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by Andy McInroy
Photograph Of The Month - September 2008

The Giant's Head, White Rocks, Portrush, County Antrim

The Giant's Head
White Rocks, Portrush, County Antrim

Technical Details
Date/Time: 9.00pm 30th July 2008
Exposure times: 15 seconds
Aperture: F16
Focal Length: 14mm (APS Sensor)
Lens: Pentax 14mm DA
Camera: Pentax K10D
Support: Tripod with cable release
Filtration: 1 stop neutral density graduated (to balance exposure)
3 stop neutral density (to lengthen exposure)

4 Minutes in the Life of a Landscape

Landscape photography requires two key elements. The first is the canvas of the landscape itself. The second crucial element is the light which reflects off it. There are no towering alpine peaks or vast tracts of pristine wilderness in Ireland, but what we do have is interesting light. The fast moving Atlantic weather fronts passing over Ireland create a continually changing light display across the landscape. For that reason, it can sometimes pay dividends to wait patiently for the light rather than chase it.

A good example of rapidly changing light conditions occurs when a weather front clears from the west at sunset. There will be cloud overhead but a break will be developing at the western horizon. As the sun sets there will be an intercept where the sun meets the cloudbreak. In the short period before the sun sets, there can be some spectacular and rapidly changing light. In late July at the White Rocks near Portrush I could see this situation developing. It had rained all day but the weather front was clearing out of the west. In anticipation, I set my tripod up down by the waters edge looking towards a famous local landmark known as the Giant's Head and waited.

Not a lot happened for quite a while as the sun slowly descended behind the thick cloud. I was content to sit and watch the birdlife and seals beneath the cliffs. Some time later the light began to warm almost imperceptibly and I readied myself at the tripod. This is the first shot that I took. What you can see in this first photograph is subtle colour, muted contrast and the first hints of a pink glow created by the filtered sun.

Over the next four minutes the light changed by the second. Contrast strengthened, colours became more saturated and the overall warmth increased dramatically. Just as I thought the light couldn't get any more golden, the sun burst through beneath the cloud and the whole cliff began to glow an almost unbelievable orange.

Sunglasses at the ready - Here it comes

Text and photos © Andy McInroy