Ireland Dunlewy

June 15, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Wednesday May 8th

I'd been studying this little valley on maps for over a year, trying to get my bearings on where everything is in relation to everything else, particularly Mt. Errigal. The picture in my head had everything much more spread out. But it was all quite compact and intimate with the mountain or The Glen as a background in just about every scene. It was just a stretch of the legs from one photo op to another. If only the light gods would give me favor. The first morning the sky was pretty flat so I went over to the abandoned village of Glenthornan, just across the lough. 




Then I grabbed a shot of The Church of The Sacred Heart, an active Catholic Church.


Then I drove (I wasn't in need of a stretch of the legs) back over to The Glen where there is an abandoned church which needed its picture taken. I could at least check out some compositions. The gorse was in full riot so that helped.


_8506926_8506926 By this time I figured my companions were up and ready to do something so I had a little day trip in mind with a good cloudy day subject. Just a thirty minute drive over to the coast was a shipwreck that the locals have dubbed "Bad Eddie". It has been there for fifty years now and the elements have done their work. But baring any massive storms it might be around a few more years. 

_8506954_8506954 _8506978_8506978 _8506996_8506996  Leaving there we took the scenic route down the coast to Dungloe and scouted up some lunch at  McCaffertys pub.

_8507018_8507018 There was a cool bridge right next door, built in 1762.


After lunch we continued down the coast road and this was some seriously spectacular scenery. The one lane road hugs the cliffs making it a great scenic drive. This was typical of Ireland's coast from Galway all the way around to Derry. Not many people, empty beaches, heart stopping scenery, just waiting patiently for us to come and see it. The rain came and went and I didn't want to stop for mediocre light so I don't have much to show you
I did get this of a Napoleon era watch tower. You can see how flat the sky is.


And this out the car window.


And on the way back we had to stop for this little cottage.

_8507086-Edit_8507086-Edit As we rolled back into Dunlewy we started seeing holes in the overcast. The light gods had finally taken pity on me so I hustled back to the spots I'd already scouted. All of the pictures below were taken within thirty minutes.


_8507056_8507056 _8507186_8507186 _8507199_8507199 My hopes that the clouds would totally break up for sunset did not come to pass. The overcast closed back up by then. I was hoping to get a better image of Mt Errigal before we left this magical place but I would make another try in the morning.

Thursday May 9th

As usual I got up and out early. The sky showed promise but the sun would be rising behind the mountain, not the most desirable arrangement. But you won't know if you don't try so I went down across Lough Dunlewy hoping to get some reflections of the mountain. But there was too much wind on the water for that. Here's what I wound up with. 


Then I tried to smooth out the water with a long exposure. This one was 60 seconds.

_8507263-Edit-Edit-Edit_8507263-Edit-Edit-Edit It looked like some of the morning light was getting into The Glen so I decamped back over there. Soooo so handy having everything close. 

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One more shot of The Glen before we headed west. Rumors that I had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of Dunlewy have been greatly exaggerated. I assure you it was nothing worse than the usual whining and sniveling. 



Ireland Derry and Fanad Head

June 10, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Monday, May 6

This was to be mostly a travel day, going into the Republic of Ireland with a long stop in Derry. Again the weather was dreary.

Derry is right on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It bills itself as the only remaining walled town in Ireland. One can do a pretty good self guided tour by walking the top of the wall and reading the signs. 


_8506145_8506145 As soon as I took this picture a field trip bus pulled up.


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But of course we could not come through Derry without paying a call to five of our best friends.

_8506124 (2)_8506124 (2) And then the true reason for this must stop in Derry came to light. In the picture below Jeanne Marie is asking this gentleman where to find  Derry Girls souvenirs. 


Then we drove into the Republic and up to Fanad Head where we had accommodations at The Tea Stop House, owned by a delightful couple, Gary and Anita. We were their first guests this year. 



