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!
bracken copy.jpg

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.

Baahh!
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.

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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.
Camaderry copy.jpg

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.

An Overcast Day At Lugduff

Who says cloudy days have to be dull!?
Yes, a walk I have done before, and yes, a walk I have written about before (see The Spinc & A Frosty Lugduff Gap). But it’s a great walk and I am able to park my car safe in the knowledge that it will be safe (which is important when hiking in Wicklow – especially in the spring/summer months). It’s a shame that ‘car safety’ is a factor in deciding where to hike, but I have had my car broken into multiple times in the mountains, so it’s something I carefully consider.
Anyway, car safety aside – I had wanted to do this walk this day, because I do enjoy it and it’s a good workout. Plus, I knew the weather was not going to be remarkable so the walk was more about exercise than photography per se.

On past walks here, I usually start by heading up beside the Poulanass waterfall but I opted for a different route this time, just for a change of scenery.
I wondered what cataclysmic event caused this! This tree has been in this condition for at least three years now, and I cannot say how this happened.Tree copy.jpg

After the ‘steps of the death’ (so called by myself because they kill your calf muscles!) that lead you to the top of The Spinc, I like to take a short detour from the track to perch my tripod on a (rather precarious – I might add) rocky overhang to obtain a completely unobstructed view of the western shore of the upper lake of Glendalough. Yep, got a few looks from passers-by at this spot. Worth it.
From here, we can the see upper Glenealo Valley, the Glenealo river and waterfall (left hand side, towards the top), some spoil heaps from the mining operations in the valley (the white ‘sand’ on the steep ground/cliffs at right and on the valley floor) and the white beachy shore of the lake itself. This is a view I particularly enjoy. I love the winding Glenealo river as it meanders its way down to the lake. Such a calm, peaceful day as well. Little to no wind. Glenaelo River copy.jpg

For me, resolution is king. If a landscape photograph I take is not sharp edge to edge, corner to corner then I do not keep it. For my 50mm Nikkor lens, I know I need to stop down to f/8 for this (experience is a valuable teacher) to overcome lens aberrations. In the dominant conditions in Ireland (overcast and dark), this means a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second at ISO 64 (my Nikon D810 has a base ISO of 64, which contributes to its high dynamic range). I cannot hand hold my camera with a 50mm lens at 1/60th of a second and get a sharp shot, my hands are not steady enough- again experience has taught me this. So that big, heavy and unwieldy tripod comes in handy! Most hikers I meet are always amazed at the amount of, and weight of gear that I carry. But I am uncompromising in terms of image quality. I have the highest resolution camera that Nikon sell commercially, so I am compelled to maximise its capabilities. Yep, ready for an upgrade Nikon ;-).

Here is a 100% size crop from the previous photograph, taken from the left hand side (a bit more than a third down from the top), a very small area of the whole image. So yeah, resolution rules. Here we can see the waterfall of the Glenealo river itself and the ‘zig-zag’ tracks that take you up (or down from) the Spinc. Look closely and you can see tiny people! At the first ‘elbow zig-zag’ as you go up, there is an orange jacket and a yellow one. So yeah, resolution rules!!! But to deploy that resolution, discipline and technique is required. It’s not a simple ‘point & shoot’ task.  Glenaelo River crop copy.jpg

Here is my lofty perch, BIG drop below and you do not want to slip here.Perch copy.jpg

As the seasons change the greens of the ‘Emerald Isle’ are making their return, as seen in the almost aerial view of the Scot’s Pines below. I took this from the cliffs of the Spinc.Trees copy.jpg

Whilst on the subject of the cliffs of the Spinc, here is a shot of a small patch of sunlight striking the northern aspect cliffs. That was about it as far as direct sunlight went on this day.Cliffs copy.jpg

Yeah, I did not see much sun this day. But I don’t mind, I just enjoy being out and about!
I opted to head for the top of the Spinc walk (as opposed to heading left at a junction to head straight for Lugduff gap) and then proceeded to hand rail a rather decrepit old fence!Fence copy.jpg

