Why Shoot Landscapes? by Geoff McGrath

Over the past few years, I have come to love Fine Art & Landscape Photography.   There is something immensley pleasing about being able to pause and create something unique and personal from something that it so timeless and immense.  Its like I am borrowing from the beauty of Ireland, to tell my own story.  For me, nothing could be more humbling and more special.  I hope that you share my thoughts!

 

I am really drawn in particular by Landscape Photography.  Northern Ireland is just teaming with natural beauty.  Our country has been known for so long for its violent past, but in recent years with the help of the film & television industry, with programs such as Game of Thrones and many others, the world is starting to see the beauty that we here in N.Ireland often take for granted.

 

I find it very pleasing to be able to get the opportunity of capturing these iconic scenes and locations in my own unique way.  For me, Landscapes are personal.  Every shoot I undertake is a personal pilgrimage into my passion for this beautiful land.  I hope to create a collection of unusual and somewhat different images that will cause viewers to take a moment and see something timeless, yet new and vibrant in our beautiful country.

 

This image above of this desolate little ruined cottage is just on the road to Cushendall from Ballymena.  Being from Ballymena, I have passed by this iconic scene many many times and always felt a draw to it.  Once I latch on to a scene, I will, like Ansel Adams return to the scene of the crime many times, each time looking to see if it will tell me a little bit more of its story.

 

I photographed this scene with my first SLR, an old Canon Ft-b and I am so pleased to return and shot this same scene with my Hasselblad and my digital SLR as well.  How amazing that 30 years on, this little ruin is still here to be savoured and enjoyed.

 

Take a moment and enjoy this beautiful land.  You never know what you will find...

Geoff McGrath

Associate Distinction Society of International Nature & Wildlife Photographers (ASINWP) by Geoff McGrath

Carlingford Lough - One of the images from Geoff's successful Associate Panel submission.

Carlingford Lough - One of the images from Geoff's successful Associate Panel submission.

Some of you who have been reading my blog will know something of the journey I’ve been on as a photographer this past few years.  Just last year, I completed my HND in Photography gaining a distinction from Southern Regional College.

 

While I am pleased to have achieved the Diploma, there tend to be various opinions among photographers as to the validity of such academic qualifications when measured against the rigors of actually working within the industry. For this reason I decided to continue with what had been in my mind for some time…. to become a qualified member of a photographic society.

 

To this end, over the past year or so, I have been taking advantage of The Societies “Mentor Me” program which exists to help photographers work towards gaining distinctions and this past summer I met with Phil Jones and Podge Kelly to discuss my work.

 

I had been hoping my work might be good enough for the Licentiateship Distinction. To read about the various distinctions available to members, click here. Imagine my joy when I was told I was wasting my time! But in a good way, because the felt that my work would be at a much higher standard. All that needed to be done, was to assemble a cohesive panel of images and then submit them for judging with a view to an Associateship!

 

I am very pleased to be able to announce that as of the 11th February, I am now an Associate Member of the Society of International Nature & Wildlife Photographers!!

 

 

 

The beautiful Slemish mountain where Saint Patrick often roamed while tending sheep.  This is another iconic image from Geoff's successful Associate Panel submission.

The beautiful Slemish mountain where Saint Patrick often roamed while tending sheep.  This is another iconic image from Geoff's successful Associate Panel submission.

 

It was quite difficult to compile a panel of 20 images. First of all there needed to be a theme, something cohesive that would pull the images all together. I might have to go out and reshoot some images or shoot some new ones. During the Mentoring, Phil emphasised that my compositional elements where very strong, especially the way that I used implied or real leading lines…. things that directed your eye around the image. Things such as the use of a fence or a road, or at times, evey the way that cloud formations led your eye. These were elements that I took into the selection process. I submitted a panel via the mentoring program again to see if I was on the right track and very quickly received feedback from the guys. One of the images wasn’t strong enough. I think I knew this myself and wasn’t surprised to hear it echoed in the mentoring team’s own comments. So… suddenly, I was at an impasse. I needed to find 1 more image that would balance the panel and make it complete.

 

So, some weeks past. I started to go down through my catalogue of 1000’s of images. I decided to leave no stone unturned as I knew I would find what I was looking for. I needed something that would convey the mystery of this beautiful island… something that would draw your eye into the scene and cause you to immerse yourself in the place… something like this….

 

 

Upper Doolough Valley, Mayo – ASINWP Distinction Panel – Geoff McGrath.

Upper Doolough Valley, Mayo – ASINWP Distinction Panel – Geoff McGrath.

Over the past couple of years I’d become aware of the work of a fellow landscape photographer, Matt Klowskowski. I had tuned on one day to a tutorial he was doing on Creative Live on post-production in Lightroom. Now, I had never been able to get my head around working with Lightroom, being a Photoshop-freak but the way that Matt explained things… I honestly have to say, it totally changed my life. His simple workflows and explanations made sense to me and I could see a way that I could enhance my images without making them look “OVER-PROCESSED.” There are photographers whose work tends to look a bit OTT (Over the top) and I didn’t want to be one of those. I wanted to show the natural beauty of this island

 

And so it was that after literally weeks of digging and searching, processing and deleting I found an image that I felt fit beautifully into the panel.

 

 

Warren Road, Donaghadee – ASINWP Distinction Panel – Geoff McGrath.  

Warren Road, Donaghadee – ASINWP Distinction Panel – Geoff McGrath.

 

I was so pleased with this final image, as I had written it off years ago. At that time, my understanding of image processing was very basic, but for me, this vindicates completely never deleting images we think are no good. I just didn’t know what to do with it at the time. I hear photographers who are constantly deleting their old unworked images. Sure, if you have no room I suppose that’s understandable.

 

The weather has started to pick up again to the way it was when I photographed this scene and I think this week I’ll be back out there again, seeking a fresh view of this beautiful scenary right on my doorstep.

 

I’ve received some lovely comments from people but one of the nicest was from a lady who told me, “Geoff seeing your work and how you struggle at times to capture the image that pleases you really has inspired me to pick up my camera again and get back out there.” Its too easy to just give up and settle. Of late I’ve been taking a break from landscapes due to some health issues and doing some ‘interesting’ portrait work with the likes of Spiderman, Batman and a few judges from Mega-City One (I might do a blog post about some of that soon, but its been getting some great reviews too), but I’m hoping to get back out soon shooting this beautiful wild stormy Ireland, with its crashing waves, grey mists and moody skies.

