Location: Malin Head, County Donegal, Ireland
Time of Day: The sun was just falling below the horizon at sunset
Equipment: Canon 6D, Canon 16-35mm L lens, Lee 1.2 soft edge neutral density graduated filter
Donegal has a wide selection of stunning beaches and coves for the landscape photographer to choose from, but this is one of my favourites. It faces west and gets good light during sunset at any time of year. I first became aware of this location when I saw a shot my friend Andy McInroy took of it several years ago. In my opinion each landscape location has a 'hero shot.' That is, a landscape photograph of such quality, due to the skill of the photographer and the coming together of perfect conditions, that it is unlikely to ever be matched! This is Andy's hero shot. I can't imagine better colours, composition or use of shutter speed. Don't forget to click the photograph to visit Andy's website in a new window. He has an unmatched selection of landscape photographs from County Donegal.
I visited at low tide so decided to stay away from the shore itself, instead focusing on the dramatic mountains layered on the horizon. The foreground was full of interesting colours and textures so I spent at least half an hour before sunset trying different compositions. I found it very difficult to find something that worked. The dark rocks in the middle of the frame act as a block to the natural flow of the image. However, moving beyond them meant losing foreground interest and all of those lovely colours.
In order to try and reduce the dominance of that dark area I used the wall as my foreground interest. The texture and brightness of the wall achieves this to an extent, but also leads the eye slightly out of the image rather than into it, so it wasn't a total success.
The colours here are beautiful at any time of day, but at sunset the warm light really makes things glow and it is a magical place to spend some time.
One point to note is that, whilst it is nice to assume that with the passage of time one becomes a better landscape photographer, I find that a lot of my compositions from several years ago are stronger than in my current body of work.
I blame this on my shift to the use of ultra-wide angle lenses. When I took the image above the widest lens I had was approximately 27mm (35mm equivilent), whereas now I often shoot at 16mm. Whilst zooming out and taking in lots of the scene may seem very dramatic and exciting through the viewfinder, I am starting to think that this doesn't necessarily translate to a more engaging photograph.
The older shot is in my 'Favourites' gallery, and I shall not be replacing it with the new one. I find the older one to be far more interesting and I get a much better sense of being present in the scene. By not being able to quickly zoom out to show everything I wanted to, I feel like I was forced to compose the image in a way which cleverly included the main elements of the scene.
I have found myself reaching for my telephoto lens much more than my wide angles recently, although I still feel there is a place for ultra-wide photography. I suppose the lesson I am learning is that I need to consider all options when visiting a scene, rather than reaching for the default 'show everything' 16mm lens.