A Stroll To The South Prison Of Lugnaquilla

I have been walking in Wicklow for years, and I know many routes. Some secret, some not so secret. They are all fun though!
The walk I chose this day, I chose for a few reasons – the first reason being that I had not done this walk for years (the last time was 15th March, 2015) and the second reason was that I wanted shelter from the strong (65 km/h +) and cold north-westerly winds that were forecast for this day.
I also wanted to test out a 20mm lens that is ‘new-ish’ to me. I have had the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 for about a year now, and whilst I have been very impressed by the sharpness in the middle 75% or so of the image frame – I have never found the peripheries/edges of the image satisfactory on a 36 megapixel camera – for landscape photographs at least. And, yes – I tried multiple samples (three) and they all exhibited the same behaviour – troublesome forward arcing field curvature at the edges being the main culprit, and sharpness robbing lateral chromatic aberration. This makes planar subjects (and landscapes in general) quite troublesome to shoot when in the field.
The Nikon 20mm f/1.8g that I am currently using does not have this issue. The edges sharpen up nicely (and predictably) as you stop it down and it weighs about a third of the Sigma. When you are hiking 25+ kilometres this is a BIG deal. Yeah, I lost 2/3rd’s of a stop of light – but I rarely shoot landscapes at f/1.4 (but not never)!  It is, like the Sigma, also very sharp – perhaps a little less sharp in the centre of the image but more consistently sharp across the frame – this consistency is far more important to the type of photography that I do.

Weather forecast for the day was sunny skies and no fog on Lugnaquilla (this turned out to be false!). Strong north-westerly winds though. Trying to achieve sharp photographs at ISO 64 (the base ISO on the D810) on a high resolution camera with strong winds can sometimes be simply an exercise in frustration. And for me, walking and photography is a relaxing, leisurely pursuit.

Onto the walk!
The walk itself, at first glance, might seem quite unappealing and uninteresting. Starting from Aughavannagh, you walk for around 6 kilometres on forestry track until you hit a stile that you cross over onto open hillside. Just beyond here lies the provocatively named “Madwoman’s Brook”.

Parking my car at sunrise, I liked the colours of the trees as the sunlight broke through the mostly cloudy skies.
Trees copy.jpg

Moving on now, a bit of a climb to do today. Though most of it is on easy going forestry tracks, there is still ground to cover!
As I previously mentioned, I have not visited this walk for a couple of years and as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, things do change. The forestry workers (Coillte) have certainly been busy – large swathes of the plantations have been felled, and in their wake only rotting stumps and wasteland is left – and in some cases, new saplings. It does open up the views a bit though, where previously the trees were towering over you.
Windy enough here! I’d say that’s because the trees have gone :).
Felled copy.jpg

There was a lot of snowfall in the week prior to my walk here, but a lot of the snow has already melted in the hills unfortunately. It’s often the case that the lower hills get a few days (sometimes a week) of snowfall in winter but the snow also has a tendency to melt before your eyes. The higher mountains usually hold snow for most of the winter though (i.e. Lugnaquilla).

I do like to try and capture places that others might not usually see. This does take me to some of the less frequented parts of Wicklow, which I enjoy, and sometimes I find a gem!
I think this walk is one of those gems, and it’s very rewarding for a relatively straight forward walk.

Now that the trees in this area have been felled, a new view has opened up. Looking beyond the slopes of Carrickashane and Ballygobban hills towards Croghan Kinsella not long after sunrise. I like taking these type of shots in winter, when the sun is low in the sky and only the shapes of the hills themselves are visible – sort of a silhouette effect.Carrickashane Ballygobban copy.jpg

Walking on now, not much to see for a while – the trees tower over on each side where they are not felled.
White Stone Brook is in swell, from the snow melt water from the higher slopes of Corrigasleggaun.White Stone Brook copy.jpg

Climbing higher on the forestry tracks now, and there is still some snow here in the sheltered spots. Not much though. Some patches remain on the north eastern slopes of Aughavannagh Mountain in the distance as well.
Forest Track Snow copy.jpg

The view opens up a bit again, as I get nearer the south prison. Another silhouette style shot.Silhouette cop1y.jpg

An interesting re-entrant on the slopes of Aughavannagh Mountain.
Re-entrant copy.jpg

Finally, at the end of the forest track there are a couple of choices – one being to cross “Madwoman’s Brook” to follow a wet path up and into the south prison, (which was not preferable this day – due to it being in spate from snow melt) or the option I chose: handrail the brook on the eastern shore of the river, through a recently felled forest area (recently as in: probably five years ago!). The going is a bit tough here, there are dead branches, tree stumps and ankle breaking holes in the ground to negotiate. Also, on this day – some wet slushy snow! It’s also very slippery, Ireland is a wet country indeed. Yeah, progress was quite slow getting up this way and care is certainly required. Even slower going back down later!
Good to see that the sitka spruce saplings are coming along nicely. Aw, they grow up so fast!
Saplings copy.jpg

It’s always curious that the forestry workers leave a few of the taller trees standing after felling an area. I have often wondered if this was so that the teller ones could protect the younger, less sturdy trees from future storms whilst they grow. Or, perhaps more likely – it’s so that the older trees can warn the younger ones of the peril of their ancestors. Leave some alive to spread the fear!

