And when the day arrives I’ll become the sky and I’ll become the sea and the sea will come to kiss me for I am going home. Nothing can stop me now” Trent Reznor
Ballydowane Cove is part of the copper coast UNESCO geopark in Co Waterford, Ireland. This section of the Irish coastline get its name for the mines along the coast which not only mined copper but also lead and silver.
I used a medium telephoto lens to isolate the sea stack with a 10 Stop ND and a 2 stop soft grad to get the shot. The photo is a 5 shot panoramic which I combined in PTgui pro to get the stitch. I had to be very careful when composing the shot to ensure a bit of the sea stack was in each frame to enable the stitching software to be able to do its magic. This is normally pretty simple but as you cannot see through a 10 stop ND filter I had to eye in each frame by looking over the top of the eye piece on the camera. You could take the filter off between each frame but this has the risk of knocking the focus ring or accidentally moving the zoom barrel. Both of these I managed to do when first trying to set up the shot requiring to take all the filters off and start again. Worse if you don’t realise you have done it.
I would normally just output the blended image from PTgui but for this shot I chose to have both the blended image and individual layers as a single PSD file. PTgui is great at aligning images but sometimes doesn’t blend as good as photoshop which was the case with the clouds in this pano. I opened the image in photoshop and then used auto-blend to blend the individual layers. The important step here is to select seamless tones and colours to adjust the color and tonality for blending. Once I had this new images I used layer masks to keep the sea from the PTgui pano and then bring in the sky from the photoshop blend. For comparison purposes, I used tried the same pano in photoshop using photomerge but ended up with a distinct curve in the horizon.
A few more shots from my visit to Baltray Beach in County Louth, Ireland all which were taken in and around the sand dunes.
As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.” Antisthene
The wreck of the MV Irish Trader lies off the east coast of Ireland in the Irish Sea near the mouth of the River Boyne Estuary at Baltray Beach, Drogheda, Co Louth. The wreck can be accessed from the beach at low tide with a little care due to some soft sands. I had seen a few photos of the wreck before I visited the site so I had a clear vision in my head of what I wanted the photo to look like. At arriving at the beach, the tide was just about clear of the wreck. In hindsight, I would have the wreck bigger and more dominating in the photo. I could crop in on the photo, but I quite like the balance of the reflection in the photo and don’t want to cut it in half. I also quite like some of the lines and shape in the sand. I used a 10-Stop ND filter in combination with a 2-stop ND soft grad to achieve the long exposure and balance the exposure of the foreground and the sky.
Oughterard Round Tower and Cemetery is located to the west of Kill in County Kildare. The tower is situated on a hilltop site overlooking the neighbouring low lying lands and is contained within a high walled cemetery with a ruined church. The site dates to the back to the 6th century as a monastery although there is no written record of the round tower until 1792. The ruined medieval parish church sits in the centre of the cemetery which features undulating terrain and graves from the earlier 1700 up to modern times. In shooting in places like this you have be sensitive as although eager as we are to get the shot, we need to be mindful to be respectful and not go trampling over the graves, pitching our tripods on grave sites etc etc. Sure this might mean having to comprise on composition, but we all need a code of ethics to live by.
On this visit I struggled with my aim of getting a shot of the tower. I really wanted a Gothic feel to the photo was was desperately trying to avoid any modern elements in the photo.Unfortunately, there are two modern stones propped up against the tower with a few additional stones in the vicinity of the base. I tried to get a shot from all sides shooting narrow and wide, portrait and landscape, close up and further way but didn’t get anything I was happy with. In the end, I decided to shoot for the details and in particular one high cross (celtic cross) which captured my eye. Waiting for the sun to go down, I had plenty of time to explore the rest of the site including the ruined church.
The barrel vaulted ceiling building contained a large flat tabletop stone which was illuminated by the light from the nearby window. I decided to shoot this from both the door side and window side using multiple bracketed exposures to capture the large dynamic range. The multiple exposures were then tone mapped in Photomatix Pro and finished in Lightroom. I think the shot from the window looking back towards the door is more effective.
Although I struggled a bit with this site I think I will return here. There is a small copse of trees on approach to the site from which the tower is visible. I think there may be potential in capturing an angle of the tower from this location.
