Gilbert Lennox Photography: Blog http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Gilbert Lennox Photography gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Fri, 30 Jun 2017 19:28:00 GMT Fri, 30 Jun 2017 19:28:00 GMT http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/img/s1/v46/u20542054-o1053109573-50.jpg Gilbert Lennox Photography: Blog http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog 79 120 A day on Ireland's beautiful north coast http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/6/a-day-on-irelands-beautiful-north-coast I've discovered that landscape photography is a lot about waiting. And hoping.  And heading home disappointed.  It's also a lot about getting up early, staying out late.  And heading home disappointed.  That's because we are all waiting for that moment of special light, that most often occurs towards the extremes of the day, or in extremes of weather - or both.  And often that moment doesn't come.  (Oh the tyranny of so-called 'epic' light!) So it was refreshing last week to have a 'reason' simply to go out with my camera, a couple of lenses and no expectations!

The reason was to showcase some of the beauty of the north coast to a friend from the USA.  Only one day suited, when both of us were free.  There was no need to consult weather apps or tide charts.  We were going out, end of story.

As I say, it was refreshing.  Simply to be out in the landscape, to feel the wind on my face, to watch the ever changing patterns of light and shade, to explore the angles and to share friendship and food.  

We began on the heights of Binevenagh, where the Antrim plateau comes to a very abrupt end.  We were unable to start at sunrise, which proved a blessing because we would have been starting in the rain!  By the time we got to our location, the low rain clouds had cleared away to the north and the view over Magilligan point (see above) towards Innishowen and the Atlantic ocean had opened up.  We spent some time here exploring the rocky outcrops and the few small but determined lone trees.  

As some of you know in recent months I have been transitioning (I think) away from my full-frame Nikon to using the lighter and more nimble Fujifilm XT2.  For a while I tried to alternate between systems but found that I was simply falling back to what I knew and not really getting to know the new camera.  So I took the decision to shoot exclusively with the Fujifilm for at least three months and see what happened.  I'm still in that three month period, but I have to say I'm enjoying myself!  I've also tried to lighten the load as far as my tripod is concerned, but that hasn't gone so well.  This morning on Binevenagh the lightweight tripod was of little use in the strong breeze but at least the light was good enough to shoot hand-held. Next stop was the strand at Downhill, with its beautiful sand beneath the cliff where Mussenden Temple perches precariously.

One of the tiny rivers that flows across the beach provided a useful lead-in to the scene beyond.  We also got our knees dirty getting down low to capture the contours in the sand left by the receding tide.  It is one of many superb beaches along the north coast and one of the few where it is possible to bring the car. From the beach we headed to the top of the cliff to explore the Downhill estate.  The buildings are spectacular but I have to confess I was more excited to discover something that has become so rare it is almost extinct: a hay meadow, full of beautiful grasses and wildflowers, including orchids.  So I spent my time hunting orchids and photographing the meadow with the ruins in the background.  The vibrancy and freshness of early summer contrasted well with the ancient ruins and the strong sense of transient human history.

The jewel in the crown of Downhill estate is of course Mussenden Temple, built in 1785 by the colourful Earl-Bishop Frederick Hervey.  Based on the Temple of Vesta in Italy, it once housed the bishop's library.  It bears this inscription: " 'Tis pleasant safely to behold, from shore, the rolling ship and hear the tempest roar."

The building can be hired for different purposes these days.  Indeed while we were there the BBC were setting up for a concert.

Next we headed across the River Bann to Portstewart, noting as we drove to the strand the impressive preparations being made for the Irish Open Golf Championship to be held there in early July.

The weather was at its best here.  We decided to forego late lunch and have an early dinner instead at Harry's Shack so that we could explore and photograph the beach, the rocks and the sand dunes. The wind was considerably weaker than up on the cliffs so I was able to use my tripod to have a bit of fun experimenting with long exposures.

After dinner we set out for Dunluce Castle, stopping briefly at the promenade in Portstewart.

On the way to the castle we passed the car park at Magheracross, where we had earlier stopped to take in one of the best sweeping views of the coastline.

Dunluce is always an enthralling surprise, its dramatic setting on the rugged cliffs reflecting its long and tumultuous history.   

The clouds were beginning to build in from the west, with the sun occasionally bursting through, spot-lighting the sea and the Skerries.  It seemed an ideal opportunity to experiment with Black & White, since the contrast was so strong.

The weather continued to close in as we headed further along the coast.  We decided not to stop at the Giant's Causeway as my friend had been there previously, but instead to finish the day at Ballintoy harbour.  For a few moments the clouds coloured from the setting sun, a fitting end to our day.

 

I loved the way the light was catching the unsettled water in the harbour.  But I also wanted to try to capture the movement of the boats, so I brought out the tripod again, sheltered by the harbour wall, and went for another long exposure (5 seconds), which had the paradoxical effect of calming the sea while showing the agitation of the blue rope and the boat that was tugging on it.

 No doubt we could have covered more territory if we had really pushed ourselves.  But it wasn't a race.  There's lots more for another day.  Yet it is amazing how much can be done within a twelve hour period.  A thoroughly enjoyable day.  Why not give it a try sometime?

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Ballintoy Harbour Binevenagh Downhill Strand Dunluce Castle Northern Ireland Landscape Portstewart Strand http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/6/a-day-on-irelands-beautiful-north-coast Fri, 30 Jun 2017 19:28:06 GMT
In my small corner http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/5/in-my-small-corner If you have had a background similar to mine, the words of an old song learned at Sunday School may well be still in your memory: "you in your small corner and I in mine."  On Friday evening I found myself in a small corner.  

Rather belatedly I had decided to go to White Rocks strand for sunset and as I strode onto the beach I was prepared for the fact that on such a beautiful evening others would have a similar plan.  What I hadn't anticipated was an entire cohort of photographers scattered, tripods at the ready, across the part of the beach I normally like to photograph.  With a few cheery 'hellos' - from which I gathered that the photographers were French - I made my way to the only place where I could see I would not be spoiling anyone else's view: right at the end of the beach, where the cliffs take over.  I was literally in my own small corner.  

The sun was already low in the sky and I had only a few short minutes to set up to catch the last direct light on the ripples in the sand.  (I'm not sure why it is that I am rarely early for sunset.  I know I should plan to be in location with at least 30 minutes to spare but somehow it almost never happens, with the result that in the end it is a rush.  Rushing is not the best way to approach the landscape.)

With the intensity of the sunlight decreasing rapidly I turned my camera in the other direction, discovering that a handy rock outcrop would serve to conceal the crowds on the beach, if I placed the camera low to the sand, and make it appear that I was the only one there.  That also had the effect of highlighting the ripples. I tried a slightly different angle, which dramatically changed the view of the ripples, making them look (in my wife's view at least) like the scales of some giant beach monster!  With the sun finally below the horizon, I began to investigate the various rocks and pools in my small corner of the beach.  Getting down low and using a wide angle lens seemed a good way to go in order to make the most of these details. 

The 'afterglow' of sunset was now becoming particularly intense with strong tones of red, pink and orange as well as a deep blue colouring the scene.    

