Tough Conditions….

Should we shoot in tough conditions when the light is not at its best? Being an Irish landscape photographer, I am often left with a simple choice – shoot or go home. With a week off work and not having been out with the camera for quite a while – 2 days shooting were in order. The days chosen gave very tough conditions where many would have simply chosen not too bother.

Day 1

Mist and fog were forecast. Glendalough looked like a definite winner as the leaves were in full fall color. Visions of beautifully reflected colour mirrored on the water with mist rolling through the background filled my mind all evening.

What greeted me the following morning was far from ideal. Overcast, windy weather looked like the order of the day. I headed off regardless as I had not been to this location since I was a child. Worst case scenario, I could scout it’s potential for another time. After a little exploration I found a spot at the edge of the lake with the old reliable clichéd branch in the water and waited for dawn. The sunrise never appeared. Instead, rain and drizzle blew head on at the camera. Stood there waiting 2 hours with the camera covered up, a clearance never arrived. Grabbing a quick image and as crowds started to arrive and leaving was the only option left.

I converted it to mono in an effort to make something from an otherwise unremarkable morning. 

Deciding to follow the Sally gap home proved a mistake. Rain and drizzle made conditions very difficult for driving. The sunglasses eventually had to make an appearance as my eyes hurt from the bright glare. It was time to call it a day and admit defeat.

Day 2

Seeing very mixed weather forecasts, it was hard to know whether to retry Glendalough and the surrounding area or head for the old reliable north coast. Southern reports were for similar tough conditions to what I had already dealt with. Northern reports were giving blue skies with a chance of cloud. With a heavy heart, I decided at the last minute that the best chances lay north – Glendalough would need to wait for another year.

The next morning I was shocked at how wrong the forecasts had been. Low hanging cloud swept across the skies. Oxford Island was stop one – another dull sunrise made a full breakfast an early option. Heading up the road we made an impromptu stop at Calument in Belfast. My first time here, I was impressed by the range of goods on offer. Thankfully there is not one in Drogheda because the credit card would be in trouble every month.


With the tide out, we made our way to Portcoon Jetty. I previously discovered the hard way that high tide does not suit this location. A little wind is also required whip up some wave action bringing a little movement into the shots. Conditions were perfect. An hour was spent trying various compositions and waiting on the right wave. The result won’t win competitions but it is a perfect representation of the conditions experienced on the day in hand.


Next stop – Dunseverick Waterfall. I’d been here on a couple of occasion’s during the summer. Unfortunately, there never seemed to be much of a flow from it. The recent rains had changed this. I found it a particularly difficult location to shoot as the rocks were wet and very slippery. The tide was almost in full and any attempt to get near the edge meant dicing with the possibility of a swim. Large swells of waves blew in unexpectedly every 3 to 4 minutes making the location even more unpredictable. I made what I could and called it a day before disaster struck. By the time I had climbed out and looked back, the waves were washing in exactly where I stood so it had been the right call in the end. 


Final stop of the day – Ballycastle beach. There had been no sunset colour due to the low heavy cloud. It was dark on arrival but I took a walk down onto the sand regardless. The wash on the beach was beautiful as the waves lapped in around the steps and surrounding rocks. I stood for around 15 minutes experimenting with a few simple long exposures in almost complete darkness. It amazes me just what our cameras can create even in darkness.

In Conclusion

As a time poor amateur, I gotta shoot when I can regardless of tough conditions experienced. Waiting on perfect light before heading out is a luxury I don’t have. Instead, I have to somehow make what lies in front of me work to a degree. These images won’t win competitions, they won’t sell, they more than likely won’t even make it to a print. So why bother I hear you ask? The answer is as simple as it is cliched. My photography is not about getting the shot – its about the experience of being out there. I love being at the coast listening to those waves breaking or washing in. Each of the images above convey this mood exactly.     

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One Comment

  1. Michael November 17, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    “My photography is not about getting the shot – its about the experience of being it there.” I feel a bit of contradiction there, but understand it entirely. Having a daytime job combined with my laziness chasing the best light is not my prime objective either, as simple as that. And yet, if I happen to be that lucky to get the light, I’m as happy as Larry:). No matter how amateur or professional we feel about landscape photography, we ALWAYS thrive to get the most out of the image (and I don’t necessarily mean playing with it in Photoshop) so that it reflects the moment spent out there, rewarding as it was and as it is. That is why we keep coming back to locations we were before, that is why we explore places we haven’t been to before. And then archive memories of being there in a form of image the best way we can.

    Or am I wrong?

    Keep up the good work, Graham!

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