Abstract art: a product of the untalented sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.” Al Capp
The above quote is a slightly tongue in cheek view of the topic of this post. There is nothing more divisive when it comes to interpretation of creative work than artistic interpretation. Where art or photography, it is easily to look at an painting or photo and comment on the technical ability or technical perfection of that image. In fact, with the improvements in the technology of modern photography you could hand over a DSLR to non-photographers in P mode and come away with a technically acceptable photo. What may be lacking from these photos, while technically fine, is a lack of connection to the subject or the lack of clear emotive message that the photographer is trying to express. If the viewer does not connect with the image the artist then contradicting views on the subject arise. This is particular important in photographs of an abstract nature.
The below set of photographs follow on from my previous post at Greystones Beach which I captured when I had finished with the sunrise. With these images I try to capture the various textures around the beach trying to juxtapose the textures against each other.
Not deterred from the previous week, I awoke early again to catch the sunrise. This time it was back to Greystones beach. I should have been heading to Naylor’s Cove in Brey, but in my tiredness in the morning set my sat nav to Greystones instead of Bray. Only realised after I had driven all the way through Bray and out the other side!
The tide was low but this worked in my favour, exposing a set of seaweed covered rocks a little along the beach. The beach itself is quite featureless with only some rocks at the end of the beach at the car park so the low tide offered something different. The beach is a gravel rather than sand meaning it is quite hard work trekking along the shore but on the positive means it is much easier to clean your tripod at the end of the day. The lack of foreground interset worked in my favour in this situation. It forced me to really work the scene, shooting different angles, wide and tight, portait and vertical. I knew soon enough the sunrise wasn’t going to be great so the pressure was off. I could relax, experiment and have a bit of fun.
Suddenly from nowhere, the sun appeared above the horizon, but with enough intensity to shine through the dense cloud low on the horizon. This actually caught me by surprise. I had been shooting a long exposure tight-in amongst the rocks, so I had to wait for the exposure to finish before recomposing for the sun.
Below are a selection of the various compositions I plated around with on the morning. I finished the morning trying some beach abstracts but I will save those for another post.
If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” W.C.Fields
Sometimes you win with the light and other times…..
Last weekend was one of those times.
I decided to head to a new location at Bull Island in Dublin. I had a particular shot in mind looking to capture the iconic red and white stripped chimneys of Poolbeg Power Station. The Chimneys are located on the Poolbeg peninsula on the south side of the entry to Dublin Port. This area is heavily industrialised so I decided to head over to Bull Island which is located on the opposite side of the port.
Bull Island was created as a consequence of the construction of the North Bull Wall which provides protection to the main navigation channel at Dublin Port. Naturally, deposited material started to gather behind the constructed wall and over the decades started to form the island. The main residents on the island, with the exception of golfers, are birds with the island designated for national and international scientific interest.
For my trip I stuck mainly to the Bull Wall, but ended with a wander along Dollymount Strand which is the sandy beach on the east of the island. There was no dawn to speak of with the morning just becoming gradually brighter as time passed.
An artist’s duty is rather to stay open-minded and in a state where he can receive information and inspiration. You always have to be ready for that little artistic Epiphany. ” Nick Cave
Old Kilcullen Round Tower is one of my local sites which I have photographed a few times now. The site itself is quite tricky. The Round Tower faces the wrong way to capture a good sunrise, but is situated just below a ridge on a local high spot so is not ideal for sunset either. The graveyard is mainly old gravestones and a high cross but a few more modern gravestones are located sporadically throughout so careful composition is required to hide these in the scene. Due to these limitations I quickly became bored of shooting at this location.
At a recent South Kildare Photo Club meeting one of our members Sean Dunne, who is fantastic landscape photographer, was presenting his portfolio of work to the club with some stories about the photos along with some hints and tips. One of his photos was sunrise on a cold and frosty morning at Old Kilcullen. I was taken with the great colours from the sunrise combined with the atmosphere of the frosty graveyard, but in particular the low lying lands of Kildare against the Wicklow Mountains in the background. I was immediately motivated to shoot at the site again to try and improve on what I had already captured there.
