So named because of its dangerous currents, the Murder Hole in County Donegal is easily the most ruggedly beautiful beach that I know of. County Donegal, in which it lies, is a largely overdeveloped area which seemingly has a holiday home built on every hillside. However, the beauty of this beach is futureproofed by the nature of the surrounding terrain.Read More
It has been 5 weeks since I last had my camera out. I have been working and travelling almost non-stop since then and although I have enjoyed viewing the landscape photography of others in that time, making the effort to capture images myself has been far from my mind. However, mid-week I decided that 'if the weather was good' (an excuse I have used many times to avoid getting up at 5am!), I would take photographs on Sunday morning.
In the earlier months of the year, during which the sun rises further to the south, landscape photographers in Northern Ireland should consider the eastern coast for great light and beautiful landscapes. My favourite place is Murlough Bay near Ballycastle, another favourite being Murlough Bay in County Down! There must be something in the name because both beaches are absolutely stunning. The latter is a vast sandy beach, the former a rocky cove as shown in the landscape photograph below which I captured in 2008. This is one of my favourite landscape photographs that I have taken, so much so that I have not expended much effort returning to the same location to try and improve upon it.
One of the first things I do before any landscape photography shoot is use the Photographer's Ephemeris. It allows you to see where the sun will rise and set in relation to a given location and also provides other useful information such as the times of dawn, sunrise, sunset and dusk. As I looked at the direction of sunrise for Murlough Bay on this particular morning I noticed it was very similar to the location of the sunrise in the photograph above. I decided that of all the locations on the east coast of Northern Ireland I could go to, the rocky shore of Murlough would give me the chance to photograph an old favourite again.
On Saturday evening I went through my other regular pre-shoot checks, namely the tides and the weather. I used the 'Tides Near Me' app on my phone to check the tides at Ballycastle Bay, the closest recording station to Murlough Bay. This indicated that at sunrise, 7:38am, the tide would be on its way out and that it would be most easily described as a 'mid tide,' by which I mean it was the middle of the time between high tide and low tide. Different locations suit different tidal conditions but for the most part, photographing the coast at high tide yields the most interesting results, based on my own experience. High tide tends to hide clutter on the sea-bed and simplifies compositions, as well as the fact that the water seems to have a bit more energy at high tide.
Whilst tidal conditions seemed good, the weather was looking far from perfect. The forecast was for a very thick layer of cloud to be passing through the area at sunrise and in fact it was due to be overcast for most of the morning. The only saving grace was there was absolutely no chance of rain forecast. Even in overcast conditions a landscape photographer can try and capture a beautiful image, but any rain really makes things very difficult. (That said, on days when a mixed weather front is passing through, the light between rain showers can be some of the most beautiful, having a very clear and crisp quality to it. Sometimes landscape photographers refer to this as 'storm lighting.')
Arriving at Murlough Bay with my friend who is also a landscape photographer, we walked along the coastal path heading north. I couldn't remember the exact spot I had photographed from before, but that didn't matter, I wanted to include the beautiful coastal rocks in my photograph rather than try and replicate an old composition. My friend decided to shoot from the pathway whilst I started the short scramble to the edge of these rocks. As the tide was on its way out the rocks were wet and offered no grip whatsoever. I spent a lot of money on my walking shoes and boots, but no matter how good they claim to be, nothing offers even basic levels of traction in places like this. Using my extended tripod for support, I edged my way slowly over the rocks, wedging my feet into gaps between the rocks before slowly moving forward. It took me at least 10 minutes to reachthe point from which I took the photograph below, but yet it lies only 10 metres from the path. This will give you some indication of just how treacherous it was. A further 10 minutes was spent getting both myself and my tripod into a stable position from which I could safely photograph this beautiful sunrise.
To begin with there were some hints of colour in the sky, but the closer we got to sunrise the warmer the sky became, eventually reaching its peak which I captured in this landscape photograph. Murlough Bay is shaped like an amphitheatre and the light was so warm that it almost felt tangible, like a mist hanging in the morning air, transforming the landscape which curved around me. I can say, with certainty, that this was the most magical light I have ever photographed in. My old photograph shows the suns orb rising, which I would have loved to have captured in this shot instead of the very cloudy sky. However, upon reflection I realised that the cloud had acted like a sponge, soaking up all that colour and allowing me to show you, the viewer, just how beautiful and special a morning it was. My favourite thing about this landscape photograph is the reflection of the light off the wet rocks. It gives them an ethereal look and really visually ties the sky and foreground of this photograph together. In order to demonstrate just how quickly the light, including its colour, changes at this time of the morning I have included a second shot taken about 5 minutes after the first one. The colour of the light has changed considerably and altered the whole feeling of the scene. This shows just how important it is to be early for a sunrise, setting up whilst it is still quite dark so that you can capture every colour and mood that the morning throws at you. Had I not been to this location before, or at least spent time researching it, I think it would have been impossible to capture this image as finding a good composition in low light isn't easy!
As much as I love these two landscape photographs, I decided that a panorama was needed to really show how beautiful this stretch of coastline was. I was shooting at 16mm (in 35mm terms) which would be considered as 'ultra-wide' in photography circles, but I still couldn't show everything in the composition that I wanted to. This is not the first time that I wished I had a wider lens, but I can certainly count on one hand the number of times I have. That tells me it isn't worth buying one and that I should focus on improving my panoramic photography skills instead. I have not really researched the proper panoramic technique before but, after discovering how difficult it was to stitch 3 photographs together which had been taken at an ultra wide angle, in quickly changing light using long exposures. It took considerable effort, and my subsequent research has shown me that specialised equipment is needed in order to create landscape photography panoramics which are easy to work with. However, for now I am very pleased with the result!
