"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
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the next few days, we returned every day, at different times just to see exactly how the light was falling.
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.
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 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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
Anyone who follows me on Facebook will know that I recently spent a few days in the Dublin area. Not the best time to be trying to take colourful images, we got to see some pretty stormy weather. Sadly, while the weather made for some pretty dramatic possibilities, it also hampered my ability to get to a few places I'd really wanted to photograph.
On the way to Dublin, Rosemary, Bonnie (our wee cairn terrier) and myself stopped to stretch our legs and grab a sandwich at Monasterboice. What a fascinating place. In between the increasingly heavy rain, we managed a walk around the old graveyard and got to see the crosses and the high tower. The tower was built around the 10th Century to watch out for the naughty Vikings who were pillaging, as one does when on holiday. But no pillaging for us today I'm afraid, it was a little wet for that. I had to settle for a few images on my iPhone.
Here is one which I took of the cross of Muineadach, almost 5 metres high. On it you can just see stories of the Bible depicted.
As we travelled on down the M1 towards Dublin, we crossed the Boyce River by way of the Boyne Suspension Bridge. It was fascinating. As you drive over it, its almost as if the cables are like tentacles reaching for you. I managed to snap this shot with my iPhone. Processing was by virtue of the Glaze App for iPhone.
One area which I had really hoped to visit was Baltry Bay. We'd planned our day around being able to get there mid afternoon, but by the time that we arrived (so easily distracted we photographers are!) the weather was so bad that I couldnt get any close by car and the howling winds, dropping light and lashing rain meant walking out further was just out of the question. :(
I was using a couple of apps for my iPhone which were a fantastic help, although the sun was not particularly directional as the light was quite flat throughout our trip. I'd really recommend LightTrac as a great tool for showing you the position of the sun as well as times of sunrise/sunset, if you are wanting to plann a shoot.
The other app which was really helpful, (especially as we managed to not get stranded by rising tides at Baltry,) was an app called Tides Near.
I will share a few more images from the trip as soon as I can get some time, but here's a little teaser from our first day out, which took us to Howth Lighthouse at Howth Head. What a beautiful little harbour. There was a lovely little chip shop on the corner of the harbour where we bought a chip and Bonnie got some sausages. (one spoilt little dog!) I just loved watching the fishing boats in the open sea and then to see them swarmed by seagulls as they returned with their catch. Even though it was very windy, it was a truly fabulous sight.
Here is one last little shot from Howth Head. Again with my iPhone and processed using Glaze, I spied this interesting shed and door walking towards the lighthouse. I thought there were some great textures here so couldn't resist a shot!
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!
I was very pleased to find out last night that I've just received a Gold Award and a Highly Commended Award for my work at the SWPP Awards yet again. Its extremely humbling to receive this recognition. Its things like this that keep motivating me to continually work to improve my images every chance I get.
If you've been following my blogs, you'll maybe recognise this tree. It was a feature of my very first post back in July 2013. Certainly if you're local to Bangor, County Down and the surrounding area you will know it because you most probably drive past it a few times a week. On a larger scale, the tree became quite famous or should I say infamous due to the carryings-on of a certain pop star in 2012. Check 0:25 for the first glimpse.
The image above was taken at the same time as my initial shot in April 2013. However, this time, I decided that in moving closer to the tree, I wanted my focus (pardon the pun) to be on the tonal quality of the tree and sky, their textures and the contrasts between the roughness of the ground and tree bark and the smooth texture of the sky. In essence, I wanted to "get to know" the tree better. I really love this shot because unlike the earlier image, this is a personal shot. Its a tree-portrait. For me, the personality of the tree shows when you get a really good look at the textures of the bark, and I especially like the intricate twisted shapes of the branches as, when the light hits them you get a lovely range of varying light features and tones.
I really love this one because its intimate, and personal. The way it treats light, with its various twists and turns, tell me something about the character of this tree. The years have not been kind to it, but still, inspite of everything, it still stands. It makes me reflect on myself, my life and how we need to just lean into the wind, for that is how character is born...
