Travel photography: Ireland 2017 - Part 2

September 2, 2017

This article is the second part of my series about my trip to Ireland. If you haven't seen the first part I'd recommend you check it out here.

Cliffs of Moher

The more than 200 meter high Cliffs of Moher are understandably the most visited and famous tourist attractions of Ireland. There is a great hiking trail starting in the town of Doolin north of the cliffs about 10 kilometers all the way south along the cliffs to Moher Fort Site Telegraph Station. The trail offers by far the best views on the cliffs and because the vast majority of people are ridiculously lazy there are only very few tourists to be seen. The masses accumulate at O'Brien's Tower right at the visitor center.

View on the northern part of the cliffs. This is not the typical spot and the cliffs are not as spectacular as they are at their maximum height. Still a great spot for landscape photography.

How it's done: A polarizing filter is a must for the majority of landscape photos. The mossy cliffs and the ocean get great saturated and rich colors. It also prevents the sky from blowing out while simultaneously achieving a bright overall exposure.

By far the best viewpoint on the cliffs in my opinion. Can you see the tiny O'Brien's tower on the cliff in the center? That's where the tourists are lurking about. Only a select few are exploring the surroundings which means the best spots for photography remain fairly undisturbed.

How it's done: It seems this was really the 'long-exposure-daytime-shot' trip for me. This image is no exception –> tripod + ND1000 + circular polarizer -> 30s exposure. Small aperture (f/8) to get that nice flowery foreground and the cliffs in perfect focus. ISO had to be raised a bit to 400 since the picture is taken again right before sunset - a weaker gray filter (like ND500) would have been perfect.

Close up of the cliffs. That big rock in the center is Branaunmore sea stack.

How it's done: Now I have been endlessly preaching about the importance of foreground for landscape shots and this image actually has no foreground. The important thing about rules is knowing when to break them. The full frontal view puts the magnitude of the vertical drop compared to the seemingly tiny O'Brien's tower right in your face. The perfectly situated Branaunmore sea stack and the blurred breakwater complement the composition.

County Kerry and Killarney National Park

Lough Carun in Glanteenassig Forest Park.

How it's done: Panorama from five vertical images. Normally I'm not a huge fan of panoramas but in this case I wanted to get the whole lake in the frame.

A closer look from the shore.

How it's done: And this is why I don't like panoramas that much. Most of the time you can get a more striking shot by identifying the basics you actually want to show instead of trying to get it all in. I didn't bring a tripod to this hike but still wanted to do a long exposure so I had to improvise by resting the camera on a backpack. After some trial and error I got a usable shot. Not having a tripod makes composing harder since you usually cannot get the camera in the optimal position but it doesn't mean that long exposures are impossible.

Minard Castle on Dingle peninsula shortly before sunset.
A dramatic sky over Inch beach.

How it's done: Placing the horizon at the center of the frame is only suitable for very few images. If done right it can evoke a feeling of harmony, if done wrong it will only incite boredom. Here I wanted to make use of the symmetry between the sky and it's reflection.

Muckross Abbey [top] and Muckross House [bottom] in Killarney National Park.

How it's done: Again - look for the less obvious viewpoint. I took a few pictures right in front of Muckross House like everybody else does but when I looked at them on the computer they were so utterly boring my legs fell asleep.

The very lush vegetation is typical for the humid Irish climate. Impressive moss-covered trees emerging from a thick field of ferns dominate the landscape. A very simple image and yet I really like it.
The red fox is a very common inhabitant of Killarney National Park.
Muckross Lake
The amazing landscape seen from Ladies View.

How it's done: There's really nothing special to it. Use a polarizer and take care of the foreground.

County Cork and the East

The ruins of Dunlough Castle at Three Castle Head.
Glendalough Upper Lake nested inside the Wicklow Mountains.
A river of Guinness. [The water that is used to brew Guinness actually comes from the Wicklow Mountains.]

How it's done: By stopping down all the way to minimum aperture (f/22) and resting the camera on my knee a shutter speed of 1/6s was achieved which is ideal to blur the flowing water.

View on Kenmare Bay from the road to Healy Pass. I always prefer to end articles with a sunset picture.

How it's done: Okay, this is a rather tricky one. Shooting right into the sun leads to a variety of complications such as partial or total loss of auto-focus, lens flares and most importantly an impossible dynamic range. The sun is so much brighter than everything else it is impossible to expose both, the light and dark tones correctly. Preventing over-exposure and thus retaining as much information as possible is a trade-off against the desire to get good exposure in the darker areas. It's important to set priorities and have an idea of which parts of the frame shall be correctly exposed. The easiest method is to try a few different exposures and then pick the one that turns out best after post-processing.

Of course no trip to Ireland would be complete without also visiting the capital city Dublin. I did so too, obviously, but I did not find it so great from a photographic point of view. I mentioned the raised standards to what constitutes as a decent image at the beginning of the first part of this series, and so there is really not much I'd like to show here. There is however one 'bonus' image that I'd like to present, especially because there are quite a few things I can say about in light of the tutorial-like character of this article.

Ghosts in the Long Room library of Trinity college.

How it's done: The Long Room is by itself a fantastic subject with a lot of possibilities. There is only one huge drawback: there are about two hundred people in there at all times (unless you have special access outside of visitor hours). A possible solution would be using a long exposure to strongly blur any passers-by but that leads to the additional problem that there are no tripods allowed. Furthermore it would be advantageous for the composition to have a higher viewpoint as well. The upper floor would be ideal but of course they won't let you get up there. I however found a decent solution to both problems.

In the Long Room there is a display of the 14th century Trinity College harp (maybe the oldest surviving harp in the world - it served as a model for the Irish harp that is used on the coat of arms of Ireland) which is stored inside of a glass container. The container is about 2 meters high and of course very sturdy to protect the harp. So I set up the camera for a long exposure shot and just placed it on top of the glass box. I pressed the shutter button (with a 2s self timer) and let it sit there for 30s until the exposure was complete. Who needs a tripod when you have a 600 year old harp?

Now the best part of this whole thing is that instead of making the image useless, the crowds actually add another layer to it. Someone told me that it almost looks like if the ghosts of the past are still wandering these halls.

I hope you enjoyed this installment and maybe you even found some useful hints or inspiration for your own photography!

Thanks for reading!

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