In the Field | Majestic light over Tory Island

I was lucky enough to recently spend a week in Donegal photographing locations I have been to many times before, but more importantly, to explore new locations that I have long marked for exploration.

During that time, I managed to find some time to return to Trá Mór beach near Dunfanaghy to photograph the evening light over Tory Island. The results can be viewed in my latest vlog, which can be viewed below.

In the Field - Boyne Beacons

The latest edition of the In the Field vLog is now on line. This edition has me located at the mouth of Ireland's River Boyne photographing the navigation beacons that can be found at the mouth of the river against the most colourful dawn sky I have ever seen.

Early morning at the mouth of Irelands River Boyne, photographing the most amazing dawn colours I have seen in years. A lee little stopper was used for some images, to blur the water and sky.

In the Field - Clogherhead, Co Louth

Continuing my close to home theme, I paid a visit to the coastal village of Clogherhead, purely to get out and get the creative juices flowing. Conditions, weren't ideal, everything was to calm!! The sea thrift I hoped to capture amongst the rocky shoreline were about two weeks away from blooming. Still I made the most of it,  the vblog and some of the images I captured can be viewed below.

In the Field - Loughcrew

Loughcrew Cairns - Co Meath

There are some locations I associate with sunrise more than sunset, and this evenings location, The Cairns at Loughcrew, or Sliabh na Cailli (Hills of the Witch) in Gaelic, in Co Meath is definitely one of them. 

On top of Loughcrew, the wind is warm but strong enough to cause camera shake, especially with a 70-200mm lens in place. To overcome those concerns, the shutter speed is increased by bumping up the ISO, and as ever the camera is tripod mounted.

Below, evening light rakes the landscape, and as I peer through the viewfinder the challenge is a composition that excludes the foreground clutter and the dwelling of to the right. 

Waiting to trip the shutter, part of me is torn. Shouldn't I really be photographing the 3500yr old passage tomb that aligns with the Spring and Autumnal equinox that this location is famous for? 

County Meath, Ireland

With the sun sinking, and the shadows creeping across the landscape, the shutter is tripped. A quick check of the histogram and everything looks good. No blocked shadows, no blown highlights, and no foreground clutter.

Now back to the Cairn, to see if I can get a picture of what I really came here for!!.

Nothing into Something

The Lee Big stopper, transforming nothing into something

Anyone who has ever heard me talk or rant, knows I have somewhat of a love hate relationship  with the Lee Big Stopper. Its purpose, to drastically reduce the amount of light hitting the camera's sensor (by up to 10 stops), is something that camera manufacturers could implement as a "feature" on modern SLRs. Until they do, Lee are filling that gap with a piece of glass that transforms day into night.

Using the filter is tricky, but what is undeniable is its ability to transform something into nothing. Seconds become minutes, and minutes become hours. Leaving the user with a set of moody ghostly images.

( L) 1/3sec @F11, (R) 121 sec @ (F8)

( L) 1/3sec @F11, (R) 121 sec @ (F8)

Above, this image taken at the base of Howth Head in County Dublin shows were I am coming from. Taken at practically the same location, the rather dull image on the left taken at 1/3rd of a sec @F11 is transformed by the use of the "Big Stopper". A third of a second becomes two minutes, and that rather dull snapshot morphs into something a little more interesting.

The example, below shows its capability again.

Here perched on the edge of the rocky Inis Oirr coastline, seconds become minutes and a rather dull image is transformed into something a little more.

(L) 1/30th @F11 (R) 15sec @ F11

(L) 1/30th @F11 (R) 15sec @ F11

If you are thinking of buying one, or its new cousin The "little stopper" then have a look at the exposure card from Lee below. Be prepared for lots of standing around waiting. Not for the light but the camera this time :)

Lee Big Stopper Exposure Guide

Lee Big Stopper Exposure Guide

In the Field - Lough Greenan, Donegal

Lough Greenan - Donegal

It is 10 mins before 4am, and for the second morning in a row I am slipping out of a cottage, into the mist. A short while later, high above Lough Greenan I’m walking back and forth up across the mountain bog, chasing compositions that so far remain unseen.

A little after 4.30am, as the Donegal landscape wakens below, the first frames are exposed. In my heart of hearts I know the image doesn't work. My initial reaction is to shoot a panoramic, but grand vistas can be difficult to pull off, in this instance there is too much going on, as is so often the case in landscape photography, less is more. So instead of chasing pictures I compose and wait. 

Shortly before 5a.m, a ghostly mist, eerily floats in beneath a distant Crockmore, weaving its fingers across the landscape. Eight seconds @ F11 later, and with the midges tasting breakfast, an abstract moment of reality appears on the LCD. I'm happy; it is great to exposing pixels at this time of the morning again!!

Donegal, a photographer’s paradise! - Keep an eye out for details of my 2014 Donegal workshop which will appear online soon. Or sign up for my mailing list to receive details direct to your inbox.


In The Field, Iveragh Peninsula, Kerry, Ireland

Iveragh Peninsula - Kerry

Many a trail, beach and hilltop has been explored, yet despite the beauty of the Iveragh peninsula in south-west Ireland I am yet to make an exposure. If the truth be told, panic is starting to set in.

Midge bitten and stubborn as ever, I am standing by a tripod as the last light of day creeps across the Peninsula. Above, the moon shines, and as the camera timer counts down 30 seconds, that mild panic slowly fades away, I finally have an image in the bag!.

Last Light, Iveragh Peninsula, Co Kerry Ireland

Last Light, Iveragh Peninsula, Co Kerry Ireland

The following morning, a little after 4a.m the boisterous sound of the dawn chorus stirs meA short time later I am slipping off some rocks and prancing along the shoreline at Derrynane beach near Caherdaniel.

Surrounded by the Farraniaragh & Cahernageeha mountains, it is amongst the most photogenic beaches in Ireland.

After much prancing, I am peering through the viewfinder watching the cool Atlantic weave along the rippled shoreline. Tripping the shutter, I succumb to temptation, and add a Lee big stopper to the front of the lens. It is a filter I have a love hate relationship with. I find it fiddly, why oh why camera manufacturers never build neutral density capabilities into the cameras firmware I will never know. One frame later, the big stopper is off and replaced by a soft 0.3 Lee GND. The two resulting images are below! I'm not sure which one I prefer.


Derrynane beach

Derrynane beach

Further and higher along the shoreline, and against the magnificent backdrop of Derrynane Bay, I've got a tripod spread eagled on the rocks. Instead of concentrating on hyperfocal distance and composition, I'm shooting video on an iPhone. Like Windows 95, I don't do multitasking very well, so it is goodbye iPhone and hello live view.

The light is wonderful, my biggest question, which composition works best? Vertical to emphasize the Sea thrift or horizontally to show the beauty of the bay. Pixels are cheap, and as the sun paints the flowers I shoot a vertical composition. Something doesn't quite feel right. 

Switching back to the horizontal composition, the shutter is tripped again. Yep! the horizontal composition works better. The cracks in the rock mirror the patterns in the sand, while the head of sea thrift stands out against the tide, while the water coming in from the left of the scene is just enough to emphasis the sweeping shoreline.

Derrynane Bay, County Kerry, Ireland

Derrynane Bay, County Kerry, Ireland

That mild panic is well and truly gone!.