Landscape Workshop on the Burren Coast - April 2016
08/09/16In April 2016 I had the pleasure of running one of my 4 night, weekend Landscape Workshops on the beautiful Burren coast of County Clare. Five participants joined me and we had a wonderful weekend exploring and photographing this wonderful area. I used to visit this area regularly to photograph the wide variety of flora that is a speciality of the Burren in spring and early summer, along with a few species of fauna and bird life that can be found there more easily than other areas in Ireland. Slow worms, common [viviparous] lizards, pine marten and cuckoos were some of the things that I photographed there and the stoat is one which I saw regularly but which managed to elude my camera even though one performed for 20 minutes for a student of mine during the filming of "Wild Trials" which was shown on RTE1 during the mid 2000's.
I had always meant to go back and make more of the landscapes there which I had never had time to photograph extensively during my visits - wildlife photography tends to be time consuming and intense! So I went for a weekend recce with some photographer friends to re-familiarise myself with the area and see what the possibilities would be for bringing a group of four or five photographers.
For the workshop we stayed at a wonderful self catering home we had used for the pre workshop trip. The house has six bedroom with five en-suite so I took the one without so all the participants got their own facilities! One of the bedrooms also has its own sauna!! It has a great kitchen with dining table and a small relaxing area adjoining and has a dining room and another large living room as well. TV's in all the rooms and a small home gym upstairs in another relaxation area make it an excellent place for a group. In fairness I don't think any of the participants even watched TV as the photography was fairly intense and when we were at home we were downloading, reviewing, processing and chatting about our images.
The house is a two minute drive from Fanore beach and there are excellent areas of Burren limestone pavement within five or ten minutes drive so it is ideally located for quick, close-by shoots. We used these particularly on the first and last days so we weren't traveling too far on those occasions and the beach at Fanore gave us at least two more sessions at different times of day and in different weather conditions with each offering very different possibilities.
Over the course of the weekend we visited many areas and locations. From the house we never had to travel more than about 35 to 40 mins by car to reach some of the superb locations this part of Ireland offers. The stunning coastline of Clahane near Liscannor was a favourite and we visited Mullaghmore in the Burren National Park and investigated the high roads over the limestone landscape of the Burren, with a stop at the famous Poulnabrone dolmen - which we all left without photographing! A morning around Doolin was more productive though. While we passed the Cliffs of Moher a couple of times while travelling I didn't take the group to photograph them as for me they have been photographed to death at this point [like the dolmen] and no one was shouting "stop" so I think they all felt the same! My hope when leading a workshop is to get participants to find a way of expressing fresh views with their photography rather than re-hashing the same old cliched points of view.
The weather was pretty mixed over the weekend but we didn't get much by the way of rain overall so the changing light gave us new opportunities and challenges all the time. We spent one early morning by the pier at Ballyvaughan is some dull, flat, grey light which allowed the photographers to go for long exposures with ND filters and these worked really well.
Overall the workshop was quite challenging in places as photo opportunities were not always obvious. For me this is exactly how it should be. We can all go to the simple, straightforward and over photographed locations in Ireland and make a picture but to get to the core of becoming better photographers, we need to test ourselves by looking for new pastures and creating our own unique and individual visions of them. If we succeed in making a great picture under those circumstances then we will improve as photographers [and perhaps artists!]. I am hoping to take a group back to the Burren in Spring or Autumn 2017 so if this is of interest to you email me anytime.