Shooting the West of Ireland Weather

On the landscape workshops, we are not always blessed with perfect photography weather. Sometimes, it’s a mix of rain, wind and sunshine. Sometimes the skies are bright and cloudless and other times the rain just won’t stop. You are forced into shooting the west of Ireland weather.

I’ve only ever had to cut short one workshop – the rain was just incessant. But this is the west of Ireland after all so we have to expect changeable conditions. Of course, we all know that the golden hours, sunrise and sunset are the best times to shoot. This isn’t always possible on our workshops as people often travel from the other side of Ireland to attend. But weather permitting, we always end up down at the coast for a sunset shoot.

Devils Mother mountain

On a recent workshop, the weather was pretty typical – a little sunshine between regular showers. At these times, many photographers would stay at home and leave the camera packed for another day. However, I’m very much of the belief that as photographers we should rise to and welcome whatever challenges Mother Nature throws at us.

The day started off looking quite promising when we met with those attending. It was bright with large rain clouds moving swiftly across the sky.

By the time we arrived at the first stop the rain had settled in. However, there was an occasional dry break where we could get out of the car and work the location. There are quite a few different angles here and the shot below was taken during a rain shower. I have a nice deep hood on my camera and this kept any water droplets off the lens. This scene represents a true reflection of some days in the mountains of west Mayo. Five minutes later, this scene was gone.

I then swapped my 24-70mm lens for the 70-200mm and grabbed a few “detail” shots. Here, the light was beginning to break through the clouds on a distant mountain. The surrounding scenery was dark and uninteresting so I zoomed in to capture this view. As the colour palette was limited, I decided to convert the image to black and white.
Looking out for smaller details within the landscape gives you a better understanding of the locations you will shoot at and more awareness of small changes in the light.

Misty mountain top

Lately, I‘ve been trying to include some people in my landscape images. For me, it gives a sense of scale and shows that this is a living landscape where people work, live and play. Here. Fintan is trying to balance the bright sky with the darker foreground. We use filters to do this, just as I have in my shot of him.

Shooting along the Bundorragha river.

In the shot below, some of the workshop group are working their way along the banks of the Bundorragha river. The grasses were particularly nice and work in black and white as well as colour. You’ll know by now that I am a big fan of simple, dark and moody black and white images.

Bundorragha river

Everyone that stops at the following location seems to capture it differently. Normally, I don’t shoot much on the workshops myself – shooting is not my job on these days. But I do take a few behind the scenes snaps and working like this helps me to find a different view every time.
Here, the light changes very quickly and if you’re observant enough, you’ll spot the shot coming. I have used elements within the scene to draw the viewers eye from the photographer on the left down into the valley below.

The Glenumera river

By the time we reached the coast the weather had really turned against us. There was a four metre tide, which normally makes for good images here. But the wind and spray blowing in from the Atlantic ocean were very strong. On top of that. the rain had settled in for the evening. This made it impossible to keep cameras and filters dry.

We huddled around talking and discussing the day before deciding to call it quits and head home. Everyone was happy that they had managed to get some shots to take with them. Now, it would just be a matter of processing to images to get the very best out of them.

I know this final shot won’t be to everyone’s taste but I like this type of image. The blurred, shadowy figures add a sense of mystery to the scene and hint at the weather we were trying to work with. Even in the very worst conditions, there is still a shot.

3 figures in the mist

The photos in this article only give a small indication of what you can look for when the weather is not ideal. This is something that I try to impart during the day – that you should try to capture a sense of a place rather than some romanticised idea you may have of the emerald isle. 🙂

However, maybe we also need to change our opinions on what is ideal weather for photography. There is an onus on us as photographers to work with whatever we are given. When you think like this, your craft and creativity will grow and make you a better photographer.
What do you think? Feel free to share any thoughts you have in the comments below.




1 Comment
  1. Patrick Mc Donnell says

    As long as there is light photography is possible. Make the best of the conditions and be prepared for the elements we are lucky here in Ireland as “if you don’t like the weather just wait 15 minutes” often applies!

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