Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ancient Trees at Reenroe Beach, Ballinskelligs

All right, they are only what is left of trees, buried under the fine sand at Reenroe Beach in Ballinskelligs and only visible after long stormy periods when the sand gets washed out into the sea. Sometimes you can even see the boggy earth in which they must have grown hundreds of years ago.
Details like this make any walk with your camera worth your while even if the sun is not shining and the sky rather dull - point your camera at little details and you get some "artistic" pictures with often overlooked features, texture and shadows.
Two of the photos I converted into monochrome, I thought they lent themselves for that kind of treatment.
O.k. and try to keep your dog and his paws in the sand away from your subject till you are finished with the picture...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Valentia Lighthouse

A walk to the lighthouse on Valentia is always a treat, you will encounter lush flora and sinister looking mountains, sheer cliffs and breaking waves, views over to the Dingle Peninsula and much more.
Recently I was allowed inside the lighthouse with my Tech Amergin Photography Class to take pictures. Many thanks to CIL!
Valentia Island, connected by a bridge to the mainland in Portmagee is at a very south eastern point of Ireland. The Lighthouse here was built on the remains of an old fort hence the name Cromwell Point Lighthouse in some publications. It shone its first light in 1841, you can read more about its history on the Commissioner of Irish Light website and on general information about Valentia Island .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Black and White Landscape Photography

Until the advent of Digital Photography I used black and white film mostly when taking portraits, stills, landscapes or working on documentaries. Many a night was spent in the dark room developing films and getting the prints done each one with great care and attention.
Sometimes I would use colour slide film for landscapes but for developing I had to rely on laboratories and that was ok.
Today I still use b/w film occasionally but as I don´t have a dark room any more I need to send the films off to get developed, then I scan them and do all the necessary editing with computer software.
The pictures above were taken digitally and in colour first before I decided they would look great in monochrome.
There aren´t strict rules which pictures come out great in b/w, so if you have the software, experiment a little with your pictures.
You need some good light and shadows, clouds for dramatic effect and as with all pictures an interesting foreground to lead into your scene.
A good monochrome photograph does not seem to "age" you can look at it again and again, it is unobtrusive yet interesting and printed on high quality paper worth framing and hanging on your wall...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Portmagee-Fishing Village

Portmagee Village is a little gem among all places I have visited in Ireland. It has everything you need for a holiday by the sea, like a little harbour where fishing boats come in at evening with their load, boats for day trips to the famous Skelligs go out every morning in calm weather, a mooring for sailing and pleasure boats and a tidy little harbour front with houses, pubs, a restaurant, coffee shop, Bed &Breakfast Accomodations and Holiday Houses, a general shop and the church all within walking distance.
You can walk around after a nice evening meal, take a few pictures in the setting sun over the harbour and when darkness is complete enjoy some time in a pub where there is regular music and set dancing sessions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Understanding Exposure

One easy way to demonstrate how exposure works
is this Exposure Triangle.
Exposure is the amount of light which comes in contact with your camera´s film or sensor.

You need to get three things right to achieve optimum exposure for your photograph:

Aperture - which controls the size of the lens opening for light.
Shutter speed - which controls the time light is allowed to come in.
ISO - which controls the sensor`s or film`s sensitivity to light.

A change of one element will have an impact on the others.
A big aperture only needs a short shutter speed and vice versa.
Dark light conditions call for a higher ISO, but your picture will look grainier than with a small ISO of e.g.100.

Most cameras offer a variety of exposure modes – from fully automatic to semi automatic and scene mode to a full manual mode.

Automatic mode
The camera selects all settings depending on the type of lighting and brightness of a scene. It focuses automatically and fires a flash when light is insufficient.

Semi- automatic modes
Aperture priority mode(A or AV)-you select the aperture and the camera automatically sets the other two.

When would you want to do that? To get the depth of field right for your purpose!
If you want everything in sharp focus choose a small aperture
(big number e.g. f/22) and let the camera choose the appropriate shutter speed.

If you want only part of your subject in sharp focus and blur the background
choose a big aperture (small number, e.g. f/2.8) and let the camera do the rest.

Shutter priority mode(T or Tv)- you select the shutter speed and the camera sets the rest.

When would you do that? To control moving subjects!

To get your moving subject to freeze, that is, everything is sharp in focus, choose a fast shutter speed of e.g.1/2000 sec and again, let the camera do the rest.
To illustrate how fast something is moving - a blur around your subject can indicate speed, choose a slow time of about 1/125 sec and your camera will set a smaller aperture.

Scene modes
A variety of pre programmed modes for portraits, landscapes, artificial light in doors, some outdoor lighting situations etc…

Manual mode(M)
You set shutter speed, aperture and ISO and the light meter will tell you whether or not the exposure is right.

When you take landscape shots you usually have time to think a little before you press the shutter release so try and take more pictures in manual mode. I prefer to do this and I usually think about aperture first, set ISO at the least possible 80 or 100 and the see what the light meter tells me about shutter speed.
For longer shutter speeds you need a fairly steady hand or better still a tripod.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guide to Coastal Photography

South West Kerry is blessed with an abundance of rugged coastline and beautiful beaches and guess what - it is not spoiled by masses of high-rise buildings or sunbathing people.
The clean air and ever changing sky with sun shafts highlighting parts of the scenery is any photographer`s heaven because it gives you so much to take in.

Any time of the year provides a rich variety of subjects, the only disadvantage of winter month - having less day light hours. As a matter of fact a lot of my landscape and coastal images were taken in winter, I think, the light is even more dramatic because the sun is lower than during the rest of the year.

So what do you have to think about before setting out?

  • Check the weather, sunrise/ sunset time & location and the tide tables.

  • Take a tripod or monopod and a cable release, which, like the self-timer function on your camera, enables you to take pictures hands-free to reduce camera shake.

