Greig Houghton Photography
Landscape, Street and Travel Photography


Irish Landscape and Travel Photography Blog

Coastal Visions Workshop - Pt 3

We head west until we can go west no more, the edge of Ireland, the edge of Europe, only the wild Atlantic beyond.  The single track road clings to the sheer cliff face, blind bend after bend, a small stone parapet all thats stands between the wheel and the Atlantic below. We round another switch back , fording a small stream, the interlocked cobbled road of the ford polished smooth by the constant flow of water as it plunges to the depths below.  Finally we reach the head, sheep grazing on the slopes above our heads, the Blasket Islands revealed, the last barrier between Dingle Bay and the open vastness of the Atlantic.

The final day of the Coastal Visions Workshop was mainly held on the spectacular Dingle Peninsula.  The 30 mile long peninsula is characterised by a spine of  mountains dominating the middle of the peninsula from the Slieve Mish range at junction with the mainland culminating in Ireland's second largest mountain, Mount Brandon, on the northern edge of the peninsula.  Beyond the mountain, the land is shaped by the power of the blue ocean carving  sheer faced cliffs, golden beaches and secluded coves. Our group would focus on Slea Head at the western extent of the Peninsula commencing at Coumeenoole  Beach, heading west to Dunquin Pier and Clogher Beach before looping back around to Kinard Beach for the sea stack An Searrach (The Foal).

For sunrise, we remained near Cahersiveen heading to the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle. The remains of the castle held much promise, but sadly a largely overcast start to the day did not provide the ideal conditions for shooting.  Thus we left our base and our hopes for the day with the Dingle Peninsula.

The sharp shark fin shaped rocks at Coumeenoole Beach were the main focus of our first destination.  Our little group tightly packed into a small cove just beyond the main beach.  However, the highlight of the day was next up with Dunquin Pier. I've seen a few photos of the pier over the year and it has been on my bucket list for Ireland.  The steep path snaking up the cliff face from the Atlantic below, the Blasket Islands in the background.  I was nervously standing at the top of cliff, capturing a side view of the pier beside Rohan who was explaining a photo he had seen where sheep were landed at the pier and then lead up the winding path to the top of the cliffs.  As he finished his story, a small inflatable rib boat arrived full of sheep. It was almost as he had organised for the workshop!!  We waited until another two boats had landed and offloaded the sheep onto the end of the pier where they were held in place by a shepherd and sheep dog. Once they were all in place, they were let go to make there way up the hill.  I waited until the line passed through the 'S' shape bend to capture the moment.  That shot in the bag, I made my way round to the path down to the pier where I captured a different angle which can be seen in the feature image at the top of the post.


The workshop finished with what was to be a fitting  conclusion, saving the best for last in terms of both landscape and weather.  Returning back around the loop to Dingle we stopped at Kinard Beach.  There is no reward with out some pain first as we realised or destination was not in fact the beach but the cliff head above the beach.  A short sharp climb later we had reached the first of the coves which provided views towards sea stack An Searrach, the ultimate goal on our short trek. At this point the group split and some of us continued around the cove to next section of headland.  Looking back, the golden glow of the setting sun was highlighting the skies, the breathless wind leaving the bay untouched.  This was exactly the situation that I had recently purchased a long telephoto lens for.  The lens allowed me to isolate a section of the headland and the golden glow in the skies.  The long focal length compressing the concertina folds of the headland in the early evening haze of the late autumn sun.

The sun continued to fall, gold morphing to pink hues, the bay still uncharacteristically flat. The wide angle lens this time, the flatness of the sea emphasised by the 15 second exposure length, the subtle curves of the currents and tides meandering along the bay.

Continuing along the cliffs between adjacent coves we found our view point of An Searrach.  Named in Irish as the foal, for me the sea stack more resembles the wing-adorned sandals of the greek god Hermes, the olympian god of travel amongst many other things.  Some of the more sure footed mountain goat like members of the group ventured further down, but for me, it was far enough as I inched closure to the edge. At ninety degrees to the setting sun, the pink hues are more subtle barely reflected in the thin veil of high atmospheric cirrus clouds while the sole low level cumulus cloud remains pristine white.  The long exposures smooths out the sea with the exception of the break water which loses its form but generates interesting curves and patterns around the stack.  Turning through ninety degrees again, 180 degrees from the setting sun, the moon rise has occurred, a bright fleck of white amongst the blue and pinks. A spectacular way to conclude the workshop.


This was the first multi-day workshop I have attended and I could not have been happier with my decision.  Great tutors, organisation and subject matter are the fundamentals of any workshop and the Coastal Visions workshop excelled in all three.   The forth factor is of course the weather which is controlled by no one except mother nature herself.  The three days we had in Co Kerry we unreal.  For a late October workshop, it felt more like late summer.  Not a breath of wind, mild, no rain, but some cloud around to keep the skies interesting. Congratulations to Rohan Reilly and Athena Carey on a brilliant workshop.