Creativity Month - Libraries NI & Smartphone Photography Workshops by admin

Libraries NI - Creativity Month 2014 - Smartphone Photography with Geoff McGrath Some time ago I was asked if I would be interested in the possibility of doing some workshops for Libraries NI.  March is their Creativity Month and Libraries NI wanted to look at Smartphone Photography, since it is a rapidly growing medium now gaining a measure of acceptance and in some cases even respect in the photography community.  LibrariesNI found my iPhoneography page on my website and so this is how things started.

 

 

Image property of PCPro.  With thanks.

 

 

A short time ago I found out that I had been chosen to run the workshops.  I've not been involved in training for a number of years and the possibility of getting back to it really excited me!

 

 

 

 

I've been playing with  smartphones since my first Blackberry 9000 which only had a 3.2mp camera.  There were no apps or ways to really do anything with the shots in-camera.  It was the same when I moved to my first Windows Phone, but when I made the move to iPhone suddenly a whole new world opened up to me... the Apps Store!  Since then I have been working with numerous apps, some with more success than others.

 

Holywood Library, the location of our very first Smartphone Photography Workshop on Wednesday, 5th March, 2014

The first workshop was in Holywood Library on the 5th March with the second to follow on the 19th in Dungannon Library.

 

I feel very privledged and thankful to LibrariesNI and particularly to Paula Gibson and Jane Moore (of Cultural Services) for all the help in getting organised.

 

 

The folks at Holywood have been great as well.  The branch manager, Jo Quinn was really engaged from the very start and she had her staff were so helpful in getting everything sorted for the day.

 

Tolstoy Letter from the Beloved  by Bob Weil

The workshops was 4 hours long and at first I thought, "How on earth can we fill 4 hours!?"   But the time flew in!

 

We looked at how Smartphone Photography has grown from its small beginnings to where it is today.   To illustrate this, we looked at the fantastic images at iPhoneArt.com to illustrate just how much one could do with an iPhone / Smartphone, like this one by Bob Weil.

 

 

 

 

The Art of iPhone Photography by BobWeil & Nicki Fitz-Gerald

 

 

Speaking of Bob Weil, I found his and Nicki Fitz-Gerald's book on the Art of iPhone Photography a fastastic resource!

 

If youare interested in this fantastic new photographic medium you need a copy of this book in your life!

 

 

It's available either in paperback or for Kindle.  The imagery is beautiful to say the least and I am loving working through the tutorials in it.  Already I've picked up so much about even basic things regarding Hipstamatic and that was just the first tutorial.  But, I digress!

 

Attendee listen as I explain Hipstmatic at the recent Smartphone Photography Workshop at Holywood Library

 

Back at the workshop, not only did we discuss what's possible, but I thought it was important to help folks understand how exactly to take good photographs.  After all, there's little point in having all the tools if you don't know how to see a great image and capture it!

 

We talked about all the great things that make up a strong image from composition, to exposure to camera height and perspective.  I think folks found that really helpful as we headed out into a practical session, both indoor and outdoor!

 

 

Smartphone Photography Workshop at Holywood Library with Geoff McGrath

 

From there we had a practical session where attendees photographed some fine art subjects as well as braving the rain to explore the Holywood Library building itself.

 

 

 

 

 

This shot was taken using the basic camera on my #iPhone 5 then was processed using #Snapseed, #BigLens, #Mystic, #Pixlromatic. After that, we have a look at how to process our images using the likes of #Instagram #Snapseed #Pixlromatic #Hipstamatic #MarbleCam #Leonardo and #Glaze.       Here are a few of my captures from the day...

 

 

We then finished with looking some more at how some of the apps worked as well as how to post them online in various social networks like Facebook, Pinterest, 500px, Instagram and Google+.

 

If you're interested in attending my next Smartphone Photography Workshop in Dungannon Library, places are limited to 15,  so contact the library directly to secure a place.

