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Spillars Cove lies at the tip of Cape Bonavista, with Bonavista Bay behind you and Trinity Bay ahead as you face east awaiting sunrise. For most of my many visits there the weather has been unbelievable: hurricane force-winds, driving rain and sleet — did I mention wind? Only a handful of times have I been blessed with a calm day, with bright sunny skies and temperatures hovering around 20 degrees; you know, the kind of day that is great for mosquitoes. I’ll take the wind, thank you very much.
In fact, the stronger the winds the better. This mean and rugged coastline lies generally northwest to southeast —perfect for photographs of the sunrise—and strong winds only add to the beauty. Use from two to four stops of graduated filter of various colours to add even more drama to the sky, or, alternatively, underexpose your bracketed frames in full-stop increments for masking via several post production techniques. This incredible shoreline is typically far enough distant to permit lens apertures of f/5.6, to give shutter speeds high enough to keep the crashing waves from blurring while maintaining an acceptable depth of field.
There are several access roads leaving the Trans-Canada Highway between Clarenville and Port Blandford that meander toward Cape Bonavista, and if time is not a concern you should explore the bi-ways that will usually always lead to salt water and a tranquil and quaint fishing village. Once you reach the township of Bonavista be prepared to get lost, planned urban development and ease of transport were unheard of in the 17th century – streets simply followed the coastline and houses were built … wherever. But this is a part of the charm of rural Newfoundland. If you follow your nose and a few scattered signs you should easily find the lighthouse. A few hundred metres before the ocean sentinel there is the gravel Lance Cove Road to your right that leads to “The Dungeon,” a provincial natural attraction. Take this road and drive south east for about two kilometres along the coast and you will see the Spillars Cove shoreline, as seen above, unfold in the distance.
Should the wind be blowing hard—and it often is—keep your tripod as close to the ground as you can, to minimize camera movement. Once you have composed the image in your viewfinder you can use your body as a wind shield during the exposure. Should the wind be particularly aggressive, the coastline here is firm enough that you can drive your vehicle close to the edge and position it as a wind block to ensure the tripod mounted camera is rock steady. Back absolutely certain the marsh is dry enough to support your car first, and stay safely back from the edge of the cliff however by walking it first.
Another great nearby location for incredible seacoast images is Cable John Cove. From the Dungeon continue driving the gravel road south for another ¾ kilometre until you reach the paved Highway 235 (Bonavista Bay Hwy), and turn left, heading east. Simply drive this road for about one kilometre until the road ends, at which time you can walk the additional 200 metres to the shoreline. Once at the water’s edge simply continue walking the coastline to your left and once atop the little knoll you will see a large and impressive sea stack that begs to be photographed. Be careful when walking along this shoreline – the moss and rocks can get slippery if wet, and the fall to the depths below will be unforgiving.
Another great side trip should be to nearby Elliston. Once in the community ask anyone for directions to the puffin site at Elliston Point. There are about 300 nesting pair of Atlantic puffin at this site and if the wind is blowing in the right direction you should easily be able to striking portraits with a 200mm lens.
If you happen to really lucky and are in this area in early summer ask the locals if they know of any icebergs in the area. You shouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple hidden in some cove; you are, after all, on the banks of Iceberg Alley.