A Scar Gained At Scarr Mountain

Scarr (‘Sharp Rock’) is a mountain that I have not visited often.
This is a shame.
It’s a great walk and it has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and hills.
It’s not a difficult walk navigationally, and I devised an interesting (though quite long!) route starting from the lower lake of Glendalough.
Following the Wicklow Way from here up through Brockagh forest, then descending the lower slopes of Brockagh East Top (still along the Wicklow Way) brings you down to the Military Road at Glenmacnass. From here I crossed the road and headed up to Paddock Hill, onto Dry Hill (ironically named, I might add) and from there I finally went on to the summit of Scarr itself.

I found this walk quite tough this day. It was very humid and there were widespread showers about. Very changeable weather, one moment sunny, another moment heavily overcast then the next moment – heavy rain showers. Pretty usual weather for Wicklow!

Anyway, near the start of the walk, along a section of the Wicklow Way within the Brockagh Forest, my attention was brought to the bracken growth. This stuff really shoots up, it grows almost as you watch it. Brockagh Forest Bracken copy.jpg

Further on up the Wicklow Way at Brockagh Forest, a particularly wonderful view of the valley of Glendalough opens up in through a gap in the woods.Gleno copy.jpg

Moving on, through the forest and a short descent takes you across a bridge over the Glenmacnass river and shortly after that I crossed the Military Road to start the ascent of Paddock Hill.

Partway up Paddock Hill, and the bracken is swarming here also. Nice blue skies to boot!
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Looking back over to Glendalough now, and the shoulder of Brockagh East that I walked from earlier comes into sight. Also, beyond that, the cliffs of the Spinc rise above the forestry.
The green fields of Wicklow!
Green copy.jpg

Using my long lens, Scarr does not look too far from here. But distances can be deceptive, and when using a long lens – space is compressed so that further away objects appear closer. This is not the best angle to photograph Scarr from, as it’s an interestingly shaped mountain. Though it’s curiosity is not completely apparent from this angle. A humpy ridge I would liken it to.
Scarr copy.jpg

At Paddock Hill, and between it and Dry Hill; there are quite a few large boulders (or erratics) lying about. Erratic copy.jpg

Definitely a change in the weather coming. Skies to the south in the above photograph look to be mischievous and the wind is blowing them this way!

A short shower now, but then the sky started to clear a small bit. So I took a couple of long range shots. The first, looking over to Tonelagee and Mall Hill with the waterfall of Mall Brook visible.
Tonelagee copy.jpg

This second long range shot, looks over to Lugnaquilla (mostly in fog) as it towers over the shoulders of Camaderry and Brockagh.
Looking over to Lug copy.jpg

Almost at the summit now, and the weather is fine at this moment.
Scarr Summit copy.jpg

Shortly after this, I headed to the summit proper and took shelter from the winds and ate my lunch. Ham & lettuce sandwich. Decent enough. I had some grapes as well! I needed the fuel this day, I ended up doing about 26km!

Dropping down from the summit to the north east slightly, I obtained a nice view of Lough Dan and the cone of the Great Sugar Loaf in the far distance. This is a great part of Wicklow, popular too.
Lough Dan copy.jpg

It was here that the first ‘Scar’ in the title of this blog post occurred and reader caution: this tale takes a sinister turn now. I placed my camera down gently onto a jagged rock, so that I had my hands free to remove my back pack. It was not when putting the camera down that tragedy struck – it was when picking it back up.
I had picked it up using the hand grip but somehow the camera strap had got caught on a jutting out section of rock, and yanked the camera free from my hand. An almighty wallop was heard, probably as far afield as Wales. I frantically picked the camera back up and searched for wounds. It was scarred in the body just below the memory card door, the force had pushed the door open also – and now I could not get it shut tight. Oops.
I am so careful with my gear, but this is like 4.5k worth of equipment!
All is well though, I used a pair of pliers to gently bend the metal back into shape. Phew.
Sensor/lens mount alignment is fine, and the Sigma 35mm Art lens shows no signs of decentration after my week of testing. PHEW. Good gear costs money, but good gear can take a knock or two. Let’s not see if I am right about the ‘knock or two‘ part. No more accidents!!!

Another perspective on Lough Dan and the Sugar Loaf.
Sugar Loaf copy.jpg

Heading back to the summit of Scarr now, and midday is approaching. I can see temperature differential occurring now, so long range shots will be hampered by this – especially where the sunlight hits the ground (and thus heats it).

There is a cairn on a few of the multiple bumps of Scarr, this one I liked.
Cairn copy.jpg

From here, there is a great view of the Military Road itself, with a backdrop of humps and bumps – the largest one visible below being Mullaghcleevaun (Wicklow’s second highest mountain), slightly left of centre. Barnacullian to the left of it, Mullaghcleevaun East to the right and the rocky face of Carrigshouk below that. This would be a great shot at sunrise I think. Idea!Military Road copy.jpg

Heavy showers in the south now, and I can see they are heading this way.
I am returning to the car at this point anyway, and I have my waterproofs on in preparation.

