"It was really bright and sunny, but I decided I'd be adventurous and shoot directly INTO the sun. This was the result. To be honest, I've spent quite a bit of time post-producing this image. It needed it. Its times like this, that I am glad that I shoot in RAW..."Read More
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!!
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
3 Years /
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
Well I hope that you've all had your Christmas turkey and are looking forward to an amazing 2014! This past year certainly has been interesting!
So, I thought it might be a good idea to do a little round-up of my year photographically.
Well, it began where 2012 had left off....working on producing a panel of 9 images for a study in "Finding Form." I did get someowhat side-tracked by the question of just how important shadow was in bringing out the actual form of a subject. I love the use of shadow and take every opportunity I have to make use of it.
This image didn't actually make it into my final selection of 9 images because it did not work well within the remit of my brief, but its definately one of my favourites. I love the sense of dimension which the strong shadows bring to the image and of course, the leading lines which draw our eyes across the photograph. Not only that, there is lovely tonal contrast on the texture of the stonework. The reason that it didn't work well with the rest of the panel was because the subject was more the actual shadow detail and in that respect, it was not augmenting or complementing the form of a subject, it was becoming the subject. So, in another panel it would work great, just not for one documenting "form."
This one works much better for the panel I was studying and infact made it into that final set of 9 images. I love the detailing of the corrosion and the really pleasing textures and tonal range throughout the image. It really helps to see the dimensions of the chain itself. The direction in which the chain crosses the image, forms a natural leading line drawing the viewers eye up through the shot. If you would like to see the full panel of images including those which didn't make it through the selection process, please click here. I think you'll agree that it portrays Donaghadee Harbour as its never been seen before.
In March of 2013, I had my first success of the year in the SWPP / SINWP competitions, winning "Gold" for this image in the Landscape section of the competition. I love this image and this tree in particular. I've already said elsewhere that I really identify with this tree as I'm sure many of us can... because regardless of what comes against it, its still standing! I gave the image this name in part because of its recent association with Rhianna's controversial video of the song "We Found Love in a Hopeless Place..." Many of you will also notice though, that when I launched my website, I have incorporated the tree into my new logo. So, the tree continues to inspire me.
This next image of Marc Martel won me a Highly Commended Award in May of this year. Marc is the lead singer with a Christian band, Downhere. More recently, Marc has found acclaim as the new frontman of the Queen Extravaganza, a Queen tribute band which was actually formed by Brian May & Roger Taylor. Marc was hand-picked by Brian & Roger after a web audition! Click here to see them in action on American Idol.
Sometimes you wonder why an image doesn't do better and this was the case with both this image of Ballycopeland Windmill (just outside Millisle) and the one below taken from my "Belfast at Night" set. Regardless, it was great to continue through the year with futher awards and both of these took "Highly Commended" awards in August in the Landscape and Monochrome sections respectively.
I've really had to start to think more about my composition and it has really paid off this year. Previously, I depended on my ability to "see" a good image, but there is so much more to it that just seeing it, you have to work hard to convey what you see into a finished image. I love the lonely feel of this Belfast image, despite the fact that not 500 yrds away the Belsonic Festival was playing out to massive crowds.
Once again my inspiration was taken from the Tree for my October 2013 entry for SWPP / SINWP competition. I decided to enter into the Fine Art section this time around. This was because I had processed this image in a totally different way looking for a more graduated look and feel to the sky. Also I felt the image was not so much a landscape, as it was a portrait shot, of the Tree. I wanted people to see the Tree in detail and get to know it personally.... at least that was the feel that I got as I worked through the process. There was beautiful light and shade in the tree and I mirrored this in the graduated sky.
This effort won me a "Gold Award" in Fine Art and again it was really pleasing to see my work recognised.
As well as the Gold in Fine Art, I also received a "Highly Commended" for my image of Portstewart Strand. This shot was taken just after the sun had risen and some beautiful detail came to the fore in the rocks and sand surfaces. I've enhanced the tonal contrast which has helped immensely to lift the shot and give it real drama. This was one of my favourite shots of the year.
As I look forward into 2014, I'm excited! I hope you are too.... another opporunity to take a fresh look around us and refocus our efforts, to find meaning to our lives and existance, bigger than ourselves.
I trust as we go through this next year, you'll be with me on my journey, not only here on my blog, but also on my Facebook Page, my Pinterest Page and my 500px page. Connect with me too on Twitter if you like! I hope to have some exciting news to share with you very soon about some upcoming workshops that I will be taking... But enough of that! I can't spill the beans ... NOT JUST YET, anyway!
Have a great New year everyone, and thank you so much for your interest in my work, it means more to me that I can possibly say!