 

Maybe you'd like more information about iPhone or Smartphone photography, just send me a message via the site or connect with me on Facebook, Google+ or one of my other profiles.  Just look to the left at the bottom of the site menu and click on the buttons.

 

Following the Holywood Workshop, I was also asked about One to One sessions by some of the attendees.  If you have any questions or would like to book a session with me, contact me on 07703347943 or email me at training@geoffmcgrathphotography.com  for more information.

 

Geoff.

 

 

 

Dublin Trip - Monasterboice & Howth Lighthouse by admin

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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.

 

Monasterboice - Cross of Muineadach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Boyne Suspension Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  :(

 

 

LightTrac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Tides Near

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Howth Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Door at Howth

Revisiting Colour ... by admin

I am amazed at how dissatisfied our minds can be.  There is always that sense of "not quite yet..." when it comes to my photography.  I'm reminded of the song I heard on the radio this morning by U2, "I Still Haven't Found what I'm Looking For..."  Sometimes I wonder if we would KNOW "it" if it stood right in front of us!  

Well being dissatisfied is a 2 way street, isn't it?  A blessing... AND a curse, that's for sure!  As I continue to research and work more and more on my processes and for new ways to do things, this is what has happened.  I've ended up looking at things slightly differently.

 

While I love black & white, for me, still the best medium by far...  I still realise too that there is tremendous potential for the use of colour in my work, I just need to find a balance that I am happy with.  These next few images that I want to show you today, briefly, are just some of those outworkings.  I hope some day to be able to print some of these in larger formats for I would be intrigued just to see them big and bold!

 

I hope you enjoy these!  Please share them or like them, as "every little helps" (at least Tesco says it does!)

 

Take care

 

Geoff.

 

Sunrise Over Oxford Island

 

 

Sailing to the Lighthouse

 

 

Ship to Shore...

 

Lighthouse with a View

 

 

 

Fine Art Photography for 2014 by admin

Well with the New Year upon us, I've been thinking about how I want to process my work in 2014.  I will be looking to further develop my Landscape work, but as I move into the Year I look to definately work towards developing more towards a Fine Art perspective.  

With this in mind, I am working on developing a new page on this site, and will be creating a gallery of images with painterly-like effects.  I hope eventually to be able to offer prints to those interested.  Here are a few images for my collection, just to whet your appetite.

 

 

Albert Bridge at Night, Belfast - Geoff McGrath Photography - Northern Ireland

 

 

Titanic Christmas - Titanic Building - Christmas 2013

 

 

Park Bench - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath, Northern Ireland

 

 

Street Scene - Rome - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath, Northern Ireland

 

 

 

La Scuderia - Ferrari 308 GTS - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath, Northern Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

A 2013 Round-up & Happy New Year! by admin

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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.

 

Fine Art & Landscape Photography by Geoff McGrath, Donaghadee, Northern Ireland

Fine Art Panel Image by Geoff McGrath, Donaghadee Harbour

 

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."

 

Fine Art & Landscape Photography by Geoff McGrath, Donaghadee, Northern Ireland

 

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.

 

Life in a Hopeless Place - Gold Award Winner March 2013 SWPP

 

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.

 

Highly Commended (Silver) Award - Media Photography - May 2013 - Geoff McGrath

 

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.

 

Ballycopeland Windmill, Co. Down by Geoff McGrath

 

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.

 

Looking Out to Sea - Under the M3 by Geoff McGrath

 

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.

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

 

 

After the Dawn - Portstewart Strand - Geoff McGrath Photography

 

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!

 

Geoff (McGrath)

 

 

iPhoneography / Smartphoneography by admin

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Great Victoria Street Station, Belfast  

Most of us these days carry our phones every where don't we?  Smartphones are an everyday part of life.  Gone are the days that we missed the opportunity to capture an image because we didn't have our SLR's with us.  Now everyone can be a photographer.

iPhoneography - Downhill

 

Not only that....within the past 5 years we have seen amazing advances in technology.    Wireless and Bluetooth technology as well as 3G and 4G give us the ability to quickly transfer, upload and even print out photographs.  I'm sure many of you subscribe to daily deal websites such as Groupon, Wowcher, TreatTicket & LivingSocial to name a few.