Sheep copy.jpg

Bleurgh. Heavy rain until I arrived back at the car, and the camera remained safe from the rain in my rucksack for the whole 9km or so back from that last photograph. Not a bad walk though!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.


A Circuit Of Brockagh East Top

I decided to leave the bigger hills alone this week, and instead opted to visit a much smaller hill, but a hill with very fine views of some of Wicklow’s beautiful valleys.

Brockagh South East Top is a hill I have visited many times, but I have not written a blog post about this place before, so I shall rectify that now!

Weather forecast was for light winds (westerly) and rain showers, some of which might turn thundery. Better pack the waterproofs (you should always pack these when walking in Ireland)!

According to Mountain Views, Brockagh translates to ‘mountain of Brocach or place of badgers’. I have never seen a badger here, mind.

My plan for the day was not to actually visit Brockagh Mountain ‘proper’, I opted instead to visit the South East Top only. The reason for this is that actual summit of Brockagh Mountain does not offer the wonderful views that Brockagh SE Top offers and I have often been disappointed by the views at Brockagh proper after the extra effort to get there. Instead I had wanted to spend more time at the superior SE top.

Anyway, starting at the car park at the lower lake of Glendalough (you have to pay in summer) I followed the Wicklow Way as it zig – zags its way up through Brockagh forest. After a short stretch, the Wicklow Way path heads south east, I departed ways with it here. Instead, I followed a forest track that heads north west. Forest Track copy.jpg

I had not taken this route to Brockagh South East Top before – usually I park in Glenmacnass or near the Brockagh Resource Centre, so I was curious to see how the views would be from this approach.

Just beyond the forest track in the photograph above, the forestry ends and a closed (closed when I was there) gate greets you along with a sign that says no mountain bikes/motor vehicles beyond this point. Walkers were welcome though. Walker code is to leave gates as they were found, so I closed the gate after passing through. It had a strange upward lifting bolt mechanism – one which I was not familiar with – I should have taken a photograph, actually. But, as I say, it was a mechanism I had not seen before and an unfortunate event occurred whereby as I closed the gate, the heavy bolt snapped down on my thumb. Ouch! Live and learn!

Leaving behind the gate, and its angry guardian, the route I had planned hits open hillside. Climbing gently, views over to the rugged north-eastern face of Camaderry are revealed.
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From this spot there are also fine views looking up to Derrybawn Ridge. This is an angle I had not viewed the ridge from before.
Derrybawn copy.jpg

Climbing a bit further now, and turning back reveals a pleasant view down to the lower lake of Glendalough and the surrounding hills. I knew there was a better to view to come so I did not want to wait for the sun to totally illuminate the view here. Time is always against you as a photographer! The clouds were building as well.
View to Glendalough copy.jpg

A small bit further up and I took the opportunity to take a longer range shot of the lower lake with my 100mm lens. I really enjoy using this focal length for landscapes because it compresses the perspective only a small amount but allows closer views of details and interesting compositions.
Lower Lake copy.jpg

Nearing the summit of Brockagh SE Top now, and a curious perspective of Wicklow’s third highest summit come into view, here is Tonelagee (‘backside to the wind’). I must visit this mountain again soon, it has been a long time since I was up there, and it’s great! Tonelagee copy.jpg

Getting much cloudier now, as shown in the above photograph, and I think I can see rain in the distance. Better waterproof up!

Lego Batman always comes prepared, and he was ready for any rain. It rains in Gotham too! He did mention that he prefers the greens of Wicklow to the dark hues of the city of Gotham.
He was very grateful of the outing, but in the back of his mind, he was always aware that; should the signal be lit, he would have to return to fight criminals in the dark city. Jeez, talk about tortured soul… Can’t even enjoy a relaxing day out on the hills!Lego Batman copy.jpg

Coincidentally (or perhaps a little bit deliberately!), I saw the Lego Batman movie on the same day as this walk. It’s great fun and highly recommended. The same applies to the movie!

Back to the walk, a nice piece of sunlight illuminates the floor of the beautiful valley of Glenmacnass here, with the Glenmacnass waterfall at distance. The Military Road is also prominent on the valley floor itself, and on the right is a shoulder of Scarr Mountain known as ‘Kanturch’ I believe, or Scarr North West Top. This is the view from the northern slopes of the summit area of Brockagh SE Top. You do have to descend quite a bit to get an unobstructed view, as shown here.Glenmacnass copy.jpg

A wider shot of the valley taken a few minutes later. Woah! Everything got much darker all of a sudden! Yep, rain is definitely on the way! One angry looking sky….
Glenmacnass 35 copy.jpg

And the sky darkened further…
Rain copy.jpg

Heavy rain shower now. I hope it will pass soon, but Batman and myself (and more importantly my expensive camera gear!) are waterproofed up. Batman and I fear no rain!