Here’s my COMPLETE panel of 20 images on the SINWP Website!!.

Tollymore Forest Park by Geoff McGrath

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A few weeks ago it dawned on me that although I thought I had been busy, I had actually just been a mouse on a wheel, lots of activity but not accomplishing very much recently.  I needed to get back out there and start taking some of the photographs that I had tasked my self with doing before the end of the year.  I also needed to work on completing my set of images for consideration for my associate panel.  I felt something was missing and then the Autumn came and I told myself how I needed to get out and capture it. Over the past couple of weeks therefore I've been back out "in the field" as it were.  In my last blog I've shared some new images from the Glens of Antrim.  Such a beautiful area and what a wonderful experience getting back out into the solitude of a location shoot.  Another place which I had been planning on visiting was Tollymore Forest Park. Tollymore Forest Park is an absolutely stunning location.  Especially in the Autumn (Fall).  The closest thing I have experienced to it was Pennsylvania in the Fall.  Not only that, but its become a very popular location to shoot for both movies and television shows.  Game of Thrones (2011-present) Dracula Untold (2014), Robot Overlords (2013) Your Highness (2011) have all shot in this historic woodland.  In fact the very first scene of Game of Thrones was shot here.... when a member of the Night's Watch sees a family of Wildlings dead on the snow and then encounters a White Walker. Also, this is where Ned Stark and his sons find the direwolf pups and the dead stag.

As has been my luck of late it was ablsolutely pouring with rain when I arrived at Tollymore.  (I'd actually driven around and past the area a couple of times and missed it!)  All I can say is "FOLLOW THE SIGNS!"   The struggles of a landscape photographer eh?  I waited for almost an hour but it appeared that the rain was not going to ease off.   Then I remembered how, despite the awful weather, I had been rewarded with some lovely shots at the Glens of Antrim.  So I decided to just go for it.  I got my gear and headed into the Forest.  Again I found myself alone in a solitary and beautiful place. Within a few minutes I found myself at the edge of the Shimna River.  I could not believe my luck.  The view was stunning.

 

Tollymore Forest Park in the Rain - Irish Landscapes by Geoff McGrath

But I had seen nothing yet, because as I walked downstream in the distance, I could see Foley's Bridge.  This was the goal of my quest that day.  More than anything I wanted to make sure that I got to this location.

Foley's Bridge, Tollymore - 2- Irish Landscapes by Geoff McGrath

I spend a lot of my time reading articles on landscape photographers. Many of them are astonishing photographers and each of them will talk about the perfect locations, lighting or conditions. I am sure that the conditions I found myself in that day would not have been classed as ideal.  But as I have always done, I take on board what I learn but I really shoot for my own pleasure, not for anyone else.  It's a very humbling experience that have others enjoy my work, but if I don't do this for me first, then I wouldn't have anything worth sharing with others.

  

Foley's Bridge, Tollymore - Irish Landscapes by Geoff McGrath

  

I would have to say that this final image is one of my all time favourites. Taken on a day when I got completely drenched. Again. This seems to be a habit, or is that a pattern for success?! Despite the rain, I Sat and drank in the splendour of this epic location, this beautiful Tollymore.

  

It would appear that finally I have 20 images which form a cohesive panel of work. It was fitting that this location, one which I have wanted to photograph for so long, would be the final piece in the jigsaw.

Glenariff - The Glens of Antrim by admin

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  These days, I don't get the time due to other commitments to get out exploring, but Glenariff is some where that has been on my wish list for this summer.  As the autumn has been drawing to a close, I knew I needed to just bite the bullet and get out there, so I set off early last Saturday morning and arrived at Glenariff, just as the mist had lifted.

There's a lot of science quoted about lighting and the best time to photograph certain places and while I totally agree with this, sometimes you have to make the most of the situation you find yourself in.  I have to be honest and say that I am not an overly 'technical' photographer.  This is probably why I left the camera club circuit because I couldn't abide feeling that I was selling my soul just to get a technically excellent shot.  I would rather take a photograph that speaks to me and that evokes a memory.

The Glens of Antrim - 2- Irish Landscapes by Geoff McGrath

The Glens of Antrim - 2- Irish Landscapes by Geoff McGrath

I liked a phrase that has been coined recently by a photographer called Chase Jarvis.  He's written a book on iPhone Photography called The Best Camera is the One That's With You and I guess that's how I feel about lighting.  I'd rather have a record of photographs that are not picture perfect, as have none because I had never gone out and taken any using the excuse that the conditions weren't right or my equipment wasn't right.

For me getting into the lonely places is beautiful in and of itself.  I spent almost 4 hours down in Glenariff and didn't encounter a living soul until I was heading back up out of the Glen.  That freedom and peacefulness is something just as artistic and epic and any image I might capture.  I normally go out with Rosemary on shoots as we love getting out in the outdoors but now and again, I like to totally cut myself off and be alone with Creation and immerse myself in it.

The Glens of Antrim - Irish Landscape - Geoff McGrath

The Glens of Antrim - Irish Landscape - Geoff McGrath

I do this because I love it.  Not to make money.  I am pleased when people choose to buy my artwork and humbled that they are as moved by the scenes that I capture but for me it is sharing the immense beauty of my homeland with others and see them connect with it as I do, that brings the most reward.

After I left the Glens I decided to drive around the top of Newtowncrumlin Mountain as this is another very beautiful area.  its so bleak and remote.  There is nothing better for me.  The complete solitude.

I apologise if I don't sound like your typical landscape photographer, but that's because as I've said, for me entering this natural world its almost a spiritual experience.  Before I started taking my photography more seriously, I used to love just stop and drinking in a view.  But now that I capture these views on my camera it again gives me that time to just pause and experience the beauty.  To connect with Nature and its Creator.  There is truly nothing better.

