Ireland

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!!.

Glenariff - The Glens of Antrim by admin

Irish-Landscape-4-Geoff-McGrath-Photography.jpg

  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.

 

 

 

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.

 

IMG_1391

 

 

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.

 

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

fine-art-landscape-ireland-geoff-mcgrath-Co.Mayo-Doolough-02-Upper-Doolagh-Valley.jpg

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.