I was also really pleased to receive a Highly Commended award in the SWPP Awards for this image from Portstewart Strand on the North Antrim coast. This is a shot from my last outing to Portstewart just a couple of weekends ago. As you can see, again, there was a fantastic range of tones throughout this shot. I'm hoping to return soon and take some more shots at the Strand using my new Hitech 10 Stop ND.
Well, today's been an interesting day. In a good way. Well, if you don't count the bad back that is!
As many of you may know, I have an account on 500px, a fantastic photosharing social media site. It's one of my favourite things to do when I have some downtime. Browsing 500px and Pinterest.
I recently realised that I hadn't uploaded my latest images to 500px and so I proceeded to upload them to my profile and that's when things got exciting. I've only enjoyed average success on there and yes its only people "liking" your images but it all helps towards SEO ranking.
I wanted to share the images with you. If you're already on 500px, you be able to find me there as simply "GeoffMcGrath." You'll also see to the left of this blog post that there is a link under the menu for 500px (it looks like an '8' on its side) just as there is for other social media sites that I use, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Please click there and connect with me if you haven't already.
Images are ranked on there in terms of their "Pulse" that is how active they are. I've had moderate success at times, getting 40's and 60's. But tonight as we speak these 2 images are currently sitting in the 92-94 range!
Here they are....
Check the links out, or if you're too lazy :P ... here's the 2 images.
I've been working on creating some more Fine Art images and having discovered a few new tricks in processing, hope to have some to share with you soon.
See you then!
I've decided to share some of my fresco images from Oxford Island . This first shot was taken with my 11-16mm wide angle lens. As you can see from previous shots, this one is different in that it is much wider and there was no escaping the harsh brightness of the sunrise. I just love how this image drew me into it. There is a certain focus with it as we're not distracted by the details of the pier's texture, but instead our eyes are drawn out along the old pier to the landfall in the horizon and the lovely detail. The eye then naturally follows upwards to the burning sun. I also particularly like the radial effect eminating from the sun itself, which then takes our eyes back out of the image. At least, thats how I saw it as I was creating it... the natural movement of the eye... drawn in, then upwards and finally outwards again.
The second I wanted to share was another fresco, this time a colour version of the black and white image I shared last time.
This image has many of the same characteristics of the previous shot. There is much more warmth recorded here since I shot the image from the side and in this way more of the colour is captured instead of being bleached out by the power of the sun. I managed to tone down the strength of the sun by diffusing its rays in the branches of the trees in the foreground.
The final image for this blog is one that I have entitled, "The Talking Tree." As I was walking down the winding trail towards the lough my attention was grabbed by this tree. It wasn't exactly a "Burning Bush" moment, but, my attention was really arrested by the form of this tree and the beautiful space between the branches. I loved the tonal quality that the warm morning sunlight brought out in the leaves and branches.
When I was a young boy, in the Boy Scouts they taught us to "Be Prepared." Its just as well then, that I was prepared last Saturday morning as I woke up about 5am and had the implusive to just get in my car and drive to Oxford Island. I'd been thinking about photographing it for some time having seen others images and I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about.
So, at just after 6am, armed with my camera gear, a flask of coffee and a bag of cashew nuts (don't ask!) I found myself on the road out of Donaghadee. The early morning mist blanketed the fields on either side of my car as I drove up the road out of the village. It was a beautiful morning...I was so glad I had banished the demon of the quilt to pursue my passion. There's nothing worse that missed opportunities and I was determined not to miss this one.
