Greig Houghton Photography
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The Burren and Lahinch, Co Clare

All images © Greig Houghton 2012

My wife reached a a major milestone brithday last month for which I treated her to a weekend in County Clare followed by a night in Tipperary.  We stayed at the Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna for two nights followed by a night in the Old Convent, Clogheen.  Both places have a great reputation for food and they did not let us down in this regard.  The Old Convent particulary stood out for their amazing hospitality and the quality of the establishment.

This was our first visit to Co Clare and with major landmarks including the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, the camera bag and tripod was packed along for the trip.

The weather was distinctly overcast for the weekend and with the nature of the trip for my wife's brithday, there was always going to have to be a comprimise on the times available for shooting.  This meant usually shooting in sub-optimal times, but I was not going to be detered.

The Burren is an incredible place resembling a lunar landscape at times but also with a rich variety of small flowers and plants.  I had been forewarned that the Burren is a difficult to scene to capture and I largely agree with this sentement.  However, the limestone pavement provides some great lines and textures if shot wisely.

We arrived mid afternoon which allowed us to have an early evening meal before heading out at dusk to visit one of the Burres most famous landmarks Poulnabrone Dolmen - a portal tomb dating to the Neothlitic period.  The tomb has been photographed from nearly every angle so getting an unique image was tricky and is not helped by the rope barrier erected to protect the structure.  Photoshop would be required later to overcome this problem.

Sadly, the overcast skies hid the sunset, but at least this time in the evening minimised the amount of people around.  The blanket overcast skies ruled out a long exposure so opted for a pano instead.  Shooting low to emphasize the lead lines generated by the limestone pavement, I placed the horizon on the upper third to lose as much as the bland sky as possible and use a fortuneately placed rock as some foreground interest.  With a lack of colour in the sky and the generally greys of the Burren, I shot with a black and white image in my mind.   The final result is shown in the feature images at the top of the post.

The next day we decided to take a tour of area using the coastal road as our guide which would take us up from Lahinch to the Cliffs of the Moher and then on to Doolin and around the head to Ballyvaughan.  Lanich is famous for it surfing and the waves were crashing onto the promenade that morning.  The promenade featured several small slips into the sea which I knew immediately would be perfect for some black and white long exposures.  The overcast day helped me extend the exposures to a sufficient length of time to blur the movement in the sea using my 10-stop ND and my polariser to give another 2 stops of time.

Next up were the Cliffs of Moher which I knew from the out was going to be extremely difficult.  The light was poor, the skies overcast and a lot of people around.  I shot a few panos and tried a few long exposures, but generally wasn't that happy with them.  Visiting the Cliffs from the top, you don't really get a sense of the size, scale and impact of the cliffs.  Yes, they look high and somewhat spectular, but I was left feeling that I did not get the full sense of how high they really are.  I think you would get a much greater sense of scale from a boat looking up rather than looking down.

My next opportunity to shoot was the following day after we checked out from the hotel.  We stopped on our way to Tipperary to walk a short section of the Burren Way.  We decided to walk the Mullaghmor loop which takes you along the side of Lough Gealáin Turlough (a seasonal lake) before rising up, over and Mullaghmor (Irish: Mullach Mór, meaning "Great Summit") then back around. The summit is at a level of 180m.

The image I had in my head for the walk was the swirling think bands of limestone wrapping around the neighbouring peak of Sliabh Rua.  The opportunity for this shot would come after we reached the summit of Mullaghmor and commenced the decent for the return loop.  The spot was also provide views of the the famous 'Father Ted' house which was used for the legenard comedy series about two Irish priests on the fictional Craggy Island.

As I set-up my tripod for the shot the rain started which was just headvy enough to cause spots on the lens and make life really difficult to capture panos or long exposures.  We were lucky there was some shelter provided by a small tree (one of the few on the hill) and waited out the rain.  A brief 5 minutes later, the rain lifted to the reveal the start of the most glorious blue sky puffy cloud day.  Time to get the shot.

We walked back around to the start of the trail in glorious sunshine where I stopped to get one last shot of a lone tree with the Turlough and the mountains in the background. From there it was onto Tipperary for a relaxing evening with great food and wine in the wonderful Old Convent.