 As soon as we got settled we went out to check out the lighthouse. On the way we encountered these cows apparently waiting for their supper. Or perhaps they are the official greeting committee.


Here's a first look at the lighthouse.


We all agreed that it was worth photographing so I came back for a sunset shot. 
The weather gods finally smiled on me and gave me some decent light.   _8506280_8506280

Before I closed up for the evening I moved over to what I expected would be my composition for the next morning.


If only this great sky will hold until then. 

Tuesday May 7th

I was back at the lighthouse for sunrise and the sky was great! 



Before we left Fanad Head I wanted to take a look at the Great Pollet Sea Arch. Pretty cool.


A good mornings work but we had to move on. We had a couple of castles to check out.


The one above is Doe Castle and it is a typical Norman keep with the typical outer wall, built at the edge of the tide zone which made a natural moat. We had access to the courtyard and the lower level of the keep.

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The second is Glenveagh Castle which was never a real castle. It was a manor house built in the 1800s to look like a castle. We toured the full interior, the grounds, and the gardens.

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About 5 PM we rolled into the village of Dunlewy, which sits astride the base of Mt. Errigal, the tallest mountain in Donegal. Our B&B was right at the base of the mountain and this was the view from the front door.


In the background is the most misnamed place in Ireland. Originally it was called An Gleann Neamhe, The Heavenly Glen but an Anglo cartographer misread the Gaelic and wrote it down as An Gleann Neimhe, The Poisson Glen. Once the maps were printed that way it could not be changed. When I refer to it in this blog I think it will just be "The Glen". I had high hopes for some images here if the light would cooperate. Below is a shot of Mt Errigal from across Dunlewy Lough. Our B&B is at the base of the mountain, just above that larger tree on the right. 


We would see what the light gods would grant for tomorrow.


Ballycastle Days 3 & 4

June 04, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Saturday May 4th

After the big day on Friday there wasn't much energy for getting up early. The sky was grey and flat anyway. But there were good subjects out there for this kind of light. We can start with the Dark Hedges, aka "The King's Road" in The Game of Thrones. They are simply a road lined with beech trees but they do make a dramatic image. This was Saturday of a three day weekend in the UK and we got there just in time to watch the tour busses unload. There was no way I could get a shot without people in the picture. I waited a good bit to get the one below, which I actually like, and there was a thundering herd right behind me that promptly marched into the frame. 


The trip was also worthwhile though for scouting. We walked the full length of the lane so I could check out compositions. I could get back here another morning. It was only eight miles from our B&B.

Dunseverick Castle and waterfall was next.

_8505697_8505697 There isn't much left of the castle but it sure has a great view!

The waterfall empties directly into the sea and was running strong. It should be with all of the rain we've had to endure. 


The drizzly weather moved back in while we were at the waterfall so we retreated to Ballycastle for the evening and a Saturday evening Mass. No sunset shot tonight. 

Sunday May 5th

I got up early to get another crack at the Dark Hedges. It was Sunday morning and there wasn't a soul in sight so this time, no excuses.

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Our main objective for the day was to tour the Bushmills distillery. They claim to be the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland and I guess with that caveat they might be right. 
But our tour was scheduled for the afternoon so we wandered over to Murlough Bay and Torr Head in the morning. These had not been on my A list of places to see, as I wasn't sure we would have time, but I'm glad we saw them. Murlough Bay is hard to capture, especially on a cloudy day, but it was a great spot. It is interesting how each of these little coves is so unique. 

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Torr Head is the closest point on the island to Scotland, which on a clear day can easily be seen across the Irish Sea. But not today. We waved to our friends Pam and Al anyway.


The distillery tour was interesting, any talk of whiskey is interesting, but not very photogenic because they wouldn't let us take pictures. They said it was due to the danger of explosion. I'd never heard such a thing. I think they just don't want 30 people running around with their phones trying to get selfies in front of the pretty copper pot. My camera did go off accidently a couple of times. And there was no explosion.  

