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.
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.
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.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot
I felt the above T.S. Eliot quite was very appropriate for the start of this blog post and to my world of photography which is constantly developing and growing.
Looking back at my year in photos I could not believe some of these photos were taken this year as they feel like a long long time ago. I have been very fortunate this year to have been able to visit 3 continents, 5 countries and 6 destinations and have loved to been able to document these journeys in photographs and on my blog. Travel is definitely inspirational to me and I am already looking forward and planning my trips for 2013.
If I had to pick one photo as a favourite it would have to be the black and white photo of Ballynafagh Church in my home county of Kildare, Ireland. This photo came out of a scouting trip but seems to have the greatest resonance over my blog and social network. Here are my 12 favourite photos from 2012 in chronological order.
One can not reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.”
I was on my way back from the gym when I realised the atmospheric conditions were suitable for a decent sunset. It times like these I helps to to have range of “go-to” places in your locality. A range of locations where at a minutes notice, you can drop what you are doing grab the camera bag and head out the door. These places are generally on your doorstep or within a short drive where you can pitch up, set up your tripod and know if the conditions are good you are going to come away with a shot.
Digby’s Bridge located just outside Sallins in County Kildare is one such place for me. The sun was nearly down by the time I left the house, but arrived in time to grab a few frames. Digby’s bridge is sensitive to the location of the setting sun and is better when the sun sets towards the north west . On this day, the sun was setting slightly to far south to get the best of the light, but a cloud had positioned itself nicely above the canal to capture some colour. 10 minutes later I was back home.
The post processing was fairly simple on this one. The only real job was to clone out a set of overhead wires that cross the canal at this location and clean up a little bit of debris in the canal. I initially preferred a portrait version of this photograph, but after posting the image on the forum of the South Kildare Photo Club website, a friend asked if I had a landscape version. I ended up posting the landscape version onto the forum but it was only after seeing both the versions on the same post I realised that the landscape shot was the stronger image.
hree things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth…” Buddah
For the second weekend in a row I was up early and heading to the beach. However, the location this week was White Rocks Beach which is located between Killiney and Dalkey in Dublin, Ireland.
Having retreated back to the beach, I set up in the surf to get the retreating lines of the waves as foreground, the White Rock as the middle ground and Bray Head and the glow of the rising sun in the background. The moon was still high in the sky, and although quite small in the frame, provides a nice contrast to the orange glow of the pre-dawn. The fine grained sand was proving to be difficult as it washed into the joints in the tripod legs, siezing the joints and making adjusting position troublesome.
A 6am alarm call is never pleasant on the best of days but always seems worse on a Sunday. Fortunately I heard the rain after I was out of bed, dressed and ready to head out the door or I might have just turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. I am glad I didn’t as I had a great morning splashing about in the surf with my camera. I don’t get to shoot at the beach too often and even though the sunrise was a little disappointing it was still a worthwhile trip. I ended up soaked to the knees but didn’t care.
The venue for the sunrise was the south beach at Greystones, Co Wicklow. Sadly, I don’t live near a beach so I had to get up extra early for the hour drive.
The last thing you want when you are getting up early is a disappointing scene to photograph, so for most of my trips, I plan ahead. I use a multitude of tools for the task depending on the location of the shoot, but for landscape work the most frequent tool I use it the Photographer’s Ephemeris or TPE for short. I have two versions of TPE; one for my mac which is free to download and a second version on my iPhone which I downloaded from the App Store for a small fee.
An ephemeris is a table of numbers giving the position of astronomical objects such as the moon or sun in the sky over time. The benefit of TPE is that this information is displayed graphically via an overlay on a map. Plot your desired photographical location on the map and TPE will display the position of the sun or moon for anytime of the day or anytime of the year. Therefore in its basic use, I use TPE to check the location of where the sun is rising/ setting in relation to the location of where I will be standing and the direction I will be pointing the camera. If you are shooting in the mountains or hills, TPE can calculate the difference in elevation and tell you how far you can see on a clear day and fine tune the sunrise/ sunset times for when the sun will appear above/ dip below the mountain rather than the horizon.
Of course, before I can this tool I need to locate where I am going to shoot. If I have an idea in my head I head straight to google maps or google earth. Using the satellite image I start to fine tune where I will start on the ground when I reach the location. I take this to the next level using google street view if the location is close to the road. This gives me a virtual preview of the views I could expect to see. If the site is more remote I would use ground level view on google earth to give a computer generated look at the view to expect. This is not much use for picking out detail, but useful to give an idea of changes in elevation if shooting in hilly or mountain areas. Google earth also allows you to turn on the position of the sun and set the time and date on your shoot. This can be useful in combination with the ground view to locate the position of the sun with respect to any hills or mountains.
