This is the fourth post in a series documenting our photography trip to Ireland in 2014
The next stop in our western journey was Connemara National Park, north of the Burren. We stopped at a nice castle ruin along the way, and got some great pictures. Like most of this sort of attraction in Ireland, we found the admission price too steep, and I was more interested in taking pictures of castles and ruins from the outside, so we didn’t go in.
The Connemara landscape is even more beautiful and a gradual shift from the Burren. Both locales are rocky and open, but Connemara is green grass instead of gold, and its hills a bit more mountainous. The mountains have few trees and, like the Burren, are almost lonely in their sparseness, but the valley area leading into Connemara is lightly forested and dotted with small, manicured villages as well as the pretty seaside town of Galway. The area is also famous for its ponies, for their strength and stamina in such a harsh environment.
The first highlight of this stage was the Sky Road. A brief loop from the lovely town of Clifden where we stayed to a spectacular coastline vista. It was also, incidentally, the first proper scenic overlook parking we had come across. I shot some panoramas with my ND soft grad filters and my tripod. A german couple, noting my gear, mistook me for a pro and asked me to take their picture with their Nikon V1. I hate it when this happens. I’ve only ever used the OMD, and although finding some other camera’s shutter button shouldn’t be that hard, I am always embarrassingly fumbling around with unfamiliar controls, wondering why the OVF doesn’t show live view, and revealing my noob status. But, I gamely do what I can.
The second highlight was a hike along the National Park’s mountain trails, which opened up an incredible vista of the countryside, lakes and villages below. I took the most complicated photography project I have yet attempted — a 9-frame horizontal panorama all in HDR. The final image (not shown here) is ridiculously long and far from perfect, but from a technical perspective it came out fine and taught me a lot about following the necessary steps for such a complicated project.
For post processing, I used Photomatix Pro to merge the bracketed photos into 9 HDR images, all with the same settings. Then (for the first time) I used a free software called Hugin to stitch the HDR images into the panorama. Hugin did an effective job, but is not without some annoying quirks. I did the final touch-ups in iPhoto (now called Photos). I used this workflow for all of the pannies in this journal. As someone who doesn’t like computers at all, and does not want to splurge for Photoshop CC or Lightroom (and despair of ever learning their tome-deep interfaces), I find dedicated software applications more user-friendly and quite powerful, and iPhoto seems to do all that I care to do in touching up RAW files. That said, I hate iPhoto’s file management, and am cautiously optimistic that Photos will someday be a worthy upgrade.
I found that panoramas helped capture the scope and grandeur of Ireland’s spectacular vistas nicely, such as the four-part stitch at the beginning of this section. Another interesting art filter for mountain landscapes was — we discovered — Diorama. It conveyed the depth and scales we were witnessing in an exaggerated but pleasing way.