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Crossing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the ‘Causeway Coast’, Co. Antrim

A panorama taken from the middle of the famous rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, on County Antrim’s gloriously unspoiled north coast.

The rope bridge here is one of a series of well-loved tourist attractions along the “Causeway Coast”, situated as it is just a few miles east of the world famous Giant’s Causeway. Combining stunning views with a certain frisson of excitement and risk, it’s highly popular. Many thousands of visitors to the National Trust-managed site traverse the rope bridge every year, high above the crashing waves and swirling currents which separate the rocky islet from the cliffs of the coast.

A rope bridge has been present on the site for hundreds of years: it was originally set in place to allow seasonal access for salmon fishermen. The island, a small volcanic plug, sits next to a fishing ground which was a major source of employment. You can still see the small, recently-restored fisherman’s cottage on the island.

Growing up in Northern Ireland, this was one of the key destinations to bring visitors I first crossed the bridge in 1990 as a gangly, fearless teenager, when it felt considerably less solid than it does now. At that time it was a seasonal attraction: however this iteration of the bridge, installed in 2008, is open all year round (weather permitting, of course).

I hadn’t intended to shoot a pano of the bridge until we pulled up at the nearby carpark; however with such wonderful weather and smaller crowds – as we were visiting midweek and out of high season – meant I brought my pole & pano head along after all. I don’t have a great head for heights so I waited my turn to cross, quickly stopping in the middle and shooting the photos needed for this while looking resolutely straight ahead and trying not to get distracted. I only got to admire the view of the chasm below once I was safely back on terra firma, stitching this together from the comfort of my home!

Since capturing this view I’ve found various panoramas shot around the bridge, including on 360 Cities, but think this may be the first shot on (or indeed a couple of metres above) the bridge itself. Hope you enjoy the view!

Bluebells in the woods: springtime comes to Hardcastle Crags

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

After the short, grey days of winter, springtime percolates slowly through Calderdale, injecting life and colour into the valley once again. Muted monotones turn into verdant hues, flowers and buds appear, and the hills echo to the sounds of bleating lambs and birdsong.

This year it feels as if spring’s come later than ever: the wild garlic is still here, coexisting alongside bluebells and daffodils almost a month later than when I shot this panorama last year. It all feels a bit messed up, and I can hear hailstones hitting the windowpanes outside as I write this. So when there’s a window of good weather, it’s worth taking advantage… such as when I caught the setting sun light up this

Hardcastle Crags is an oasis of calm for me, an outpost of tranquillity and a place to escape the hectic nature of working life. It’s by no means an unspoilt landscape, but despite hundreds of years of man’s influence it’s a treasure trove of flora and fauna, and a great place to explore.

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, shaved Sigma 10mm f2.8 fisheye lens, Nodal Ninja RS-1, Promote Remote Control. 10 exposures, 1.7EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro & HDR Efex 2.

 

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

I first shot the bluebells in the Crags during my first spring in the valley, back in 2007 as I was just starting to embrace panoramic photography. It was the first panorama I shot bracketed in RAW… 3x exposures of 39 views. I stitched three separate panoramas (one for each exposure) overnight using the long-departed Realviz Stitcher. Seems an eon ago.  Six years, and thousands of panoramas later, it was great to revisit the theme once more, applying more rigorous technical and artistic experience to the subject.

It’s prompted me to dig out the original RAWs from 2007 and restitch this scene, which you can view above. It’s by no means perfect, but it acts as a good comparison to this year’s version. And you can never have too many bluebells on on page…

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 400D, Canon 18-55mm, Panosaurus head. 3 exposures, 2EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro

Inside the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is an archetypal mediaeval castle dominating a headland near the picturesque village of Craster in Northumberland. Much of the castle lies in ruins, derelict and neglected since its decline in the fifteenth century. It’s a pleasant walk along the coast for a couple of miles, although there’s not too much to see or do once you get there, as the castle is quite ruined. I’m sure kids would love to clamber all over the place, re-enacting battles and epic tales of derring-do, while adults enjoy the view and a cooling ice cream.

Incidentally if you do go, be sure to stop for a mouth-wateringly good Craster kipper butty in the car park… local smoked herring served in a bap. A perfect foil to the force of the elements rolling off the sea…

As it was a really overcast day the light was flat with little contrast, so I shot this as a 9 bracket HDR to pull out the best of the detail and dynamic range (like the grass though the windows and the stairwell in shadow). I tried to keep the colours as natural as possible… the damp greens contrasting with the warmer sandstone tones. I’m a sucker for the way sandstone weathers so beautifully, even when it’s been protected from the full force of the elements from the North Sea.

HTML5 version

Click the icons above to view a fullscreen 360° view of the scene with Flash (for desktop) or HTML5 (for mobile). You can also view the location in Google Earth or read more about it in Wikipedia. Happy viewing!

Setting sun over the Giant’s Causeway

Having grown up in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway was the place you’d always take visitors. Internationally recognised, visually impressive, geologically distinctive, culturally neutral: even at the height of the Troubles when other places may’ve been off-limits , the Causeway was the tourist destination. Rightly so: it’s a wonderous and crazy-looking place, with hexagonal columns formed by basalt cooling rapidly. No wonder in the days before we had an understanding of vulcanology the locals believed it was built by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill: a much more romantic explanation.

Trouble is, it’s (justifiably) extremely popular, and so viewing it without hordes of sightseeing visitors is nigh on impossible, except in publicity photographs. Apart from on a Friday night when there’s a World Cup match on, so most people are either glued to the telly or going out for the night. Result…

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the bay around the main causeway look as magical. The sea was calm, there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the sun slowly dropped towards the horizon, painting the vista with increasing saturated colours. With so few people around we felt like we had the place to ourselves, for which I was incredibly appreciative. Such emptiness made it easier to understand the scale and beauty of the natural features. Truly magical.

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.

Mount Stewart House

Mount Stewart, historical seat of the Marquesses of Castlereagh, on the Ards Peninsula in County Down. Now a National Trust property, the gardens have been immaculately restored to their former glory. Look below at the main house from the Italian and Irish gardens respectively.

pano_mt_stewart_front_gdn_1500px

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.

pano_mt_stewart_irish_gdn_1500px

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.