This fence soon expired and then I was relying on my navigation skills to avoid the steeper slopes of Lugduff south east top. I wanted a gentler approach, sore legs and feet always in my thoughts. This turned out to be a much gentler gradient than the main track up to Lugduff Gap actually, but of course the terrain was not as ‘easy going’. Tussocks of grass and some wet bog patches were the main problem. But I opted for this route as I had hoped to cross paths with some deer. Plus it offered a nice view of the Glenealo Valley and the surrounding hills (though a dull day unfortunately).Glenaelo Valley copy.jpg

Well, I did see some deer – though they were spooked by my presence and immediately departed hastily upon sighting me!Deer copy.jpg

A stealthier approach was required, and a longer lens (I had my 100mm Zeiss with me but not my 70-200 Nikkor). But I was not out specifically to shoot the deer this day, I just like to see them!

At the summit area of Lugduff south east now, and I like to head south from here as there is a small rocky outcrop where I like to eat and observe Lugnaquilla from its northern aspect. A murky day, but not an unpleasant one. Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

As shown above, the summit area of Lug was in cloud – as it was for most of the time I was at Lugduff. I estimate the cloud cover level to be about ~900 metres above sea level here.
Here, we can see (at left) the shoulder of Cloghernagh, also marked on EastWest Mapping’s wonderful maps as ‘Bendoo’. There are only two “Ben’s” (in physical geography, ‘Ben’ is commonly used as part of a place name for a mountain peak in Gaelic) that I know of in Wicklow, the other being Benleagh – which is shown in the above photograph on the right – the imposing looking cliffs above the tree line. Also visible is the Fraughan Rock Glen (or ‘Fraggle Rock’ as I like to call it!), almost dead center.
Lugduff translates to English as  ‘Black Hollow’ – though I am not certain what/where the ‘hollow’ is – perhaps the hollow referred to is the hollow of Fraughan Rock Glen, it certainly looked dark this day and if the sun were behind it (as is the case on a clear day in winter) then the glen most certainly would be very dark due to its northern aspect. If someone knows what the ‘hollow’ is, please correct me in the comments!
Then finally, that dark towering hulk that is Lugnaquilla itself – slightly left of center, rising up into the clouds.

A closer view of Bendoo and Lugnaquilla, with fog rolling off the cliffs of the south prison of Lugnaquilla. A great approach to Lugnaquilla itself is to start at the bottom of the Fraughan Rock Glen and follow the forest track (bottom right) up to the Fraughan Rock Brook and handrail the waterfall up. Tough work going up, even harder going down, it’s quite steep, wet and slippery in places. I must do that walk again soon, it’s amazing, but it is tough on weak/injured/overused/arthritic joints. From the Hollow Of Luqueer, at the top of the waterfall, swinging slightly north of west helps avoid some steep rocky terrace areas and then when on higher ground and past the terraces a heading south east will take you to past Cannow mountain and onto the Lugnaquilla plateau itself. Lugnaquilla 100mm copy.jpg

Starting to head back now, lunch had and exercise complete – the conical Croaghanmoira stands proud to the south east, with Carrawaystick waterfall visible near bottom right. Yep, I know Wicklow pretty well!Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

Back on the Spinc boardwalk now, and boy – it’s pretty busy! One of the things I find fascinating about walking in Wicklow, is that some places are completely deserted, while other places can be like Piccadilly Circus! As readers of this blog will know, I prefer the quieter spots.

Here is a view of the rocky area (my lofty perch) I was sat atop for my earlier images of the day, on the right hand side. At left we see the slopes of Camaderry, another regular haunt of mine! Phil's Seat copy.jpg

Back at the car and another great day in the hills. Time for an Indian take away when I get home I think (I love Chicken Madras!).

P.S. Happy Birthday to my Dad today!

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 Hot Day At Keadeen

Wow!
Another beautiful sunny day on the weekend!
I am being spoilt.
Thank you Weather Gods!

Obviously wanting to return to Lugnaquilla (for my hat trick in 3 weeks), I decided not to at the last minute. My plan was to get up early and catch the sunrise on the slopes above Upper Corrig almost at Lug itself. But I was remembering how much pain my feet and legs had given me the previous week after my second visit in the last two weeks to Lugnaquilla. Not wanting to aggravate my Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis, I opted for a gentler hike this time.

