Over New Year I made my first ever trip to Northern Ireland and discovered a great new location for my photography workshops. After staying a couple of days in the south of the country (with a friend in Fermanagh) I drove north and headed for the coastline. It’s a beautiful rugged place made famous as the location of Game of Thrones.
It was a week of changeable weather; some flat days and some great days for photography! Here’s a brief account of My Photography Trip to Northern Ireland 😊
Here’s a map of Northern Ireland. I have to say I was embarrassed to say how little I knew of the geography of the country before my visit (my only previous visit was a business visit to Belfast 10 years ago!) but that’s little excuse! The area of County Antrim that I visited is ringed; this includes the Causeway Coast and the Antrim Mountains (possibly a slight exaggeration given that the highest point (Trostan) is 551 metres!
A STORY OF MY TRIP
Day 1 Thursday 2nd January – Giants Causeway
I started at the world famous Giants Causeway. It’s an amazing and unique place and area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. It is located about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills and owned by the National Trust
After spending ages trying to park my car without having to pay for the whole ‘Causeway Visitor Experience’ I walked down to the Causeway.
My very first shot, looking west from Giants Causeway towards Portrush (home of last years British Open Golf Championship)
The Causeway Coast at Giants Causeway
My first location was just before and I produced some long exposure shots against the light. In hindsight I should have bracketed as it was hard to keep the graduated filters free of salt spray; many shots were ruined beyond photoshop! Otherwise was a perfect spot for long exposure images as the wind direction was in the right place and there was good cloud movement and great foreground.
Long exposure images of the bay next to Giants Causeway. A 3 minute exposure created strong cloud movement. Colour and Monochrome shots
I then went onto Giants Causeway; fortunately I turned up at dusk so the crowds were beginning to disappear; photography would have been pretty impossible earlier! I took some close ups of the basalt pillars and the wider views. I made use of the dusk light. This helped with images as I didn’t need to use ND filters with the increasing low light.
The weird and unique basalt pillars at Giants Causeway. I kept shutter speeds down to around 10 seconds as there was too much salt spray for any longer.
I then drove to Torr Point around 30 miles east from Giants Causeway and found a quiet spot to camp for the evening. It also gave me the opportunity to be at location for dawn.
Day 2 Friday 3rd January – Torr Head.
I camped right next to Torr Head Bay. It includes a small harbour, seeming just used for local fishing. I captured a lovely sunrise and some dark gathering clouds as the sun come up. An advantage with northern Ireland at this time of year is that sunrise isn’t until 8.50am so an early start isn’t early!
Sunrise over Torr Head bay with a small harbour on the right. The water movement is done in post processing as I walked down to the harbour without my tripod so couldn’t do a longer exposure – schoolboy error!
Views west along the Causeway Coast
I got some great light as the sun came up and the clouds gathered from the west, and finally rewarded with a fantastic rainbow! I would have liked a better foreground but by the time I found one the rainbow started disappearing! There was also a great view along the coastline to the north west (the direction I had come from).
The Antrim coastline to Cushendall
Having made the best use of available light, I spent the rest of the morning exploring the surrounding hills above the Antrim Coastline. The ‘sunshine and showers’ type weather continued with more great light and rainbows!
This picture is looking south to a small town called Cushendall. It was taken just after midday showing how low the sun is in the sky at the moment! Backlighting lit up the rolling fields and coastline perfectly.
The rest of the day doing more exploring but as the skies cleared to a haze, no more pictures!
Day 3 Saturday 4th January – from Kinbane Castle to Ballintoy
This is a short but amazing stretch of coastline. The light was flat and unchanging but there were some good waves at high tide which provided photographic opportunities. My first spot was Kinbane castle, approximately 5 km from Ballycastle on the road to Ballintoy. The name Kinbane means White Head and refers to the white limestone on which the castle stands.
A panoramic view over Kinbane Castle. It’s very much a ruin but has a great outlook on a limestone headland looking over the Atlantic Ocean.
The village lies about one kilometre from Ballintoy Harbour, a small fishing harbour at the end of a very small, narrow, steep road down Knocksaughey hill which passes by the entrance to Larrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.It’s characterised by a series of striking rock outcrops set in the Atlantic ocean just off the mainland.
More of Ballintoy Harbour. I spent a while playing around with different shutter speeds while trying to keep the spray off the lens!
Although there was little in the sky, there were some strong waves which I spent a couple of hours capturing, using both short and long exposures. This stretch of coastline also has some amazing rock formations out to see and I decided to return potentially in more striking light.
Elephant Rock to Whitepark Bay
I them walked a km or so west towards Whitepark Bay and a spot locally known as ‘Elephant Rock’. If you go there you’ll see why! The cloud thickened a bit during the afternoon so provided better tonal contrast. A big downside to this afternoon was that I tripped over some barbed wire on the ground and smashed a 10 stop filter!
A couple of shots taken towards dusk; I even got a bit of light in the sky as the sun went down!
Day 4 – Sunday 5th January. Causeway Coast from Glendan to Larne.
I stayed in comfort at a lovely (and large!) place called Slemish Barn on Saturday night near Ballymena as the forecast wasn’t great! It accommodates up to 50 but I had it entirely to myself for a couple of nights! The Sunday wasn’t the most productive day; the coastline there has fewer features than the north . But (and it’s a big plus!). it was generally sunny while the rest of the country was covered in cold grey mist!
Long and short exposure shots of the Causeway Coast south from Carnlough
I spent the rest of the day walking around in increasing gloom before heading back to Slemish Barn for a hot shower!
Day 5 – Monday 5th January. Causeway Coast around Ballintoy
The forecast was for rain clearing during the morning so worth a trip back up to Ballintoy. I wasn’t disappointed with completely different light than from my time there on the Saturday. The rain was late to clear but I had great conditions from lunchtime and a clearing sky for a night shoot.
I drove back north (about an hours drive) and headed to the coast west from Ballintoy. There was heavy cloud and rain at times but gradually improving.
Dunseverick Castle (or what remains of it!)
Ballintoy Harbour and Coastline
I than moved on to Ballimtoy itself, where I’d spent the Saturday afternoon.
Gathering clouds over the small bay with Elephant rock.
Another panoramic with another rainbow!
I then went back at dusk and waited for it to get dark enough for a night shoot. The moon was out which has the minus that the stars aren’t as strong, but the plus point as it lights up the foreground and the ISO doesn’t need to be increased as much
A few night shots west from Ballintoy Harbour. I wasn’t sure where the glow in the sky came from but was effective.
It was a pity to leave but I had to go home and make a living! So immeduiately after the night shoot I drove back down to belfast to catch the 9.30pm ferry to Liverpool – a little matter of a 9 hour overnight trip!
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my photography trip to Northern Ireland and it has inspired you to visit a part of the world you’ve perhaps (like me!) not previously visited.
So, it’s inspired me to set up a photography workshop later in the year. I’m planning a trip to the Mourne Mountains (south of Belfast) in the next month or two and develop a photo itinerary in for a workshop in October – more information to follow!