Irish Landscape - Newtowncrumlin 3 - Geoff McGrath

Irish Landscape - Newtowncrumlin 3 - Geoff McGrath

Irish Landscape - Newtowncrumlin - Geoff McGrath

Irish Landscape - Newtowncrumlin - Geoff McGrath

Irish Landscape - Newtowncrumlin 2 - Geoff McGrath

Irish Landscape - Newtowncrumlin 2 - Geoff McGrath

Homestead by admin

The Old Homestead, Co.Antrim  

This old homestead is a few short minutes away from Ballymena, the town of my birth and is one of the very first iconic views that I remember seeing as a child.

 

My father has been an avid photographer for many years I seem to remember him stopping to photograph this many years ago on the way to the seaside villages of Carnlough and Waterfoot.

 

Seeing it today, it hasn't changed apart from the addition of the tree which has now grown up over the years since my last visit.

I have visited this little homestead quite recent, back in the dead of winter in 2012.

 

I suppose there are a number of locations which would anchor me photographically.  This is one of them.  Another is the lone tree in a field in Co.Down, known locally as Rhianna's Tree.  I feel drawn to them.

 

 

Desolate Cottage

 

In fact, when I sit and consider this, for some strange reason I do seem drawn to isolation and lonely places.  Is this part of growing up as an only child?  I learned quite young to be comfortable in my own skin and with my own company and while I love the company of others, I don't need it.  I really love being alone.

 

Also, I believe that growing up as a child, as I explored fields like this around Rasharkin and Cullybackey with my cousins makes, I felt a certain affinity with open spaces like this.

 

To me, despite growing up in Ballymena town (I spent about 10yrs of my childhood in the town itself,) for me my homestead is summed up by memories of the countryside like this one.  My formative years and memories are of this scene, of Slemish and of seaside trips to Castlerock and Carnlough only 30 mins away from home.

 

I normally love and prefer black and white images but this time decided to process primarily as a colour image.  I really loved the fact that some sheep wandered over to the cottage as I was setting up and them seemed happy to be included in my record of the day.

I hope you love this scene as much as I do.

Geoff.

 

 

 

Castlerock by admin

Castlerock Well, I'm still here... just very busy and not having a lot of time these days to update my blog.  Mostly I'm busy with my 9-5 and also working around home.  The problem with pouring yourself into studies for 3 years is that a lot of things get forgotten about.

Now that I'm out of the HND, I've been catching up.  I do have to admit thought, that while I found the HND rewarding.... nonetheless, I found it somewhat soul destroying as I am so camera'd out that its been difficult to motivate myself to get back on the horse.

However, I am slowly getting back into the groove again and recently spent some time in an area that I visited a couple of years ago, with little to show from the trip.  This time, I managed to have a bit more luck and I want to share a few shots with you from this trip.

The last time we were here in Castlerock it rained and rained.  Then it rained some more for good measure. However, this time, we had more luck.  A lot of people think that you need to get on the road early to get great shots.  However, unless I'm heading up to stay on the North Antrim Coast, I tend to just meander my way up there in the afternoon.  I'm always hoping it doesn't rain but also that it looks like it MIGHT rain.  Blue skies are generally not my thing so if you're into sunny skies, my work will probably not appeal to you!  But if you're into deepy moody, dark and overcast?  (I mean skies, btw, not the people!!)  Well, then you and I will get on famously, as this is the main stay of most of my work.

Looking to Donegal from Castlerock

Looking to Donegal from Castlerock

Each of these shots are looking over, as you can see from the captions, towards Donegal.  Don't forget to click on the images to see them much larger.  I'd also appreciate if you used the share button and share my work on social media.

As you can see someone was surfing and I was just in the right place and time to get it.  I waited until I got a good profile of the person and then snapped!

I love that so many of my shots are able to incorporate the heavy long wild grass that grows in this country.

Looking to Donegal from Castlerock

Looking to Donegal from Castlerock

Looking to Donegal from Castlerock

Looking to Donegal from Castlerock

3 Years by admin

Hi folks, While I've been involved in photography for most of my adult life, over the past 3 years I decided that I wanted to push myself down a more formal route.  My decision was based on the thought that studying an academic course would force me to slow down and take time to research.  Far too often, I've been guilty of just grabbing a camera and starting to shoot, without any preparation time really.

 

So, when I started the HND in Photography through Southern Regional College at Lurgan, I knew I was going to have to work hard to complete a varied range of modules designed to make the student really critique and evaluate the work of other photographers and then apply the same rigorous criteria to my own work.  There's noone harder on me that myself and so the whole 3 years experience was hard going at times.  Sometimes I was pushed into areas that I wasn't very comfortable with.   Product photography, architectural photography, photo-journalistic photography and many others.  I have always loved portrait photography and completed this module in Year One, long with fine art and landscape photography.

 

Girl with Pearls 3 by Geoff McGrath

 

Year One was probably the most formative of the 3 years for me. I say this because it was during this time that I found myself really pushed into an area I struggled with, due to my eyesight.  Working in the darkroom.  Now, darkroom technique is something that I've always loved, but I did find it hard as, at the time, I'd been having some problems with my eyesight (one of the joys of getting older!).

I finished with a level of work in my landscape module that did not please me and so this spurred me on to devote my summer to going out and compiling a portfolio of landscape work.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way but through this process, I ended up falling in love with photographying this beautiful country of Northern Ireland and for the past 3 years have been totally caught up with it.

 

Tree taken at Ballyrobert, County Down by Geoff McGrath, Fine Art & Landscape Photographer, Northern Ireland

 

Since that time, a passion has been growing with in me to promote the rugged beauty of this country.  It was at that time, back in 2012 that I launched this website with a view to sharing my vision with the world.  Exactly how I see this country.  I spent a number of years overseas and I think that is something that has probably made me appreciate the beautiful landscape of Northern Ireland. So, 3 years on, it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that I think of what I've achieved. I've had commissions from private clients as well as having sold images to film companies for their sets and my work will be on the big screen some time in 2016!

 

The Commons as the wind picks up

 

 

This year the most rewarding aspects of the course have been Portfolio and Exhibition.  As I already mentioned, over the past 3 years, I have amassed a whole plethora of images and yet I never really had the time to actually choose which ones I thought were my best ones.  Portfolio allowed me that time and narrowing it down really made me examine them very closely.  I had received some critique about my early work which hadn't been what I had hoped to hear and for the first time I could see what they were talking about.  Some images looked good on screen but did not print well.  So another item has been added to my list of things to do.  Spend the summer reshooting a lot of my early work again.  I have since then gained a lot of experience and knowledge as well as upgrading my 15 yr old D200 camera to much newer D7100.