Heading over to the south side of the summit now, back to complete my compact and scenic loop and a wonderful view of the lower lake and the Spinc is revealed.  Lower Lake and Spinc.jpg

Some rain fog moving past my favourite trees of Camaderry, with the great cliffs of the spinc beyond. Plus a partially fog covered Lugnaquilla lurking behind.Cover Image copy2.jpg

Sometimes poor weather can help photographs I think. And the images above are very representative of the climate in Ireland. It rains a lot and it is totally overcast a lot of the time. Don’t be fooled by ‘postcard’ photographs!
I have been to this place in many weather conditions (still waiting for snow though). I would say 75% of the time I have been here, it has been completely overcast! Many mornings I have sat up here at sunrise, after a very early start, only to be disappointed by the clouds.

Here is the beautiful ‘Valley Of The Two Lakes’ – Glendalough. The lower lake at left and the upper lake peeping behind the shoulder of Camaderry. Even on rainy, cloudy days it’s a wonderful sight and this is one of the best views of it I think.Lakes 50 copy.jpg

Descending further, almost back to the forest line. A bit of light creates some drama on this boulder here. Look at the moody sky! Another downpour imminent, I think.Drama copy.jpg

I was right. Boy, did it RAIN! I did have some shelter from the forestry but wow!

Almost back at the car park, and the ‘Little Yellow Man’ of The Wicklow Way reassuringly points the way!LYM copy.jpg

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

Pottering About At Camaderry

The Proud Mountain, as the great J.B. Malone refers to it.
Camaderry (Pass Of The Oak Wood) is very well situated, nestled between the valleys of Glendalough and Glendasan.

Following up last weeks post about an amazing day at Lugnaquilla was always going to be tough. I rely very heavily on interesting weather and good light for my photographs and sometimes you just aren’t going to get either. You just have to try your best regardless! Quite often in Ireland, the days are damp, grey and windy. Well, the weather for this adventure was not damp, but it was grey and it became quite windy. One can not have it all though!

As I have mentioned before, the summits of the Wicklow mountains are quite often the least interesting area of a particular mountain, and Camaderry is no exception here. I have been to this one many times, but only bothered with the summit a handful of those times. That’s not to say that the summit is not interesting, or that it’s disappointing, I just think the views are much better on the steeper northern and southern slopes of the south east top of Camaderry than they are at the actual summit proper. Exploration of the Wicklow mountains will reveal this to hikers.

The journey starts with a familiar starting point, parking up at the (paid) Upper Lake car park of Glendalough. Guess who was first to park up here this day? Yeah, it was me, again! I always take a look at the upper lake of Glendalough at the start of this walk, as it’s very beautiful and never the same each time I look at it. Arriving at around sunrise, the winds are slack and the lake is calm.Upper Lake II copy.jpg

A lovely start to the day!Upper Lake copyb.jpg

Now, to ascend Camaderry from here I skirt around the upper lake and follow a forest trail to the higher ground. There is a nice steep track that you can go up (I believe the track is ancient, and possibly was used by the inhabitants of the valley during the times of St. Kevin – though I am not certain). I would not be taking the steep option today due to sore achilles so I opted for the gentler approach. The steep approach is fun though, big time, and highly recommended. Walk Start copy.jpg

The forest trail has much to recommend it though, it’s very colourful and not so tough on sore tendons. And very quiet and peaceful.
Forest Trail copy.jpg

I knew this day was to be a day of overcast skies (or a ‘no-sky day’ as I call it). Though not beautiful in itself, from a photographic point of view it can actually be quite helpful for some scenes. This will become evident later, but for now – back to the journey!

Above the tree line now, I like to descend a small bit on the northern slopes to take a look over at Glendasan and the broad hulk that is Tonelagee Mountain. Also visible are the large white spoil heaps of mining operations (for lead, mostly – in the 1800’s) on the shoulder of Brockagh Mountain. The road visible here is the R756 as it winds its way up to the Wicklow Gap, often impassable in winter due to snow and ice. Certainly not impassable this day judging by the roar of motorbikes emanating from it!Tonelagee copy.jpg

I did not linger on the northern slopes for long, as I really wanted to head to the southern slopes. This is where a cloudy sky helps – if the sun was shining, the whole view south would be very contrasty due to the lake being in shadow of the Spinc – the sun is in the south of the sky in Ireland at this time of year.
Descending a little further on the southern slopes now, this is very steep and not a terribly sensible place to be in all honesty. It’s pretty dicey. But I’ve been here many times and I know it well. Tough on the achilles here, but where else in Wicklow would you get a view like this? And I dare say that there are few photographs of the upper lake of Glendalough and the Spinc taken from this angle.Upper Lake and Spinc copy.jpg

