Wild Atlantic Way

The journey continues....

by Jason Mac Cormac Photography

Since my last trip to Donegal I've been struggling to get time, with work and family commitments, to continue my journey along the wild atlantic way, an amazing coastal route that crosses nine counties and some of the most incredible scenery available in Ireland. Well for a very short time maybe thirty hours this past weekend that all changed.

In the space of thirty hours I visited three counties, wild camped on the most beautiful white sand beach I've ever seen, got chased off by midges and sat in the car for hours with nothing but the sound of rain hoping for a break in the weather to shoot some photos.

 Doo Lough, and me surveying the beautiful landscape.  Image Details: F8, ISO 100, 1/60

Doo Lough, and me surveying the beautiful landscape.

Image Details: F8, ISO 100, 1/60

After finishing work I headed out to the West Coast with a rucksack, a sleeping bag and tent, and of course my camera for a solo overnighter possibly two, with only a vague idea of where I was going, and a goal of finding a beach along the galway coastline to set up my tent after dark and be gone before anyone knew I was there in time for sunrise. Not having the luxury of dropping everything when the weather is ideal I had chosen this weekend for a trip and had hoped luck would favour me, however as I drove the motorway with misplaced optimism I could see rain clouds ahead and the weather reports started to ring true.

But as the saying goes if it looks like rain wait five minutes, its not too uncommon to have four seasons in one day in Ireland, so onwards to the M6 and then the N59 to Connemara for my first stop, the Pine's Island Viewpoint. I arrived and sure enough it had started to rain along the last stretch of road, sitting in the car I pondered on whether this would be a fail, and then decided regardless of the weather I was going to enjoy my brief trip and shoot some photos anyway. With that positive outlook the rain stopped :)

 Pine Island Connemara.  Image Details: F7.1, ISO 320, 30seconds, six stop ND filter and a 3 stop grad for sky.

Pine Island Connemara.

Image Details: F7.1, ISO 320, 30seconds, six stop ND filter and a 3 stop grad for sky.

I spent an hour exploring the different angles and taking a few photos considering the best vantage point. The light wasn't great but at least the rain held off for the most part and I got the ND filters out to smooth the water. The breeze kept the midges at bay thankfully. 

Next to find a camping spot for the night try get some sleep and awake for 5am sunrise. I knew I had to come back to this same spot and hopefully get some colour in the sky, again optimism trying to outdo the weather forecast of bleak grey skies with high chance of rain.

Getting soaked to the skin while putting your tent up is not a nice experience I can assure you :) still once set and change of clothes i slept for a couple of hours on and off with the wind howling and the rain coming and going during the night. Have to say the Zenith Pro 200 tent I bought for the purpose of these little escapes to the wild is proving its worth from gales on the Donegal coast and now some buffeting winds in Galway it has been thoroughly dry and rock solid. I got mine at the Outdoor Adventure Centre aka The Scout Shop in Dublin on sale.

 Vango Zenith Pro 200, my own beach front property :)  Image Details: F6.3, ISO 320, 13 seconds.

Vango Zenith Pro 200, my own beach front property :)

Image Details: F6.3, ISO 320, 13 seconds.

Pine Island Connemara, County Galway

At 4am I awoke, no rain thankfully, I seriously considered lying on and waking to view the beach in daylight but why waste the opportunity for sunrise at Pine Island so I quickly got ready packed up to the tent and checked the ground making sure i'd left nothing behind in the dark - you would never know I'd been there. Arrived back at the N59 with a hint that possibly there could be a break in the clouds for sunrise. As it happened there was some colour in the high sky but nothing remarkable, until I had all but given up and started to head back to the car and pack up, as if teasing me the landscape suddenly glowed with sunlight the sky lit up yellow behind the trees. I hurriedly set up to take a shot to try and capture the spectacle before me. Here is the result and one of my favourite photos from this short trip.

 Pine Island Connemara sunrise.  Image Details: F16, ISO 100, 1/3 second.

Pine Island Connemara sunrise.

Image Details: F16, ISO 100, 1/3 second.

Another shot taken fifteen minutes later, still a lovely scene and easier to capture than the wide dynamic range of the previous image. Amazing how light can change a landscape.