 

Tranquility over Oxford Island

 

I also had the opportunity to return to one particular part of Ireland which has haunted/inspired me since 2003, when I first visited it.  Connemara / Mayo.  I had photographed this valley at that time, but time and time again, I returned to look at it longing to return to photograph it when I had more time and the ability to really focus.  In 2014 Rosemary and I stopped our car and I realised that this was it.  It was only 15mins from where we were staying in Louisburg, Co.Mayo.

 

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I love the depth of colour that I find in this beautiful country. it isn't just in the greens though. Everyone talks about Ireland being about the 40 shades of green. It is, but it is so much more than that. There is a timeless ancient quality to this land. These rocks and mountains have been here for 1000's of years. What stories they could tell.

Fine Art Irish Landscapes, Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Geoff McGrath Photography

 

This area was the scene of one of the worst tragedies of the Irish Potato Famine when 1000's lost their lives trekking these hills in the worst of winter just to beg for help from overlords more interest in themselves that the people whose responsibility they were.

 

Fine Art Irish Landscapes, Connemara, Co. Mayo, Geoff McGrath Photography

 

Again the rugged landscape of Co. Mayo moving towards what is known as the Connemara Loop. This beautiful expansive land is so often forgotten and neglected by us.

 

Fine Art Ireland - Geoff McGrath - Country Road, Co.Mayo

 

I know John Denver was singing about West Virginia, but this image just reminds of of his song Country Road! I had stopped because Rosemary wanted to photograph some sheep and I happened to turn around and this scene greeted me. I've learned this past few years to "turn around" a lot. Sometimes the best views are from the opposite direction! Its good to look back and see where you have come from!

 

Deserted Cottage, Co.Mayo - Geoff McGrath Photography

 

This deserted cottage was the first thing that really grabbed my attention in Co.Mayo. The depth of colour and beautiful shades of green just captivated me.

 

Mussenden Temple Fine Art Northern Ireland, Geoff McGrath

 

Mussenden Temple was one of the first things that I photographed 3 years ago and traditionally I have preferred this work as a black and white, but after listening to some things that Matt Klowskowski had to say about Lightroom, I decided to rework many of my images and as a result was able to bring so much more out of these shots in colour.

 

Orlock Point, Co.Down - Geoff McGrath Photography

 

This was an image which I had largely ignored 3 years ago when I took it. But in Lightroom I have been able to do so much with this shot to show off the natural beauty of Orlock Point, which is only a 10 minute drive from my home in Donaghadee.

 

I have reached the end of this lengthy post. But I wanted to share with you finally, what I suspect is probably the first landscape that ever really etched itself in my mind as a child. This is, of course, Slemish Mountain, just outside Broughshane, Ballymena. For many years a local photographer, known mostly for his weddings and portraits had been selling a landscape of this scene and it could be seen around many shops in the Ballymena area.

 

(Jack Adams was one of the most prominent photographers in the area for over 40 years and is a good friend of my family. After he retired Jack was so much help to both myself and my father as we photographed weddings, often coming along on the day and his advice and knowledge were unsurpassed.)

Others have gone on to photograph Slemish in the years following, but none of them captured the gradeur and sheer majesty of the hill where Saint Patrick tended sheep, as well as Jack Adams did.

 

So I just want to say that what you see on this website, all started with my father putting a camera in my hand and showing me how to take photographs, but the inspiration came from the work of Jack Adams and I owe him a debt of gratitude for all of his help and encouragement to me over the years.

 

Fine Art Landscape Northern Ireland Slemish, Co.Antrim - Geoff McGrath Photography

 

And so, This June sees the end of 3 years of hard work. To mark the event, the gradtuating students are holding the Beyond Exhibition in the Millenium Court Arts Centre, in Portadown on 4th June at 7.30pm and we would love to see you there. I will have some of my pieces on display which will be available to buy or order. Hope to see you there! Please come and introduce yourself and say hello!

 

Geoff.

 

Featured in this Summer's Northern Ireland Visitors Journal by admin

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I was approached a few months ago by Penton Publications asking if I would like to feauture one of my pieces in their Summer edition of the Northern Ireland Visitors Journal.  This was an excellent opportunity to gain some wider exposure for my work. The image that I chose for submission was one that until recently was being exhibited at the Beyond Exhibition at the Millenium Court Art Centre in Portadown.

I was thrilled to find that my work got a full page to itself!

Bunbeg, Ireland by admin

I wanted to share this image taken in Bunbeg, Donegal, Ireland at the start of the year.  I am currently working on finishing my HND and this has distracted me from my website, hence I am posting so little these days.... but its only a few weeks until completion now, so I'm looking towards spending a lot of time revamping and relaunching my site later this year. As I was working away, I suddenly remembered that I had this image that I hadn't finished working on, so since I'm easily distracted, I quickly found a good excuse to leave my wordy notes and jump into Lightroom and then Photoshop.

There's not much left of Bad Eddie's Boat on the beach at Bunbeg and I envy those who have gotten here before me to see it in all its glory, but I think there's a certain character and quality to this old wreck that only increases with time.

I hope you enjoy this piece.  Please share.

Thanks

Geoff.

Bunbeg, Ireland. Fine Art, seascape

Doolough ~ Birthplace of a Passion by admin

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Just before heading off in search of Doolough, Co.Mayo in October, I remember chastising myself that that I definitely MUST start updating my blog more frequently.   And here I sit over 2 months later.  I do know that there are those of you who do enjoy the blogs and seeing my images.  I know, because you've told me and I really do appreciate your interest in my work.  

Busyness is the bane of man I think.  We get too busy...too easily.  The problem is that unless we are very careful, the things we love are often the things that go first.  Sadly, I'm not one of those people who is fortunate to actually do what they love for a living.  My passion for photography at times has to take a back seat to the incorrectly named "necessities" of life.  I would feel most blessed indeed if I could pursue my photography full time but until those days come (if ever) I must juggle.

 

So, finally I get to share with you some of my images from our trip to the West Coast of Ireland.  Rosemary (Bonnie our little Cairn Terrier) and myself spent 5 fabulous days and nights there with an ample supply of curiosity for the daytime and a shed full of dry wood for the windy evenings in front of the fire.  It was a perfect little getaway.