A hazy view of the ‘survivors’. I like this sort of hazy winter light, it adds a lot of atmosphere to a location. As usual in my photographs, little to no post processing has been performed on the images in this blog post.
Survivors copy.jpg

Lunch time!
Ham sub and some clementines. Yum. I really love the clementines you can buy around the Christmas period. Lucky me!

Completing the slope of death (tree death, that is) and out onto open hillside now. The going should have been a bit easier now.
Alas! It was not!
Tussocks of heather, and bog holes hidden by snow (some drifting too) made progress very awkward. And I had fooled myself into thinking I had chosen an easy walk this day!

The first view of the great cliffs of the south prison emerges as the fog clears a bit. It still remained at the top of Lugnaquilla though, where it sat all day.

I used an 85mm lens for this shot, so there is a slight compression effect. The higher cliffs are strewn with icicles. Given that I was using a short telephoto lens here, getting a perfectly sharp shot was quite tricky – the wind was tempestuous! South Prison-3 copy.jpg

A wide angle (20mm) shot of the prison.
South Prison copy.jpg

This looks great on my wide screen monitor at home. I wish WordPress would allow higher resolution images on the blogs so that you could enjoy the detail in this image.

After coming all this way, I did not actually stick around here for long. The wind was very strong, and it was very cold. I took a few more shots of the area and then I decided to head back to the car. Quite a walk back at this stage. My footsteps in the drifts, snow depth was almost to knee height in parts here.Footsteps copy.jpg

Back past the ‘slope of tree death’ now, and I took a small detour to take a photograph of the decrepit stile you cross (or more safely, ignore and walk straight beside -this wood is very rotten) that takes you on to “Madwoman’s Brook”. I always like to take this shot when I am here, and it’s definitely in a more sorry state than when I was here over two years ago.
Decrepit Stile copy.jpg

Walking back on the forest tracks now, and for a moment I look behind me as I pause for water.
This view was not here on my approach earlier!
The fog was much lower earlier, concealing the entirety of the mountain itself.
Lugnaquilla Forest Track copy.jpg

A closer view with a longer lens. Having a long lens is very handy for achieving different compositions.
Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

Getting near sunset now, and progress on the forest track is slow. Not that I was worried, I have a head torch for such occasions!
Silhouette Sunset copy.jpg

I paused here for a few minutes, experimenting with different apertures. This shot at f/1.8 has a nice soft look to it, possessing an almost ethereal quality. A common mistake (one I also make) in landscape photography is the mentality that ‘everything has to be in focus’ – I think this is wrong, blur can be beautiful. Only about a third of the nearest foot in this photograph is in focus.
Soft copy.jpg

A nice warm tone to the sky at this time, as the sun was setting. Ironic really – it was COLD!Warm copy.jpg

Back at the car and time to drive home now. A long drive on the N81, as I was not wanting to risk the mountain roads. A hard frost was forecast overnight, and by the time I had gotten into the car it was pitch black.

Thank you for reading and Merry Christmas Everyone!

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 here!

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.

The Spinc & A Frosty Lugduff Gap

A frosty morning.
I love these mornings the best, light winds, clear skies and widespread ground frost. It was due to cloud over later, and I was hoping it would.

Driving from my home to the hills on these frosty mornings, I am always mindful of the fact that the mountain roads are not treated for snow/ice so the best bet is to skirt the higher roads and avoid any potential nastiness in terms of getting the car stuck!

I had wanted to climb Lugnaquilla again this weekend, but a poor night of sleep coupled with the fact that I suspected it would be in complete whiteout for the day made me change my mind and so I opted to visit the Spinc walk at Glendalough and push on to Lugduff Gap. Plus, I have been to Lug a few times recently (see here and here).

This is a walk I have done many times, and I am surprised that it has not featured as a blog post yet. My bad, but here is one now :-).

