We’re recently returned from a two-week adventure in Ireland and Scotland. Our itinerary sandwiched a week of hiking in the glorious southwestern regions of Ireland (Counties Kerry and Cork) in between brief stays in the major cities of Dublin and Edinburgh. The photographic opportunities in these regions are remarkable, with lovely landscapes, historic architecture, and a generous friendly culture evident everywhere. I provide an overview in the form of a photo essay in today’s post, and upcoming posts will feature more details on specific places or types of subjects from the trip.
The Irish pub remains a central focus of life on the Emerald Isle. In cities and tiny rural villages, the pubs are places for people to come together and catch up with old friends, make new friends, listen to live traditional music, and of course drink a pint or two. This image was made in Dublin’s famed O’Donoghue’s Pub, where in the 1960s bands such as the Dubliners sparked the Irish folk music revival.
To make portraits in pubs, where the lighting is dim and the use of flash is out of the question, use a fast lens and a high ISO setting. You need a shutter speed of at least 1/80 of a second to get a reasonably sharp image of musicians at work. Buy this photo
It may come as a surprise (or not) to learn that Ireland’s most popular attraction is the Guinness Storehouse tour in Dublin. Here my wife pulls a perfect pint of the “black stuff,” which we then enjoyed in the Gravity Bar atop the storehouse with views overlooking all of Dublin.
Another low-light shot, this image was made with ambient light only, using a fast lens and relatively high ISO. Remember to capture some shots of your traveling companions. Buy this photo
I highly recommend a visit to the very remote Gougane Barra peninsula. There’s only one hotel, which offers outstanding food and views over a tiny island with a picturesque church and the ruins of a Sixth Century monastery. A photographer’s paradise!
St. Finbarr’s Church stands on a tiny island on the Gougane Barra Peninsula. To make this image, I shot in the early morning when the quality of light was compelling, got down low to include the rushes in the lake, and used a polarizing filter to bring out the textures in the water and sky. Buy this photo
Don’t put away your gear when the sun sets! On a rare clear night in rural Ireland, the photography is stunning. Here’s an image of the Milky Way sprawling above the ruins of St. Finbarr’s Abbey, a Sixth Century monastery.
To capture the Milky Way, use a sturdy tripod and a relatively fast lens with a high ISO setting. In most cases, a shutter speed of 20-25 seconds is best, but here I used a somewhat shorter exposure to avoid having the cross appear washed out in the site’s artificial light. Buy this photo
We then hiked a portion of the long-distance Sheep’s Head Way. You’ll rarely encounter completely clear skies while walking in Ireland, but the changeable conditions can create opportunities for glorious landscapes. This lovely image was made just as the rain let up and the sun poked out, generating a vivid rainbow that spanned over the green fields and ancient walls.
Here I used my go-to landscape lens, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens, fitted with a good circular polarizing filter. I adjusted the angle of the polarizer carefully to enhance the sky without weakening the refraction of the rainbow. I got down low to the ground to include the leading line from the old wall. Other compositional elements include the sheep in the field and the dramatic clouds in the sky. Buy this photo
At the end of the Sheep’s Head Way sits the lovely Bantry House, owned by the family since 1750. Climb the hill behind the house to capture the house and its gardens with the harbor behind. Buy this photo
On our way to the start of our next day’s hike in Killarney National Park, we stopped at a viewpoint called Priest’s Leap for this lovely view. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: remember to include yourself and your travel companions in some of your images. Set up the camera and either mount it on a tripod or show another person how to release the shutter. For more on how to make images including yourself, read this post: Post on Including Yourself
This image at Priest’s Leap was made using a normal lens with polarizing filter, stopped down to maximize depth-of-field. Buy this photo
Ireland is filled with forests that exude a sense of mystery and magic. Look for the little things as you walk: a flower or shamrock, a moss-covered tree, a tiny stream. All that rain has the happy side-effect of making Ireland the greenest place I’ve ever seen.
Slow down and seek out the little natural details around you, like this moss-covered tree in Killarney National Park. Buy this photo
The legendary Gap of Dunloe outside of Killarney stretches for eight miles through mountains and valleys, along streams and by ancient farmhouses. It can be traversed by horse-drawn carriages called “jaunting cars,” but the intrepid photographer will want to hike it instead.
The Gap of Dunloe offers compelling photographic subjects like this stream flowing in a valley surrounded by mountains. A good wide-angle lens with a polarizing filter brings out the color and texture in such a landscape, even on a “soft day” like this one. Buy this photo
We spent every evening in Ireland visiting a pub or two. These pubs differ in character, but all reflect the generous and friendly local culture, and many offer live music.
At a pub in Killarney, I was chatting with this fiddler during a break between sets, and made this portrait using natural light with a fast portrait lens, a wide aperture, and a high ISO. Buy this photo
My essential portrait lens:
We were fortunate to stay two nights in Killarney at the wonderful Lake Hotel. The hotel grounds include the ruins of an ancient castle situated on a lake with mountains behind. During breakfast on our second morning, I noticed the cloud cover had lifted but there was still mist hanging on the side of the hills around the lake. I ran up to our room, grabbed my thirty pounds of camera gear, and rushed outside to capture the ruins with the mist enshrouding the lake and mountains.
There was no time to set up a tripod as the warming sun was burning away the magical mist on the lake, so I shot this image handheld. Buy this photo
Our final day’s hike was the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way from Ventry to Dunquin. The lovely views of the Atlantic are punctuated with green fields dotted with odd “beehive huts,” some dating back to the Neolithic Period.
To make this landscape incorporating ancient stone beehive huts and walls, I shot down across the fields to the sea, being sure to keep the horizon level. Buy this photo
The picturesque Blasket Islands were home to a community of Irish-speaking farmer-fishermen until they were forced to evacuate in 1953. This is one of Ireland’s most gorgeous stretches of coastline, captured here using a wide-angle lens with polarizer. Rotate the filter until the sky is dark and dramatic. Buy this photo
After Ireland, we spent a few days in Edinburgh, Scotland. This image was shot along the Royal Mile.
Be on the lookout for unusual perspectives. This image juxtaposes the different colors and textures of the statue in the foreground with the cathedral in the background. Buy this photo
Dining is an essential part of any trip, and Edinburgh offers many opportunities to savor the new Scottish cuisine. This lovely smoked salmon plate (with accompanying wee dram of whisky) was captured at the Tower Restaurant atop the Scottish National Museum.
I hope this post inspires you to visit Ireland and Scotland. Look for posts over the next few days with more details about the trip and images.
If you’d like to read more posts about photographic destinations, you can find them all here: http://www.to-travel-hopefully.com/category/destinations/
Have you visited Ireland? What did you find most memorable? Any tips on photographing this enchanted place? Please share your thoughts in the comment box after this post.