By now (around 10pm) I had the beach to myself, apart from a happy group of young adults who had lit a bonfire and were enjoying the chilly evening air and each other's company.  I made my way back up the beach to where I hoped I might be able to capture some reflections of the limestone cliffs in the pools of sea water left on the sand.  

This was my favourite photo of the evening as for me it brought together the main elements of this spectacular beach and captured the serenity and beauty of a gorgeous May evening.  And perhaps it taught me a lesson.  It certainly made me reflect.  Constraints are not always a bad thing.  Being 'forced' to stay still, spend time in just one place, to change the angle, to explore the smaller details, to savour the all too fleeting moments and experience rather than just see.

As I made my way back I came across a piece of driftwood, angled across the beach.  And I couldn't resist a final few photographs.  I also notice a small stream flowing directly across the beach from the cliffs behind to the sea.  What a combination!  So I adjusted the position of the driftwood, stood in the middle of the stream and happily took my shot.  

Only then I discovered that what I had thought was a particularly fine piece of black wood had in fact spent some time in a beach bonfire!  My hands were now covered in soot, as was one of my filters.  Photography was well and truly over for the evening.      

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Long exposure Northern Ireland Landscape White Rocks http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/5/in-my-small-corner Sat, 06 May 2017 16:09:02 GMT
A photographer's paradise? http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/4/a-photographers-paradise Sheep Island and RathlinSheep Island and Rathlin I expect that many of us have a place we love to go to find new inspiration, a few moments respite from the clamour of the normal, to reflect, to remember, to be renewed, even to pray.  In recent years for me that place has become Ballintoy Harbour and the surrounding coastline.   In the four years since we moved to the country I've been there more times than I can count.  

I was brought up in a home where the National Geographic Magazine regularly provided a glimpse of the world beyond.  I devoured its pages.  No, that's not quite true: I devoured its photographs.  Yosemite.  Yellowstone. Monument Valley.  I have a vivid memory of being awestruck when my older brother returned home with slides from his visit to the Grand Canyon.  (For those who don't know, 'slides' were basically tiny transparencies produced from film which you then projected onto a screen.)  One day perhaps I'll get to see one of these places.  Or perhaps not.  I'm sure it would be amazing despite the crowds.  

Yet that's the thing.  I could only see them as a tourist.  I might capture them photographically in the best of light.  But they would always only be an exotic place I visited once.  And there is benefit to that.  Who wouldn't want to see such places in person?  But they aren't home.  They aren't close to being home.  They aren't even close.  Ballintoy is.  Twenty-five minutes of meandering roads, negotiating tractors and watching the seasons change in the fields before the anticipation of that first sight of the sea, and then the white church and the harbour itself.

Aurora at BallintoyAurora at Ballintoy (Ballintoy Parish Church, which you pass on the way down to the harbour, photographed on a prior visit.  Complete with aurora!)

It isn't that there are no crowds.  Tourist numbers are increasing year on year.  But I can stay after they have gone.  I can go in fair weather and foul.  If I rise early I can often enjoy it for hours before seeing another soul.  I can get to know it.  And that's one of the great benefits of staying local, of keeping going back, of developing a personal relationship with a place.  A place for all seasons and all seasons of the soul.

For a few months I hadn't been, concerned perhaps that familiarity might breed contempt.  But this week took me back and I'm glad it did for it was one of those moody, changeable, beautiful April evenings.

There is so much to savour here, from grand vistas to tiny details.  So many viewpoints from which to shoot high or low, west to north-east.  There are old buildings, weathered posts, boats (not in winter) and the rusty remnants of a busy harbour of bygone years.  So much to enjoy without a camera or with.

Ballintoy HarbourBallintoy Harbour  

There are rocks and rock pools, inlets and coves, stoney beaches and sandy beaches, headlands and islands and on good days glimpses of distant Scotland.  I've photographed gannets diving for fish, noisy gulls, screaming oyster catches and mysterious ravens.  Eider ducks bob on the water and occasionally porpoises put on a spectacular display in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.         

A short walk from the harbour brings you to a little cove where there is marram grass, a tiny sandy beach, giant limestone stacks and great views of Sheep Island, with Rathlin Island beyond.  Days of strong seas are particularly exciting here, especially when the tide is high.

It can also be very conducive to black and white photography, to bring out the drama of the scene on such days.

Sheep Island from Sandy Cove B&WSheep Island from Sandy Cove B&W And like in so many places on these islands the light can change so quickly.  On this particular day a passing storm caught the low sun and the mood changed in an instant.

And then there is sunset. This day was particularly windy so there was no chance to use a tripod.  It was all I could do to stand relatively still to catch the sudden display.

I wasn't the only one.  Look carefully and you will see a person with their phone held in front of them, no doubt thrilled like me to be there for the moment.

And then the rain came!  It seemed like photography was over for the day.  But I wondered down to the stoney beach, with a photographer friend who had joined me, to witness the last light of the day.

All these photographs and more came from one evening at Ballintoy Harbour (apart from the aurora).  Of course it isn't always like this.  Sometimes it is even better!  It isn't paradise.  But as we say round here, "It'll do"!

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Ballintoy Harbour Ireland Landscape Northern Seas Stormy Sunset http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/4/a-photographers-paradise Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:00:33 GMT
A week on Skye http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/4/a-week-on-skye

The Skye Photo Academy

The photographic highlight of March this year was a week spent at the Skye Photo Academy, in the village of Uig, under the able direction of Marcus McAdam.  I had long wanted to attend such a course and having previously visited Skye and being a fan of Marcus' photography, when the opportunity arose I jumped at it.  It was a great week and I thought I would take time to write a little about the experience.

There were twelve of us, of a variety of ages and nationalities united by a love of photography and the great outdoors.  In addition we had the expert help of three professional photographers: Marcus McAdam, Nick Hanson (this year's Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year) and Harry Martin.  I can't speak too highly of the willingness and ability of each one to help us develop our photographic skills.  They were always on hand to instruct and encourage - as well as to ensure our general well-being.  The camaraderie was excellent, especially considering that apart from the three professionals we were all strangers to each other at the start of the week.

The weather wasn't particularly kind to us, but even when it was misty and wet there was always something we could photograph and something we could learn.  We packed an amazing amount into the time and I don't think any of us had any problem falling asleep each evening!  Accommodation in the Uig Hotel was good, the staff very friendly and the food excellent. Uig itself enjoys a spectacular location on the Trotternish peninsula, the most northerly part of Skye.  One evening we were able to capture sunset just behind the hotel.

 

Each morning early, if there was any possibility of decent light, we were taken to a local location to shoot sunrise.  Then, after a superb breakfast, we had a lecture on a core aspect of photography - such as composition.  Marcus is an excellent teacher and I benefitted greatly from the instruction.  In the afternoons we went out again and I appreciated the fact that great care was taken to ensure that we had an opportunity to experience a wide variety of locations and types of photography. As the week wore on more time was spent on individual guidance and tuition depending on the need: post processing, photographic technique, gear issues and composition.  Thankfully we weren't subjected to group critique but there was ample opportunity for individual assessment and suggestions for alternative approaches.  And there was a fun quiz at the end to test (gently) what we had covered during the classroom time.