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After the tour we went into Bushmills village for a late lunch and while the rest of the crew sat down to eat I wanted one more chance at Dunluce Castle which was just up the road, even though the sky was not too promising. A little squall was just passing over as I got there. 


The squall moved off but the sky didn't really clear up. These at least show promise in black and white.  _8506032-Edit-Edit_8506032-Edit-Edit

This was our last night in Northern Ireland. We would head into the Republic of Ireland in the morning.




Ballycastle & Rathlin Island

May 28, 2024  •  1 Comment

Friday May 3rd

 The high concentration of good photo subjects along the north coast of Co. Antrim allowed us to see a lot in a short time. No need to spend a lot of time on the road chasing something to photograph.  Plus the days are quite long in early May. Sunrise is about 5:30 and sunset about 9:15. We would be capitalizing on all this daylight.

While everyone was still sleeping I got up for the sunrise at Kinbane Castle, just a few miles up the coast. There is just a remnant of the castle and its outer walls but there is enough of the main tower to make interesting photos. I just caught the sunrise.

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The sun just peeped through a narrow window of clear sky and then slipped behind a good size cloud bank, taking all the color with it. But dark & moody can work too.


I got in a good round of shooting before I had to get back to town. We were catching a ferry to Rathlin Island. The big attraction for me is the big seabird rookery, including puffins. Everybody likes to photograph puffins and I this was my chance. After the 40 minute ferry ride we got on a bus that took us to the western tip of the island. If you've never seen one of these big seabird rookeries at nesting time they are always impressive. Many thousands of birds were nesting in this rather small cove.


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But not a lot of puffins. We were too early. There were only a dozen or so pairs building (or burrowing) nests. And they were too far away and way below us. The pictures below are shot with a 500 mm lens and cropped about 50%. 

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About an hour at the rookery is plenty so we rode the bus back to the harbor where there is actually a nice hotel and restaurant. Lunch was quite good. There are other things to do and photograph on the island but we were on foot. Tourists are discouraged from bringing their cars on the ferry. Bicycles or better yet e-bikes would be the way to explore this place. So we looked around the harbor while we waited for the ferry. The island has lots of seals and they seem indifferent to people, as long as their space is respected. No cell phone selfies with the seals please. 


By the time we got back to Ballycastle on the ferry our pretty blue sky had clouded over and the rain came soon after. That was okay. We needed to rest up anyway.

As we got into evening though, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a little so we thought this would be a good time to look at Giant's Causeway. This is a very unusual formation of hexagonal basalt columns that go right into the ocean. The basalt was ejected from a volcano. It is quite a popular spot but the rain had chased all the tourists away. I still had trouble finding a composition I liked though. The overcast was still hanging around so the light was very flat and the black basalt soaked up what little contrast we had. 




_8505629-HDR_8505629-HDR I'll have to try again next time. But we got in three attractions and had time for a nap. Pretty good day.


Ballycastle Day 1

May 22, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Thursday May 2

It was only an hour drive up to the north coast of Country Antrim. The town of Ballycastle would be our home base for four days. We dropped our luggage at our accommodations and headed out to explore. The weather had moderated. It was still overcast but the rain and wind were gone. So just up the coast is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The fishermen had been putting up this bridge every year for centuries, to get access to the little island where they could catch the salmon on their run. It is now done for the tourists. All fun and a great cliff walk on this very pleasant day.

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After lunch we hung out in Ballycastle for awhile and then with the sky lifting a little we headed west along the coast for a look at Dunluce Castle, hoping to get a sunset shot. I'll mention here that we are in "Game of Thrones" country. Much of the shooting for that series was done in this part of Northern Ireland and I believe Dunluce Castle was featured prominently. It is the most dramatically sited castle anywhere in Ireland. Part of it has already broken off and fallen into the sea. The sunset gods did relent and granted me a smidgeon of favor. 

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At that point we were out of light so we might as well go to the pub.

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