 

I had visited Galway, Sligo, Mayo and Connemara 11 years ago and was captivated by its beauty.  Sadly, I didn't really have any decent photographic equipment with me and its been on my to-do list to return again to this beautiful area.

 

We managed to get a beautifully located cottage on the outskirts of Louisburgh and just started to explore.   About 10 minutes drive from our cottage, I found this old abandoned cottage at Tawnmackan.  It just oozed character.  I'm sure that it could have told us many stories about the people who used to live in it.

 

 

Fine Art Irish Landscape - Derelict Cottage, Tawnmackan, Co.Mayo - Geoff McGrath Photography

 

 

 

Back in 2003, I'd taken 1 particular photograph that I particularly loved but had no idea where it had been.   Time and time again I had longed to return to that place and photograph it properly.  Back then, it sparked in me and increasingly insatiable hunger to connect with the land...  I don't know if you are like me, but so often I just find myself stopping and drinking in the beauty of this incredible country that I have been privileged to live in.

 

Continuing on the R335, I couldn't believe our luck when within another 25 mins of driving around, I found that special place.  After all this time, it was even more beautiful than I had remembered it.  The sight was breathtaking.  I had come full circle.  I was back at the place where my passion for the landscapes of Ireland had begun.   The Doolough Valley.

 

Fine Art Irish Landscapes, A Cloudy Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Black & White, Geoff McGrath Photography

 

 

Over the next few days, we returned every day, at different times just to see exactly how the light was falling.

 

 

Fine Art Irish Landscapes, A Cloudy Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Black & White, Geoff McGrath Photography

 

 

This second shot of the Doolough Valley was taken at the location of a monument to the many who had died during the Potato Famine.  I found it a very moving story and felt guilty that I was only knowing this now, given that this place of beauty had been in my mind for so long.  It was a very quiet and tranquil place.  I found it very moving as I recounted the tragedy that had taken place here, how hundreds had fallen to their deaths trudging the high mountain path into the lough below, all because of the greed and intransigence of wealthy men.

 

However, I chose not to include the monument in my shots as I wanted to record it in its most natural form.  Of course, the road was something that I could not ignore due to the fact that it ran all the way through the valley.

 

It's strange that a place of such sadness and death ended up being the birthplace of my passion for Irish landscapes.

 

 

Fine Art Irish Landscapes, Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Black & White, Geoff McGrath Photography

 

 

Further down the Doolough Valley I found another place to stop.  Just behind where I took this shot, there was a little dock and a boat tied.

 

 

Fine Art Irish Landscape, Upper Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo, Geoff McGrath Photography

If you would like to see more images from this beautiful area, please click here or select West Coast of Ireland from the Republic of Ireland Section of my website.

Return to Rihanna's Tree - ( Fine Art Tree Photography ) by admin

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  Fine Art Tree Photography, in Northern Ireland Hi again.  If you've read my blog before or browsed my website, you might recognise these two black & white images.  In 2013, I had the privledge of winning 2 Gold Awards for images of this iconic tree not far from my home in County Down, Northern Ireland.

  (Psst! Don't forget, you need to click on the images to see them in more detail!)

 

Life in a Hopeless Place - Gold Award Winner March 2013 SWPP - Fine Art Tree Photography

 

This first shot was the first image that I entered and I was really pleased that it was given a Gold award as a landscape.  That fit the feel and atmosphere that I wanted to convey.  A lone tree stretching out it branches to the world, beckoning us in.

 

Fine Art Tree Photography by Geoff McGrath, Helens Bay, Co.Down, Northern Ireland

 

This second shot was taken around the same time as the first one, but for me, I wanted to do something far more intimate and personal with this shot.  I wanted the viewer to see the tree.  Its detail.  The textures in the bark and the branches.. in short, its character.  I have long identified with this tree, as I am sure many of you have.  This tree has been beaten by the weather, up on the top of this hill and has taken the worst that nature can throw at it and still its here.  Life can be like that and sometimes we feel like the tree.... or in the words of Elton John, "I'm Still Standing!"  That's why the tree forms part of my logo.  It reminds me every day, that I'm still standing. I really love creating images like this and fine art tree photography in general.

 

I've heard it said of Ansel Adams that he would return to an area again and again and at different times and seasons to see if there was something new he could see and learn.  I like that.  And, its something that I do.  This tree grabs my attention every time I drive past it and I always find myself considering doing something new with it.

 

So, a few weeks ago, on my way to Belfast, I had a little time to spare and since I generally carry my camera and tripod with me most of the time, I decided to stop and see what I could see new in this scene.  The field was full of what I think was barley and it was getting close to harvest time.  I loved the idea of being able to capture movement amongst the barley as well as the colours and new textures.  What difference was this going to make to my shooting my old friend, the Tree.

 

At this point I need to say that I as I entered the field I was very conscious of my need to be respectful of the farmer and his crop.  I'd previously phoned the owners and asked for permission and was told that it was fine to enter at any time.  They'd seemed quite shocked that I had called because they told me that most people just enter the field without any consideration or asking permission.  With this in mind, I trod really carefully through the crop, making sure to not make any fresh tracks, following existing ones as I didn't want to damage anything.    

Rihannas Tree - Colour Cast - Geoff McGrath Photography - Fine Art Tree Photography

 

Here I've added a colour cast as well as some neutral density using Nik software's Analog Efex and Colour Efex software.  I have been using Nik for the past few years and love the consistency that it gives me.  Also, with the new Analog Efex, it has really expanded my creative pallet.

 

In the Barley - Rihannas Tree - Fine Art Tree Photography

 

One of the things I wanted to explore was the tree itself and see what it looked like from different perspectives and sides.  Here I've used my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 II AT-X Pro .  I'd have liked to been able to get more of the tracks on the right into the shot, but it wasn't possible without losing the feel of the shot.