Urris is a seascape photographer's dream...Read More
'The Bowl' - a unique rock formation found on Whiterocks Beach, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.Read More
I visited Roe Valley Park near Limavady to capture some autumn colours. I was not left disappointed and I hope you enjoy reading about my short adventure in this beautiful gorge.Read More
The landscape photograph above was taken from Portstewart using my Canon 6D and Canon 70-300mm L lens. I was facing west towards the hills of northern County Donegal, Ireland.
As a landscape photographer I often experience spectacular light. However, it isn't very often that I experience light as unusual as in the shot above.
Throughout the afternoon the weather over the north coast of Ireland had been mixed. Scattered cloud rolled lazily through the skies, as did overcast and clearer patches of weather. For landscape photographers this is ideal, it adds variation and interest to compositions.
The closer it got to sunset, which was at 19:20 on this late September evening, the cloudier it got. About an hour before sunset it was totally overcast and I couldn't see a single clear patch in the sky.
I decided to drive to Portstewart Strand, with the aim of photographing the wooden posts on the beach there. I thought that even if I couldn't capture any dramatic light then the strong shapes would add something to the landscape photograph I intended to take which was of waves crashing around the poles. Upon my arrival at the beach I was dismayed to find that the tide was too far out for my plan to work.
I decided to head to the rocky shore to the east of the beach. While I had been driving to the beach I noticed an orange glow on the hills shown in this photograph. I thought a large structure must have been on fire due to the intensity of the colour. However, 15 minutes later while I stood on the rocks, the 'fire' in the distance grew and grew in size until the colour started to fill the sky. I then realised that somewhere in the distance there must be a small hole in the clouds letting the last light of the day through.
This was the first time I have seen something like this happen. So, although this landscape photograph is far from being my best, I'm happy to call it unique in my gallery!
On a recent trip to Ballintoy the sky was a landscape photographer's dream - full of colour and interesting clouds. I was really pleased with a number of colour photographs I captured and I talk about them a bit below.
However, as I looked through my photographs in Adobe Lightroom this composition caught my eye. I really loved the movement in the waves and the patterns in the clouds. I don't often consider producing black and white landscape photographs as the colour of sunset and sunrise are so spectacular and visually appealing. There was something about this image, perhaps the simple shapes and dark rocks, that made me think it suited the style very well.
I post to several landscape photography internet forums and groups. The feedback I received on this landscape photograph was good, but there was quite a bit of debate about the white pebble lying on the beach! I purposely composed the landscape photograph to include the pebble - I feel it filled up the negative space and anchored the image. Many people, approximately 2/3, felt that the pebble distracted from the rest of the image. Feel free to contact me with your own opinion!
Here are some of my colour landscape photographs from that evening:
Portglenone Forest in County Antrim is famous amongst Northern Ireland landscape photographers for its annual bluebell displays. Northern Ireland has very little ancient woodland so people flock from all over to this spot! The displays vary in quality from year to year and the window within which to photograph them is very narrow indeed.
This year I visited a little too late - many of the blueballs had been trampled on which was very frustrating. The overall quality of the display wasn't as good as in previous years.
I did however, capture the landscape photograph above which I was very happy with. I used my Canon 70-300mm L lens at its maximum focal length to isolate the bluebells growing around this ancient tree trunk. The wind was rustling through the trees, moving the leaves and branches gently during this long exposure.
I hope to return to the same place next year and witness a better bluebell display. Where do all you other landscape photographers out there photograph them?
The viewpoint at Magheracross, which lies between Portrush and Bushmills, affords the landscape photographer with one of the best views of the Northern Ireland. I drive past this viewpoint several times a week and never see the same scene twice. However, there are two constants, namely the strong wind (which is to be expected when standing at this altitude on the rugged Atlantic coast), and the powerful waves pounding those interesting rock structures into existence.
These little pink flowers grow along the top of the cliffs and must be very hardy indeed. I intentionally included them in my composition as I don't feel that an image entirely dominated by greens and blues quite works. I'm not an expert on colour theory but I must have listened accidently for a few minutes in school art class and know that on the colour wheel, opposite colours tend to compliment each other. As you can see below, green and pink work particularly well.
I am often asked by non-photographers, and less experienced photographers, 'did you Photoshop that?' The truth is that the best landscape photographs require little post-processing work. In this case I burnt the corner of the landscape photograph to push the viewers eye towards the drama in the center of the frame. The most important thing any landscape photographer can do is obtain a balanced, sharp, well composed image in the camera. For this landscape photograph I used a Lee 1.2 soft-edge graduated neutral density filter to control the brightness of the sky, and an exposure of just over a second to try and show how windy it was.
I hope you enjoy this and all my other Northern Ireland landscape photography.
Canon 500D, Canon 50mm f1.8, f6.3, 1/60s, ISO 100
Whiterocks beach is a Northern Ireland landscape photography location I return to on a regular basis, especially on clear evenings during spring and summer when the sun sets further to the north.
Sunsets come in lots of different colours, red, pink, orange, or as in this case, a mixture of lots of stunning colours. I love how, in this landscape photograph, the colour changes changes gradually throughout different parts of the image, with the reflections in the water varying considerably.
One of the feelings I always have at Whiterocks Beach is a sense of space, and as I looked through the viewfinder I felt that the couple taking a late evening stroll really added a sense of scale to the landscape.
In landscape photography, and indeed all types of photography, the viewers eye is normally drawn to the area of highest contrast. I intentionally placed the sun in the centre of the image and used the clouds and sand to create a natural frame.
Donegal has a wide selection of stunning beaches and coves for the landscape photographer to choose from, but this is one of my favourites. It faces west and gets good light during sunset at any time of year....Read More
A field report from Derryclare Lough, County Galway, Ireland.Read More