 

Great Victoria Street Station

 

Recently I decided to try one of these offers and was able to upload a photograph from my Instagram account to a site and buy a 16x24 canvas and it only cost me £14.99.  The quality was not what you'd expect from a professional lab, like Loxley or One Vision, but it was good enough considering the price and the fact that the images were not high resolution.

 

Now we have something to print and share with others.  We can download the likes of Snapseed, VSCOCam, Exposer GL, Instagram & Camera Awesome.  I have to say the quality is pretty darned impressive.

 

Over the next while, I'm going to be looking at more detail into exactly whats involved in creating great images with your iPhone or Smartphone, so make sure you subscribe to my blog.

 

We'll be looking at various apps and well as covering the basics of creating great images.   If you have a bad photograph, all the apps in the world won't make it great.  But, they can make all the difference in turning a good into a fabulous one.

 

iPhoneography - On the Edge of Town

 

If you'd like to take a look at more of my iPhone images, click here.

 

Until next time...

 

Geoff.

Titanic Christmas by admin

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It's hard to believe that it's been a month or so since I last updated my blog.   This past month has been hectic with work and also studies.  I'm studying on 3 fronts at the moment (mad, yes, I know!)  So its been hard to get the time to get out and take photographs, as I'd like to.  

But last night, on my way back through Belfast, as I was crossing the flyover on the M3, I spotted the Titanic building in all its glory, like a glistening like a crown on the banks of the Lagan and so I decided to go and investigate as I had my camera gear with me.

 

Titanic Christmas

 

There was an lamp post smack in the middle of my view, so this meant I would have to get in closer and use my wide angle lens.  So I've used the Tokina 11-16mm lens.  This really is a smashing lens.. and fantastic value at about half the price of the Nikon  version.

 

I actually love the distortion around the edge of the image.  I think it draws the focus very definately towards the subject.

 

The way that the "Titanic" was filled with Christmas lights really helped set the image off.

 

At one point a PSNI landrover cruised past me and sat at the nearby traffic lights watching me to make sure I was up to no good... or is that the other way around?!   I always find its best to be straight-forward about how and what you do.

 

Anyway, have a Titanic Christmas in case I don't to say it nearer the time!!

October SWPP Awards by admin

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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

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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

Pulse rates soaring at 500px! by admin

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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....

 

Tree at Six Road Ends  and a  Fresco of Sunrise over Oxford Island

 

Check the links out, or if you're too lazy :P  ... here's the 2 images.

 

Fine Art - Geoff McGrath

 

Tree at Six Road Ends Bangor

 

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!

Geoff (McGrath)

 

 

Frescos from Oxford Island by admin

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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.

 

 

Fine Art by Geoff McGrath

 

 

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.

 

Fine Art - Geoff McGrath

 

 

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.

 

The Talking Tree - Fine Art Photography by Geoff McGrath

 

Oxford Island by admin

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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.

 

Sunrise over Oxford Island

 

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!

 

Oxford Island, The Dock

 

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.

 

Alone at Oxford Island

 

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!

Ciao.

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

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..

Geoff (McGrath)

The Newtownabbey Way by admin

These two images tonight of the Newtownabbey Way were taken last week while down at the Whiteabbey Beach.  It was a beautiful night and we had just come from an hours long walk along the beach.  I have wanted to explore this beach for some time, driving past it quite a few times over the past months as the old pier often caught my eye.  

The Newtownabbey Way taken at Whiteabbey Beach

 

The symmetry of this framework just grabbed my attention.  I have been really focussing on lines, context, and contrasting textures recently so when I saw this I couldn't resist it.  I stood at the bottom of a set of steps and adjusted my tripod to get a nice low perspective as I really wanted to explore the wood textures of the beams which would have been hidden otherwise.