I wanted to start early, but in all honesty – I just could not stir myself from my slumber this day. So a lie-in was had and I rolled (groggily) out of bed at 8am. Sacrilege!
I rarely lie in, but I obviously needed it. Anyway, on to the walk!

Parking just above the Dwyer-McAllister Cottage, I left my car in first gear with the handbrake firmly engaged (the parking area is on a steep slope). I am paranoid about car roll backs in my absence so I always place the steering wheel so that if the car were to roll, the direction of rollage would spill the car away from danger (ditches, roads etc.). Yeah, I am weird and worry about things like that.

Being an (almost) isolated summit in the deep south-west of Wicklow, Keadeen (‘flat-topped hill’ according to Mountain Views, ‘Fortgranite’ according to Google Translate) offers supremely commanding views over south Wicklow and parts of Carlow. It also offers an impressive view of the Lugnaquilla massif and the Glen of Imaal. I say almost isolated, as its twin peak – known as Carrig – stands less than two kilometers away and is less than one hundred meters shorter and so prevents the solitude of Keadeen itself.

Again, a walk I have done many times and will do many more times I suspect. It’s not a tough walk but it’s good for a calf stretcher. The last pull up to the flat summit can be a work out.

A layer of fog at the start of the walk, but my suspicion was that a combination of heat from the sun and the wind would dissipate this. Fog Trees copy.jpg

This area suffered an intense fire a year or so ago – perhaps more, I do not know exactly when it occurred, I did not witness it. I just came here one day and the ground was scorched. The vegetation is slow to heal (hence the tortured appearance in the above photograph).

As suspected, it looks like the fog is clearing now, revealing blue skies above:Fog Clearing copy.jpg

Oops, hang about, I was mistaken – it’s back again!Fog Returns copy.jpg

Ok, now it is clearing!Fog Clearing II copy.jpg

And now we can see the Monarch of Wicklow – Lugnaquilla – looming above Ballinedan and Slievemaan mountains.Fog Clearing III copy.jpg

And Lugnaquilla is unveiled:Lugnaquilla copy.jpg

Part of the north prison and the ridge of Camara Hill visible at left, to centre, in the photograph. From this angle, it looks a long walk to approach Lug from Camara. It is. I should know (See : Tranquility And Changing Seasons At Lugnaquilla, A White Lugnaquilla, A Frosty Log Na Coille, A Wintry Hike To Lugnaquilla, A Return To Log Na Coille, Lugnaquilla From Fenton’s Bar – The Sequel, Lugnaquilla from Fenton’s Bar, A return to Camara Hill, A Camera at Camara Hill – a glimpse of greater things – wow. I must approach Lug from a different route next time!).

Anyway, moving on and up – a small sapling caught my eye:Sapling copy.jpg

Taken using my new Zeiss Milvus 100m f/2. This is very quickly becoming my favourite lens. It is simply a joy to use, and a tool that is fun to use is a tool that will get used often.

The flattish ground just before the last pull up to Keadeen is very wet in parts, so some careful dodging of bog pools and sucking soft ground is required. Like a large proportion of the Wicklow Mountains really! I don’t mind, soft ground is good for arthritic joints.

Further up the final slope to the summit of Keadeen now, and a quick pause for a breath (and a quick snap of course).Lug II copy.jpg

Near the summit area now, and looking south to Mount Leinster. Some fog rolling clinging to the lower slopes.Mount Leinster copy.jpg

One wishes for a clear atmosphere AND sun but one can wish all one likes! Bring back bright and clear winter days please.
At the summit now, with the ordnance survey trig pillar and a large summit cairn beyond. A lovely bright day. And HOT!Trig copy.jpg

The origin of the cairn is a mystery to me – I have heard two accounts. One is that the cairn is a prehistoric burial tomb and the second account states that it was built by hill walkers. I like to think it’s a bit of both – that there was indeed a prehistoric cairn at this site, but it was damaged and has since been reconstructed by hill walkers. But I honestly don’t know – I stand to be corrected on this!