Yes, I am fond of this tree, a Scots Pine. There are a handful of these scattered on the southern slope of Camaderry, which is quite unusual for Wicklow – usually the mountains are either barren moorland or covered in Sitka Spruce plantations. This is the final living Scots Pine before a drop off (cliff) to the ground some distance below.Scots Pine copy.jpg

OK I like trees!Trees copy.jpg

Looking down to Temple-na-Skellig (the ruins at right above the lake shore), located on the southside of the upper lake, below the cliffs of the Spinc. The church is accessible by boat across the lake or by climbing down the steep cliffs of the Spinc itself (experts only). Also visible, is ‘St. Kevins Bed’, (very small black square hole in the cliffs at left, just above lake). A small cave, man made according to my research – I wonder is this an ancient tomb?  There are also climbers visible in the middle area between these two items of interest just above the shore, though they are very small at this resolution unfortunately (I always downsample my photographs for online use). Temple-na-Skellig copy.jpg

Walking along a (presumably) narrow deer track now, and the view is extraordinary from this angle. The sun still mostly obscured by high altitude clouds.Upper Lake Wide copy.jpg

Always a contrasty affair the above shot, except in high summer but the vegetation is a killer in summer – you need a machete!

Another shot I took, a ‘detail’ shot where I focus in on the Glenealo river as it feeds into the upper lake. A much less contrasty scene. Wide angle shots are nice, but you need a good sky for them to pay off really. Sometimes I think the best approach is a ‘less is more’ attitude and focussing in on details can yield much more pleasing images.glenealo river copy.jpg

Best head back to the car now, the day is pressing on and my achilles are starting to complain a bit louder. Some of the terrain negotiated this day was of a poor quality. Steep inclines and descents and  dead orange bracken up to the waist. Not to mention the gorse bush I lost a fight to!

There are plenty of views on the way back down anyway.Crooked copy.jpg

I particularly liked the mood of this tree here. It has quite a peculiar form I think you’ll agree!Ruined copy.jpg

And here is a great view of the lower lake of Glendalough with the round tower in sight and the pretty village of Laragh beyond.Lower Lake and Round Tower copy.jpg

There are countless areas to visit at Camaderry, and I’ve only scratched the surface in this post. I would need repeated visits to do it justice.

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Facebook here!

The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

A Return To Log Na Coille

Yes, I went to Log na Coille (Lugnaquilla) again :-). One of the many advantages of frequent visits to a particular place, is you notice new things of interest each time, new ways of looking at the same things and also you increase your chances of being there when something magical happens. The weather plays a vital role, and it is never the same from one day to another in Ireland.
I must mention that there are many other great places in Wicklow, but Lugnaquilla is my favourite. It’s a very special place.
Reading the weather forecasts (yr.no) I was under the impression that there was to be a strong temperature inversion. If my information was correct, this would be the second time I would witness an inversion at the highest point in the east of Ireland.

After a very frosty drive to the Glen of Imaal (careful on the roads, now), I left my car at Fentons Pub at around 5:30 am ish. I’d like to note that there was still traditional Irish music coming from the pub at this time, a great start to my day and this put a smile on my sleepy face! It would appear that this is not an unusual occurrence on the weekends!

Hiking up Camara Hill in the dark has become somewhat of a habit for me, as this would be the fourth time I have done this part of the walk in the dark. I have a brilliant 225 lumens headtorch that lights my way, which is an essential piece of gear. However, the sky was so clear and the crescent moon so bright, that it might have been entirely possible to simply allow the stars and the moon to light my way on the frosty path up Camara Hill.Crescent copy.jpg

At the top of Camara Hill itself, a familiar (to me at least) view appears. Lugnaquilla with a herd of deer (bottom right, though small at this resolution) about an hour before dawn. It was still dark so this was a long exposure photograph.Lugnaquilla predawn copy.jpg

Looking down to a frosty Glen of Imaal.A frosty dawn copy.jpg

Climbing up the two Corrig’s (see my checkpoints on a previous post about this walk here), the sun had started to rise, and the final challenge before I arrive at the plateau of Lug itself was ahead of me. I always love this section, it’s a bit of work to get up and the views open up considerably on this slope. From here we can see evidence of the inversion itself, with considerable fog in the lowlands of the south.Inversion II copy.jpg

On the summit plateau of Lugnaquilla itself now, and most people head straight to the top proper from here. But instead, I like to follow a very small path (easy to miss this one) that skirts the rim of the north prison. I have never been overly bothered by summits themselves really, in Wicklow the summits are often the least interesting part of the mountain. The North Prison copy.jpg

Yes, not too warm here. The north prison receives no sunlight at this time of year.