Parking at the (paid) car park at the upper lake of Glendalough, I was (as is often the case) the first customer of the day for the toll booth!
There are so many trails in the Glendalough area, and I am happy to pay the toll to park my car here because it leaves me with the feeling that my car is safe and I can enjoy my time outdoors without worrying about returning to a smashed window from a car break in. It’s a sad state of affairs but parking in the Wicklow Mountains can be a bit dodgy due to break ins (it has happened no less than 4 times to me). I never leave valuables in my car of course. The thieves just take their chances.

Anyway, back to the walk! The Spinc (meaning ‘Pointed Hill’) and Lugduff (‘Black Hollow’) are well situated, the former giving wonderful views of the twin lakes (at some stage in the distant past – these two lakes were actually one lake) of Glendalough, and the latter revealing Lugnaquilla itself from potentially its most imposing aspect.
Nippy enough as I left the car, definitely a winter feeling in the air in the hills of Wicklow.Frosty Leaves copy.jpg

The start of the walk is a familiar journey, climbing besides the Poulanass Waterfall. I must have walked on this trail thousands of times, but it never gets boring. The Lugduff Brook is always pretty.Lugduff Brook copy.jpg

Pausing for a breather now. A tough climb ahead, ascending the ‘boardwalk of doom’ as I call it. Hundreds of wooden railway sleepers have been laid down here by the national park. I wanted to ‘de-layer’ a bit and take off my jacket as I wanted to minimise the sweat here. I knew it would be much colder up top. A soldier once said to me ‘if you are sweating, you are walking too fast’ – sound advice.
I turned around for a brief second, and look! A new friend!
Robin copy.jpg

Robbie the Robin!
I think he was after my sandwiches! But I needed those for myself :-). He was a friendly little fella, and was not at all concerned about my presence whatsoever.

Near the top now, and yes it’s frosty up here. The boardwalk I mentioned before does help make a rather nasty boggy hike a bit easier generally, but in ice/frost/snow it is actually quite detrimental I think. It becomes very slippery, and due to the nature of the structure itself heavy duty crampons are not a useful tool here. Frosty Boardwalk copy.jpg

However, I came prepared and I have faced this boardwalk in thick ice before. I have the perfect antidote – Trespass snow studs:Ice Studs copy.jpg

These are perfect for this scenario – just a simple attachment that you wrap around your shoe with small metal studs underneath. They really do help and they weigh nothing. You are no threat to me, treacherous boardwalk!Slippery Boardwalk copy.jpg

After the climb though, a delightful view of the lower lake of Glendalough is the reward. I was here not too long after sunrise, with the mountains behind me casting long shadows.Lower Lake copy.jpg

The lower slopes of Camaderry Mountain (I must do a post about this one soon, though I touched on it here) are beautiful in the early morning light, as is Scarr in the distance.Autumn Colours copy.jpg

Climbing higher now, and the higher slopes of the Spinc (on the left) and Camaderry Mountain come into view (on the right) as well as the upper lake of Glendalough itself. J.B. Malone (the pioneer of The Wicklow Way) refers to Camaderry Mountain as The Proud Mountain – I can see why. Upper Lake copy.jpg

I didn’t want to linger here too long, as this was not my main objective for today. Reluctantly (miraculously!) I managed to drag myself away from this beautiful place and soldiered on. I liked the frost on this rock. Though not a mountain to me, it certainly bore the resemblance of one. Frosty Rock copy.jpg

Ascending higher still, and the heather here is frozen. Time is a funny thing, it felt like only a few weeks ago that I was photographing purple heather at Cullentragh Mountain (see here), but this was 3 months ago! I must be getting old. Bleurgh.Frozen Heather II copy.jpg

Getting pretty cold now, but I was also getting hungry! This looked like a good spot to have lunch. It was sheltered at least, as the wind was picking up. And (out of frame) there was a dry enough rock to sit on. Ham & lettuce sandwiches never tasted so good let me tell you!Icicles copy.jpg

The Lugduff Gap is a high point on The Wicklow Way long distance walking route (I must do this walk one day, when my arthritis allows) and forms the saddle between Mullacor Mountain and Lugduff Mountain itself. An exposed section of the walk, but on a clear day the views are incredible, particularly looking over to Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen.

Watching the skies, the cloud cover is increasing now. But I was happy about this (for once). The sun is in the south at this time of year, and I wanted to shoot south from Lugduff Gap, so a clear sky would have made this a contrasty and ugly affair.

I have reached the Lugduff Gap now, and the view over to Croaghanmoira Mountain (I have a post about this one here) is particularly mystical at this time.Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

A wonderful day to be outdoors, Wicklow is magical at this time of year. I created a timelapse of this, to capture the movement of the fog – you can see it here on my Facebook Page. It’s worth watching – it’s beautiful.