Quite a hazy day now, a thin layer of mist in the atmosphere. Hampering absolute sharpness on long range imagery but nearby views were acceptable. There was also atmospheric blurring occurring (Astronomical Seeing was poor due to a turbulent atmosphere). This can be critical when using long lenses for long range photographs, and will be a large factor that you cannot control affecting photograph sharpness and clarity. The effect would be missed by most, but a critical photographic eye will know it when they see it.

Windy up here, at the top. And quite cool too actually. Jacket time. Also snack time! YUM!!! These are my favourite walking snacks. Snacks copy.jpg

I also enjoy flapjacks and an occasional Lion Bar. If I am planning on Lug, I will treat myself to a Lion Bar!

From the summit cairn, the views are quite remarkable really. Looking to the west here there is low cloud in the far distance but closer lie Spinans Hill (right) and Cloghnagaune (left) and in the distance Baltinglass Hill.Cairn View copy.jpg

Spinans Hill is very curious and a place I plan to visit at some stage in the near future (I have not been yet). There is a hill fort (known as Brusselstown Ring) on the south east part of the hill and from Keadeen it looks most interesting. Apparently, it is Europe’s largest hill fort. Cool!Brusselstown copy.jpg

Looking northerly now, over Glen Imaal and towards Donard. What a view, and so green! Church Mountain at the back at middle, the slopes of Lobawn to the left and the Sugarloaf of West Wicklow at right. Also visible here is the Coolmoney army camp of Glen Imaal (slightly left of center).Glen Imaal copy.jpg

Another view over to Church Mountain.Fence copy.jpg

Time to head back now, I had left my sandwich in the car (accidentally) and I was starving! This is not the first time I had forgotten to take my lunch from the boot of my car whilst out hiking, and I dare say it won’t be the last!

Detouring a little from the path towards the east reveals a fine view of Lugnaquilla and the Camara Hill ridge.Lug 50mm copy.jpg

A view of Croaghanmoira and the forestry that I was handrailing on the way up during the fog. Croaghanmoira 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 here!

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

Tranquility And Changing Seasons At Lugnaquilla

After many weekends of grey skies and wet walks – finally; a break in the misery.
Saturday 25th March was set to be a fantastic day judging by the forecasts. And fantastic it was.
So….. Where did I go? Well, I think readers of this blog will know where I went!

Many kilometers to hike, lots of boot sucking bog to tackle, many views to see. Rock strewn slopes to dodge through, gullies to sit atop and a ‘loaner’ lens to test. A loaner lens because the brand new Zeiss Milvus 135mm lens I purchased revealed itself to have a very soft corner on one side. Even at f/8. Not acceptable really. So, back to the shop it went.

In the last couple of months I have been trying to obtain a decent 135mm prime lens for landscape work. I enjoy shooting longer lenses for landscapes, more so than wide angle lenses actually. I think photography can be an ‘art of exclusion’, so with a long lens, you can exclude easier!

Only a few simple criteria needed to be met by the lens I was searching for. The lens needed to be sharp, and it needed to sharp across the entire image frame. Not just sharp in the center – sharp across the entire image. Not an unreasonable expectation for a prime (non zoomable) lens I don’t think?
Well, after 3 different samples of 135mm lenses (2 Samyang/Rokinon and 1 Zeiss Milvus) – it would appear so. Buying new lenses for a high resolution camera is, well, a bit stressful if I am honest. I am quite experienced with testing lenses and I have very high demands/expectations of new equipment. New equipment is very expensive, so I have every right to be picky I believe.

High resolution imagery places large demands on glass (lenses) placed in front of the sensor and lens flaws will be revealed, certainly. Similarly, flaws that originate from behind the sensor will be revealed equally. By that – I mean photographer flaws. Nobody, and nothing is perfect.

I will talk about this more later.
But for now, the journey begins!