Harry Martin, always cheerful, keeping an attentive eye on what we were doing.

For me the week served to do a number of things.  It gave an opportunity to focus on photography in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It helped to fill in some of the gaps in my photographic knowledge.  It allowed me to explore different kinds of subjects, with professional guidance where needed.  I met a great bunch of people.  And the experience inspired me to keep shooting!

It was a long drive from Glasgow airport but the scenery along the way was simply stunning - between the downpours!  I knew I would be too late for sunset on Skye so I stopped at Eilean Donan Castle on the way, just a few miles before Skye Bridge, to catch the last light of the day.

 

Uig is close to the famous and other-wordly landscape of the Quiraing.  It is very like the landscape around Binevenagh, in Northern Ireland except on a much larger scale.  Here are a number of the photos I took on our early morning visits.

There is a bit of s story to the following photo of the Quiraing.  I was busy trying to compose my shot, on the tripod in very strong wind, when I noticed Nick Hanson racing across my line of vision.  As I stood up surprised, he swooped low to the ground like an eagle to snatch a photography bag that was about to disappear over the cliff.  My photography bag!  So I can proudly boast that the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year saved my photographic bacon!  Thanks Nick!

There is a little bit of everything on Skye, one reason it makes such a fabulous location for photography.  It has mountains, rock pillars, waterfalls, castles, lochs, lighthouses, rugged coastline and wildlife.  Some of it is only accessible to the super fit and agile - which I am not.  But I did manage the climb down to this beautiful waterfall.

 

We spent an afternoon at Tallisker Bay, an amazing place of rocks and black sand.  As the tide came in the challenge was to capture some of the patterns of the water amongst the rocks without getting soaked!

Skye is also famous (or notorious) for its dramatic weather.  This was certainly the case the afternoon we visited Duntulm Castle.  Squall after squall swept past, blowing over my tripod on one occasion (thankfully my camera was in my hand at the time) and snatching my hat on another - Nick yet again coming to the rescue!  It was a challenge keeping lenses and filters dry - as well as keeping upright!  But it certainly made for an exciting afternoon's photography!   

As the final squall swept by the low cloud cleared just enough to reveal the outline of the Isle of Harris in the distance.  

Skye takes its name from an old Norse word meaning 'cloud island'.  Low cloud and mist are frequent visitors and yet they bring with them their own photographic opportunities.

The mist slightly hampered our boat trip in search of sea eagles on the final morning, but it was still so worth it to capture my first sighting, let alone photograph of these magnificent birds.  

The week raced by and soon it was time to head for home, an opportunity to savour the experience and dream of returning again to this most beautiful island.  One thing had been missing during the week: the opportunity to photograph the Cuillins.  They had spent most of the week shrouded in mist.  But on the journey home, the mist relented, a little sunshine pierced through and I was able to pull into a handy parking area and capture a few final photographs.

A brilliant week!

If you would like to improve your photography or even just to have a great experience of photography on Skye, I encourage you to check out the Skye Photo Academy at  Skye Photo Academy - Marcus McAdam Photography  I also encourage you to check out the superb photography of Nick Hanson Nick Hanson - Landscape & Wildlife Photography and of Harry Martin Harry Martin Photography  

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2017/4/a-week-on-skye Fri, 21 Apr 2017 21:46:24 GMT
In praise of eccentricity http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2016/11/in-praise-of-eccentricity It would seem that we need our eccentrics.  

Bishop's Road One of the most popular sites on the North Coast is a monument to eccentricity.  Mussenden Temple.  It was built by the famous Earl-Bishop, Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry - an agnostic (handy for a Bishop!) art lover, cultured, licentious, hard working, philanthropic and according to Donald Akenson, "the most worldly, most eccentric, most talked-about priest in the Church of Ireland".  

The Earl-Bishop put the Giant's Causeway on the map scientifically (he was a vulcanologist) and as a tourist destination, becoming a fellow of the Royal Society because of his work there.  He built roads, invested in agriculture and worked in the cause of religious freedom.  He also found a clever way of making church land his own and there built a summer residence on it, sadly now in ruins, adding to it year on year, filling it with art treasures from all over Europe.  

The Bishop's Palace

And he built Mussenden.  

According to Stephen Rice in his book The Earl Bishop, through his many stays in Rome Frederick Augustus fell in love with the temple of Vesta, virgin goddess of the hearth.  He wanted to buy the temple and bring it back to Ireland but the pope refused his offer. So he had his own architect sketch the temple and then built his own version on the edge of the cliff at Downhill, which he used as his personal library.  To the magnificent view from its windows he added his own considerable decoration - once again sadly lost.

He eventually abandoned Ireland, perhaps worn down by the task he had set himself of seeking to ensure religious tolerance and liberty and lived out his final ten years in Italy.  He left us one of the finest sights in the country.

On a clear day the view across the coast from the steeply inclined Bishop's Road is breathtaking as the opening image reveals. Mussenden can also be viewed from the strand beneath and is an imposing sight in the setting sun.

From the National Trust car park it is a short walk to the ruins of the great house...

 

...and to the prize: the temple itself.

On the evening in question I had literally to race, camera swinging, sweat pouring, to catch the sun before it settled behind Donegal.  (I also had to negotiate a group of slightly intoxicated young people offering to pose.)  

I suspect there is a little of the eccentric in us all.

 

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Northern Ireland Landscape, Mussenden http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2016/11/in-praise-of-eccentricity Wed, 23 Nov 2016 17:24:08 GMT
Taking time to smell the roses http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/7/taking-time-to-smell-the-roses This year I fulfilled an ambition:  I planted roses on either side of the pathway leading to our front door.  Not since I was a child have we had roses in our garden and they powerfully evoke those early days of watching my mother tend her rose beds so expertly. 

That was in Armagh.  We now live in North Antrim.  Would they do well in this somewhat cooler and wetter part of Northern Ireland?  So far they have survived.  July has already witnessed a number of torrential downpours but if anything raindrops simply add to the beauty of the flowers.  The wind has tugged strongly at them, scattering across the grass the petals of each flower as it starts to fade.  However, thIs too is a bonus.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com We selected the roses for their colour.  We also made sure each would have its own fragrance.   And sure enough, particularly on days of only gentle breezes - rare enough in these parts - the walk from the gate is beautifully perfumed.  So now literally we can take time to smell the roses.  

This is certainly what one of my granddaughters did just recently.  And it might not do any of us any harm to rediscover the childlike joy of seeing and smelling a rose as if for the first time.  Stop, look, listen, smell and feel the wonder.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

 

 

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Roses child garden scent http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/7/taking-time-to-smell-the-roses Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:58:31 GMT
Did you doctor that? http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/4/the-answer-is-yes-or-sometimes-no     "Just say yes".  That's the advice of French fine art landscape photographer Alain Briot in answer to the question that sooner or later just about every photographer has to face.  I've been asked it at least a dozen times over the past year, both in person and on-line (Facebook).  It comes in different forms.  "Did you doctor that?"  "Do you manipulate the colours?" "Is this Photoshopped?"  "Is this real?"  The easiest and best answer, Briot suggests, is "yes".  To answer with lengthy explanation sounds defensive, as if I'm trying to cover up a crime.  It also can either get technical or arty or both, which normally are major turn-offs.  Far better simply to say yes and wait for the next question, if there is one.