 Pine Island Connemara, County Galway  Image Details: F11, ISO 100, 1/2 second.

Pine Island Connemara, County Galway

Image Details: F11, ISO 100, 1/2 second.

Time for breakfast and then a road trip along the south coast of Galway and up toward Doo Lough in Mayo before looping back to County Clare. This drive was full of amazing locations as I wandered through the landscape at every turn a new location begged to be photographed for the most part I resisted :) The weather turned sour at Roundstone and was quite changeable as I went onto the aptly named Sky road outside Clifden so I admired the views but left the camera alone and drove on. Kylemore Abbey and Aisleagh falls had to be photographed.

 Kylemore Abbey  Image Details: F8, ISO 250, 1/50.

Kylemore Abbey

Image Details: F8, ISO 250, 1/50.

 Aasleagh Falls  Image Details: F13, ISO 100, 1/20.

Aasleagh Falls

Image Details: F13, ISO 100, 1/20.

 Aasleagh falls area, the smaller rapids beyond the main waterfall.  Image Details: F13, ISO 100, 1/13.

Aasleagh falls area, the smaller rapids beyond the main waterfall.

Image Details: F13, ISO 100, 1/13.

Doo Lough County Mayo

Onwards to county Mayo well the southern border anyway. Doo Lough is a place I wanted to visit as part of this Wild Atlantic Way trip because the scenery is everything you could hope for when visiting the west coast of Ireland, mountains and lakes, green fields, culture and history abound. As I got closer I was not disappointed and as luck would have it the sun made an appearance with breaks in the clouds and some blue skies. 

 The jetty at Doo Lough  Image Details: F11, ISO 100, 2.5 seconds, with 6 stop ND filter.

The jetty at Doo Lough

Image Details: F11, ISO 100, 2.5 seconds, with 6 stop ND filter.

My first stop, it was the tree that caught my attention and I pulled over to a lay by, it was only when I got out of the car that I noticed the jetty with the moored boats :) a picture postcard scene enriched by the dappled light on the mountain in the background helped give this an almost painterly quality. 

Back to the original reason for stopping the car this tree or bush below, not sure what it is, had caught my attention as it appeared to rise out of the very lake itself, upon closer inspection peering over the wall I could see a gravelly bank where the tree was situated the exposed roots clinging to the spot where it somehow managed to grow.

I knew immediately that black and white was how I wanted to portray this image, though colour looked nice too the black and white gave full focus to the stark contrast of the tree and the lake. The light on the mountains and the broody clouds helped give drama to the scene. When choosing a composition its amazing how a few inches left or right up or down made or broke the image. I was very mindful of letting the branches have some breathing space and clearing the mountain ridges. I especially liked this composition I settled on as the uppermost branches of the tree mirrored the angles of the mountains on either side and also the trees in the background are framed nicely by the branches.

 A lone tree in the lake. Doo Lough.  Image Details: F9, ISO 100, 1/20.

A lone tree in the lake. Doo Lough.

Image Details: F9, ISO 100, 1/20.

I've so many photographs from this long day of travelling through the countryside following the Wild Atlantic Way, its quite surprising given the amount of rain and grey skies I had. Using that time to get from a to b in the car in the hopes of better skies proved very useful, and these little moments when the rain stopped made the trip so worthwhile and hopefully gives you a taste of the beauty of Ireland and the sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. I can't wait for my next trip !!

 What a perfect place to stand and admire the scenery. Doo Lough County Mayo  Image Details: F8, ISO 100, 1/60. On tripod with timer locked taking repeated shots until i walked to the hill top.

What a perfect place to stand and admire the scenery. Doo Lough County Mayo

Image Details: F8, ISO 100, 1/60. On tripod with timer locked taking repeated shots until i walked to the hill top.

Where to next?? 

I still have Kerry and Cork and the west and north of Mayo along with Sligo and Limerick still to be visited. Hopefully get to tie one or more of these into a family get away before the end of the summer. Want to see more of my photography and perhaps purchase a print head over to the gallery. Every little helps!!!

Thanks for visiting. If you wish to leave a comment please do, alternatively message me with the link above if you want more info on my photo journeys, available prints, etc. I'd love to hear from you. 

Thanks, Jason

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