About an hour later, I found myself exiting the M1 at Junction 10. Oxford Island was just 5 minutes from the junction and in no time I found myself at the entrance to this picturesque nature reserve. Arriving so early, I was greeted by closed gates, but others were already there enjoying the cool brisk morning air. Some on bikes, others walking their dogs. I parked my car off the road and got my Lowepro Vertex 300 on my shoulders and headed off. What a bag! After removing the kitchen sink, a full darkroom and 2 small kittens that had somehow gotten in there, I set out to find water! I'd no map or idea where anything was, but this was adventure, right!? Who cared!? Instead of taking the direct route to the Discovery Centre, I decided to follow the meandering paths for about an hour, thinking they would bring me to water quicker. After traversing said direct route several times I had the revelation that this was not the case! I didn't mind though as I was walking through beautiful woodlands, along the old shoreline which became accessible as the Lough was drained in the 1800's and early 1900's.
With the morning dew spraying off my boots as I walked, I looked ahead down the path and could see the white tails of rabbits bobbing as they beat a hasty retreat to the sounds of my footsteps.
I left the woods and within a few minutes saw the shoreline of the Lough for the first time. I was captivated by the sheer peaceful tranqulility and just stood drinking in the beauty for a moment. I then walked around towards the Discovery Centre and immediately spotted the old ruined dock. Since it was so early, the morning sun was right in my eyes. I had wanted this shot with my wide angle lens and a nice symmetry however the sun was just too low so I walked off to the side and it was then that I saw the perfect shot. The leading lines of the dock and the clouds in the sky all pointed towards the sunrise.
A long time ago I heard the saying "If its not broke, don't fix it..." and so rather than convince myself that I needed a new camera body, I've continued to use my Fujifilm S5-Pro and Nikon D200. The S5 still has some of the best tones out there, for an old DX camera and I've become so familiar with it that I am always reluctant to use anything else. Even the D200, which is the foundation for the S5, pales by comparison.
So, my setup was Fuji S5 and Tokina Dx II 11-16mm and then the D200 with my Nikon 18-200mm.
This first shot was taken with the 18-200mm setup. Everything is subjective in photography. Every thing changes every single thing. For example in this image, with the 11-16, I was seeing just too much, I was losing my subject in the vastness of the water. That's when I knew the 18-200 was a much better option.
This next shot was taken with the Tokina 11-16mm lens with myself virtually laying on the dock and I had to keep changing position to get just the perfect shot with each of the posts in the right place. In the distance you can see the Discovery Centre. The smell of bacon and sausages was wafting over the water towards me. But my will power was stronger!
I think being a photographer is the best and the worst of things. We get to photograph things that we love, that speak to us, that move us. The downside is that so much of the work I do, like everyone else, is subjective and so I have to learn to accept critique and criticism. Not everyone will like what we like. I have come to love my landscape and Fine Art images and its as if I have never shot anything else. I love the symmetry of this shot, and I honeslty feel that black and white is the best medium for me to get the impact that I see in the shot.
As I walked around from the slip towards the Centre again, I decided to walk down a long path towards a bird-watching hut owned by the Sailing Club. I had seen this lonely boater paddling his canoe for some time and as I arrived at the point, he was almost up along side me. There is a perfect little viewing area directly below the hut and as I watched the boater I realised that his path would soon intersect the reflection of the now, well risen sun. I waited for my moment and click.... I had it.
I had a fantastic time at Oxford Island and I am sure that I'll be back again soon. If you like my images please share them using the share button which you can find by hovering your mouse over any of the photographs.
Until next time!
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..
I'm pleased to announce that I have won the SWPP Highly Commended Award twice this month, in 2 different catagories. A Highly Commended Award sits just below a Gold Award in the judging and so it is still a great achievement.
For the Landscape catagory, the Highly Commended Award was for the image above, taken at Ballycopeland Windmill about a month ago. It really is an honour to be judged at this level by professional imagemakers who know the craft so well and while they are not Gold Awards, they represent a continued development in my work.
This image won a Highly Commended Award in the Monochrome catagory, one of the busiest and most difficult catagories where there were some 89 entries.
It is very pleasing to see my work continue to improve and gain recognition. Highly Commended Awards can sometimes be reassessed and moved up to a Gold Award so please cross your fingers for me!! :)
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