Greig Houghton Photography
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Irish Landscape and Travel Photography Blog

Morning Mist, Sally Gap, Co Wicklow, Ireland

Waiting for the light.  

Waiting to leave for Wicklow Mountains in the pre-dawn dark hours I was greeted with a sight I had waited 31 years of my life to see. It lasted a mere fraction of a second but its journey has been a whole lot longer.  My morning was greeted with a shooting star.  Already the early morning rise was justified and I hoped it would be the just start of things to come.

Our destination that morning was the Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains.  We parked up in on the old military road, set up and out tripods looking west down the valley towards Kippure and waited for the sun to rise.  The mist was thick obscuring the telecommunications mast on top of Kippure Hill, so we were hoping for the slightest break to allow the morning light to flood the valley.  Several times the mist, rolling down the valley from the Tonduff mountain at our back, started to break but soon obscured the valley once again.   Timing was critical.

Our hopes were starting to fade when the first signs of morning colour started to appear in the clouds over Ballynabrocky hill down in the valley.  If only the mist would lift. Suddenly a break appeared. I fired off a number of frames before the mist rolled in. I recomposed to the portrait format hoping for a panorama in the next break.  We waited and waited.  Several times I looked like it would break but didn't.  Sadly when it did break again, the colour in the light was gone.

Undeterred we packed up and continued on with our morning. Heading down into the valley to capture some shots of the fast flowing streams carving there way down the valley.  Our first stop was beside a small bridge.  The bridge is relatively modern and not particularly attractive, but beside the bridge are two wonderful old trees which have grown and bent to mother natures demand and now seem to point back in the valley in the direction of the road.  With the heavy morning mist still obscuring the mountains but with a rich blue sky above I felt the shot had the potential for a nice black and white.  The dark valley and bright sky and clouds above the mist created a high dynamic range requiring a bracketing of exposures to capture the full details.

I love the sky in the first of these two image with a slight bend in the road providing a leading line into the distance.  However, I could only get a single tree from this angle and you dont quite get to see the full distortion of the tree.  The second image displays the trees to their full beauty.  I also prefer the full curving dipping road in the second.  At the time I was slightly worried that the modern bridge parapets would distract from the image, but I think they blend in ok.  The sky does not quite have the interest of the first image, but all lines lead to the morning lights which is trying to break through the mist which I quite like.  I can't decide which image I prefer; sometimes it is the first image and sometimes the second.

Breaking for breakfast and a cup of warming tea we caught sight of our first deer of the day.  On the ridge of the nearby hill at nearly a kilometer away, it was but a distance spot on the horizon but through binoculars we confirmed it was a stag which was mostly likely a silka cross-breed.  Once we had the stag we soon found his pack of hinds.  October is the rutting season and the Stag can be very protective of his territory and hinds.  We called him using the a deer caller which imitates the call of a rival stag.  The stag responded with his own call but refused to come any closer as we were sitting up wind and quite visible next to our cars. Still it is always great to gain sight of wild animals in their natural territory.

One of our group is a wildlife photographer so he took us on to another area in the mountains where there are regular sightings of deer.  It also happens to be next to a stream which meant I got the best of both worlds.  After a short walk upstream I came across this stretch of water.  I was immediately attracted to the group of moss covered rocks with drew the eye into the tree in the background which was growing out over the river bank.  Luckily the river was quite shallow allowing me to step out into the middle of the group of mossy rocks to get this shot.  The base exposure was half a second which allowed a little blurring of the water, but I bracketed the image to allow for the difference between the foreground and retain detail in the clouds and sky.  I used to a polarising filter to cut through some of the reflection in the water exposing the gravelly river bed in the shallows between the rocks. A little tidying cleared away a few fallen leaves leaving only the single leave in the foreground of the shot.  This is quite a simple shot but I like the contrast of the green mossy rocks and the golden river bank and leave.  The wind was doing its best to remove my leave from the scene so it needed a few attempts to get it right.