How High Expectations Changed into a Disappointment, or Did It?

How High Expectations Changed into a Disappointment, or Did It?

We planned a few days at the Opal Cast in France, a wonderful seaside area with rocky coasts, large tide differences, and a lot of remains of the Second World War, that has shaped the landscape many years ago. The forecast promised fantastic weather for landscape photography, so we had high expectations for impressive sunrise and sunset shots, and perhaps even a few star trails. The reality turned out quite differently.

I love the Opal Coast. It is the region in France next to the English Channel, where on clear days the white cliffs of Dover are visible on the horizon. The region is famous of the two capes; the Gray Cape, also known as Cap Gris-Nez, and the White Cape that is named Cap Blanc-Nez. Each cape has their own looks and photographic possibilities. You can walk for miles over the high cliffs between the two capes, and explore the beaches that stretch for almost half a mile during low tide, revealing the old defensive works of World War Two on many places, and a couple of ship wrecks. There are even a few ruins build into the cliffs that date back to World War One.

Cap Blanc Nez at the Opal Coast from a few years ago. At this place it is hard to shoot bad pictures, although it cannot always be like this. (EOS 5D mark IV EF100-400L @ 400mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 1/200)

First of all, my girlfriend and I wanted to enjoy a weekend at the coast, especially since the weather predictions were perfect. But I also wanted to explore a few locations for an upcoming workshop, and I was planning to do some more tests of the Kase filters I use nowadays. My expectations were high and in my thoughts I already saw the nice sunrise shots I would take. But upon arrival we were treated with heavy overcast that set the landscape in a gray and sober light. We couldn’t even make out the transition between the sea and the sky; the horizon was nowhere to be seen.

The weather forecast said sunny skies with a few clouds, and it brought it great expectations with it. But it turned out to be quite different as this image shows. (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35mm @ 35mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 30 sec | Kase CPL ND1000 soft GND 0,6)

To be honest, it felt like a real disappointment. I had great expectations and now I couldn’t shoot the images I wanted. We went exploring some new locations nevertheless, unfortunately without the sunset I had hoped for. For a moment the thought crossed my mind to leave my camera and tripod at the cabin, but I didn’t and I just tried a few composition to have an idea about the possibilities at that location. During twilight I did see a nice minimalist panorama unfold, but the image on the back of the LCD screen wasn't that exciting. It seemed to reflected my own mood at that moment.

At Pointe de la Crèche we encountered a seemingly dull twilight with no sign of any sunlight whatsoever. But the mood was captured in this picture, although I did not recognized it at that time (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35mm @ 20mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 10sec | Kase CPL)

And so the night fell upon us and we went to bed early. Next day the weather was unchanged and we had a gray and colorless sunrise. More disappointment, not only for us, but also from a group photographers that was roaming the beach at Cap Gris Nez. Later that day I went out all alone to find more interesting new photo spots, and to fly a bit with my drone.

This is what I was hoping for, shooting a wreckage during sunrise at low tide, with great colors in the sky and perfect reflections in the tide pools. I wish... (both images of this compilation, the wreckage and the sky, were shot at this beach, but a year apart)

The reality during the weekend was quite different from the expectations as shown in the previous image. The wreckage was shot under these disappointing circumstances. (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35mm @ 18mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 2,5 sec | Kase CPL hard GND 0,6)

But wait... I finally realized there was no reason to be frustrated for the weather conditions. I always tell my workshop participants to go shooting no matter what, and not to be withdrawn by apparently unsuitable conditions. With all my great expectations I had fallen for this trap. Because I had some images in mind, I failed to see the possibilities of this gray weather. After I packed my drone I looked at the scenery with different eyes and finally took a few very interesting shots.

When I came to my senses I did see the possibilities of the weather conditions. But I had to be careful for the incoming tides (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35mm @ 24mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 60sec | Kase CPL ND1000)

May this be a lesson, not only for myself as a reminder, but also for all (landscape) photographers; be careful with any expectation you might have. There is a chance you will be disappointed when the conditions turn out to be different from what you hoped for. It even can withhold you from seeing the possibilities of the situation.

