Storm Chasing with the RPS

Workshop with Thomas Heaton and the Royal Photographic Society Northern Ireland

As Storm Brian approached 12+ brave souls along with a famous guest ventured out with tents and camera gear to photograph some epic locations along the North coast. An epic adventure in an epic landscape. 

Dunluce Castle at sunset.

Dunluce Castle at sunset.

The New Landscape Photographer

RPS NI had invited Thomas Heaton to present a talk on his journey to date titled "The New Landscape Photographer". Thomas is now a full time landscape photographer, who runs a very successful YouTube channel where he shares his weekly adventures and beautiful imagery. 

After a brief discussion with Richard the organiser of this event, I quickly signed up, as I knew of Thomas since following his channel for over two years. I was a bit apprehensive of the members not approving of an outsider, being the only workshop attendee from outside Northern Ireland, I hoped they would be ok. As it turned out everyone was so welcoming. My fears quickly evaporated as I got to talking with a few people, who like me have a passion for photography and image making.

If you don't know Thomas and you like landscape photography then you need to check out his YouTube channel. He's the most down to earth guy you could meet, despite his massive following >165,000 last I checked. I'll share at the end of this blog Thomas' YouTube video of our weekend chasing and being chased by storms.

The Workshop

The original workshop plans of a wild camp in the Mourne mountains were wisely changed the week before after ex-hurricane Ophelia destructive power was seen along the coast of Ireland. Little did we realise that storm Brian was set to sweep across the country a few days later. 

Nevertheless we braved the wind and rain and made the best of the conditions to shoot a sunset and sunrise.

I travelled from Dublin early on Saturday leaving at 6.30am to be in time for the lecture and then afterwards through driving rain drove to the campsite which was very conveniently located within 10-15 minutes of some of the key attractions. A couple of locations for sunset and sunrise were noted to give us a choice should the weather dictate. Ultimately it was decided that Dunluce Castle would be our sunset location and after some discussion later on Kinbane Head was to be our sunrise location. 

Dunluce Castle - Sunset

A place of history the well preserved ruins of Dunluce Castle sit atop a sheer cliff overlooking the sea and Rathlin Island to the North. Film location for Game of Thrones the castle was featured as Castle Greyjoy in the well known fantasy series. It's no wonder as the location and the castles rugged appearance is well suited to house the lords of the Iron Islands.

Castle Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. Dunluce Castle with a long exposure image.

Castle Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. Dunluce Castle with a long exposure image.

For the images above I used my Rollei filter holder with circular polarizer, and a Nisi ND1000 Ten Stop filter to get a really long exposure of six minutes. This whilst protecting the camera and lens from sea spray and rain, and securing the tripod and camera from the 40 mile an hour winds. The long exposure helped to smooth out the water adding separation and contrast to the element of the scene from foreground to mid to the castle in the top third of the image.

The rock pools and algae leading the eye into the scene to Dunluce Castle

The rock pools and algae leading the eye into the scene to Dunluce Castle

Given the conditions I managed to produce a couple of images I am quite happy with. After sunset was well and truly over, we ventured back to the top of the cliff and the comfort of the cars. With the winds at our back we were practically flung up the hill at running pace, I've never experienced anything like it :)

Back to the campsite to find my tent demolished by the wind. It was a sleep in the back of the car for me that night. We had fish and chips and chatted about the day and plan for tomorrow. 

Kinbane Head - Sunrise

The following morning we met at 6.45am to reach our location well in time for sunrise. We weren't hopeful as most of us had not slept with the howling winds and rain, and the morning did not bring any promise of better weather. Indeed when we arrived at location we had to sit in the car waiting for the ice cold driving rain to subside. With forty minutes to go to sunrise we ventured down the cliff path to the shoreline with Kinbane head and castle our subjects for this morning's photography.

Broody skies and seas at Kinbane Head

Broody skies and seas at Kinbane Head

After a brief recce of the left side of Kinbane with the rest of the group, I decided that I could find no composition in the present light that would produce a decent image, adding to this the waves and the wind were verging on dangerous. I left the main group and ventured up to the headland, on the other side found the remains of a bothy or cottage in the most amazing location, the skies and the light weren't what I hoped and it seemed unlikely they would change, though the shelter on this side kept some of the sea spray at bay.

Stormy seas looking out toward Fair Head

Stormy seas looking out toward Fair Head

I settled on a scene to photograph and tried to get the most out of the composition and light to paint the moody scene before me. The seas were blue and plastered with white crashing waves, the skies were broody and threatened more rain.

The seas were moving so swiftly churned up by the storms and the swell I didn't need any filters to increase shutter time to give a feeling of motion, the motion was clear to see. I wouldn't fancy being in a boat or falling in those waters. 

A quick handheld shot of Fair head and Storm Brian above

A quick handheld shot of Fair head and Storm Brian above

Finally we said farewell to Kinbane Head with the long lung busting trek back uphill to the cars. As we approached the light changed and before us was a marvelous scene with the storm clouds above and the light rays silhouetting the cliffs of Fair Head in the distance. No time for lens changes or tripod setting, I took the above shot handheld braced against the path fence, one of my favourite images from the trip.

Back to the campsite for a well deserved and much appreciated breakfast served up at the guest lodge. We said farewell to Thomas and his wife Charlotte and wished them well on their mini break holiday. We then headed off in groups to capture images of some local areas before heading for home. I would absolutely love to shoot again with these guys, and hopefully in fairer weather we might head to the Mournes for that wild camp and Thomas might join us.

A Shameless Plug

All images above were taken in the worst of conditions waiting for the best of light, I certainly will revisit when conditions are optimal, though I have to say given the rain and the gale force winds these images turned out rather well :) You can purchase prints or framed versions, or if you wish you can contact me to license the images for digital or other media. Your support helps me continue to shoot great locations and to share my photography.

I'd love to hear from you, comments can be left below.

Thanks, Jason

As promised here is Thomas YouTube video of an epic weekend chasing and being chased by storms, brutal conditions puts it mildly :)


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