 

The Newtownabbey Way taken at Whiteabbey Beach

 

Walking back the other way I noticed how the different perspective affected my thoughts about the frame.  I liked the railing and path leading the eye into the image.  But, I was also really taken with the growth of the vines around the frame at this end and loved how they seemed to smother the frame.

Geoff wins "SWPP Highly Commended Award" in 2 catagories by admin

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Ballycopeland Windmill, Co. Down by Geoff McGrath  

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.

 

Donegal Quay, Overlooking the River Lagan by Geoff McGrath

 

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!!  :)

Geoff McGrath

 

 

 

Fine Art by admin

Today sees the start of something special on this site, my Fine Art Page.  Right from the very concept stage of my Fine Art and Landscape images, I have had the intention to not just limit my work to solely landscape work.  

As the site progresses I may convert this page to a gallery.  My site is pretty much in its infancy at this stage so I will probably make some minor tweaks as time goes by.

 

So the first image I want to share with you is entitled Antique Elegance.

 

Antique Elegance by Geoff McGrath, Fine Art Photographer

 

My task was first of all to produce an image heavily influenced by a classic portrait painting and I chose the classic Vermeer painting, the Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Part of my reproduction was understanding the image and the lingering fact that I came away with was that noone really truly knows who this girl was.  Some believe it was Vermeer's own daughter, others, a maid working in the household.

 

Girl_With_a_Pearl_Earring---Fine-Art-Portrait---Geoff-McGrath

 

As I approached the second part of my task, I wanted to continue with that theme of mystery and yet maintain the connection with pearls.

Working together with a make-up artist Julie Gould and model Nikita Tully we came up with a few different twists on this classic theme.

Here are just a couple more images which came out of that creative process.

 

 

Girl with a Pearl Bracelet - Geoff McGrath Fine Art Photography

 

In this image I just loved the beautiful peaceful quality that I achieved by the softening of the image.  The contrast has been adjusted to give the photography a less dramatic and more atmospheric feel.

Covering one eye just adds to the element of mystery.  A lot of the little ideas such as this were honestly Nikita's ideas.  It was such a priviledge to work with someone who was really comfortable with herself and how to appear relaxed and at her very best every time.

 

Girl With Pearls 2 - Geoff McGrath Fine Art Photography

 

 

Deep in thought is the feeling this image gives me.... You are drawn into this singular moment in time where the Girl with the Pearls pauses.... and reflects... on a memory.   What was she thinking about?

 

 

Girl with Pearls 3 by Geoff McGrath

 

This last idea was one that was more of a fashionista / glamor shot.  We decided to push the boat out and do something really creative.  Something edgy and totally different from the rest of the things we had tried.

Of course, I had to ensure that we stayed on course as far as the brief was concerned.  I wanted to maintain the key elements of the pearls as well as the mysterious feel of the original.  The lipstick colour was also important as, in the original painting, the girls lips are quite a bright red in contrast to her clothing.

Of all the images that we achieved in this shoot, my personal favourite is this one, but I am always drawn back to rework the others because I feel they all have so much to still give.  The top image is the result of one of these rework sessions.

 

Geoff McGrath

 

 

Donaghadee Lighthouse weathering the Storm by admin

Storm over Donaghadee by Geoff McGrath  

 

In January 2013, Northern Ireland saw some of the worst storm weather we have seen for some years.  Like most people, I have been happy to just sit at home and catch it on TV but this year I was reminded that the weather would be dramatic.  I needed to get out in it and capture the drama and raw power of the wind and the sea.

 

I got all my equipment ready and off I headed down to Donaghadee Lighthouse.  This image was shot approx 5pm.  In the end, the only equipment I needed was my camera, 18-200mm lens and my tripod.  It was all to do to just get the tripod set up and the camera on it!  The wind was so strong that I was finding difficulty just standing!  Thankfully I found this spot directly in front of the sea wall and firmly grounded my tripod there.  This position gave me a great view not only of Donaghadee Lighthouse but also of the rough seas outside of the safety of harbour walls.