     So yes.  

     Now what?  Well, perhaps I could tell a few stories and through them smuggle in an explanation or two?  For as the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland advises, "The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time!"

    The first adventure took me to the Giant's Causeway just before midnight a few weeks ago.  It was a beautiful moonlit night, the kind of night that is something of a rarity in this part of the world.   A night to see familiar landmarks under a (literally) different light. When the moon is up it is impossible to see the Milky Way.  But so much else comes into view, especially in the landscape.  

    The Causeway was predictably deserted. The receding tide was still making a splash on the rocks and low clouds reflected the moonlight on the horizon.  I made my way carefully over the slippery surface until I reached a favourite viewpoint. This is what I captured.

Giant's CausewayGiant's Causeway(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

    But is this what I saw?  Not exactly.  At that time of night, there was almost no colour (visible to my human eyes) either in the stones or in the sky.  It also was darker than this. But the camera can see more, depending on how it is set up.  (Sorry, here't the technical bit.) With a 15 second exposure at 1600 ISO, at an aperture of F4 and with the help of moonlight, the camera sees a great deal more while at the same time altering what it sees - smoothing the water, for example. So I had choices to make in what I told the camera to do.

    Then I had more choices.  The resulting photo was a little too bright, looking more like midday than midnight.  Should I leave it exactly as I had set it?  Or should I "doctor" the photo - darken it and remove the colour (I couldn't do anything about the wispy water) so that it more closely resembled what I saw?  But why?  I loved the colour.

    In the end I went for a compromise.  I darkened the sky and at the same time increased the contrast to bring out the stars a little more. In the end it was a matter of personal choice, of what I wanted to convey through the photograph.  

    My second adventure took place on the evening recently when the "Northern Lights" were visible in parts of Northern Ireland.  Even more rare than clear nights!  I headed for the coast at around midnight and was startled by the amount of traffic.  Clearly word had got around.  So I chose a spot where I thought few others would venture.  I was right.  I was on my own.  I was quickly wondering what all the fuss was about.  I was aware of a strange brightness on the northern horizon, but that was all.  I nearly didn't bother putting up my tripod and taking a shot.  Then common sense kicked in.  What had I got to lose?  After all, I was there. So I set an exposure of 20 seconds and pressed the button, more in hope than faith.  I nearly fell over when I saw the result on the back of my camera.

Sheep Island AuroraSheep Island Aurora

    The camera could capture what I couldn't see. And as the night wore on the effect became more and more pronounced with the flaring pink adding to the characteristic green.  But it wasn't what I actually saw.  It was what the camera made possible.  Even then I had more choices to make.  How bright to make the sky, for example.  A longer exposure and I could bring out even more detail in the island but probably lose some detail in the sky.  And the sky was really the subject.  So in the end I lightened the middle ground a little and darkened the sky to bring out both the colour and the stars.  And I cropped the photograph to remove a distracting lighthouse at the extreme right.  Choices. How 'real' is this photo?  

    My third adventure was to Bonamargy Friary in Ballycastle, a very atmospheric place especially on days of dramatic weather.  I chose a day of violent showers, heavy dark clouds and sudden bursts of blue sky and sunshine.  Here is one photo straight from the camera.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

    Here I deliberately exposed for the highlights, casting the friary itself into almost total darkness.  I did this because I knew that the camera would actually capture much more detail than this - detail that could be recovered in post processing.  But as it is I find it utterly uninteresting.  It also was not what I actually saw and experienced.  However, with a few tweaks on my computer this was the result.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

    I prefer this one.  It captures at least some of the drama and atmosphere I both experienced and imagined being there.   Is it Bonamargy Friary?  Absolutely.  Is it real?  Yes and no.  Will everyone like it?  Certainly not.  

    One of the things I could do differently with this photo is to remove all the colour like I did with the following, my favourite shot of the Dark Hedges.

Misty Dark HedgesMisty Dark Hedges

    Is it real?  Few of us see the world only in black and white.  And since I don't shoot film it is obvious that this effect was produced on a computer. Yet here's an interesting thing: no one has ever reacted to any of my black and white photographs with the question, "Did you doctor that?"  Of course, if they did, my answer would be - "Yes". 

 

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Astro photography Bonamargy Friary Landscape photography Manipulation Moonlight Night time photography Photoshop The Dark Hedges The Giant's Causeway The Northern Lights http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/4/the-answer-is-yes-or-sometimes-no Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:15:00 GMT
The Dark Hedges http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/2/the-dark-hedges Summer Sunset Dark HedgesSummer Sunset Dark Hedges

A short stretch of a narrow, winding country road in County Antrim has become one of the most visited and photographed locations in the entire country.  The Dark Hedges. The place like its name exudes mystery and romance.

It began its life as an avenue of beech trees planted by the Stuart family to form an artistic and impressive approach to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. Three hundred years on and the magnificent trees, depleted a little by age, seem to have leaned in towards each other, entwining branches in intricate patterns, creating a wonderful natural tunnel.  

Joining the farmers who regularly use the route is a steady succession of tourists and photographers. Motorbikes show well here.  And cars.  And wedding parties.  It is unarguably an impressive backdrop to a photograph.  But it is a place in itself.  It has a character of its own, changing with the seasons, the weather and the light.  So I prefer it in solitude, taking time to listen, away from the tripods and clicks of eager photographers (like me!).

To find it by itself alone either takes fortunate timing or a very early summer start.  In the photo above, I was able to sit in the middle of the road waiting for the sun to rise and light up the trees in its fiery glow, without fear of being disturbed. It was midsummer and just after 4am! 

Arguably its mood is better captured in black and white.  Perhaps that has something to do with the legend of the Grey Lady that is attached to the place.  She is supposed to appear at dusk among the trees to glide the length of the avenue before disappearing at the final beech.  Who is she?  Some say she is the ghost of a maid from a neighbouring house who died in mysterious circumstances a long time ago.  Others that she is a lost spirit from an abandoned graveyard.  I've never seen her myself, at least not at dusk.  But just after dawn in early winter there was mist in the air and a grey wispy shape glided momentarily across the road which once again was deserted apart from me.  

As it turned out, it was smoke from a fire in the neighbouring field.  At least that's the scientific explanation.  But look carefully, down the road to the left and decide for yourself.  I don't believe in ghosts.  But I can imagine a white horse and a magnificently bearded Gandalph appearing from the East.

Misty Dark HedgesMisty Dark Hedges

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Bregagh Road County Antrim Gracehill Northern Ireland Landscape The Dark Hedges The Legend of the Grey Lady http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/2/the-dark-hedges Wed, 26 Feb 2014 22:20:58 GMT
2013 in retrospect (with a New Year competition) http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/1/favourite-photographs-of-2013 A single year is now only one sixtieth of my life's experience!  No wonder each passing year seems to go faster.  Photographically it has been such a stimulating and fun experience.  Each new season has brought with it dramatic weather, from the worst snow in decades to the most summer sunshine most of us can remember.  And the special highlight for me was the long awaited photo journey through the Highlands of Scotland under the expert tuition of professional photographer and friend Kieran Dodds.  Yet close to home is my patch and to my amazement and delight  I am still discovering new places to photograph in the Glens and along our fabulous coastline.  

