This is the third post in a series documenting our photography trip to Ireland in 2014




The Cliffs of Moher

We hit these famous cliffs twice, once during the day and once at sunset. During the day there is a €6 per-person parking fee, but we were able to park free after the park officially closed, and access to the cliffs was still available.  We were not able to wander too far down the trails along the cliffside due to limited time, but I took a huge amount of pictures from different angles at the main area.


The Cliffs of Moher by day, shot with the Diorama Art Filter, to change the depth perception to make the scene look like a miniaturized model.
(click to view full-size)

During the day visit, the overcast skies lent to HDR and Dramatic Tone, and I also took some  longer exposures to freeze the water.  For the sunset, I did more HDR and art filters (such as Diorama, B&W, and Dramatic Tone), and was quite happy with the results.   If you are planning a trip to the Cliffs, I highly recommend being there for the sunset.

I have found that of the different disciplines of photography I am interested in, I am least satisfied with my landscape photography.  No matter how breathtaking I found the spectacle, and regardless of how careful my composition, my landscape photos were always flat and well-short of the beauty I was trying to capture.  I now know that great landscape photography is a painstaking effort of patience, familiarity, and timing, but when traveling one does not usually have the luxury for all of that.  This is where utilizing art filters or other techniques can add a lot of pop to an otherwise pedestrian tourist shot.

The Cliffs by day in Dramatic Tone (click to view full-size)

The Cliffs by day in Dramatic Tone
(click to view full-size)

I know that many photographers dismiss these functions in the OMD, but I see no point in eschewing something that gives pleasing results with such little effort.  When done with artistic taste, HDR and panoramas can have a similar, value-added effect, although one should not ignore the other elements of good photography in the process.  I love what HDR does for stretching the dynamic range and noise control of the OMD, and the EM-1 makes taking HDR super-easy.  I also enjoy the occasional tone-mapping, even though some photographers find it gimicky.  To me, all art has classical standards for very good reason, but those standards are still meant to be broken from time to time.  I may be in the minority in this opinion, but to my mind these techniques (again, when done well) are every bit as valid as utilizing black and white.

I use Photomatix Pro to process HDR files.  It costs $100, but is worth every penny if you are an HDR-aholic (like me).  While there are no HDR images in this post, you will see many in other posts and in the gallery.


One of my favorite art filter results was use of Dramatic Tone with the Cliffs of Moher at sunset. I used another, very similar image on the front page of the blog. I shot the images with JPEG+RAW, so that I could see what the filtered and non-filtered shots looked like.
(click to view full-size)


The Pooka (Púca)

That evening was one of the most terrifying moments in my life.  We had just finished dinner in the nearby town of Lahinch, and had to race to the Cliffs before the sun set.  With only minutes to spare, I had my wife drop me off at the bus park, and I ran up to the Cliffs.  Too pressed for time to modify our plan, I had assumed my wife was going to stay in the car.  After taking dozens of pictures of the glorious sunset, I returned to the road to get picked up.  She wasn’t there.  I thought perhaps she had driven up the road a little and would be back.  She didn’t.  I ran several times back and forth from the parking lot to the Cliffs looking for her.

I am a middle aged man and no where near in the shape I used to be.  I had been huffing and puffing when I first had run all the way to the Cliffs.  Now, with my adrenaline pumping in rising fear for whatever may have happened, I was running full-bore.  It was getting darker and the few groups of people still at the park were leaving.  I found the car in the parking lot, locked and empty of her and the rest of our gear.  I figured she had gotten out of the car on her own since it was locked, but I hadn’t seen her on the Cliffs and it was becoming too dark to see far.

After what was probably 15 minutes but felt like a year, I asked a lone woman about to drive away for a phone to call the police.   The woman told me she saw my wife in the park.  Infinitely relieved, I went back and finally found her.  As scared as I had been, my irascible wife had never really thought about being in danger, and was instead just stone-cold mad.  She had parked, then taken the tripod, filters and jackets and lugged them up the Cliffs, but had gone right instead of left.  After not finding me, she took her time back down, and was going to let me have it for making her carry all of that gear (in my defense, not that heavy of a load).  Fortunately, the look on my face stayed her tongue.

A week later in Dublin, we relayed this tale to a storyteller we met in a pub.  He laughed and told the audience about a mischievous faerie in Irish folklore called the Pooka, who would lead people astray for long periods of time — sometimes years.  Generally, it was men who told their wives of how the Pooka got them (naturally, they had been out all night drinking), but we got an honorable mention in the story as proof that Pookas were still up to their old tricks.

One of my last shots of the evening, wide angle showing the tower ruins and a couple strolling in the distance. The shot at the beginning of this section was Dramatic Tone, once again. (click to view full-size)

One of my last shots of the evening, wide angle showing the tower ruins and a couple strolling in the distance. Exposing for the sky and not the foreground made for a nice silhouette and contrast in colors. While I was not intentionally trying to smooth the water, shooting at 1/100th was necessary for the dimming light, and was sufficient to create the mirror effect on the already calm ocean.
(click to view full-size)

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