Why Connemara is great for Landscape Photographers
Early Sunday afternoon I drove out west to Connemara to capture the evening light and stay overnight in my trusty ‘Disco’ (that’s deserving of a story and a separate post which I’ll reserve for another day) to catch sunrise. We are having an amazing “Indian Summer” here in Ireland this year with little to no rain since the beginning of September and plenty of sunshine. The nights are getting colder with clear skies which all us landscape photographers love, salivating with the prospect of mist hovering over wetlands and lakes in the early morning.
Many argue the actual boundaries of Connemara and I will leave that debate to others. From my perspective (that of a photographer) things get interesting once you go west of a town named Oughterard. The lakes become plentiful, the terrain starts to turn mountainous and trees become scarce. This is the west of Ireland after all which takes the full brunt of weather coming across the Atlantic. No shortage of wind and rain here during the winter months. It is this weather that so often delivers magical light and makes it a playground for landscape photographers at any time of year. The feature attraction is the Twelve Pins (or Twelve Bens) a mountain range of sharp-peaked quartzite which scale up to 700m in altitude. The steep slopes produce numerous streams. The Inagh Valley separates this range from the Maumturk range which are similar in altitude but not as dramatic. The numerous lakes spread around the valleys between the Twelve Bens and in Inagh valley provide great opportunities for interesting foregrounds and dramatic reflections.
I find it useful to scout the area during the harsh light in late morning and afternoon, plotting key scenes on Google or Apple Maps on the iPhone, noting the compass bearing to determine whether the scene is best shot at sunrise or sunset. There is a great App called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” for planning landscape shoots which I highly recommend. It shows you sunrise and sunset times for a chosen location and more. I stayed on the main roads on this trip as I had extra gear for shooting some behind the scenes video and audio footage, but definitely want to venture on foot through the Twelve Pins as there is tremendous scope for dramatic images at higher elevations (if anyone reading this knows these trails please get in touch!).
I’ve just covered a small sample of what is on offer in Connemara, and there is so much more which I will definitely be returning to capture. In summary you have got:
– barren landscape not populated
– too many lakes and streams to count
– changeable weather for dramatic light
– relatively accessible
– rugged coastline that forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way
– little light pollution for catching those milky-way night shots or nocturnes
So pack your gear and head west. I’m a big fan of Lee Filters and if you can get your hands on some bring them as they are essential for this location, particularly, variable and gradual neutral density filters to control the sky and smooth water.
That’s it for now. Watch out for future updates from this photographers playground.