The view over to Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen was equally satisfying, though different.Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen copy.jpg

I was wrong, the whole time I was here (which was a while, due to the timelapse) not once did Lug fog over. It looks like it would have been a great day for a Lug walk! A more intimate view of Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen. Cold up there, I’d say.Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen II copy.jpg

It was cold enough here!Here 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 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.

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Today, as a last minute decision, I took a hike in the mist and rain (it rained most of the weekend here, a huge amount yesterday). I needed some fresh air!Forest Mist copy.jpg

I opted for a new adventure today, and observed on my map an ‘engine room/army shelter’ which I believe was built by the British Army in the Glen of Imaal. There is a lot of history in this valley, and each time I visit, I find something new.
As you may remember or know the Glen Imaal is currently used by the Irish Defence Forces (Irish Army) as an artillery range – so I needed to check with them if I could use this route.
Clearance was granted so off I went!Oiltiagh Bridge copy.jpg
The route itself is 90% gentle, and on forest tracks mainly but there is 10% of the route which is really quite nasty, especially after so much rain. Walkers copy.jpg

A short steep climb (thanking my hiking poles today, I had to come back down this way!) then onto the Table Track.

The Table Track runs from the end of the Glenmalure Valley and passes within a few hundred metres of the summit of Table Mountain. This track is very old and was used historically as an access route between Glen of Imaal and Glenmalure. I’d imagine many a rebel would have used this track moving between the Glens to avoid capture by the British. Something I found odd about the Table Track was the colour. It was bright green and grassy and stood out ominously in a desert of brown/purple heather!Table Track copy.jpg
Anyway, onto the shelter itself…. Well, it’s in a pretty sorry state and clearly not used/maintained by the Irish Army.
The roof has collapsed on one half and the second half looks to be set for the same fate in the next few years or so. Glad I went now! I am not sure when I would be able to visit this again.
It’s almost invisible from the side I approached it – it has the appearance of a small grassy lump, so a quick check in with the map was necessary.
The views from here were impressive though, and I must revisit in clearer weather.Ruined Army Shelter-2 copy.jpg

Lugnaquilla was in cloud of course, 3 out of 5 days it is in this condition I believe. Lugnaquilla in cloud II copy.jpg

One final point of historical interest is the Ogham Stone near the start of the walk. Knickeen Long Stone is a standing stone that features Ogham writing. This megalith stands about 8 feet high, with an Ogham inscription reading “Maqi Nili” – I think this translates approximately to ‘Of the son of Neill/Niall’. Ogham is an ancient British and Irish alphabet, consisting of twenty characters formed by parallel strokes on either side of or across a continuous line. An evocative monument to encounter indeed.Knickeen Ogham Stone copy.jpg

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A Camera at Camara Hill – a glimpse of greater things

I opted for a gentler hike yesterday.
After Benleagh last week, there has been an alarming amount of pain in the shins throughout the week so I was apprehensive about the prospect of tackling another tricky hike this weekend. It sort of helped that the weather was poor too – it would have been a shame if it was glorious but I had to ‘tone it down’ due to shin pain!

Anyway, Camara (pronounced ‘Camera’) Hill is not a walk I had done before, and not one I had been particularly excited about in the past. The walk is relatively straightforward and a gentle ascent to the summit of the hill itself lends the possibility of much greater things – Lugnaquilla, the highest point in Ireland outside of Kerry.

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However, Camara Hill is within the perimeter of the Irish Defence Forces Glen of Imaal Artillery range (the only one of its kind in Ireland I believe). So this walk is not always permitted (only permitted if firing is not taking place), and you are not permitted to stray from the agreed access path. Away from the agreed route, there is the possibility of stumbling onto unexploded ordnance on the hillside, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s not enticing to deviate from the agreed route! I think shin splints would be the least of my worries if I were to come across unspent military debris! I advise checking in with the Warden office if you are planning to walk around this area.

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The mist was down at The Lug (Lugnaquilla is affectionately known as ‘The Lug’ to locals), and later it actually descended to Camara hill – I think the cloud level was at an estimate of 350 meters above sea level at that point.

Walkers approaching Lug.jpg

The slopes of Camara hill itself are gentle and this fella certainly seemed comfortable! I had visions in my head of him climbing, tiring halfway up, and needing to stop for a ‘breather’. I also thought how much easier this hill was for him to get up with 4 legs, a lower centre of gravity and (presumably) no shin splints! A very helpful and patient model though.

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All in all, a good walk had and a bit of exercise and fresh air was obtained!
There are some good spots on this hill, and some lovely views. I must return in more clement weather!

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