Unseen Donaghadee - You know how you live in a place for years and then one day, you just turn a corner and find yourself looking at something you've never seen before? Well that's what happened to me a short time ago. I was photographing a church in Donaghadee and I turned around to leave and there before my eyes was this little lane. Right in the middle of town. So I couldn't resist taking time to photography a little part of unseen Donaghadee. Who knows, I might have to explore that lane further and see where it takes me...
Another part of forgotten Donaghadee is an area I find myself driving past often. The gorgeous coastline of the Warren Road. We take things of this beauty for granted. Long before anyone decided to build grand houses along this road, there was the sea and people have been walking down little paths along this coastline for hundreds of years. I actually took this photography back in 2011 as part of my initial studies into HDR photography, but as many photographers, the more I learn the more I want to experiment and I decided to revisit some old images and see if I could do them justice.
This tree was along the path around Orlock Point and this path winds all the way in to Groomsport and then into Bangor. I need to walk that one of these days. The tree just caught my eye against the skyline.
This final image is another taken in 2011 and I much prefer the black and white version to the colourful HDR shot which in my opinion was overcooked.
Please click on the "Share" button on these images and share them on your Pinterest, Facebook or your favourite social media site.
Finally, I just took delivery of my new 11-16mm lens and will soon be posting some of my first images taken with it. I've really enjoyed shooting around Belfast again, but I am really looking foward to getting some time to go out and shoot some landscape. I can't wait to see the result.
Til next time, thanks for taking time to read..
In January 2013, Northern Ireland saw some of the worst storm weather we have seen for some years. Like most people, I have been happy to just sit at home and catch it on TV but this year I was reminded that the weather would be dramatic. I needed to get out in it and capture the drama and raw power of the wind and the sea.
I got all my equipment ready and off I headed down to Donaghadee Lighthouse. This image was shot approx 5pm. In the end, the only equipment I needed was my camera, 18-200mm lens and my tripod. It was all to do to just get the tripod set up and the camera on it! The wind was so strong that I was finding difficulty just standing! Thankfully I found this spot directly in front of the sea wall and firmly grounded my tripod there. This position gave me a great view not only of Donaghadee Lighthouse but also of the rough seas outside of the safety of harbour walls.
Low light at the best of times creates the issue of camera shake. But surely, thats what the tripod is there for... so I don't have worry about things like that? Right? That's only true when letting go of your tripod won't take it hurtling down the street into the local chip shop! So, I had to grab it as firmly as I could, holding as still as I could....pushing all the weight down towards the ground. Focusing was not too easy either.
For me though, the shot captures all the raw emotion and excitement of the moment perfectly. I always look for new and different ways to photograph Donaghadee Lighthouse and capturing it while being battered by the elements is a first for me.
Every image we create should evoke an emotion and for the taker, a vivid memory. If it does for you, please leave a comment below. :)
Today I thought I would share my 500px page with you. 500px is a fantastic site for photographers and those who love photography. I am constantly inspired by what I see there and always come away with a new idea or a better understanding of what it is that we as photographers do. Please take a look at my page and link to it if you have 500px already.
Geoff McGrath - Landscape - Fine Art - Photography - Northern Ireland - County Down - County Antrim - Scapes
Recently I visited Carrickfergus Castle and Harbour. When I arrived I was totally suprised to see Audacious and her Old Friend in dry dock in the Harbour
This looked very precarious to say the least! Two days later when I returned to the Harbour, the larger ship had fallen over! That is what makes the presence of the people in this shot so important, they are totally oblivious to the danger they are in.
I just loved the textures and colours in this shot. My favourite colours are (strangely..) black and everything in the "teal" range, those greeny blues. So when I saw this I knew I needed to photograph this on in colour! They were truly amazing. Because I know nothing of them really, I've no idea how long they will be there!
This is a shot of the second ship and it captures the feeling of decrepide decay and the sense that this ship has not seen good times for many years! I just love the textures fighting their way to the surface!
Finally I managed to get another lovely shop inside the curve of the harbour itself. The sky was wonderfully dramatic!
Thanks for taking time to look at my work. If you like it, please send others to my site and blog... much appreciated ;)
This past weekend I had the chance to return to Carrickfergus to shoot some new Seascapes. As I've already confessed, I love the sea. The contrasts and blended tones that you can get really stand out when you have an equally impressive sky.
The first of my seascapes was taken from Carrickfergus Harbour looking over the wall towards Ballylumford Power Station.
The wall was so high, I had to raise my camera up on the tripod and hope it all worked out ok! :)
This shot was taken at the end of a small jetty which was located near the Courtyward in Carrickfergus. Both of these seascapes were taken there.
I love the leading lines in this image drawing your eye around the shot. In the distance you can see the old Radio Control Tower in the Harbour. Something that I try to ensure in my seascapes is that I get really pleasing levels of contrast. To me an image lacks character and depth without it.