  • Have some place in mind before you leave the house it is best to concentrate on one thing at a time.

  • Have you packed the right lenses, filters, a spare set of batteries and is there enough capacity on your memory card?

At the location

  • Use foreground interest for strong composition, apply the rule of thirds for pleasing composition or use lines going into the picture.

  • Boats or fishing gear add colour and character to coastal landscapes.

  • Low tide is a good time to capture exposed rocks , patterns in the sand or light reflections in pools of water.

  • Use neutral density filter if the sky is extremely bright.

  • Be careful with a straight flat horizon, use a gridded screen or a small spirit level to get the horizontal line straight or crop later on the computer.

  • In low light situations use long shutter speed of a good few seconds to blur wave movement, also use small aperture and low ISO to create a really smooth effect.

  • For panorama images take several shots while keeping the camera at the same height and turning at the waist. Stitch in an imaging software later.

  • On a dull an overcast day don´t despair, instead of doing grand landscape shots look for some abstract details like rocks, rock pools, sand pattern and so on. If there is a harbour nearby go for boat or building structures or nets and lobster pots, there is plenty of material out there.

Seascapes and Long Shutter speed

Have you ever wondered how to create a dramatic seascape with smooth wet rocks and magical misty waves?
In low light, early or late in the day are the best times (or try an overcast day with a neutral density filter), you are able to use your camera´s slow shutter speed which you need for the blurring effect on the moving parts of your subject.
O.K this is what you have to do:
  • Check out a tide table, best time for those pictures is around high tide, you want parts of the foreground features submerged on and off by incoming waves but be careful and gather some knowledge about that particular part of beach...
  • Make sure you have wellies or decent walking boots on as the water will suddenly spring up sometimes.
  • Place your tripod on rocks or steady ground ,it sinks slightly in sand and your image is lost. Wash the tripod legs after shooting , the salt in the seawater can do severe damage to all kind of materials.
Now, your camera needs to be set at Manual Setting:
  • First choose the smallest aperture and ISO possible, say f/22 and ISO 100,
  • Your camera´s inbuilt light meter will tell you what time to set for shutterspeed.
  • Now focus one third into the scene and to avoid camera shake use self timer or timer remote controller.
  • Go out and try several shots and compare afterwards, in time you will get practice and be more confident with your manual settings.
My photo of Keel Strand in St. Finian´s Bay was taken with f/22; ISO100 and a shutterspeed of 3.2 seconds.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ross Island Killarney

Ross Island is a small peninsula in Lough Leane near Killarney in the largest National Park in Ireland with some 20 thousand acres of beautiful scenery. Here you still find undisturbed old woodlands which is rare in Ireland as forests were cleared for different reasons in the past. Ever changing views of mountains and lakes, islands and rivers and of course fauna and flora are worth regular visits with or without your camera.

On a beautiful spring day like yesterday everything felt just great, and some things tasted great - like the fresh green shots of wild garlic.

A warm and gentle breeze, excited little birds all bore witness of things to come, like ...summer?

If you want to see more photos go to www.skelligphoto.com

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Composition - The Rule of Thirds

To get a "pleasing" composition, the Rule of Thirds is the first composition pillar photographers and painters will somehow use.
It is quite simple and after trying to apply it to your pictures for some time it will come to you almost without thinking.

Imagine a grid of three columns and three rows beeing put over your picture - you want to put points of interest at the intersections of the inner lines or along those lines, because that is where our eyes go first to seek information.

In the picture of St. Brendan´s Well on Valentia Island the stone cross goes along one third line and also the actual cross of the slabs is situated at an intersection of two lines.
From there your eyes are beeing led along the horizon to a small stone altar.
So don´t be tempted to center everything neatly in the middle of your picture but go for those thirds.

Sunset on Valentia Island

It was another fine day in south Kerry and I set out to capture the sunset on Valentia Island. As the days are getting longer the sun moves further west to northwest so that an evening in Portmagee or Valentia will get the last sunrays.
I really like taking pictures either early or late in the day, colours are more interesting, I think, and shadows and textures give a more graphic touch to my subjects.
You can see the cliffs on the north side of Valentia Island and a Standing Stone at St.Brendan´s Well. On my way back from Valentia Island I took a picture of Portmagee Harbour and Pier.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

6 basic tips for landscape photography

  1. try taking landscape images in early morning and late evening - the light lets colour and saturation appear stronger

  1. try using a tripod or anything that can act as a stabiliser for your camera to avoid camera shake

  1. think composition (although you could crop your image later on the computer- take your time to “make the picture”)

  1. think story - slow down and think about what you are doing,

On the other hand- why not experiment, you can have fun and learn something

  1. use something of interest in the foreground to lead into your picture and create a sense of depth

  1. stand on higher vantage points give you a commanding view, (but take care and find secure footing on slippery ground or wet rocks)

Killemlagh Church, Rathkieran, St. Finian´s Bay

We have just celebrated two very important Irish Saints, St. Patrick and St. Finian who is said to have lived in the area. A lot of local place names relate to the latter and churches are dedicated to St. Finian like this medieval church in Cill Imleach in The Glen, St. Finian´s Bay.
The church was first mentioned in the early 14th century in a Papal Taxation List, was reported in good condition in 1615 but already in disrepair by the middle of the 18th century.
Today there are only ruins left but it still is a very magic place to be. You are very near Keel Strand with its huge waves and of course the magical Skelligs out in the Atlantic Ocean.

Beautiful Day

For any Photographer Beautiful Day means beautiful light and preferably some clouds to disperse the light, so these are some photos taken recently of my favourite subject: the Skelligs - that is Skellig Michael with its remnants of an early medieval monastery and Little Skellig, with one of the worlds biggest gannet colonies.