 

Rhiannas Tree - Fine Art - Wet Plate - Fine Art Tree Photography

 

Now, this is another one of the great creative options I was talking about earlier.  Analog Efex gives you the possibility to simulate other, more traditional treatments such as those one could produce in a darkroom using not only film, but in this instance, wet plate.  There is great freedom to control various elements such as water streaks etc.  You either love this or hate it.  Don't worry thought, I won't fall out with you over it.  I personally like it.  I'm very aware of the fact that photography and art in general is very subjective, so its ok to disagree. For example, not everyone is as into fine art tree photography as I am! :)

 

Personally I just love the feel of this.... As well as using Nik software I also have added 3 different textures working carefully to get just the right level of opacity for each of them.  For those who don't speak Photoshop-ese, I basically blended some different textures over the top of the image to give it some extra character and punch. Now, my trip to the Tree wouldn't be complete without some iPhoneography.

 

Rhiannas Tree - iPhoneography - Fine Art Tree Photography

 

 

I shot this on my iPhone 5 with the 645ProMkII app, one of my favourite camera apps.  There's a new version out 645ProMkIII which is excellent (I'm still experimenting with it so haven't too much to say about it at the moment.)  I added some texture to this shot using the DistressedFX app and then saved it and went back in again and added the birds using the same app.  Finally I bordered the image in Pixlr-o-matic.

 

All-in-all, it was a productive trip.  I always come away from this place feeling invigorated. Being at the foot of The Tree is always a good place to be.

 

Workstation - Ode to Hockney by admin

A number of months ago, I happened to see a really interesting program on the work of David Hockney and specifically his thoughts about the use of photography in his work.  But who is David Hockney? Biography.com describes Hockney as "one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century." For more information on Hockney, click here. For a period, he used Polariod as a medium and while he would never claim to be a photographer, got some interesting results. Check out some of his polaroid work here.

So, inspired by this rather strange format, I decided to give it a go.  I've shown it to Rosemary, my muse and got the impression that fluffy sheep photos would be more her liking!

 

Workstation 2 - Ode to Hockney

 

Anyway, its good to experiment and try new things.  One thing I did learn was that this is not something that's easy to do.  It takes time to plan out your grid properly as originally I ended up with stray images and no discernable border. Here's my first attempt...

 

Workstation - Ode to Hockney

New Online Store by admin

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I've  been contacted by some people asking about purchasing some of my iPhone Art and Landscape images and I'm very pleased to announce that you can now buy my images directly from my online store, right on the website.  I've added 2 links to my site menu that will take you to my iPhone Art / iPhoneography Store and also to my Landscape Store.  

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I've made my images available in a number of sizes and finishes and I'm really pleased to announce Loxley Colour Labs in Scotland will be printing my work.  Loxley are the top professional photo print lab in the country and I have been using them for a number of years now with excellent results.  At the moment I'm not offering framing services but that may change in time and I'll update you if that becomes possible.

 

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Browns Bay & Portmuck by admin

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Although I've lived most of my life here in Northern Ireland up until recently, I'd never ever heard of Portmuck and Brown's Bay!  

Its been a difficult few weeks with the recent passing of my father-in-law and I don't think that anyone has the answer for how best to act of what to do in such a situation.  For us, getting out and about, walking and just finding a sense of peace and tranquility around the beautiful coastline of this our homeland is something that we have found has really been a benefit to us.

 

Even before this recent tragedy, I've been struggling this summer to find the "umph" to get out and take photographs.  We all get that, don't we? Writers get writers cramp and so do photographers.  We get times of low productivity when ideas are slow to come to us and we feel very uninspired by the work that we produce.  I think that at times like this, we need to just do it for ourselves.  Well, for me that's partly true.

 

For the most part, much of what I produce is done just for me.  I haven't sought to sell my work so far (but I would love to eventually)  and while I have received a number of awards for my images, I really don't do it for that reason.  On the grand scheme of things, the awards I've won are not going to compare with the accolades that many have received. Some people you read their blogs and its all about their prestige and how fabulous they have been this week (again). Prestige is nice, but it doesn't make you a better person.

 

So... when I take my photographs, I do it for myself, for the sense of completion and peacefulness I feel when I put my eye to the viewfinder and click the shutter.  I know that some people will look at my work and be completely unmoved while others will hate it.  Then once in a while, someone will look at it and love an image and I am truly grateful when I receive feedback like that.  Maybe this next confession is a bit sad but, my computer backgrounds are usually my own images.  Sometimes I just sit and stare and stare at them, because for me, that image captured an emotion and a moment that is eternal and timeless.  One of my favourites examples of this is this one.  I try to put the same emotion in every image I take.  I want to be mesmerised and drawn in.  If I don't feel that way about my own images, I really can't hope for others to like my images.

 

So recently we headed up to this beautiful and neglected part of the Antrim Coast.  Driving out through Carrickfergus and the little village of Eden (I always smile when I pass the sign for the Garden of Eden) towards Islandmagee. Eventually coming down the Ferris Bay Road,  I pulled into the car park, which looked across Larne Lough at Larne Harbour.

 

Larne Lough - Fine Art Landscape Photography by Geoff McGrath Northern-Ireland

 

 

So while we sat and watched the ferries leave we pulled out a few sandwiches and coffee.

 

But my attention was elsewhere, because as we pulled into the car park I immediately spotted some boats and especially 2 old ones.  I'd brought both cameras with me as I wanted to have the freedom to shoot with my 11-16mm Tokina as well as my 18-200mm. The Tokina is very versatile and creates some beautiful perspectives especially with distortions.

 

Old Boat (2) Portmuck - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath Northern-Ireland

 

I just loved the detail in the wood in these old vessels. I don't think somehow that they will ever see water again. Abandoned and ignored they were a great subject study.

 

 

Old Boat (1) Portmuck - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath Northern-Ireland

  Many of my images tend to be on the dark side and that is deliberate. I really enjoy capturing the tonal differences in different textures like stone and wood. So I really wanted to show this detail in the paint and wood on this old boat as much as possible.

 

Old Boat (3) Portmuck - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath Northern-Ireland

  Again here's another one that just screams character. Honestly why would anyone want to photograph something new and shiny that has little or no character when there is such a lovely example of decay and neglect?

 

From here, we drove round past Brown's Bay towards Portmuck. I've not shown any images that I took in Brown's Bay as to be honest, I wasn't really feeling anything from the view. It was beautiful but on the day, there was nothing that really moved me about it so I decided to continue round to Portmuck.