It hasn't been a big year for gear - learning to use better what I have has been challenge enough.  However the biggest challenge, as always, has been to progress in the most important areas: vision, composition and understanding light.

Two of the most gratifying aspects of photography this year have been sharing the photos with more and more people (Facebook has provided lots of fun and feedback) and watching how some of the photographs have been used.  Photos have found their way onto book and CD covers, a charity calendar, a restaurant and into homes - including our own!  There's nothing quite like seeing a 30x20 print, beautifully framed and hanging on the wall!

Reducing literally thousands of photos taken this year to a representative 20 has not been an easy task. But here goes!  (And by the way - there is a COMPETITION at the end!)  

1.  The Antrim Plateau.  The early part of the year featured heavy snowfalls.  My favourite shot from that period was taken on the Antrim plateau after I had to leave the car in a gateway and continue on foot to where I knew was an abandoned farmstead.  In the still falling snow the silence was magical.  I feel it each time I look at the photo.

Abandoned Altarichard Road Antrim PlateauAbandoned Altarichard Road Antrim Plateau

 

2.  Rathlin from Ballycastle.  This year has seen many visits to the beach at Ballycastle, with its sweeping curve, iconic large rock, multi-coloured pebbles, wooden bridge and the Pan rocks.  It is one of my favourite places to photograph.  It is also a great place to experiment with shutter speeds to capture movement (or indeed the lack of it) in the water.  Northern Ireland photographer David Cleland has been a major inspiration here through his excellent e-book - 'The Long Exposure'.  Among many photographs taken there during the year this is probably the most memorable and dramatic.  It was taken in February on a day of remarkable light - so remarkable that many of the walkers who would otherwise have been moving briskly along because of the cold simply stood staring.

Rathlin IslandRathlin IslandA

3.  Wolfgangsee.  I also had the opportunity to travel to Austria for a week in March.  Even though the start of the trip was accompanied by glorious weather - blue skies, beautiful snow, stunning mountains - my favourite photos were taken in damp, miserable conditions!  This is one, taken during a cold walk with friends along the Wolfgangsee.

A 4.  The North Coast.  April can usually be relied upon to provide dramatic light, especially on the coast and this year was no exception. In between soakings one Friday early evening the sun burst through the storm clouds and lit up the iconic parish church at Ballintoy.  A seagull fighting against the wind completed the picture.

 

5.  The Giant's Causeway.  April was also the month of my sixtieth birthday and with it the present of a fisheye lens. It certainly gives a different view of the world.  It seemed to fit well with the hexagonal shape of the rocks at the Giant's Causeway.  

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

6.  Innocence and wonder (Portstewart Strand). The long and surprisingly hot summer gave plenty of opportunity to take photographs of my granddaughter.  One ambition was to capture her in a white dress on the strand at Portstewart towards sunset.  The opportunity when it came lasted only the few seconds it took for her to fall into the water and cover herself with sand.  But the result was worth it and this remains one of my favourite pics I have ever taken.

Innocence and WonderInnocence and Wonder(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

7.  Slieve League. The summer also provided a brief opportunity to revisit Donegal and explore an area that until then was just a name on a map.  This led to the discovery of the dramatic cliffs at Slieve League.

Slieve LeagueSlieve League(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

8.  Kinbane Castle.  There were also new places to discover on the North Coast - Kinbane Castle being one of them.  I had often noticed the signpost on the coast road but had never taken the road.  Having made my first visit there in the early afternoon, following the advice of a photographer I happened to meet in the car park, I decided to return for the dawn light at the next possible opportunity. I was rewarded by one of the best photographic experience of the year.  This is one of many shots I took that morning.

Kinbane CastleKinbane Castle(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

9.  Fairhead.  That same morning provided another of my favourite shots as I travelled towards home and noticed the changing colours of the sea and the sky towards Fairhead.

FairheadFairhead

10.  The secret cove (Ballintoy). On photographer Gary McParland's excellent website I discovered another North Coast location that intrigued me.  It was a cove with a view of Sheep Island.  By a process of elimination I came across it at Ballintoy.  I've since come across a number of people who call this their 'secret beach'.  Repeated trips were rewarded by another wonderful dawn.  This time I was not alone - a number of other photographers were working the area.  To my surprise they packed up and moved away just before the magic started and I had the beach to myself.

The Cove, BallintoyThe Cove, Ballintoy(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

11.  The Dark Hedges. That same morning, heading home for breakfast by my usual route which takes me through the Dark Hedges I again was surprised to find the area devoid of photographers for a change.  There was mist in the early morning air and smoke from a nearby field added to the atmosphere.  Out of many photographs of the Dark Hedges this is now my favourite.

Misty Dark HedgesMisty Dark Hedges

 

12.  Stac Pollaidh.  The highlight of the year photographically was the photo journey in the Highlands of Scotland, led by professional photographer Kieran Dodds.  Although I have been in Scotland before, it has usually been to the cities.  Until this trip I had never been to Assynt, Wester Ross, Skye or Rannoch Moor.  It was magnificent.  What a fabulous place for photography and we were blessed with the best kind of dramatic and varied weather.  Here are a couple of my favourite shots.  Check out the gallery for more.

Stac PollaidhStac Pollaidh(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

13.  The Cuillins from Elgol

The Cuillins from ElgolThe Cuillins from Elgol(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

14.  Buachaille Etive Mor on Rannoch Moor - the most photographed mountain in Scotland Buachaille Etive Mor 3Buachaille Etive Mor 3(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com 15.  Portglenone.  As you can see from these photographs Autumn was now in full swing and upon returning home I paid a couple of visits to Portglenone Forest.  It is a great place for bluebells in the Spring.  What I hadn't appreciated is how wonderful it is in autumn.

Portglenone Forest at sunrisePortglenone Forest at sunrise(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

17.  Slemish. (c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

18.  The Glens.  I had noticed this little cottage outside Cargan (between Glenravel and Glenarrif) some years ago and always planned to return.  I managed it just after Christmas and the low winter sun provided a suitable atmosphere.

Maggie's Cottage in AutumnMaggie's Cottage in Autumn(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

 

19.  Portstewart.  This year has witnessed many more attempts at capturing the landscape at the extremes of the day - dawn and dusk and from dusk to dawn.  A recent photograph of Portstewart was taken during the 'blue' hour, when the warm glow of the street lighting looks its best against the deep blue of the sky after the sun has set.

 

 

20.  Ballintoy Harbour.  I have also made a number of attempts to capture the landscape under starry skies and experimented with 'light painting' - using a torch to add light to objects in the foreground.  The most successful by far, judging by the number of comments and Facebook 'likes' is this photo of the boat house at Ballintoy harbour.  Happy New Year!

Ballintoy Harbour under the starsBallintoy Harbour under the stars

 

I hope you have enjoyed this brief photographic journey through the year.  Perhaps it will encourage you to 'get out more', to discover new places.  Perhaps even to take your camera with you?  There is beauty all around us if only we can make the time to see it and being able to share it through photography not only adds to the enjoyment but also helps us to see more.

