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by Andy McInroy
Photograph Of The Month - June 2010

Fanad Lighthouse
IR479, Fanad Lighthouse, County Donegal
7.46pm, 27th May
Pentax K10D, 14mm DA, F19, 1.5 seconds, Tripod
Lee 2 stop ND graduated filter, Lee 3 stop ND filter, Lee polariser

Fanad Lighthouse
IR480
9.05pm, 27th May
Pentax K10D, 14mm DA, F22, 150 seconds, Tripod
Lee 2 stop ND graduated filter, B+W 6 stop ND filter, Lee 3 stop ND filter

Fanad Lighthouse
IR481
10.10pm, 27th May
Pentax K10D, 14mm DA, F9.5, 2 seconds, Tripod
Lee 2 stop ND graduated filter

Three Moods of
Fanad Lighthouse

The speed with which the weather can change on Ireland's Atlantic coast never fails to amaze me. These fleeting changes are accompanied by changes in light and shadow across the landscape. Fast moving weather is what I most appreciate as a photographer. The play of constantly shifting tone and colour means that no two exposures are alike and I need to be on my toes to capture a composition that balances the sky, the landscape and the light which falls upon it.

These three images, taken on a single evening at Fanad Lighthouse in Donegal, demonstrate how rapidly changing light can transform a scene. The mood which I am trying to communicate can also be controlled, to some extent, by the shutter speed and filtration which I decide to use.

The first image was taken 2 hours before sunset while the sun was still high in the sky. My plan was to use mid-length exposure of 1.5 seconds to add drama to the sea. By using a neutral density (ND) filter and polariser in combination, I have managed to lengthen the exposure. The polariser has also reduced the reflections off the water which has resulted in a deeper sea colour and improved contrast with the darker areas of sea in the foreground.

The second image has a warmer and softer feel and was taken 20mins before sunset. Note how the lighthouse itself is glowing orange in the final rays of the sun. This time, two ND filters have been stacked to achieve a exposure time of over 2 mins. This has rendered the sea a dreamy haze. The clouds receeding away from the camera have also been blurred by the long exposure and have hopefully added to the dreamlike atmosphere. The clouds appear to move directly towards the ligthouse and therefore act as leading lines to the focal point of the lighthouse. They also avoid the viewers attention being pulled out of the frame. The key here is that everything is soft except for the lighthouse and rocks which stand out sharply.

The third image is a much darker composition taken 40 minutes after sunset. By this time, all the warm tones had disappeared from the landscape. I decided to keep my camera white balance on 'sunny' to accentuate the cool feel that I was looking for. The lighthouse was now flashing and I timed my exposures to catch three flashes at a time which required an exposure time of 2 seconds. By timing my shot against the flashes and also against the outswell of the sea, I was able to capture the light as well as the streams of water flowing back off the rocks.

So, here are three very different moods of practically the same scene. Being lucky enough with the weather conditions to be able to capture such a set of images made for a very rewarding evening. I have no doubt that the next time I go back it will look very different again.

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Text and photos © Andy McInroy