Lough Tay Sunset, Co Wicklow, Ireland
I woke up to the alarm clock on Friday morning to hear the latest weather forecast predict the return of frost and cold weather for the weekend. My wife cursed, but I smiled as I knew the chances of a great sunrise has just risen significantly and immediately started to plan my weekend.
The best of the weather of was forecast for Sunday so I began to plan a seascape shoot so hit my usual research tools of Google earth, Google+, Flickr and the Photographer's Ephemeris to find a great location. I shoot a lot of landscapes and in particular a few lakes, but recently I have had the urge to go shoot the sea. I live in the East and only an hour from the coast, so it is surprising that I haven't tried seascapes more often.
Come Saturday afternoon, I was kicking around the house and noticed that the weather was clearing nicely for the sunset so I had to grab my camera and head out shooting. The only problem is that I started to get into bad habits after my shoots and I had a dawning realisation that my camera battery was less than half full. My trip was delayed as I gave the battery a quick boost leaving it as late as I dared before leaving the house.
I had previously visited Lough Tay in the Wicklow mountains once before for an extremely disappointing sunrise shoot and vowed to return in the future to this stunning location. Sitting in my house on Saturday, I knew it was time to visit the Wicklow mountains again.
I arrived in good time and set up on the hill above the north east of the Lough just beyond the stone wall at the roadside. From my previous visit, I struggled to get much foreground interest or lead-in lines from this side of the Lough and this time was not much better. Combine this with a large clump of cloud over Luggala which was hiding the setting sun I headed further along the side of the Lough in search of a better spot and hoping for that cloud to move.
I tried another few locations but still wasn't happy. However, the sun was starting to move out from behind the cloud so ran off a few bracketed exposures. I am yet to invest in a neutral density soft graduated filter but it is very rapidly becoming a priority for me. At the moment, I am restricted to shooting bracketed exposures and then blending in post-processing. I try and keep my landscape HDR as real as I can, but I am increasing getting frustrated by the results and hence the desire for the ND grad. The image below is a five bracket exposure which I blended using exposure fusion in Photomatix.
I continued around the Lough to nearer the southern shoreline and that was when I was the fence. The fence was located in the valley between two slopes with both the valley and the fence leading the eye into the photo. By this time the last of the sun was still in the sky, still hidden in the cloud, but reflecting the subtlest hints of pink and orange in some of the lesser dense clouds. I grabbed my shot, the lead image at the top of the post, again using a bracketed exposure which was then tone mapped in Photomatix.
Once I had the shot In the bag, I knew the light wasn't getting any better so decided to try something different and blur the clouds using a long exposure. I once again paid the price of my bad habits as I could not remove my polarising filter which I had left on since my last filter. I switched to my 17-70mm lens, but I lost the composition I had with the 10-20mm. Another lesson learned.
With the cloud refusing to move I decided to call it a day with doubts rising in my mind about the seascapes shoot planned for the following morning.