Mini Summer on the North Coast

Over the past few days, here on the North Coast, we have had some beautiful weather. Misty atmospheric mornings, where the weather clung to lofty crags, warm sunny afternoons allowing for long, tee-shirt wearing, walks on the beach watching dogs bursting their lungs chasing balls (and each other) and then glorious sunsets as the sky lit up as if it was on fire. 

All in all pretty perfect. Ice Creams included. 

On Thursday evening conditions were set for a pretty epic sunset. Mixtures of Altocumulus and Cirrus clouds dotted the skyline which would potentially add interest.

Tip - if the sky is devoid of clouds at sunset then instead of pointing your camera at the sun, turn your back on the horizon and point towards what the sun is shining on instead

I had been out most of the morning, shooting high up in Binevenagh where the mist lasted almost until lunchtime, so I decided to stay very local, a 10 minute walk up to Ramore Head. During the late spring and summer months the sunset peaks from behind the distant Donegal hills as it sinks below the horizon so I was hopeful of some beautiful light. 

The Classic Sunset View 

And that's what we got. A Stunning sunset. I setup and shot both looking directly into the sun and also turning to focus my attention on some of the rocks that had were bathed in the last sunlight of the day. The rocks below reminded me of a pair of slippers warming by the last embers of a roaring fire. 

Burning Rocks (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, f/11, ISO 200)

Burning Rocks (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, f/11, ISO 200)

Always a privilege to witness such conditions. I often find myself spending time with my eye away from the viewfinder. Allowing the last of the sun's rays to warm my face. To fill my lungs full of the fresh sea air. Feel the spray from crashing waves wash over me. Trying to feel a stronger connection with the landscape in front of me. 

Last Rays (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, f/13, ISO 200) 

Last Rays (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, f/13, ISO 200) 

Despite the beautiful conditions developing I felt something was missing from the images. I didn't really feel much of a connection to what I was recording, to what I was seeing on the back of the screen. Nice enough images, but that's all they really were. They were certainly not conveying my feelings of the evening. 

I removed the camera from the tripod and started to make my way back home, keeping an eye on the sky. By the time I reached the beach in front of our flat the sun had sunk below the horizon, leaving behind a glorious burnt red and orange pattern across the sky. 

I stood watching the small waves wash in over the beach. My eye following each breaking wave as it receded, sometimes crashing over the next wave as it made its way ashore. The patterns the waves made on the sand. The feeling of cooler conditions taking hold as the sun sunk further below the horizon. 

Stronger Connections Through Photography

The camera was back on the tripod and this time with some longer exposure work combined with a small amount of ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). As I looked at the scene in front of me and then back to the capture on the back of the camera I started to feel a stronger connection between them. As my eyes surveyed the scene in front of me I started to notice the delicate shifts in colour. The small layer of fog that had started to develop on the horizon. The patterns on the beach. The images below (along with a few others not shown) hold a much stronger connection with the evening than the earlier, classical, sunset shots. 

5 Seconds After Sunset (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, ISO 200, f/9) 

5 Seconds After Sunset (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, ISO 200, f/9) 

I shot well after sunset, into dusk and then on into darkness. Taking time to study the scene in front of me. Noting the little details. Watching how each wave was itself unique. Seemingly endless possibilities from a photographic point of view. Each image captured was studied. Slight changes in composition. Ensuring that each image would, for me, become more than simply a postcard / snapshot. 

No Smoke without Fire (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, f/9, ISO 200) 

No Smoke without Fire (Fuji XE2 + 10-24mm, f/9, ISO 200) 

I've come away from that evening with about 4 or 5 shots which, when I study them on the screen at home,  fill my head with the feelings from that evening. The images from earlier, while nice, don't really move me at all. I find it quite interesting, as I fall deeper in love with photography, how my style and tastes are changing. One example of this is how I include the actual sun far less in my images than I would have 12 months ago. 

I think it's important that our images move us first and foremost. If they don't then I don't think there is much chance of a connection with someone else. In a way this relates to a vlog I recoded a few weeks ago about how important it is to shoot first and foremost for ourselves and not simply for an increase in our online popularity.  I'd bet that the classical sunset shot would gain a lot more hearts, likes, tweets, twots and what-nots, than some of the more abstract work. And yet for me the abstract work means so much more. 

In fact I think I'm going to produce a print or two of those to hang in my office .