Up bright and early as per usual for me. I took this one at 7am whilst walking up the forest path toward good old Camara Hill. The mountain Keadeen looms beyond this row of trees. The lens I was borrowing from my favourite local camera shop (Conns Cameras – by the way, wonderful customer service guys.) was a 100mm Makro Planar f/2 Zeiss lens. This was my first shot with the lens, shot wide open at f/2, manually focussed in live view on the trees. What a delightful little lens, almost zero field curvature (nearly flat zone of focus/depth of field). This meant that if I was parallel with the row of trees, I could get all of the trees in the same zone of focus with f/2. So that’s what I did!Keadeen Trees copy.jpg

Now, I always manually focus my lenses for landscape photography. With the Zeiss 100mm, it has no autofocus, so there is no choice. But I am happy with this. Manual focus gives much better results than autofocus (unless I mess up – this is not unknown, I am human after all. Plus I do suffer from terrible short sightedness and astigmatism – like certain wide angle lenses I might add!). Besides, I also find manual focus is a much more intimate way to connect with and capture nature, it forces me to think about what the subject really is, in the above case – the trees. Everything else in the shot is ‘contextual background’.

As this is my favourite walk, I have become intimately familiar with it over the last 6 months or so. More than twenty five times I have done at least part of this walk in the past half year. It never gets old, it always looks different. Below is shown the final stretch of forest track that leads you up to the slopes of Camara Hill. From here the journey gets a little tougher. Up onto open hillside and the gradient steepens. My father describes the ascent of Camara as ‘Twenty minutes of purgatory’! Well, it was a humid day when I took him and my mother up there, so the description was warranted!Track to Camara copy.jpg

Well, winter is over now here in Ireland. Much to my dismay! I do enjoy clear days in winter, but with spring comes new opportunities. The gorse has already started it’s luminous and coconut-fragranced return! Bokeh!Gorse.jpg

Depth of field (zone of focus) is minimal in the above shot. Only the very tip of the gorse bud is in sharp focus. A tricky enough photograph to capture, by the time focus is spot on – the bud could have been moved by the wind, and thus thrown out of the zone of focus. I won’t lie, I did not get this focussed exactly how I wanted it first time (see note above about flaws behind the sensor!).

At the top of Camara now, and a familiar view to myself is revealed. Also a familiar view to Michael Dwyer (the United Irishmen leader in the 1798 rebellion against the English). I believe he was born near the foot of this hill and fought for freedom for Ireland from within these secluded glens.

The sky was like a painting at this time of day, not too long after sunrise with the sun beyond Lugnaquilla itself. The last patches of snow are resisting the slow thaw. But their time is coming to an end.Lugnaquilla Sky copy.jpg

Looking at smaller views now, using the Macro lens I am borrowing. A lone grass blade shooting through the tortured and weathered surface of the peat.I stand alone copy.jpg

A few rest breaks required, Camara Hill ascent was tough this day. Lack of sleep the night before and a hectic week at work. But these breaks offered the chance to try the macro capabilities of the Milvus 100mm. Added bonus : I got to lie down for a little rest taking these shots!

Another close up, this time further up the mountain. Hitting the snow patches now, probably the last of the snow until autumn/winter 2017. Spring breaks through!
Blade copy.jpg

Again, an admirable performance from the lens. Depth of field/zone of focus is so shallow at close range on a 36 megapixel camera. Only the little orange ‘knot’ almost halfway up the grass blade is in perfect focus at f/2.8.

A quick stroll to the summit now, with a snow patched Gravale, Carrigvore and Kippure mountain chain in the distance beyond. Summit copy.jpg

Amazing weather and not a soul to be seen! Never have I experienced such beautiful and calm (almost no wind) conditions at my favourite place outdoors. Often it is foggy, cold, wet and windy! By the time I had got to the summit this day, I had taken all of my outer torso layers off and I was just in my thermal T-shirt. Amazing, only a month ago I was in my full winter gear (see A White Lugnaquilla).