Some more inversion fun happening here, with the ‘whale hump’ of Tonelagee (the third highest mountain in Wicklow) looming behind what looks like a castle on a volcanic mound. This is no castle, and that’s no volcano! This is the upper lake of Turlough Hill power station, Irelands only pumped-storage hydroelectric system. Turlough Hill and Tonelagee copy.jpg

Leaving the north prison rim now, and heading for the summit. There is a curious direction finder nearby. I’ve often looked at this and tried to ‘pick out features’ that it points to. A great way to spend a morning for nerds like me!Direction Finder copy.jpg

Heading towards the south prison now, it’s certainly always worth checking out both prisons if it is a clear day at Lugnaquilla. From here we can see the shoulder of Cloghernagh mountain with a snow patch leading us to some low (lower than I was) clouds. A wonderful day to be here.Cloghernagh copy.jpg

Here is a wider view of my vantage point above the south prison.The South Prison-2 copy.jpg

Crystal blue skies above the thick layer of fog that seemed to envelope everything that was (by my estimate) between 500 and 700 meters above sea level in this view. Luckily for me, I was at about 900m above sea level here, and although the clouds had the appearance of moving towards me, they didn’t ever reach me.

It would be a rare weekend day that has clement weather where you have Lugnaquilla to yourself, and I most certainly did not this day. Personal feelings aside feel about crowds and other people in general, sometimes they have their uses and can add a sense of scale to a photograph, and a depth that would not be attainable otherwise, so I was grateful to these two:Walkers in Wicklow copy.jpg

And also these two (or rather, two and a dog!):Walkers in Wicklow II copy.jpg
Starting to think about returning now, I’ve been out a long time and sunset is only a few hours away. As always, incredibly difficult to drag myself away. On the way back, I tend to take one last look over the north prison as it’s sort of on the way back. The North Prison II copy.jpg

The fog in the lowlands to the south was also worth another shot I thought.Fog copy.jpg

And here is the return journey, both Corrig humps (Upper and Lower) and Camara Hill itself with the flat floor of Glen Imaal beyond.Corrigs and Camara copy.jpg

Beautiful blue skies above Lugnaquilla as I descend, a rare day (especially for a weekend!).Lug copy.jpg

I always dread the descent at Camara Hill, very tough on the knees, especially with a heavy rucksack. But I had the fortune to meet three chaps I met earlier as I was descending Lug (and they were ascending), it was great chatting to these guys and it took my (pretty tired at this stage) mind off the torture of that descent!

A final glance over to the long shadows at Lug itself, another great day in the hills had!Lug II copy.jpg

P.S. I will try to show another part of Wicklow next time, but Lug keeps pulling me back!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Facebook here!

The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

Lugnaquilla From Fenton’s Bar – The Sequel

Sequels are always tricky.

Having covered a lot of ground in my original post on this hike here, it’s difficult to decide how to follow up in the second installment. But fear not! Lugnaquilla is most certainly not a one trick pony.
On my last visit to this mountain, I concentrated my efforts on the ‘North Prison’ of Lug, so a logical return trip should focus on the other ‘prison’ – the South Prison.

The journey from Fentons Bar to Lugnaquilla might be perceived as the least dramatic route up to the mountain, but it is the most direct. And when you have injuries, you can give yourself permission to ‘take things easy’ and do only a 20km straight forward hike instead of a 20km taxing hike (terrain wise). Plus, I always enjoy walking through the forest in the Glen of Imaal at the very start of the journey, a pleasant walk in itself. Autumn Track copy.jpg

But of course, I had bigger goals this day than a simple forest trail, so I got up early (5am), knowing that the days are much shorter at this time of year. I took the above photograph shortly after sunrise itself, I started my walk at roughly the same time as sunrise in fact. I was debating mentally if I would get up earlier and catch the sunrise over Lugnaquilla, but I was suspecting that it would be in fog early in the morning.
I was right and thus my ‘lie in’ was vindicated! Lug in fog copy.jpg

It is disheartening as a photographer who wants to photograph from a mountain top when it is still miles off, yet completely obscured in fog. Especially so for someone like me who has to watch how many kilometers I hike at the moment (due to leg/foot problems), along with the fact that I have a full time job, so time can be scarce sometimes. No, the mountains do not pay me to visit and photograph them, wouldn’t that be great! Ascending higher now, and the monarch of Wicklow is still in fog. I was gambling on the fog burning off as the sun got higher though, so I pressed on.Lug in fog still copy.jpg

Readers of my previous posts about this route will be familiar with Camara Hill, the mid section of the route up to Lugnaquilla – the highest point in the east of Ireland. Here is a shot I took looking down on Camara Hill from the slopes of Lugnaquilla.Looking down to Camara Hill copy.jpg