My grateful thanks to all of you who have encouraged me through the year - through messages on this website, through Facebook and in face-to-face conversation.  I wish you a peaceful and joy-filled New Year.  

The New Year Competition

The prize is one beautiful A3+ (13"x19") print of your favourite photo chosen from the 20 above.  

To enter the competition all you need to do is first to choose your favourite photo and second to explain (in no more than a few sentences) in the comment section below this post the reason for your choice.  The winner of the competition will be chosen by a small panel of judges, on the basis of the most interesting and perceptive comment, on Sunday 12th January.  Have fun! I look forward to reading your comments. 

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Ballintoy Ballintoy Harbour Ballycastle Buachaille Etive Mor Cargan Long Exposure Northern Ireland Landscape Photography Portglenone Forest Portstewart Rathlin Slieve League Stac Pollaidh The Antrim Plateau The Causeway Coast The Cuillins The Giant's Causeway The Glens The Highlands of Scotland Wolfgangsee http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2014/1/favourite-photographs-of-2013 Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:47:18 GMT
A photographer's paradise - Ballintoy Part 1 http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/11/a-photographers-paradise---ballintoy-part-1 The tiny harbour at Ballintoy and the surrounding coastline is a photographer's paradise.  There is a photograph to be made at every step. It has clearly excited the attention of HBO with various scenes from 'Game of Thrones'.  In fact their cameras are now rolling for Season 4 as I discovered a few weeks ago when my attempts to drive down to the harbour were thwarted by security men.  They had chosen their weather well, as I had.  But they were there first and no doubt were paying more than I was for the privilege of shooting!  Two nights later I tried again, with more success as I arrived just as the last of their vehicles was leaving.

The harbour itself is stunningly picturesque, although it can be difficult during the tourist season to find it deserted. Even at dawn it can be busy with large camper vans having recently taken to parking there overnight.  (That explains why the green boat is slightly clipped in the picture below - to include more of it would have meant including part of a camper van.) 

Ballintoy Harbour SunsetBallintoy Harbour Sunset

The lime kiln (not included in this picture) witnesses to the harbour's function in a former (19th century) life and it is still a working harbour, used by local fishermen.  

A There is a handy little cafe at the harbour for the thirsty, peckish or just plain lazy.  But it is outside where the action is.  The scenery is beautiful.  A few metres to the right of the cafe there is a gap in the rocks where water pours through at high tide into a natural pool - and where it explodes through in stormy weather.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

 

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Ballintoy harbour Northern Ireland Landscape http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/11/a-photographers-paradise---ballintoy-part-1 Sat, 16 Nov 2013 21:35:27 GMT
In Lakeland - Part 2 http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/10/the-english-lake-district Over a year ago I began the story of my first adventure in full-frame photography, in the English Lake District, with a Nikon D800e.  And then I stopped, leaving the tale on the roadside just outside Keswick.  We did, in fact, make it to our B & B in the town!  (And I didn't drop the camera into Derwent Water.)

One of my ambitions was to take the gentle path up Latrigg, perhaps the most accessible of the fells and enjoy the dawn panorama.  I was blessed with a beautiful morning the first time of asking - something of a rarity in photography.  So while all were sleeping, dreaming of a full English breakfast I made my way to the car park (you didn't think I was going to walk all the way?) and set off.  Dawn had just broken behind Blencathra and it was quickly clear that there was going to be a very colourful display even before I reached my destination.  I decided to stop for a moment to capture the view East.

 

I thought the vantage point on Latrigg was just over the rise.  I was wrong.  I realised that I was still quite a distance away and now risked losing the shot I had planned for.  So I ran - a relative term at my age, especially with a tripod and camera bag.  When I finally arrived, of course, I was so out of breath that I had to waste more time recovering.  The tripod was even more essential than usual.  

As it turned out I was just in time to take a couple of shots before the beautiful range of pink and orange tones subsided in the rising sun.

This is a single photograph cropped to panorama - one of the benefits of using such a high resolution camera. 

It was very hard to drag myself away from such a gorgeous view.  But a Lakeland fry did the trick!

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Derwent Water Latrigg View Nikon D800e The Lake District sunrise http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/10/the-english-lake-district Fri, 18 Oct 2013 20:11:39 GMT
Life on land - harvest http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/10/life-on-land---harvest It is almost 12 months since we moved to the country.  We've watched the impact of each season on the land around us.  And now it is harvest.  When we lived in the suburbs, harvest was something we almost had to take by faith.  Food came from the supermarkets, clean and tidy, neatly wrapped in cellophane.  Well, we still go to the supermarket as well as the village store.  Apart from some lettuce, beans and courgettes we are not self-sufficient in food.  The six apple yield from our trees will not take us through the winter!  But at least our appreciation of the hard working farmers on whom we all depend has grown exponentially. 

The major local crops appear to be grass, potatoes and barley.  And I've discovered that barley fields can be very photogenic.  The first picture is of a barley field just outside Ballycastle, that enjoys a wonderful view of Rathlin Island, Fair Head and, on a clear day, right across to Scotland.  The sun had almost set, just catching the top of the headland. I used a tripod and a slow shutter speed to capture the movement of the breeze across the growing crop.

Barley Field at SunsetBarley Field at Sunset(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

My weekly treks to the coast generally take me through the townland of Clintyfinnan.  Just beyond the river Bush, on either side of the road lie some beautiful barley fields.  I waited and watched until the massed spikes of barley began to turn golden. (The rogue tall shoots are wild oats.)

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

I waited and watched some more until finally harvest began. I had hoped for an action shot or two of a combine harvester but that will have to wait until next year.    But I managed a shot when the field was only partially harvested, with the round bales among the standing crop.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com Finally, returning from a dawn shoot at the coast I stopped on the east facing hill as the sun burst through the mist to take another image.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Barley Harvest Ireland Landscape Northern http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/10/life-on-land---harvest Tue, 08 Oct 2013 20:01:38 GMT
A child in the landscape http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/9/a-child-in-the-landscape It has been months since I updated this blog.  Summer has been and gone and with it my best intentions to keep up a regular supply of new photography!  I have an excuse, though.  I am a grandfather.  What a privilege!  

This surprisingly beautiful Irish summer will long be remembered in our family for the explosion of energy and joy, the flurry of arms and legs, the bouncing curls and dancing eyes of sweet Eliza.

I tend to capture landscapes that are people free.  Unless the inclusion of a human figure helps to provide a sense of scale or has a particular connection to the landscape I wait until I have the scene to myself.  But I've discovered that a grandchild brings something very special and universal to landscape photography: particular emotions, evocation of memories, the viewpoint of a child, a sense of innocence and wonder that we so quickly lose.  

First there was the fun of announcing her arrival.  All it took was a simple image of one of the symbols of childhood in these parts: a bucket on a beach.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com (In case you are wondering why the seawater is so brown, it often is along our shores where rivers flow into the sea, carrying water from the peat bogs high in the glens.) 

The next step was to wait until my granddaughter posed obligingly beside the bucket.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com Anyone looking at this in Florida will wonder how a little girl on a beach on a sunny day would need to be dressed like this.  Remember - this is Ireland, almost at its northernmost point.  (Granny's winter knitting was very necessary!)

