Greig Houghton Photography
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Irish Landscape and Travel Photography Blog

Coastal Visions Workshop – Pt 2

Day 2 started before dawn.  Arriving in the pitch black still weary from the interrupted trip to the land of dreams, the minibus was deathly silent as we disembarked with our gear in tow.  The taste of salt in the air confirmed we were near, the soft lapping of the waves provided the soundtrack.  On the beach, the outline of Ballinskelligs Castle or the McCarthy Mór Tower House as it is also known, was barely visible through the last of the night sky.  The cyclopean remains of the long abandoned window,  slowly awaking with the dawn light to guard the bay.

The above photo was one of the last shots of the morning as the tide slowly made its way to make us retreat from the sand bar we were shooting from .  Sunrise was slow to materialise as the night turned to the dawn, twilight and then to day with no real drama in the skies.  I had accepted that it was not to be when from nowhere the skies were suddenly streaked with a pink tint contrasting against the last of the blue twilight clouds.   This provided the contrast needed to provide some interest to the sky in the photo and which the long exposure would emphasise to provide the drama. The incoming tide was just sufficient to provide the merest hint of a reflection of the McCarthy Mór Tower.

After breakfast, we returned the short journey back to Ballinskelligs Bay but this time to the adjacent Ballinskelligs Abbey.  The 13th century abbey comprises a range of ruined buildings with the attached graveyard containing graves dating from all ages from the origin of the abbey through to modern day graves.  I struggled to find a composition, but in the end went for the old faithful leaning gravestone with the abbey forming the background.  It is not one of my strongest images from the workshop, but included it anyway. The middle shot was taking just to the west of the abbey and over the seawall you can see in the background of the abbey shot.  The photo features horse island in the middle ground with the mainland of County Kerry across Ballinskelligs Bay in the background.  Again, a long exposure was used to smooth the water of the bay and provide some drama to the sky.  The last of the three photos was taken on the way back to the minibus.  I had missed the gravestone on my first lap of the abbey, but it caught my eye the second time around. I love when nature starts to take back over so this shot appeals to me with the hedge slowly enveloping the gravestone from behind like some 50's horror B movie. The skeletal like twigs growing out of the top of the hedge also add to the overall theme of the photo.


Continuing around the Skellig Ring, we arrived at a small pier hidden within a smuggler's cove in St Finan's Bay.  The tight cove provided the ideal frame for the iconic Skellig Islands which project upwards from the distant horizon.  The sea at the pier was an amazing cobalt blue colour, but I couldn't resit going for the moodyness of  black and white.

St Finian’s Bay Pier
St Finian’s Bay Pier

Moving on again, we  climbed steadily through a series of hairpin bends to the top of the Coomanaspig pass. Leaving St Finan's Bay and the Skelligs behind us, the pass forms the only way across a impenetrable ridge of  Knocknaskereighta which divides the Ballinskelligs Peninsula in half. To the west, the tips of vast Atlantic sea cliffs were just visible and to the north the town of Portmagee and the valley spreading out below.  We stopped for a late lunch in Portmagee before continuing inland  and north to Lough Carragh which would be our final destination for the day for sunset.  At the location, we split into two groups with the first group concentrating on the pier with the second group working a little further down at a mooring of small rowing boats.  I grabbed a quick shot of the pier before heading down to the boats which were of more interest to me.

I was concentrating on getting a shot of the boats rocking gently on the lough using a long exposure to generate the movement when I noticed a little patch of reeds.  I had this shot in my head for a few months and I was waiting on the right situation to capture it.  I wanted a minimalist abstract of the reeds and their reflection with nothing else in the frame.  I had always pictured this as black and white, but by that time, the sky had taken on a little colour which was being reflected in the lake.  The image came out with the subtlest hues of peach and purple and I knew I had my differentiator from other similar photographs. The final photograph was composed to take advantage of the other main feature of the lough which were the tall reeds.  Again,  I wanted the movement of the reeds and the boat in the lough using the long exposure to capture it and also to enhance the reflections in the glass like surface of the water. The orientation of the shot captured positioned the wind direction from front to back and gave the streaky effect in the clouds.

Lough Caragh Boats
Lough Caragh Boats