The final stretch to the monarch itself is gentle enough from here but there is a rocky section, with some ankle snapping holes. This section would require a lot of care in deep snow, so – pay attention! I was hoping for snow this day, as the forecasters had ‘warned’ snow accumulations on ground above 500 meters above sea level. None was seen this day unfortunately. I won’t blame the forecasters too much, as the weather in Ireland is extremely fickle, and it’s not like I could do a better job. It looks like the fog is lifting at Lugnaquilla now. I am not typically a gambler but today my optimistic gamble paid off.Fog burning off copy.jpg

Near the summit now, and the conditions have changed somewhat. It’s like walking into another climate in fact – howling winds and very cold. I was prepared for this. This was 3 fleece, thermal base layers and winter jacket weather!  Or as I say, 5 jumper weather!Frost copy.jpg

I really love this time of year, and it’s only going to get better as winter starts to tighten its icy grip. Frost II copy.jpg

Very windy up here, so the tripod is no use. Tripods are great but they can stifle creativity somewhat sometimes, just because they can be awkward beasts to maneuver – especially if you are shooting low down to the ground (because of high winds). Here is a photograph of a jagged rock taken from the rim of the North Prison.North Prison rim copy.jpg

A little bit later in the day, as the temperature increased to a balmy 1.4° C. I love this little gadget, and I am not usually impressed by gadgets, but this one, I like. I took this overlooking the North Prison, with the north-westerly winds head on – blows out the cobwebs! Conditions were much worse earlier on but I was too busy taking photographs.54.8 copy.jpg

I didn’t want to linger overlooking the North Prison here, as I wanted to head over to the South Prison this day. The warmer of the two ‘prisons’, due to the north receiving little to no sunlight at this time of year. All this yabbering and still no photograph of the South Prison! Well, here is one now:The South Prison copy.jpg

I took this with my 35mm Sigma Art lens, a wonderful piece of gear and all 36 million pixels of this photograph are bitingly sharp. Of course, I have downsized this (and I do with all of my images) for web use. The original Nikon raw file weighs in at over 75 megabytes and the tiff file I extracted from this is well over 200mb.

From here we can see (at left) the ridge that leads over to Cloghernagh Mountain (a blog post near this area here), and the large ‘dumpling’ shaped mountain to the right is Corrigasleggaun, a beautiful place that overlooks Kelly’s Lough (the lake is hidden by Corrigasleggaun itself here). I will plan a trip to Corrigasleggaun again one day, but the last time I was up there was when I took my dad up here when he was visiting from the UK (I am English). A wonderful day that was.

Here is another shot of the prison, with the formidable cliffs below abruptly falling off in the foreground. The South Prison 20mm copy.jpg

Exploring the South Prison rim, a brilliant, though hazy this day, view of the Ow Valley comes into sight. A beautiful, and infrequently visited area. I like this aspect of the valley, less visitors mean less walker damage/erosion and litter, It also means the chance of some solitude! There are lots of hidden gems like this in Wicklow. Those who concern themselves with Lugnaquilla simply because it’s the highest mountain in Wicklow might never witness that actually some of the lower summits are in fact just as interesting. But Lugnaquilla is my favourite for reasons different to the fact that it’s simply the highest.Hazy Ow Valley copy.jpg

I was really struggling here, I was trying to photograph the Glen of Imaal with the Sugar Loaf in the distance. The 50-60+ km/hour winds coupled with my wish to use a telephoto lens meant pixel level (at 100% view on PC screen) sharpness was tricky, but not impossible. With longer lenses, any camera movement/vibration at capture time will impair pixel level sharpness in the shot. It should be noted that my camera hand hold technique is not perfect, I freely admit this :-). I am usually holding a camera after exertion, so my hands would not be the steadiest. I demand pixel level sharpness, so I knew I needed a fast shutter speed. 1/2000th of a second did the trick, the ISO had to suffer because I knew f/5 was the widest aperture for the Nikon 85mm 1.8G that would deliver sharpness across the frame – anything wider would give soft corners in the image. And that my friends, is a real bugbear of mine! On a further note, that old rule of hand-hold shutter speed equivalent to (or slightly faster than) focal length is simply wrong in this day and age of high resolution camera sensors. 85mm would mean I could hand hold at 1/85th second (no such shutter speed so let’s say 1/100th). Not a chance in hell of pixel sharpness at that speed, anyone who tells you otherwise is basing this off an 8 by 10 inch print at ‘acceptable’ quality, which is fine but why limit yourself to that size? I have a few photographs at home printed at larger than 24 by 16 inches and I did not shoot those using that rule! The rule probably works fine for the average Facebook photograph though, so I suppose it’s all down to technique, expectations, levels of acceptability, fussiness, how discerning you are and what you want from your photography. I have been told by Nikon Support themselves, that I am the fussiest customer they have ever spoken to in Ireland. I am not sure that was a compliment, but I took it as such.