The photo gave me an idea.  For me this is my granddaughter.  But because we cannot see her face, for everyone who doesn't know she becomes a little girl, representative of every little girl.  A symbol of childhood.  And rather than looking at her, we are looking with her, seeing what she is seeing, especially as I was shooting from her eye level, not mine.  

And that perhaps takes us on our own little journey.  The first time we saw the sea; the first time we took our children to the sea.  When all of life is about that single moment: a moment of wonder.

From then on, while I took many photos of her from a variety of angles, I sought on most occasions to get down to her level (not always easy when you are 60!) and capture what she was seeing.  

Amongst the many scenes captured during this best of summers, this is my favourite.  I call it - you guessed it - "Innocence and Wonder".

Innocence and wonderInnocence and wonder(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Child Innocence and wonder People in landscape Portstewart Strand Seascape Sunset http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/9/a-child-in-the-landscape Fri, 13 Sep 2013 21:12:04 GMT
"My heart leaps up" http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/5/polarising-the-rainbow The dramatic weather of this spring has provided plenty of excitement for rainbow chasers. Tuesday was a great example.  I drove home beneath darkening skies and the heavens finally opened with just a few miles to go.  The rain was so heavy I had to remain for some time in the shelter of the car.  Gradually the western horizon cleared and as the clouds marched towards the plateau I knew a rainbow was likely.  What I didn't know was just how dramatic it would prove to be.  There was just about time to grab my camera and coat before negotiating a couple of gates to get clear of the overhead power lines. 

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

The first shot was the particular reason for haste as I wanted to capture the faint double rainbow before it faded, as indeed it did.  The primary rainbow remained, the brightest I think I've ever seen, and also with the lowest arc.  That was unexpected.  The rainbow seemed so close that I could almost grasp the pot of gold at its end!  And with the rainbow so close to the ground it was very clear how much lighter the sky beneath the arc appeared than the sky above it. The sky was also quite dramatic, in various shades of grey with evolving, interesting shapes.

Having captured the all important first shot I headed further down the field until I was able to position the edge of the field square on to the frame as shots 2 and 3 reveal.  The first shot, however, remains my favourite.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

In the bright sunshine the browns of the 'moss' (as I believe it is called round here) and the greens of the newly grown grass provided a colourful accompaniment to the superb rainbow.

(c)GilbertLennoxPhotography.com

 

For those interested in the technical side it was an opportunity to prove the worth of a polarising filter when shooting rainbows.  Twist it one way and the rainbow completely disappears.  Twist it the other way and the colours really pop.  

The double arc is like a magical gateway to the Antrim plateau and the mysteries of the Glens beyond.  Wordsworth wrote: "My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky".  I think I know what he means.  

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Antrim Co Ireland Landscape Northern Rainbow http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/5/polarising-the-rainbow Sat, 18 May 2013 09:30:00 GMT
Hope springs http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/5/a-strange-attraction What is this strange attraction to ancient graveyards?  (Or am I the only one?) It isn't that I spend every weekend hunting them out, but when I come across one, as I did a couple of weeks ago, I find it compelling.  

In my continuing exploration of my "back yard" I stumbled upon Layde Road, rising high above the coast out of Cushendall and with it the ruins of Layde parish church, sited in a dip between the hills, one mile from the town, visible at a distance only from the sea.

    

The sun had just risen on a glorious morning.  The birds were singing, at last, no doubt relieved that spring had finally arrived.  And there wasn't a human soul in sight.  The bird song enhanced the silence and the solitude.

The roof is mostly missing.  But much of the walls and openings still remain.  And scattered around on three sides, interspersed with a few trees, are the graves, many very ancient and some quite contemporary and still tended.  

I can idle for a long time amongst grave stones, trying to decipher the crumbling marks of a mason's chisel and wondering about the people buried there and their stories.  Is it the sense of human history? A desire for connection?  The feeling that it is important to be reminded of my own mortality?  Or am I seeking that strange sensation that comes on those occasions where I see 'LENNOX' on the headstone, trying to imagine at what point and in what circumstances our family lines crossed?  

The location is a little puzzling.  To be so far from the town and difficult to access, especially in the cold, wet weather for which we are famous requires some explaining.

The first mention of the church dates back to the 14th century but it is reckoned to be older than that, perhaps several hundred years older.

 One explanation is that the church served the needs of Scottish non-conformists who were finding it difficult to practise their faith in their homeland.  If so, it is a symbol of the desire and need for freedom of faith and conscience.  It is a stirring thought.

I found this out afterwards.  At the time something else attracted my attention.  A host of golden daffodils.  

 

They glowed in the warming sunshine and I could imagine them, as Wordsworth saw them at Ullswater, "tossing their heads in sprightly dance".  For me, as for the poet, there was a wealth in that.  Not just a memory to bring some joy when 'vacant' and 'pensive' as Wordsworth was prone to become.  That dance of the heart is real but short lived.  The wealth lay somewhere else for me.  For this was a graveyard.  Hard and soft, rough and smooth, grey and yellow, death and life.  Despair and hope.

 

 

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Layde Parish Church, Cushendall, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, graveyard, daffodils, hope http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/5/a-strange-attraction Wed, 15 May 2013 11:30:00 GMT
Revelation http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/5/revelation "It's all about the light."

The technology comes in handy of course.  The camera, a decent lens, perhaps a tripod,  filters and the wide array of photographic paraphernalia that empties our wallets and weighs us down.  We also bring our minds to the task - not to mention eyes, hands and shoulders.  But with all of that, without light there is no photograph.

We can sometimes use our tiny technological candles - speedlights and even torches.  But in the end, if not in the beginning, we are dependent for light on a source which is not only beyond our planet but also beyond our control.  Photography is a humbling art form!

Sometimes there is not only light, there is a light spectacular.  There is such a display from the heavens that causes our mouths to drop open and our cars to screech to a halt at the road side.  This happened a couple of Fridays ago.  

I was taking a good friend on a short photographic expedition. The late afternoon had started very inauspiciously with a soaking at the Dark Hedges where the wind was also so strong that I had to fight to hold an umbrella in place for my friend to take a photograph.  Hail beat down upon us.  We drove to the beach at Ballycastle.  Another violent squall forced us back to the car.  And then the skies cleared enough for strong bursts of evening sunlight to catch the roaring surf.  The sea was in wonderful form!

As evening drew on, and fortified with fish and chips - calories apparently don't count when you are taking photos - we drove towards Ballintoy.  At one point the coast road turns a sharp corner before it plunges down towards the village.  And this is what filled our eyes.

The Parish Church Ballintoy. As often happens in these sudden moments I had the 'wrong' lens on the camera.  But fearing the display would soon be over I used the telephoto end of the 24-120 knowing I would crop it later to include only a few foreground details, and in particular the iconic church building.  There was something symbolic about it sitting in darkness, waiting for the light.  It reminded me of the Van Gogh print in my office - Starry Night - in which all the action is in the night sky above: there is no light coming from the windows of the church.  The church also is dependent on light from outside itself.

