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Up and about since 2003.

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Mat Kearney

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Apr 12 | Durla Photo Workshop with Daragh

It’s nearing the end of the afternoon, and my feet are sinking into the bog, unstable among the mole-hill-like bumps that dot the hills. We’re at the Coronation Plantation, somewhere in the Wicklow mountain area, and there’s so much to see. Except, of course, in typical Ireland fashion, it starts to rain.

Two weekends ago I decided on a whim to take one of my first photo workshops in Dublin. It was partially motivated by the fact that I wanted to see a side of the country that I might not otherwise get to see if I were to embark on a tour say to the Giant’s Causeway or elsewhere, and I wanted to make sure I could walk away with a couple of neat new tricks in trying to improve my photography skills. To be honest, there were a couple of things that stymied my effort- it was fairly last minute, the weather wasn’t going to be particularly promising, and I didn’t know who to reach out to.

After a couple of hours researching, though, I stumbled upon Daragh Muldowney and his photography work, and emailed him on the off-chance that he would be available the weekend I was in Dublin for work. He was luckily available, the weather in the Wicklow area wasn’t going to be too horrible, and so I was ready to leave at 5:30 in the morning. We drove towards the Wicklow Mountains, but stopped first at Glendolough, where we set up for the first shots of the morning.

Lakeside in the morning: Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a sunrise, but I learned about using graduated ND filters in order to reduce the amount of light reaching my camera, which would be useful in smoothing down the water ripples.

Ruins: we headed next to a beautiful set of old ruins, but I had a hard time structuring the shot. One of key things I learned was to take time to compose and explore the scenery, instead of trying to capture the first thing that looks appealing or get hung up on something that looks nice.

Macro: Daragh had a couple of awesome lenses I could borrow since he also shot with a Canon. This one was taken with a 100mm macro lens. I learned about using a macro slider, which allows you to make minuscule adjustments to your macro setup.

Plains: This was a beautiful and rough contrasting terrain that I loved taking in. I learned how to take panorama shots correctly, and to use the Highlight Alert feature in order to make sure the photo isn’t washed out.

Bubbles: This was a fun one that I hadn’t had an eye for until Daragh pointed it out. The stream that flowed near the plans had white foam streaming down it (perhaps some artifact of the peat?) and we tried out a shot that involved an ND filter and longer exposure.

Forest: This one was also a bit tricky, in that there was a lot to focus on and not much to focus into. In the end I tried a panorama but didn’t feel like I “got” something particularly promising.

Stream: this was a fun one, if not a tricky shot to take. I was perched somewhat perilously on a rock with a tripod and the camera, but it was fun trying to expose carefully for the water while composing for the rocks in the stream.

Coronation Plantation: this was definitely a highlight. While I’m still not quite satisfied with this end result (it’s a bit too contrasty), it was a lot of fun tramping about in the fields, trying to find the interesting lonely trees to frame against the ominous, dark skies.

Powerscout Waterfall: after a snack (we had pretty much powered through the whole day after breakfast) the last stop of the day was a fantastic waterfall. He challenged me to take everything I learned in the day and shoot one shot as though it were my last, and while I wasn’t happy with the one I ended up taking, I followed Daragh’s ideas and took the one below.

To wrap things up, I learned

  • Composing carefully before trying to shoot, and where to focus
  • The need to have a tripod (and a good one at that)
  • The power of good filters, especially neutral density ones
  • Making the most of the highlight alert feature and the exposure histogram
  • How to take good panoramas
  • The neat features a macro lens offers
  • The usefulness of RAW

I also managed to witness some of the beautiful, rough, and ragged countryside that Ireland plays host to, and I’m looking forward to going back when the flowers are in bloom. All in all, a really fantastic entire day spent learning and exploring together with an awesome photographer.

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