Kerry and the Skelligs

Nikon D800 24mm PCE lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

I’ve been chasing my tail for the last couple of months with little time for editing. I visited Kerry a couple of months ago with a fellow photographer and long-term friend. Our primary objective was the Skellig Islands, but we had also planned to do some additional photography in a few other locations in the county.

The Skellig’s are  one of the few Islands in Ireland I have not managed to get to – the optimum time to visit  always seems to clash with workshops that I’m running here in Ireland, or abroad.  However, I did promise myself that I would try and make the effort this year to go and experience them for myself. The islands lie approximately 13km off Bolus Head on the Inveragh Peninsula.

Skellig Michael and monastery steps.

This image shows just how potentially dangerous it could be if you happen to trip on the steps. There is nothing between you and the ocean below. Panoramic composite of six images.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod. 

I am no stranger to this amazing county and take advantage of any opportunity to go back whenever  I can. Our weather was very much hit and miss and we were nearly deprived of getting on to Skellig Michael due to very unsettled and windy conditions during our visit this time. After 2 days of failure, we finally managed to get out on our last day, but not without a bit of excitement and drama. The journey out from Portmagee was to say the least adventurous, the conditions were pretty rough and there was no guarantee that we would be able to land. Half way out we had a member who found the whole experience too much to endure and we had to do a U-turn and head back to port only to endure the whole experience again. The rather large swell of the Atlantic meant that it was virtually impossible for most of the time to stand up, even when supported with the boat rail and the spray from the water engulfed most people every few minutes. After an hour or so we approached Skellig Michael – a large conical rock mass of Devonian Sandstone, which perforates the Atlantic in the shape of a large arrowhead. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and renowned in archaeological terms for its well preserved early Christian monastic settlement. The slightly calmer water on the sheltered side of the island allowed us very briefly to grab a few quick hand-held shots with one hand holding the camera and the other clasped around the boats rail.

Despite the swell on the water we did manage to get on to the island and then began the long hike up the six hundred or so steps, which eventually leads to the bee hive huts situated on the upper most part of the island.

Skellig Michael.

I just about managed to get a couple of shots of this iconic island  before the deck was awash with the next avalanche of sea spray.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/8, ISO 800.

 

Rock formations on your way up to the settlement.

There are many opportunities for photographs as you climb the 600 steps to the top. We had only a very short time on the island so you have to work quickly and methodically. It is best to go to the top first take your photographs and then work your way down to the small jetty.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Little Skellig from Skellig Michael.

This photograph is taken from just above the small jetty on the stone path that leads up to the settlement on top.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Skellig Michael.

This image shows part of the path that is no longer open. Renovation work is ongoing on the island at present.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Little Skellig from the steps up to the settlement near the summit.

There are many opportunities along the route which provide excellent views of Little Skellig.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Little Skellig from the boat.

Another quickly grabbed shot as the boat took us back via the smaller island, which has the largest colony of breeding gannets in Europe. Approximately 30,000 of them fight for a small piece of rock each year in order to breed.
Having visited the colony on the Saltee Islands off the coast of Wexford for many years the site of so many birds here was truly memorable.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/8, ISO 800.

 

We  spent some time exploring several other locations during the first couple of days since it was not possible to get out to the islands. The weather was changeable; mainly cloudy conditions with occasional breaks. We travelled up to Dingle again and spent one of the days in that area.

 

Beenbane Head

Beenbane Head lies to the south of Dingle town. We photographed it from a small side road that leads to Dingle Lighthouse. Navigating the rocks below the lighthouse  is always a bit tricky, but essential if you want to get a clean view of the headland. This is a composite image shot using a panoramic base.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Beenbane Head

A different interpretation of basically the same scene, except in this case I used a six-stop ND filter to soften and simplify the composition producing an artistic impression. This approach is very much in vogue at the moment, but there is a danger that it can be overdone.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Dingle Lighthouse

Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Dromgour Sea Cliffs, south of Portmagee

 

Just outside the village of Portmagee lie Dromgour Sea Cliffs, which are well worth a visit. I could see the potential of the vista here and it would be well worth returning when conditions were more favuorable.
The two images show within the space of 10 minutes just how quickly the cloud formation changes during our brief stop.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Dromgour Sea Cliffs, south of Portmagee

Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Foiltagarriff Valencia Island

 

The  weather here was very changeable with little sign of sunlight. Also, having to visit a site in early afternoon is hardly  the ideal time to shoot the landscape. However, exploring potential locations is a very important and necessary part of the photographic process.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

Horse Island, Long-Island and Puffin-Island in the distance

This photograph is taken from a high viewpoint on Valentia Island,

Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

Beginish Island from Valentia Island

Valentia Lighthouse can be seen clearly in the distance, along with Beginish Island.
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Fertha River & Knocknadobar Mountain

 

As you approach the town of  Cahersiveen you are confronted with splendid views of Knocknadobar Mountain and the Fertha River. Unfortunately, we were passing through in the middle of the day – hardly the optimum time for serious landscape photography, but still worth a stop to admire the view!
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

St Brendan the Navigator Monument

 

Lying directly in front of your vision across to Knocknadobar Mountain is this exquisitely produced monument to St Brendan the Navigator – the  5th century monastic saint  renowned for his travel and quest to the Isle of Blessed.

Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/11, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Valentia Lighthouse

 

Two different approaches to a similar scene. Valentia is seldom so calm and there was no wave action at all. Selecting potential locations for another trip was the best we could hope for on a calm day such as this. This is a composite image photographed using a panoramic base.

Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/16, ISO 100, tripod.

 

Valentia Lighthouse

I am not a big fan of ND filters for seascapes, but use them selectively and carefully in the most appropriate situations. They are often over used these days. I think some situations lend themselves to this approach, but not every seascape.  
Nikon D800 24mm – 70mm lens at F/11, ISO 100, tripod and panoramic base.

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