Finally there was the bird, soaring free, rising to the light.  I'm not sure why it is that in my photographs I try so often to include a bird in flight.  Perhaps it is because although I'm stuck on the ground, holding the camera, it is a way of symbolically putting myself in the picture.   

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Northern Ireland, sunset, light rays, church, Causeway Coast http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/5/revelation Mon, 13 May 2013 07:39:10 GMT
A new perspective on the Giant's Causeway http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/a-new-perspective-on-the-giants-causeway The final stage of my fisheye adventure took me to the Giant's Causeway.  On the walk to the causeway I discovered a brand new footpath has been built in time for the new season.  What better way to emphasise it than with the new lens.  

By this time it had turned into one of those rare, glorious April days where the skies are a dramatic blue, there is plenty of white cloud detail and there is always a chance of a rainbow.  (Not dramatic but it is there!)

From the same spot where I took the first photo I turned towards the West and found that the lens could take in the entire sweep of the bay.

The causeway itself, of course, was the real prize  but because of its justifiable popularity it is always a struggle, even in bad weather, to find it 'tourist free'.  This day was no exception.  It was like crossing a main road without the benefit of traffic lights - I had to grab the opportunity when it came.  The following are the images I managed to make, with people and without. I hope you enjoy this rather different take on our most famous tourist destination.

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Northern Ireland Landscape, Giant's Causeway, Causeway Coast, fisheye lens, rainbow http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/a-new-perspective-on-the-giants-causeway Mon, 22 Apr 2013 14:25:29 GMT
A new perspective on Dunluce - the adventure continues http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/a-new-perspective-on-dunluce This is part 2 of a mini-series charting one day of fun with a fisheye lens.  Two emails in response to the first post reminded me that I hadn't mentioned which precise lens I was using or even the camera.  Apologies.  The lens is a Nikon 16mm 2.8 fisheye and the camera a Nikon D800e.  Now back to the adventure.

I had planned a three stop tour of the Causeway Coast - in between coffee shops and eating places.  The first stop was the harbour at Portstewart.  The second was the wonderful ruined castle at Dunluce.  I headed down the steps stopping at the gap in the cliff for this shot.

I was astonished how the lens appeared to pull in the sides, propelling the eye forward into the centre of the photo and the castle itself.  (What looks like a black dot is in fact a bird! I couldn't bring myself to remove it in post processing.)

Once down at the castle new possibilities presented themselves.  I was now able to use the circular opening beneath the footbridge to advantage.

And by lying on my back to shoot up I was able to take another circular view.  Applications for this approach may be rather limited although I can imagine it would be interesting in Manhattan!

I climbed back up the steps to capture the wide view from above.  After a variety of shots I began to pack up to leave when I noticed that the light had changed, one of April's many showers darkened the sky and the sea beneath turned a remarkable shade of green.  Once again the fisheye effect is apparent with the coastline being 'pulled in' and the castle seeming to sit forward in the prominent place.

I cropped the final shot to a panorama to complete this second part of the adventure.

Dunluce Panorama

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland Landscape, Causeway Coast, panorama, fisheye lens http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/a-new-perspective-on-dunluce Sat, 20 Apr 2013 09:15:00 GMT
A new perspective http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/a-new-perspective Fisheye lenses are fun.  Serious fun.  More fun than you can shake a stick at!  

It's a lens I've dreamt of owning but probably would never have bought.  Apparently, however, sixtieth birthdays are as rare as fisheye lenses and in my case, thanks to my family, they coincided.  So Monday 15th April 2013 was serious fisheye fun.

It's not the lens for portraiture, unless you want to make crazy caricatures.  But in landscape photography it adds something very different.  

Fisheye lenses have a really wide field of view.  They pack a lot in.  I've walked around Portstewart Harbour many times but I have never seen it like this.

At the same time fisheye lenses have a very short minimum focussing distance which enables the camera to go extremely close, keep everything in focus and get a huge amount in - as this photo of the lobster pots in Portstewart harbour illustrates.

I took this with the lens only a few inches away from the pots.  I had to in order to get the shot for the gap between them and the edge of the harbour was very narrow.

Of course the fisheye has other effects which are clear in this shot: the characteristic curve top and bottom of the picture together with the distorted perspective which makes the pots at the edges seem much further away than those in the centre.  So for those looking for realism, this isn't the lens for them.  But what a great way to isolate and focus on a particular object!  In this case the subject of the photograph is unmistakeable: it is up close and personal.  And by viewing it in this (distorted) perspective, we see it differently.  The textures, the colours, the knots, the relationship between the individual parts.

For me this is one of the key features.  

Between the row of shops and the harbour stands the Fishing Boat, a bronze sculpture by Niall O'Neill, unveiled in 1996 that commemorates the songwriter Jimmy Kennedy (author of "Red sails in the sunset" who spent much of his early life in Portstewart.  In an earlier blog on 'rust' I used a telephoto lens to isolate a small area of the bronze.  I have also tried other ways of capturing the sculpture.  Unfortunately it is surrounded by a certain amount of clutter - necessary, I suppose (safety railing, benches, litter bins) but still clutter.  How to make the sculpture really stand out?  This is what a fisheye can do.

Next time I might try a lower angle.  But it certainly stands out!

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) Portstewart Harbour, Fishing Boat sculpture, lobster pots, fisheye lens http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/a-new-perspective Thu, 18 Apr 2013 09:00:00 GMT
The road to St Johann http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/the-road-to-st-johann Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a conference in St Johann im Pongau, south of Salzburg in Austria.  I had been there two years previously but on this occasion I had a couple of extra days in which to spend time with friends and take the camera for a walk!

Having stayed with friends in Munich overnight, we travelled together the next day.  They very kindly took me the (even more) scenic route through the mountains to our destination. 

I took this first photo through the car windscreen as the mountains rose to greet us.

It was the most beautiful day for the journey with a Baverian sky (blue and white) that accompanied us to the (invisible) border to be replaced by an Austrian sky of the same colours.  

Part of the fun of the drive were the tunnels and I couldn't resist experimenting.  

One of my memories from my previous visit concerned the remarkable green of the glacial water that flows down its rivers.  It was explained to me that the grinding action of the glaciers produces 'rock flour' (minute pieces of rock and minerals) which refract the green spectrum of the sun's light.  So at the first sign of such a river we stopped.  This time I didn't shoot through the windscreen!  It was challenging nonetheless as the sun was still strong and I was shooting into it.  Some flare was unavoidable.

Our route took us through the picturesque village of Lofer.  Here is one of the 'grab' shots I made as there was no time to hang about.  What a setting!

Just beyond Lofer we came across a small, dark barn.  I was very taken with its colour, isolation and the dramatic landscape behind it.

As we turned away from the sun to climb the Hochkonig, the landscape became more and more picture postcard under an almost impossibly blue sky. I particularly liked the splash of colour of the logs under its blanket of snow.

 

 

Finally we descended into the valley and our destination of St Johann.

So many thanks to Michael and Jennifer and their four beautiful girls for a memorable trip.

]]>
gilbert.lennox@me.com (Gilbert Lennox Photography) http://gilbertlennoxphotography.com/blog/2013/4/the-road-to-st-johann Mon, 01 Apr 2013 18:00:00 GMT