Glen Imaal copy.jpg

Anyway, tangent over, probably should start to leave soon. Such an amazing place, and I do not wish to leave but the clock is ticking and it’s going to get dark (and cold)quickly once the sun goes down. Off the summit now, occasionally glancing back as if saying goodbye to a departing friend. Looking back to Lug copy.jpg

The name Lugnaquilla comes from the Irish ‘Log na Coille’ which translates to ‘Hollow of the wood’ – I am not sure which hollow the name refers to, but I am guessing it could be the North Prison which looks particularly imposing at this time of day.Looking back to North Prison copy.jpg

Although there are no trees here now, I am assuming that at some point in times past there were possibly dense forests that covered the mountains, hence the ‘wood’ aspect of the name. A beautiful clear evening, at this point I would have spent about 9 hours fumbling my way around this area!

Back down to Camara Hill now, and as always, pay attention to the military warning signs. It’s easy to forget that you are hiking on a military artillery range sometimes.Warning Sign copy.jpg

I thought it quite fitting that I was at the Glen of Imaal forest trail as the sun rose that morning and also at the same trail as the sun set. Autumn Trail II copy.jpg

And thus ends a great day at a magical place.

Thanks for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Facebook here!

Fancy Mountain from The Military Road

Fancy Mountain, or Luggala Mountain as it is widely known, is perhaps among the best known mountains in Wicklow. Fancy comes from Irish Fuinnse, meaning “ash tree”. One of the best viewing points of this mountain is available on the R759 road that can take you to Sally Gap from Roundwood. I would not be approaching the mountain from this road today, though it is a view I have seen (and of course photographed) countless times, and it always impresses! You can see one of my photographs from near this road here on my website.

I decided to approach Fancy Mountain from The Military Road, as it’s much gentler this way. I also love the ‘plunging’ sensation you are greeted with upon meeting the summit. After a couple of kilometers walking (more like dancing!) on wet, soggy, gently ascending bog moorland you are greeted with an extraordinary view near the summit, due to the fact that you are at the top of some large cliffs.

I wanted to do a few detours on the way to the summit along the tops of the cliffs that overlook Lough Tay (famously known as the ‘Guinness Lake’, due its black, peaty waters and the white sandy beach at one end – resembling a pint of ‘the black stuff’). So, as is often the case, I managed to turn a nice gentle walk into a taxing enough hike!

At the start of the journey, the weather did not look too promising. Looking over to the distinctive summit of Scarr Mountain here, one might think ‘uh-oh’. Weather not too promising copy.jpg

But I know Wicklow well, the weather can change very rapidly. In the blink of an eye really, especially in the higher ground. The colours in Wicklow are crazy at the moment, autumn is a wonderful season for photography. Colours copy.jpg

As many of you might be aware, the hit TV show Vikings and the film Braveheart have used the shores of Lough Tay as a filming location. I am not surprised, it’s such an amazing landscape here.

There is a beautiful lodge situated on private land below the tumbling cliffs of Fancy itself. The estate is owned by a member of the Guinness family I believe. From the edge of the cliffs, you get an almost aerial view of Luggala Castle. Who needs drones when you have cliffs and legs that can take you to them!Luggala Castle copy.jpg

Here is another shot of the castle, with a part of the cliff in shade – a plunging feeling alright! I have a ‘healthy’ respect for heights, and let’s put it this way – you do not want to slip here. The castle looks like a toy or model from up here.luggala-castle-cliffs-copy

A final photograph of the castle, and it’s surroundings. The two larger hills behind the castle are War Hill and Djouce – hidden by fog – as they were most of the day.Castle and its environ copy.jpg

There is a nice view of the Cloghoge river, which feeds into Lough Tay and then meanders its way from that lake down to Lough Dan.Cloghoge River Meandering copy.jpg

The spectacular cliffs of Fancy Mountain are a popular rock climbing area, but I did not see any climbers today.
In fact, I didn’t see another soul here at all today! The face of Fancy copy.jpg

The observant might notice the curious structure near the centre of the photograph above. This is in fact a small domed temple that was originally built in the 1740’s at Templeogue in Dublin. Possibly near to where I currently live! The monument was later relocated by the Guinness family to the shores of Lough Tay, where it stands today in a truly majestic location.The Temple copy.jpg

My route today skirted from the lower end of the cliffs towards the actual summit. From nearby the summit, the view really opens up. What a treat!Lough Tay copy.jpg

There were several ravens flying about the place near the summit, but I did not bring my 70-200mm lens today so 85mm was the longest reach I had with me. I did manage to capture one in flight above the lake though. What a view this fella would have had.Raven copy.jpg

The clouds are moving in again now, and the fog is descending on the hills. Probably time to leave.Clouds copy.jpg

Heading back now, back on the mucky, wet and slippy journey home. Thanking my leather walking boots today. Quiz time! Is this my left or my right foot? Mucky Boots copy.jpg

P.S. the other footprints are not mine.

Thanks for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Facebook here!