For inspiration of where to shoot, I use 500px, Google+, Flickr or any other social media site for sharing photos.
The two last things to check before heading out for a shoot are the weather and for beach work the tide times. For the weather I generally use the AccuWeather app. This gives me a by-the-hour forecast for the next 24 hours including, an important factor, an indication of cloud cover. I will sometimes double check the satellite animations on the Met office website again to get an idea of cloud cover and the direction it is moving. I always check the tidal times to check if I am on a rising tide or a falling tide. I would prefer to shoot on a falling tide where the tide is going out as this leaves the sand, seaweed and any rocks as wet in the photograph which looks much better than when they are dry. As it happend, the tide on Sunday was at it’s lowest point at sunrise. Luckily, due to the cycle of the moon, the tide cycle was at a period of a ‘high’ low tide. This meant the sea level was not too far out from the two rocks I positioned myself at when I got to the beach.
The Greystones south beach is a sandy beach but I found the sand to be almost gravelly with quite large grains of sand. I liked how the texture of the grains of the sand appeared in the photos. The south beach is about a 1km long and I parked near the northern extent of the beach. There is a small rocky outcrop here which I thought I would use, but the level of the sea was quite high near the rocks with some swell coming in over the front of the rocks so I ended up positioning myself just to the south of the outcrop near two isolated rocks in the sand. I deliberated positioned myself in the wet sand at the end of the surf to try and get the lines of the retreating waves filling the foreground to the edge of the frame. As I was setting up it was threatening to rain with the clouds coming in overhead from the west but I was still hopeful for some dawn light as I could see a few breaks in the clouds near the horizon.
The dawn appeared with the arrival of a friend from Google+ by the name of David Heath Williams. David is a regular of of Greystone’s and part of my inspiration for my travels to Greystones that morning. It was great to have a little company to chat to and the sun greeted the new day. The photo below is my favourite from the morning. I took this shot not long after the sun first appeared. It is a bracketed exposure which I blended in Photomatix. As with the shots from Manor Kilbride the previous week, I used the ghosting tool to select the the best exposure for the sky and then another exposure for the retreating waves in the foreground. This avoided excess movements in the clouds and kept the lines of the waves clean in the foreground. The interface between the sky and the foreground was the only area that was fused together by Photomatix. I took a number of different frames as I played around with my timings of the waves and of course every wave that hit the shore was unique in the patterns that it created.
The next photo was taken looking south along the beach. The sun was rising towards the southern end of the beach rather than directly out over the sea therefore I spun around by 90 degrees to try and capture some more colour in the sky. However, I do not think the composition and the lines of the waves are as effective.
The final shot here is slightly different again with the sun higher in the sky. The frame has a slightly warmer feel to it than the previous two but I like the long lines of the retreating wave in this shot.
I had another composition which coincided with the peak amount of colour in the sky, however I got slammed by a big wave and despite regular inspections of the front of my lens, failed to notice a very large drop and a few smaller droplets on the front element. This rendered this set of photos useless which I am pretty gutted about. Lesson learned, when shooting on the beach clean the front element of the lens very regularly with a lens cloth.
I love the beach for photography so I will be back to Greystones in the future. The only pain is having to strip the tripod down for cleaning when you get home to remove all the sand grains and salt!
A weeks ago a wrote a blog post about my visit to Manor Kilbride to capture the autumn colours. As it happened, I was a few weeks early but last weekend I had the chance to revisit the area for a South Kildare Photography Club outing.
Returning to this beautiful part of Wicklow the timing was just about perfect for capturing autumn colours. This spot is well known by local photographers and it is no surprise that despite our early start we were beaten to the location by a small group of photographers from another local club. Not deterred, we patiently worked around each other respectful of each others framing. I started off further downstream than I wanted and then worked my way back upstream as the other club were finishing.
The Shankhill River, a tributary to the River Liffey, was full and fast flowing and gorged its way between the green moss covered rocks and orange carpeted banks. The morning light penetrated the overhead canopy illuminating spots of lights on the banks and tree trunks and providing glimpses of the bright blue sky through leaves above. For the majority of my shots I left was two options. Either compose to cut out any sky and bright spots on trunks and the floor or bracket and combine in post processing later. The later would require some additional work as although bracketing would capture all the light range, the brightest spots of the sky where light penetrated the canopy would still be much brighter than the main subject of the frame and would immediately attract the viewers eye.
Depending on the light for each shot I generally shot a bracket of exposures from -4ev to +2ev in one stop increments. Before shooting the brackets on scene, I experimented with my base shutter speed. I did not want to completely blur all the water and wished to retain some tendrils in the small waterfalls. To achieve this my shutter speed was between 1 and 3 seconds depending on the part of the river I was shooting.