A beautiful day indeed.
But don’t worry, I can always find something to complain about! There was some mild ‘atmospheric lensing’, or heat shimmer (temperature differential) occurring. This was hampering long range views. This will get worse as spring progresses to summer. Winter is the best season for a clear atmosphere, and it shall be missed by myself. Photographs are affected greatly by this mirage-like effect, and sharpness and resolution is reduced. Long lenses suffer more because they amplify the effect. There is little that can be done in this case, except shoot earlier in the morning or later in the day when the atmosphere is more stable. Also, it can help to be above your subject (such as, on a mountain). Anyway, I was having such a great day that I really didn’t care that much! Enjoy the moment, if the photographs come, they come – if they don’t then there is always next time!

As always, a short detour to the south prison cliffs was the next item on the agenda. I swore that I was not going to do this on this day, and instead do something else – but I lied to myself. I love it here. A quick stop for a shot and a small bite to eat (Lion bar, yum), then I planned to sit above the Great Gully of the south prison itself (also known as McAlpines Back Passage). Cloghernagh copy.jpg

Descending sharply here to reach my resting spot above the Great Gully. Lunchtime!Selfie_1 copy.jpg

I didn’t enjoy my sandwich much this day to be honest. I opted for chicken tikka, lettuce and sweetcorn. But, it sort of dawned on me here as I was chomping away that perhaps I’d have been better off with just plain chicken and that I did not enjoy tikka sandwich as much as I thought I would. However, I had some amazing raspberries for dessert. They were incredible!

Another shot at the head of the Great Gully, this time minus me.Great Gully copy.jpg

I shot this image and the ‘selfie’ type image above it with my Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art lens. A wonderful wide angle lens, but not perfect. The lens can suffer from sharpness reducing lateral chromatic aberration (AKA transverse CA) in the edges of the image frame due to an inverted ‘V’ (think of ‘^’) shaped field curvature that favours the foreground so that peripheries in the background can become less sharp if not focussed appropriately (hence the use of manual focus!). Software (such as Lightroom, Raw Therapee) can help this effect to some degree, and the colour fringing but there is a small loss of sharpness as a result (but software cannot fix out of focus areas). So careful focus placement is required. Tripod a necessity. But I am looking at the image at pixel level size – even a very, very large print would not reveal this problem! Like I said, I am picky! But like I also said, nothing is perfect and as far as wide angle lenses go, this one is extraordinary.

From here, looking to the south (and shooting with the Milvus 100mm f/2), we can see (beyond the peat hags of Lybagh and Slievemaan mountains) the richly cultivated farmlands of South Wicklow, Carlow & Wexford and a hazy, though prominent Mount Leinster and his cohort of jumbled hills that form the Blackstairs Mountains range.Mount Leinster copy.jpg

I was remarking to myself how quiet Lugnaquilla was on such a wonderful Saturday. It is a popular mountain to climb so this was a great surprise to me. But then as I detoured nearby the summit over towards the north prison, a glimpse of the summit cairn told me that the party was there, and I had not been invited! I thought the party was over at the gully! In all seriousness though, it’s amazing how many people climb this mountain, head straight for the summit then head back the same way. As I’ve often said, there is so much more to explore on the mountain – in the gullies, the prisons and on the quieter slopes. I enjoy the quieter areas personally, never really been one for crowds, or parties for that matter.Summit Party copy.jpg

Another long range (ish) shot as I made my way across the summit from the south prison to the north prison. This shot showing the beautiful (and heavily forested) townland of Aughavannagh with Croghan Kinsella rearing above in the distance. Aughavannagh has been described in books I have read as ‘the last place God made’ – because it is so remote. Saving the best for last? Well, I am not sure it’s the best place on Earth, but the views up to Lugnaquilla and its imposing south prison from there are truly beautiful.Aughavannagh and Croghan Kinsella copy.jpg

Just above the north prison corrie rim now, and I took a quick glance (and photograph) northwards over the Wicklow Mountain range. An assorted jumble of lumps and bumps:Wicklow Mountain Range copy.jpg

The above was taken with the Milvus 100mm f/2, the loaner lens. Proving itself to be sharp edge to edge for distance work as well as a brilliant performance for close range work – an exemplary performance and what I was expecting from the Milvus 135mm (and also the Samyang 135mm, and all prime lenses for that matter). After evaluating the images from this walk and other test samples I shot and carefully examined, I decided that this lens was definitely a ‘keeper’. A truly wonderful little lens. The great guys over at Conns Cameras sorted me out and I did a simple exchange (and a small refund for me, this was slightly cheaper than the Zeiss 135mm I had originally bought from them) and I am keeping this lens. Brilliant customer service, and that’s one of the reasons I shop with them, not to mention the fact that they were willing to lend me the (very expensive) lens on a loan basis whilst my brand new 135mm (2 weeks old) lens went in for servicing. A bitter pill to swallow indeed after spending a large amount of money on it.

