it's own charm and each one is very different to photograph. In the 1800's when they were first constructed, as the names suggest, people were segregated to maintain privacy, such was the culture back then! Nowadays though, we don't have those restrictions and access is straightforward and safe.
Sunrise is the optimum time for photographing La Vallette and it can be enjoyed all year round. In fact, I actively encourage it! However, in winter months you should be careful of rogue waves - it's been known for people to be swept off the wall if you don't respect the sea.
The top 5 nearly turns into the top 20...
So, there we have it, my favourite (cough) 5 locations for landscape photography in Guernsey. OK, I may have bent the rules a bit but I think what is apparent is the huge wealth of options available on such a small island and this post has barely scratched the surface...
You can see why I quickly fell in love with landscape photography, given how treated we are to capture sunset and sunrise with apparent ease thanks to the access we have to both an east and west coastline. I would encourage any photographer looking for that next trip to consider our wonderful island. The relaxed pace, familiarity and ease of access means that you can easily incorporate a day with the loved ones knowing that, when the times comes, the trip out with the camera will take you no time at all to get to the location you want!
I hope I've inspired you all to get out to your favourite locations wherever you live. Where are your favourite locations? Is there anywhere you'd like me to cover in more detail? Leave me a comment or get in touch and I will happily see what I can do, Likewise, if you're travelling to Guernsey and just want a few tips, just let me know!
For more images and to purchase stunning prints of my beautiful home, please visit my Guernsey gallery.
For details about things to do, events, travel and accommodation on Guernsey please visit https://www.visitguernsey.com