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by Andy McInroy

Print Of The Month - October 2006

Landscape Photograph
Castles in the Sea
Ballintoy, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Technical Details
Exposure time: 2 seconds
Aperture: f22
Focal Length: 16mm (APS sensor)
Lens: Pentax 16-45mm DA
Filtration: 2 stop neutral density graduate over sky

Ballintoy harbour is one of the most photographed locations on the North Antrim coast and is featured on a multitude of postcards and calendars. To me however, the real jewels of Ballintoy lie just a short walk around the coast where a secluded bay is surrounded by massive sea stacks, impressive volcanic cliffs and a beautiful sea arch. The largest and most notable of the sea stacks is known as "The Elephant Rock" and can be seen on the left of this photograph. From certain angles, it is possible to imagine a huge elephant standing in the ocean with its trunk hanging down to meet the sea. This magnificent natural stack has become a local legend to children who come to see the great elephant which was unfortunate enough to be turned to rock by the fire of a volcano.

I chose to visit this location towards the middle of September when I knew that the sun would be setting exactly due West. I hoped that this would silhouette the sea stacks to make a dark yet beautiful image. I was helped by mother nature when some gentle cloud appeared from the West just as the sun began to set.

This image was composed such that the background was split by the three distinct rocky stacks, the central of which appears as a dark and ominous castle in the sea. The elephant rock appears on the left with its long "trunk" just visible on the right hand side. Initially I struggled with the foreground composition. I found a larger boulder to help clarify things somewhat, although it's still not as simple as I would ideally have liked. The huge difference in light levels between the sky and the sea required the use of a neutral graduate filter over the sky to balance the exposure. The exposure time was set to 2 seconds to record the sea as a gentle mist to give the "castle" an appearance of floating in the sea.

This is a location that I plan to return to again as the photographic potential here is limitless. I hope that other photographers feel inspired to visit. Just watch out for that mighty Elephant. When the sun sets, he can get quite angry.

Text and photos © Andy McInroy