I combined the bracketed exposures using Photomatix. To prevent additional blurring of the water I used the ghosting feature in Photomatix to select the single best exposure for the water which was generally 0ev or +1ev. Generally for these images I used the fusion function to blend the exposures trying to create a flat image with the full dynamic range which I can then process in Lightroom to achieve the look I wanted for the photograph.
Just before leaving the area, I noticed this tiny mushroom growing in a tree trunk and had to try and capture it. The location of the mushroom was such that it was impossible to get my tripod near enough so I opted to handhold the camera. This required cranking the ISO up to 1600 at f/18 gave me a shutter speed of 0.4s. I used f/18 to try and get as much of the mushroom and stalk in focus which was difficult due to the level of zoom and proximity of the lens to the subject. I braced the camera against the trunk to try and get as steady as possible and hoped the optical stabilisation in the lens would do its job. I tried for a different look for this photo by switching to black and white and adding a heavy vignette. I wanted to emphasise the delicate texture of the cap of the mushroom against the soft mossiness of the background.
Waiting for the light.
Waiting to leave for Wicklow Mountains in the pre-dawn dark hours I was greeted with a sight I had waited 31 years of my life to see. It lasted a mere fraction of a second but its journey has been a whole lot longer. My morning was greeted with a shooting star. Already the early morning rise was justified and I hoped it would be the just start of things to come.
Our destination that morning was the Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains. We parked up in on the old military road, set up and out tripods looking west down the valley towards Kippure and waited for the sun to rise. The mist was thick obscuring the telecommunications mast on top of Kippure Hill, so we were hoping for the slightest break to allow the morning light to flood the valley. Several times the mist, rolling down the vallef from the Tonduff mountain at our back, started to break but soon obscured the valley once again. Timing was critical.
Our hopes were starting to fade when the first signs of morning colour started to appear in the clouds over Ballynabrocky hill down in the valley. If only the mist would lift. Suddenly a break appeared. I fired off a number of frames before the mist rolled in. I recomposed to the portait format hoping for a panorama in the next break. We waited and waited. Several times I looked like it would break but didn’t. Sadly when it did break again, the colour in the light was gone.
Undeterred we packed up and continued on with our morning. Heading down into the valley to capture some shots of the fast flowing streams carving there way down the valley. Our first stop was beside a small bridge. The bridge is relatively modern and not particularly attractive, but beside the bridge are two wonderful old trees which have grown and bent to mother natures demand and now seem to point back in the valley in the direction of the road. With the heavy morning mist still obscuring the mountains but with a rich blue sky above I felt the shot had the potential for a nice black and white. The dark valley and bright sky and clouds above the mist created a high dynamic range requiring a bracketing of exposures to capture the full details.
I love the sky in the first of these two image with a slight bend in the road providing a leading line into the distance. However, I could only get a single tree from this angle and you dont quite get to see the full distortion of the tree. The second image displays the trees to their full beauty. I also prefer the full curving dipping road in the second. At the time I was slightly worried that the modern bridge parapets would distract from the image, but I think they blend in ok. The sky does not quite have the interest of the first image, but all lines lead to the morning lights which is trying to break through the mist which I quite like. I can’t decide which image I prefer; sometimes it is the first image and sometimes the second.
Breaking for breakfast and a cup of warming tea we caught sight of our first deer of the day. On the ridge of the nearby hill at nearly a kilometer away, it was but a distance spot on the horizon but through binoculars we confirmed it was a stag which was mostly likely a silka cross-breed. Once we had the stag we soon found his pack of hinds. October is the rutting season and the Stag can be very protective of his territory and hinds. We called him using the a deer caller which imitates the call of a rival stag. The stag responded with his own call but refused to come any closer as we were sitting up wind and quite visible next to our cars. Still it is always great to gain sight of wild animals in their natural territory.
One of our group is a wildlife photographer so he took us on to another area in the mountains where there are regular sightings of deer. It also happens to be next to a stream which meant I got the best of both worlds. After a short walk upstream I came across this stretch of water. I was immediately attracted to the group of moss covered rocks with drew the eye into the tree in the background which was growing out over the river bank. Luckily the river was quite shallow allowing me to step out into the middle of the group of mossy rocks to get this shot. The base exposure was half a second which allowed a little blurring of the water, but I bracketed the image to allow for the difference between the foreground and retain detail in the clouds and sky. I used to a polarising filter to cut through some of the reflection in the water exposing the gravelly river bed in the shallows between the rocks. A little tidying cleared away a few fallen leaves leaving only the single leave in the foreground of the shot. This is quite a simple shot but I like the contrast of the green mossy rocks and the golden river bank and leave. The wind was doing its best to remove my leave from the scene so it needed a few attempts to get it right.
© Greig Houghton 2013. All rights reserved