 

Low light at the best of times creates the issue of camera shake.  But surely, thats what the tripod is there for... so I don't have worry about things like that? Right?   That's only true when letting go of your tripod won't take it hurtling down the street into the local chip shop!  So, I had to grab it as firmly as I could, holding as still as I could....pushing all the weight down towards the ground.  Focusing was not too easy either.

 

For me though, the shot captures all the raw emotion and excitement of the moment perfectly.  I always look for new and different ways to photograph Donaghadee Lighthouse and capturing it while being battered by the elements is a first for me.

 

Every image we create should evoke an emotion and for the taker, a vivid memory.  If it does for you, please leave a comment below.   :)

 

Geoff McGrath

 

 

Belfast at Night by admin

Lagan Weir, Belfast by Geoff McGrath  

I decided to go into Belfast during the Belsonic Festival and found the city surprisingly peaceful.    Walking down the Quay, Lagan Weir, caught my eye.  I wanted to try and capture the peaceful vibe, despite the festival that was taking place just over the river behind Custom House in the Square.

 

As you can see the cloud cover was excellent and made for some very dramatic images

 

Across the Weir, Belfast - Cityscapes

 

 

Looking Out to Sea - Under the M3 by Geoff McGrath

 

 

Donegal Quay provided a beautiful view down the River Lagan out towards the Irish Sea.

 

 

 

Formerly St Malachy's Christians School located on Oxford Street, Belfast

 

A walk down Oxford Street reminded me that in among the modern buildings, like the Waterfront Hall and Laganside Magistrates Courtof there was a beautiful little reminder of the past in the form of the now unused St Malachy's Christian Brothers School.  The school opened in 1874 and served as a school until it closed in 1972, although intake to the school stopped in 1966. I'm sure that some former pupils will have interesting memories of their time there.   Until recently the old school was in use as offices for a solicitor's practice.

 

Waterfront Hall, Belfast, by Geoff McGrath Photography

 

My walk took me down past the Waterfront Hall.    Normally the Hall is bustling with activity, but tonight it was quite and uneventful.  I decided to leave the reflections from the streetlights in the image as, to me, it adds to the character of the shot.

 

Reflecting on Queens Bridge by Geoff McGrath

 

The final image taken from my last night tour of the Queen's Bridge area is of the Bridge itself.   Walking up the side of the Waterfront Hall, it brought me to the banks of the Lagan again, and as I walked up the Quay the beautiful reflection of the bridge in the water was something I could not ignore.

 

Check out the gallery to see more images at http://www.geoffmcgrathphotography.com/belfast-at-night/

 

 

500px Page by admin

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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.

Thanks

Geoff.

Geoff McGrath - Landscape - Fine Art - Photography - Northern Ireland - County Down - County Antrim - Scapes

Carrickfergus Harbour - Audacious & an Old Friend by admin

Recently I visited Carrickfergus Castle and Harbour.  When I arrived I was totally suprised to see Audacious and her Old Friend in dry dock in the Harbour  

Old Ships in Carrickfergus Harbour

This looked very precarious to say the least! Two days later when I returned to the Harbour, the larger ship had fallen over!  That is what makes the presence of the people in this shot so important, they are totally oblivious to the danger they are in.

 

Audacious, Carrickfergus Harbour August 2013

 

I just loved the textures and colours in this shot.  My favourite colours are (strangely..) black and everything in the "teal" range, those greeny blues.  So when I saw this I knew I needed to photograph this on in colour!  They were truly amazing.  Because I know nothing of them really, I've no idea how long they will be there!

 

Old Boat at Carrickfergus

 

This is a shot of the second ship and it captures the feeling of decrepide decay and the sense that this ship has not seen good times for many years!  I just love the textures fighting their way to the  surface!

 

Carrickfergus Harbour on a stormy evening

 

Finally I managed to get another lovely shop inside the curve of the harbour itself.  The sky was wonderfully dramatic!

 

Thanks for taking time to look at my work.  If you like it, please send others to my site and blog... much appreciated ;)

Geoff.