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!!.

Tranquility at Oxford Island by admin


  Tranquility over Oxford Island




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


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


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


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


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


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


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



October SWPP Awards by admin


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.


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


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...



After the Dawn - Portstewart Strand - Geoff McGrath Photography


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.



Baywatch - Portstewart by admin


This past weekend saw me up at the North Antrim Coast again on the Baywatch set!  ;) Baywatch, Portstewart


This is just a little teaser of what I was up to.  At the moment I've a pretty heavy workload on so it might take a little time to get more images up from this latest trip...we'll see how it goes.    I had hoped to have my new Hitech 10 stop ND filter with me to capture some stormy weather, but Royal Mail saw fit to take the proverbial, so I decided to do what I do best...  just go out in the worst weather and see how wet I could get without soaking my gear.  Mission accomplished, then! lol.

I love the simplicity of this first photo. It just jumped out at me the minute I started to look around me.  I'd taken some photos on a portrait shoot around this old lifeguard station a couple of years ago and I think its really got character.


After the Dawn - Portstewart Strand - Geoff McGrath Photography

After the Dawn - Portstewart Strand


This image was taken about 9am on a surprisingly calm Sunday morning.  While we were hearing tales of the extreme conditions elsewhere in the UK, we were experiencing beautiful calm and mild weather for October.  I've processed this image concentrating on nice tonal contrast and then used Nik's HDRExPro software to lift the colour out.


Stairway to Heaven - Portstewart - Geoff McGrath Photography


I was reminded of Stairway to Heaven when I saw this and was tempted to make some of those railings at the top 'disappear' but I didn't think it right to remove them just for the sake of a title!  :)  This shot was taken with the 11-16mm Tokina.


Portstewart - The Old Convent - B&W - Geoff McGrath Photography


I've always found that there's more than one way to skin a cow and this is cetainly true when it comes to photography.  The most common view of the old convent (now a school) is from the Promenade and you'll find that shot earlier in my portfolio.  I decided I wanted to see it from the other side just as the sun was rising.  I was rewarded with this beautifully peaceful image of the Old Convent looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.


Geoff McGrath

Unseen Donaghadee by admin

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...  


Forgotten Donaghadee



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.



Donaghadee Coast

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.  

Coastal Trees

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.  

Warren Road, Donaghadee

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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..

Geoff (McGrath)