This image of a lightning storm taken from Tra Na Mbo while probably isn’t my favourite image but it has been my most successful to date in terms of competitions, something I rarely participate in. It got a FIAP Ribbon / Honourable Mention in the landscape section of the Cork International photography Salon in 2014 and also First Place in the An Taisce Love your coast photography competition in 2015 (Landscape Section). The composition is nothing original, which is probably why I don’t like it, but the obvious weather element is what gives it something different.
Tra Na Mbo is a location I have returned to on a number of occasions, it is located to the west of Bunmahon beach in Waterford. To get to it park at the car park to the right hand side of Bunmahon beach at the bend in the road and walk about a ½ mile along the cliff walk to get to the cove. Access to the beach itself is down a fairly steep grass path which is easily accessible. The main feature is an isolated stack on the beach, just on the high tide mark and is framed by the cliffs either side. The cliffs themselves also have some interesting features and caves and there are a few rocks along the beach if its foreground interest you are looking for. If you use your imagination, the cliff on the left could almost be the Copper Coast's version of Mount Rushmore. Sunset is generally almost out to sea depending on the time of year and is definitely the best time in terms of light at this location. I think high tide is the best time also as it covers a lot of the more busy rocks and seaweed that are visible at low tide. It’s also quiet a steep beach so rolling waves are easy to capture as they ebb and flow along the very dark sand.
On this particular evening there was a rare lightning storm starting just as I headed out of work. My choice was to stop right then and try and get an image from a location very close by, maybe Dungarvan Harbour or risk it and try and get to a better location and get something more interesting, I risked the Tra Na Mbo location hoping I would get there in time before the storm passed.
A quick scramble to the location and set up what I consider to be the typical composition on this beach taken many times by me and many photographers, but I hoped the lightning would give it an added element. Spray and rain made the shot very difficult to keep the lens clean and I knew I wanted something like a 20 second exposure to get some form of movement in the sky and give me a better chance of capturing the lightning. I had no idea if the lightning strikes would show through the 10 stop filter but it was worth a try. Using a metal tripod and standing with an umbrella over the camera didn’t feel like the best idea as there were lightning strikes quite close by its not something I was going to wait around for too long and the light was fading fast. I used a 10 stop filter to get this longer exposure but didn’t bother with a ND grad in this case as trying the keep the lens clean was the main concern and the exposure looked fairly balanced as the sky was very dark.
On a quick review of the images back at the car on the camera suggested I had nothing and exposures looked a bit off with lots of water droplets on the lens. It was only when I went back to the computer to have a quick look and a drop of the exposure slider that I saw I had captured some lightning on camera. Did quite a bit to bring out the shadows and drop the highlights to get more definition on the strike itself and adjusted the White balance that seemed to be very blue for some reason and I was pretty happy with.
I was very glad I chose to go to a more interesting location which yielded this image but it seemed like the storm was heading east along the coast which I hoped would mean I was driving along with it. That usually doesn’t work if you are chasing light which is typically gone by the time you get there.
The beach itself is somewhere I have a few images of, the one I am still chasing is a very high spring tide to get some water movement around that stack, I’ve come close but never quite got it. The sand tends to shift and change a lot as well so it changes the beach and high tide line nearly every visit. I’d like to try and get a more original image of the location which I hope will come to me at some point. There is something very moody and foreboding about the place as the light drops so that maybe something I will try and depict. There is a lot of history behind the beach and there is still evidence of the copper mining which was very prevalent here.
On the headland to the left of the beach there are some very interesting rock formations also and an unusual pond which is well worth a look, both dawn and sunset are an option up there and I have something in mind for up there just waiting for the right conditions, so stay tuned.
Below is a small gallery of images from the beach, from various angles and conditions, as you can see it is a cove that has a lot to offer and well worth a visit. Next blog post will describe a trip to Connemara and will give the story behind most of the images in the Connemara Gallery.
Update: November 2016; very glad to have received news that the Lightning image at the top of this post has won 3rd place in the Irish Light competition, this was a national competition and the shortlist contained some exceptional images so very happy with the result.