So did I at first. Now, when I look back at the images from this weekend at the Opal Coast, it might not be the images I expected to take, but I did shoot some beautiful images nevertheless. I just had to reset my expectations. Next time I will try to be more open minded.

The funny thing is we did not expect the weather to change, so the second morning we did not get up early for sunrise. Ironically the clouds had disappeared and we woke up with sunlight in our faces. That day we stayed at the beach nearby our cabin and enjoyed the warm spring temperatures while the tide rushed in. It gave some nice photographic opportunities, although the sky was rather dull. Ah well... it seems never good enough when a cloudy gray sky isn't good, and a sunny clear sky is neither. But we had a wonderful weekend after all, and went home satisfied. Next visit at the Opal Coast will be different again, and hopefully I will go there without any expectations.

The remains of WW2 during low tide. A nice sunset would have been nice, but there is more than that. But it is difficult to see it when your expectations are too great. (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35mm @ 16mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 60sec | Kase CPL ND1000 | 2 shot panorama)

It is unbelievable this is dry land during low tide. You can walk all the way up to the wall on the horizon. Now I think these images are more special than another colorful sunset. (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35mm @ 28mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 60sec | Kase CPL ND1000)

Not distracted by a colorful sunset makes it easier to find lines in the composition. (DJI Phantom 3 Advanced | ISO100 | f/2,8 | 1/710)

Amazing patterns on the rocky beach of the village of Audresselles. Perhaps the overcast is better for these kind of shots, instead of a sunny day. (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35L @ 16mm | ISO800 | f/16 | 30sec | Kase CPL ND1000 hard GND 0,6)

Finding compositions can be hard when there is so much to see. I do like this shot, although I wasn't convinced at that moment. (ES 5D mark IV EF16-35L @ 16mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 120 sec | Kase CPL ND1000 medium GND 0,9)

Suddenly I saw the line emerge when the water was risen far enough. Although the sea and rocks look really nice, the sky is rather dull. But I looked beyond that and only saw possibilities. (EOS 5D mark IV EF16-35L @ 16mm | ISO100 | f/11 | 30sec | Kase CPL ND1000)

Have you experience something similar once? Tell me about it in the comments below. I love to hear your story.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

Log in or register to post comments

Hope for the best, expect the worst.

Bad weather makes great photos, however. Fog produces wonderfully muted colors and textures. Wind has energy, and if the photo is good, the viewer can feel the cold.

BTW I like the natural version of the wreck much more than the sunset enhanced one. Speaking strictly for myself, I would probably pulled back the saturation even more, so the colors were just barely hinted.

Thanks for your thoughts. The funny thing is, I did not enhanced the saturation that much, but I find the idea to barely hint the colors interesting. I am going to have a look at that.

I like some of the images, but I find that they are a bit too much yellowish and oversaturated.
But tilt horizon, really????

The weather from Brittany to the North of France is like that: cloudy or misty and rainy (drizzle most of the time). Wanting or pretending to take pictures under a clear blue sky reflects a certain lack of knowledge of these places, its atmospheres, its stories ...
[I'm from Brittany, I know what I'm talking about]

In that case we both know what we are talking about. ^_^ I do know what kind of weather you can expect

I am happy for you ;)

Great job and nice shots (though I did find the centered watermark very distracting from each photo...)

What would you rather see? On the side of the photo?

Hi Nando, I couldn't agree with you more.

I live close to this beautiful Opal Coast and even weather forecasts are good and promising, there's always chances to get some sea smoke. It is quite usual actually, so I don't have any longer expectations. The reverse is also true, so you can get wonderful conditions despite the poor weather forecasts... So I shoot what I get, the light can be great !
Do not hesitate to let me know when you come back, I will be happy to show you some great places !
Cheers !

I always accept what the weather brings. And no matter what, I always like how the Opal Coast presents itself. I envy you living in that area and I will keep you in mind when returning. But that will be later this year, I guess.