The following Saturday I decided to give it a go and the photo must have rubbed off on a number of the members and two other friends from the club also appeared that morning. This was especially useful as it allowed me to compare my photos against those shot in the same conditions. Kenneth’s photo of the cross is on flickr - I love the angle of the cross and how Ken filled the frame with the cross.
We treated to a great sunrise, but I feel there is still more to get from this location. I think my composition is too low resulting in cutting out a lot of the middle ground between the graveyard and the Wicklow mountains. This effect is exaggerated by the wide angle. I already have the recipe for my next shoot in my head. Shoot higher with a longer lens to compress the background and middle ground. With a some low lying mist in the valley I think this could be quite effective. My favourite shot is the third photo with the long exposure. The photo is split toned with a blue in the shadows and a sepia colour in the highlights.
I finished my trip to Collins Barracks in Dublin with a trip to the nearby Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park continuing the military theme of the day. As with the Barracks, the fort which was originally constructed in 1735 and was used by the British army until Irish Independence when it was taken over by the Irish Army. It now lies unused and abandoned in the Phoenix Park.
My trip to the fort was with the sole purpose of long exposure photography. The sky was blue with a scattering on clouds propelled by an increasingly stong wind. Good conditions for long exposures. The first site I chose was the entrance gate. The long exposure of the entrance was not great so I ended up using one of my original frames (below) I took when testing the exposure. At this site the clouds were moving from left to right across the frame and is not as effective when they are moving back to front. I moved around the side of the building to the imposing gun positions. With the clouds now moving back to front in the photograph the long exposure is more effective. The two minute exposure is shown in the feature image of the post at the top of the page. Both images have split tones which I applied in Lightroom.
I stare at the sky and it leaves me blind” This is Yesterday, Manic Street Preachers
I waited patiently for days until no longer I could wait. Three mornings, thrice risen, expectations unfulfilled The forecast promised the slimmest opportunity but left me ultimately disappointed. The auld year left and the new one arrived bring hopes and dreams of a firestorms in the sky.
The first of January 2013 and it was back to Whiterocks Beach in Killiney, Dublin. Towards the end of 2012, I started to shoot a lot of seascapes, but felt I never captured the best of the locations. I returned to Whiterocks hopping for more dramatic light and colour. You can find all the details with regards to location on my previous post.
To help me capture the dawn at its best, I was armed with some new tools in my bag. For my Christmas I was luckily enough to have received a Formatt Hitech 0.9 ND reverse graduated neutral filter and a 100mm filter holder . Unlike the standard graduated ND filter, the reverse graduated filter is darkest in the middle of the filter with a soft transition to lighter density at the top and a hard transition to clear in the bottom half of the filter. This is perfect filter for capturing the sun for when it is just starting to rise above the horizon and where there is a distinct separation between the darker foreground and the lighter background. The 0.9ND filter provides a f-stop reduction of about 3-stops between the heaviest graduation and the clear section of the filter. I also own a standard Formatt Hitech 0.9ND soft graduated neutral density filter which I previously tried to handhold against the lens without much success. I had read on a few photo blogs you can use it without the holder, but I found it awkward and found I had inconsistent results. The soft grad is best for situations where there is are suited for scenes with no distinct boundary between light and dark zones. Both of these ND grads are the 100mm x 150mm sizes for use with wide angle lenses.
I used the 0.9ND reverse grad on the feature image on the post at the top of the page with the wave breaking over the rocks.
Still, not fully satisfied with my shots, I returned to Whiterocks a week later for another go. What I like about beaches is that they are constantly changing. The is a never ending permutation of sand, tides, waves, clouds and times. My last two shoots at Whiterocks have been at the northern section of the beach, so for this latest visit I headed down to the southern section. At low tide a series of large boulders of various interesting shapes and colours are exposed which I was interested in capturing. The first photo is looking north towards Sorrento Terrace with Dalkey Island just behind. The second photo is a two minute long exposure which I was messing around with after the best of the light had gone.
I will be back here for further shoots in 2013 as I feel I still haven’t captured the best of the light. All you need is a little patience.
© Greig Houghton 2013. All rights reserved