Whilst the 100mm is not exactly the focal length I wanted (it is 35mm shorter), the performance is so good, I simply could not bear to part with it. There are also no guarantees that a lens sent in for ‘servicing’ will come back better than when it went in. I’ve said it before, I do not like to gamble.

Anyway, enough of my techy/nerdy ramblings – here is the north prison.The North Prison copy.jpg

More sun light illuminating the tumbling cliffs than the last time I was here, the sun’s transit through the sky has been revised and the seasons are indeed changing. What an amazing day.

Me again! Boy! Do I need a haircut! Resting above the north prison, contemplating the view and the return journey to my car. Time, as always, was pressing on at this point.Me & The North Prison copy.jpg

Hard to tear myself from the view I had here. I took a shot of it (below) but in my experience great views do not translate to great photographs a lot of the time. Looking down to the Sugar Loaf of West Wicklow, Glen Imaal and the artillery/anti tank range and the forested area of Stranahely. There is a tremendous view over to Lugnaquilla and the north prison to be had from a gentle stroll around the Stranahely forest tracks (in a freshly felled area of the plantations). One of the things I love about shooting with sharp lenses and a high resolution camera is the ability to zoom right in on an image and view details with high clarity that I (or anybody else, for that matter) could not have possibly seen with the eyes.Sugar Loaf copy.jpg

Descending my favourite slope now, views beyond the navigation aid cairn (for the track to Slievemaan) reveal a weather beaten labyrinth of peat hags on Lybagh/Slievemaan.Slievemaan Navigation Cairn copy.jpg

Contrasty light. Most landscapes are better during the ‘golden hours’ around sunrise and sunset but I do like to shoot landscapes at all times of the day. It’s representative of what people who might visit the area would likely see, so I suppose it’s more true to the scene.

Back at Camara Hill now, fittingly I took a shot showing the same view I had near the start of this day’s journey over to Lugnaquilla itself. Much more pleasing late afternoon light at this stage.Lug copy.jpg

There is a memorial statue at the side of Fenton’s Pub of Micheal Dwyer, near where my car was parked. Being an Englishman myself, the history of this area is fascinating to me regarding the 1798 rebellion against the English. There is an excellent OPW (Office of Public Works) museum on the slopes of Keadeen mountain with a fascinating history of Dwyer himself (The Dwyer McAllister Cottage). I won’t tell the story here, but I most definitely recommend a visit and I class it as one of Wicklow’s many hidden gems.Dwyer copy.jpg

Back at my car now, and what a great day. The sunset looked promising but I was just simply too tired this day! So here is one I caught one night after work the week before with the Milvus 100mm.Sunset copy.jpg

I actually visited Lugnaquilla again on the sunday just gone (2nd April). Another wonderful day and I found a great new route down besides the cliffs of the north prison (after checking in with the Army Warden Office of course). I might write a blog about that trip soon but for now the hamstring pain is too fresh! It’s too soon! I have to learn to walk a little less on the weekends and a little more in the week – try to balance it. I’ve become a bit of a ‘weekend warrior’ whereby in the week I am quite docile (I have a desk job as a software engineer) but on the weekend I end up doing about 20km or so. This causes pain!

After discovering the #VantagePoint project by Light.co, I wanted to join in on the conversation and share my favorite locations to shoot. And Lugnaquilla is most certainly one of my absolute favourite locations to shoot. It’s a challenging location and because I carry so much heavy gear, perhaps a smaller, more compact set-up might be beneficial for me! Something to think about!

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 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.

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!