 

And on arriving, I wasn't disappointed. Its easy to just start shooting without thinking of what you want to accomplish... Some of the key elements just present themselves for a good shot at times, but there is always a need to just slow things down and take a look at what is actually right in front of you. With just a slight adjustment, I managed to find some really pleasing foreground detail, in the form of rocks and a grass verge. Just rushing on I would have missed this and for me now, the foreground is a very important element in this shot.

 

Northern Ireland Landscape - Portmuck - Geoff McGrath-Photography

 

Equally in this colour image, the foreground was the sweeping path leading the viewer's eye down into the scene. This is another shot that I find really peaceful. I ventured up the top of the steps at Portmuck Harbour on my own and for most of the time, I was totally alone as I drank in this beautiful view.

 

Northern Ireland Landscape - Portmuck - Geoff McGrath-Photography 4

  Carrying on down the path, I had to watch my step as some of the steps and rails where a bit loose and hauling 2 cameras and a tripod I didn't want to end up falling.

But the risk was worth it. I really loved the view in front of me. Rocks formed the foreground in this shot, with the coastline of the North Antrim Coast stretching into the distance with varying layers of detail and the added presence of mist or fog in the distance, for me, really served to give a sense of the distance.

 

Northern Ireland Landscape - Portmuck - Geoff McGrath-Photography 8

 

As I sat and waited for my shot, I just took some time and through over the events of the past few months. This is another things that I love about this style of photography. With it being so peaceful most of the time, you do get time to just sit and think...to evaluate and in a sense appreciate the journey you are on.

 

Until next time...

SWPP Highly Commended Award Pet Portrait by admin

This has been a quiet year for me photographically.  By that I mean that I've probably indulged my iPhoneography curiosity and this has been to the detriment of my DSLR work.  I was so glad to get out recently with my camera again since the academic year was rewarding but at the same time very constrictive.... by that I mean that I felt a lot of the creativity sucked out of me!  

What I was also painfully aware of was the fact that I had not competed at all this year in any competitions.  This frustrated me.  As I looked over some of my earlier images, I came across a few that I felt had potential and so entered them into the SWPP Monthly Competition.

 

Needless to say I was extremely pleased to receive a Highly Commended Award (which is the equivilant of the old Silver Award) for this beautiful image of a lovely wee dog called Alfie.  Sadly Alfie passed away almost 2 years ago in October 2012.  I know he was greatly loved by his owner Judy.  He was a lot of fun to photograph!  I've never seen a dog wag his tail and bear his teeth at the same time!!

 

Here's the image of Alfie....

 

 

Wee Alfie

 

This shot of Alfie is probably one of my all time favourite images that I've done.  Most of all Rosemary, Bonnie & I really enjoyed our day at Benone Strand in 2011 with Judy & Alfie and because it was something that was so close to our hearts.  Our little Bonnie is such a precious little dog to us, that we totally understood just how loved Alfie was!  Nothing warms my heart more than taking photographs that really touch people and we know that Judy just loved so many of them.  I felt it was a real honour to photography Alfie and capture his different looks!

 

Since 2011, I've entered this image a few times into competition. I persevered with it because I knew it had something special. Its nice to see that in the end, the judges agreed with me! Its not a Gold, but I am happy that its received some recognition finally.

 

I thought that it might be nice to maybe include a few more from our day out, so here we go.  I hope you enjoy them.  As always please click on the photos and select the share button and let others see my work.  I'd really appreciate it.

 

Alfie by Geoff McGrath - Pet Portrait - 04

 

 

Alfie by Geoff McGrath - Pet Portrait - 02

Alfie by Geoff McGrath - Pet Portrait - 03

 

Alfie by Geoff McGrath - Pet Portrait - 01

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tranquility at Oxford Island by admin

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  Tranquility over Oxford Island

 

 

 

One of the things that I love most about the sea and bodies of water is the sense of tranquility it gives me.  I don't know if it affects you the same way.  Its a deeply personal place to enter.  That place where one is completely at rest.

 

Some time has passed since I updated my blog.  If I'm honest, after completing my final assignment in my Year Two HND course, I felt totally deflated.  The subject matter I was covering was extremely disturbing and spending 3 months pouring over such images just left me feeling a bit numbed.  Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, it may never appear on the internet, but despite that, it was a deeply moving subject and one that I sadly see, much too often.

 

Over all, the year creatively had been difficult as I covered subjects that didn't really hold a lot of personal interest for me, but as it was part of the course, it had to be tackled.  I don't class myself as a commercial photographer or a photo-journalist.  But entering the final phase, that of Fine Art I was really looking forward to the module.  There was a last minute change and the subject was changed from Fine Art Open to Fine Art Documentary.  All my plans went out the window!

 

So, at the end of it all, as I already said, I wasn't feeling exactly motivated.  I have some personal projects that I had hoped to accomplish this summer, which so far, have remained untouched.  I'm hoping that getting back into my blog might help with that.

 

Most of all, more recently, our family has experienced a personal bereavement and the past few months especially have been difficult.

 

It was in the midst of this, that we went out for a quite walk to clear our minds and I saw the scene that I have shared with you today.  I just loved the real sense of peace that Oxford Island gave us that day and more than anything, this image captures that.  Sometimes you need to calm your soul.

 

And so I leave you with this image in the hope that it moves you, much in the same way as it has me.

 

Geoff.

Smartphoneography by admin

  Since the Smartphoneography Workshops at Holywood and Dungannon Libraries during the LibrariesNI Creative Month, I've probably spent more time photographing with my iPhone than my regular DSLR.  Mainly that's because I made a commitment to the folks who attended the training that I would follow up with workshops with some more practical help.  That resulted in the first issue of a newsletter that I hope to continue on a semi-regular basis.

 

Boarded Up Window - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography

 

 

I suppose that one of the things that was most noticeable was that doing a Smartphoneography workshop is not as easy as it sounds, given the fact that there are at least 3 different types of phone to consider and each has very specific differences, so the hardest part was making sure that there was material to cover all of these and the newsletter will continue that on.

 

 

Bus Stop - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography

 

 

Would you like to know more about Smartphoneography ?  If so, email me and I will add you to the mailing list for the newsletter and will also keep you up to date with any further workshops that are coming up.