Glendalough and the Miners Village

I recommend Glendalough to any visitor to the East of Ireland above all other places.
Especially if one has the fortune to visit on a non weekend day on a bright day in Autumn.

Glendalough (Valley of two lakes) is a spectacular glacial valley in County Wicklow, renowned for it’s Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. I am not going to talk about the ruins of the settlement today, as I am saving that for when I visit the valley solely to see the settlement itself.

Yesterday was all about hiking and searching for a new vantage point for me! Also, I wanted to be away from the hordes of visitors that swarm to this valley on any dry Sunday. I knew exactly where I wanted to go thanks to some excellent quality maps I use!
In all truth, you would need much more than a single day to explore all of the valleys gems. I have been here innumerable times and each time I go, there are new things to see, new nooks to explore, new slopes to tackle.

Of course, anyone who googles ‘Glendalough photographs’ will yield countless results of the ‘classic postcard’ type photograph taken at either shore of the two lower lakes, or perhaps from the superb Spinc cliff walk. I’d be lying to you if I told you I had never taken these shots myself! But, I like to find my own vantage points, my own point of view of (probably) the most photographed valley in Wicklow.

I started my adventure early, as I love to do.
I’ve always found the morning light much nicer to work with than the evening light. Less atmospheric interference. Plus, most people do not cherish the thought of a really early start on a Sunday morning so it’s much quieter!
Another advantage of an early start, is more wildlife! Take a look at this poser! Stag copy.jpg

A majestic fella, growing his winter coat by the looks of it. It is rutting season for these chaps. Although I enjoyed watching him, I had other plans for today, so I committed myself to abandon watching him, safe in the knowledge that I had enjoyed that moment. The ultimate moment I was heading for, I had been planning for a while.
But first, I had to get there!

This involved climbing up the Miners track beside the Glenealo river which feeds into the upper lake itself. Plenty of sights to see on the way up here, and the view down the Glendalough Valley is impressive.

Mining operations in Glendalough began in the 1790’s I believe, where lead, zinc and silver were mined both in the Glendalough Valley and the next adjacent Valley, Glendasan. Mining took place for over 150 years and at the peak of production over 2,000 miners were employed. Mining continued up until 1957.

Looking back on the ruins of Miner’s Village, the upper lake and the Spinc.The cliffs of the Spinc copy.jpg

As height is gained, the scenery becomes more spectacular and rugged. Here we can see the ‘Twin Buttress’, named so by rock climbers.Twin Buttress copy.jpg

This was not my target for today. I am most certainly not a rock climber. Some days I can barely hike because of my Arthritis, let alone entertain the idea of dangling myself off the face of a cliff with only a rope and my own strength to save me from a fatal plunge! Plus, I do have an overly ‘healthy’ respect for heights! But that does not mean I cannot get to high places.

Given the steep nature of the walk up the track, there are plenty of small waterfalls. Ample photographic opportunities (read: rest breaks). Waterfall 1 copy.jpg

Isn’t it pretty?
Waterfall 2 copy.jpg

Yeah, I am not going to lie to you – I needed a few rest breaks getting up here with a heavy pack.Waterfall 3 copy.jpg

The imposing north facing cliffs of the Spinc.Spinc Cliffs copy.jpg

As I gained height, there was much more to see, and I was glad I brought my 70-200mm lens with me. But, I would love to have had a 500mm! But, I am not a millionaire :-).Stag 2 copy.jpg

Futile dreams of longer lenses aside. It was finally time to unleash my Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art on the world. I had reached my destination. Overlooking the twin buttress and the valley of Glendalough. A wonderful, isolated spot here.The twin buttress and the valley copy.jpg

Please feel to take a look at my facebook page here for a timelapse I created this day, and my website here for a larger version of the above image.

People often ask me why I stick to 35mm for landscapes as opposed to a wider lens, and I often reply that it’s more important to know where to stand than to ‘try to fit everything in’ with ultra wide angle lenses. 35mm is perfect, if you are standing in the right place. Zoom with yer feet, man. It’s wide enough to capture a vista, but without the added distraction of too much foreground and sky. Plus, the Sigma 35mm Art is bitingly sharp. Once properly focused on a tripod, naturally. Wider angles tend to distort too much, which can be fixed – but at a cost of pixels. And pixels matter!

Now, where is that 500mm lens I ordered?Stag 3 copy.jpg

Yes, I am dreaming again :-). I was happy with my 200mm here though.Mother and Child copy.jpg

They were not particularly spooked by my presence here. I guess they were too hungry to care.

Time to leave now, and the sun has shifted in the sky a large amount. This always opens up new opportunities. So, back the way I came, down to the miners road.Miners road copy.jpg

Wonderful Wicklow.The Spinc copy.jpg

A long drive home through the mountains now, but that’s never a chore.Rainbow copy.jpg

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work!