 

 

Florality 3 - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography

 

 

All this of course pushed me to explore more and more apps and to find some ways of expression and again I'm immensely grateful to Skip (Paul Brown) at www.skipology.com for his excellent tutorials and his advice.

 

 

Dungannon Arts Centre - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography

 

 

Smartphone photography (or smartphoneography ) is teaching me never to just settle for something being just ok.  I really want to push to continue to develop in my understanding and so I do find myself returning to previous images with fresh ideas and different apps to see what I can improve upon.

I've recently updated my iPhoneography Page with some fresh images, so please take a look.

 

 

 

Donaghadee Commons - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography

 

 

This is one of my favourite images of recent work that I've done and its amazing to note that normally now, I find myself working between 5 to 8 apps for each image, sometimes returning to them again.  I've also been discovering that the use of layers and masks now is very popular in the iPhoneography / Smartphoneography Community.  The beautiful thing about this medium is the ability to post-process on-the-spot, which means that I can do a much better job of capture the feeling and the emotion of that single moment.

 

 

Photographer - iPhoneography - Smartphoneography

 

 

This is another image that I wanted to share with you.  I took it recently at W5, in the Odyssey Complex in Belfast.  My daughter and grandson were visiting and so we took a trip to see W5.  It was granda's first time there and so we shared the newness of the experience together.   At one point, I just happened to turn around and there he was, taking a photograph of his mum and I saw my chance to capture that moment forever.   The image was perfectly exposed for him, but sadly due to a bright spotlight, my daughter's face was over-exposed and so it gave me the idea to make this shot all about the new little photographer that had just blossomed in front of me.  With the help of more than a few apps, I was able to add some creative blur and effects to produce this colourful and unusual image.

 

 

Windmill & Tree - iphone photographer Geoff McGrath - Smartphoneography

 

 

This shot actually sat really nicely as a black & white image, but I sensed there was a better story to be told.  it was shot in the middle of day around lunchtime and the sun was high in the sky, but this didn't stop me from getting creative and introducing my own sun, just between the tree and the old windmill.  I also added fog to the image as i wanted more atmosphere in the shot.   I really liked the image that I ended up with.  However, I still wanted to explore it some more and so this next image is another version of the same shot.  Which one do you prefer?  :)

 

 

Windmill & Tree - Smartphoneography

 

 

Well, I will draw this blog to a close for now.  I hope you found it interesting.  I'm currently looking into some new and interesting ways to make my images available, so watch this space for more details.  Don't forget to check out my iPhoneography Page and I would really encourage you to share my images if you like this, as this helps tremendously.  :)

 

Take care,

 

Geoff.

A Stroll on the Beach by admin

  Yesterday as part of our relaxing Bank Holiday weekend, we went for a drive to the other side of Strangford Lough down towards the Mournes and ended up staring out at the beach in Newcastle.

 

After a surreal experience at the Slieve Donard, where there was an Antiques Fair, we went back into the town, parked up and went for a walk down the Promenade.  I'd wanted to walk down the sea-front to get some shots on my iPhone of the beach and the sea.

 

Taken using Camera+ (a much better option that the built-in camera on the iPhone 5) I was able to set my exposure and focal points separately.  I found a mid-range area to expose the image with and focussed on the beach itself.

 

The result was a fairly pleasing little shot, but I knew that this was not the end as I planned to sit down when I went home and work on it some more on my iPad.

 

So, how did I get from this.....

 

newcastle beach

 

 

 

to this....?  

On the Beach - taken at Newcastle, Co.Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well for starters, why did I take it?  What was it that really stood out to me?  I love the tonal quality of the sky, the depth of contrast within the clouds and then also the sea had a very definite look to it and I wanted to exploit that.

 

At this point I would like to say another word of thanks to Skip (Paul Brown) of Skipology as I've found his tutorials extremely helpful in exploring various apps and of course, I've bought a few apps in the process, as I am always looking for new information and possibilities for my own iPhoneography / Smartphoneography Workshops. (See here for more details)

 

One thing I keep repeating is that it is YOUR vision that makes the image.  That and being able to translate that into a form that others can see and appreciate.  All the apps in the world are worthless if you don't know what you want to do or even what you like!  Skip's tutorial based on a seascape he did some time ago, basically opened my eyes to some different ways to look at things. I did some things as he did but since my image was different in some ways, I came up with some other ways to interpret the shot that suited me better.

 

I opened the image in Snapseed to straighten it but found that it was pretty darned near perfect as it was.  That was easy eh?  Since I was working with a colour image (Skip's image started off shot in black & white in Hipstamatic) I already had the colour I wanted and so went to Phototoaster and applied the Clarify filter, which just lifted the detail a little on the beach.  I normally would use "Detail" on Snapseed for this followed by "Drama" but I liked the subtle treatment that Toaster gave the image.  After each stage, I saved the shot.

 

Then it was into Distressed FX (a new app to me!) and it was a really cool app to work with.  I loved the textures and effects options that it gave me.  I added some birds and used the Charm filter in it.  I saved the image then went to Trey Ratcliff's 100CamerasIn1 and as per Skip's suggestion, I added the "It seemed like a good plan" filter, but instead of setting to minimum, I chose to crank it to about 30% as I didn't like the loss of colour.

 

That was pretty much it.  The big revelation for me was Distressed FX and the beautiful texturing.  You know, one thing that being given the opportunity to teach workshops does for you is it makes you very aware of how much you have to learn and it makes you hungry to learn more.  I can't pass on what I don't know and so this whole process for me has been a real pleasure.

 

If you haven't already taken a look at my iPhoneography page, click here and have a look.  Also feel free to share the beach image in today's blog post.  Don't forget, if you'd free on the afternoon of 19th March at 3.30pm,   I'll be running the 2nd workshop at Dungannon Library on Smartphone Photography in conjunction withLibrariesNI,.  To book your place, contact the Library directly on 028 8772 2952.  Look forward to seeing you there!

 

Geoff.

iPhoneography & Smartphone Photography Workshops by admin

Well, the workshop at Holywood was a great success with lots of really helpful feedback and as I look towards the next one at Dungannon Library, I'm excited about what's in store for us there. Whether you call it iPhoneography, Smartphoneography, Smartphone Photography or even Mobiography, one things for sure, it's growing in influence every day...

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