Ireland: Cliffs of Moher – Two Weeks in Ireland

| November 17, 2012
Cliffs of Moher

Ireland’s Stunning Cliffs of Moher

A mere week after stuffing ourselves with turkey for Thanksgiving next week, Donna and I will be on our way to Vienna, Austria, to visit the Christmas markets and take in an opera and a few concerts. In light of that, I thought I had better get busy finishing up a few posts about our trip to Ireland. This post covers our driving journey from Dingle to Galway, which included a stop at Ireland’s stunning Cliffs of Moher.

Driving from Dingle to Galway

If you are driving from Dingle to Galway, a stop at the Cliffs of Moher is very doable. Just get an early start after breakfast. Our only requirement was to reach Galway by dinner to begin our three-night stay there. The most efficient driving route took us from Dingle, around Tralee, and across the river Shannon by ferry. The Shannon Ferry Group runs two roll-on, roll-off, car ferries between Tarbert in County Kerry to Killimer in County Clare. We simply set our Garmin for Tarbert and it took is right to the ferry loading ramp. If there is a queue, you may have to wait for the next ferry like we did. It was no problem because crossing the river was still the fastest route and it provided an opportunity for us to take a 30-minute break from driving. Once across the Shannon River, we made our way to the world famous Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher Map

Our journey to the Cliffs of Moher and on to Galway

Ireland: Cliffs of Moher

The cliffs stretch five miles out to sea and tower as much as 700 feet above the crashing waves. The cliffs are the most popular tourist destination in Ireland drawing about one million visitors per year.

Using a zoom for landscape photography

If you look at the two photographs I have presented below, you will see two remarkably different perspectives of the cliffs. The shot immediately below was the first photo I took during our visit. In my view, it fails to capture the drama and scale of the cliffs. Plus, the light and atmospheric conditions were very challenging. With the blown out highlights on the water adjacent to the dark shadows of the cliffs, the camera was not up to displaying such a wide dynamic range in a single shot.

Cliffs of Moher

Wide shot of the Cliff of Moher – Something is lost in translation

At that point, I decided to change my strategy, which meant shooting the cliffs with my zoom lens instead of a wide angle lens. Zoom lens? Really? When many think of taking landscape photographs they think a wide angle is the only way to capture the scene. In reality, a zoom lens allowed me to compress the five miles of cliffs into a single shot while capturing a bounty of glorious detail along the way. Simply put, while wide angle lenses appear to push the horizon away from the camera, zoom lenses pull the horizon and everything in between closer to the camera like a compressed accordion. If you think about it, my zoom lens presented a great opportunity to see the cliffs in a different and interesting way.

Cliffs of Moher

My zoom lens provides a compressed view of the dramatic Cliffs of Moher

Look at the shot directly above, which was taken with my 70-200mm zoom set at focal length of 100mm. Instead of a dark blob of land mass, the photograph shows nice detail in the foreground and cascading cliffs. Oh, and if you look at the very top of the closest cliff, you will see tiny people walking along the trail on the edge! We also see the layers of cliffs, which are well defined as a result of the aerial, or atmospheric, perspective. We even see much nicer detail in the water, complete with mist and waves crashing against the rocks. This photograph did require a fair amount of processing to pull the detail from the shadows and water but it all started with the best exposure possible given the conditions. Because the camera was not able to capture all of the dynamic range of the scene, I did take another exposure for the sky and blended it back in with Photoshop. It’s not cheating, just a practical limitation of a camera sensor and a way to overcome it.

Irish Cottage Near Galway

A beautiful cottage we spotted on our way to Galway, Ireland

Feeling satisfied from taking a lot of photographs and relaxing by the cliffs, we decided to hop back in the car and head to our final destination in Galway. As we headed north, we came upon the fairy tale scene you see above. I had to stop and shoot a photograph The light was fabulous and I could not have asked for better subject matter.

After our drive, river crossing, and stop at the Cliffs of Moher, we did make it to Galway in time for Dinner. My next post will cover Galway and our visit to the rugged Aran Islands. If you can’t tell by now…I loved Ireland. Such beauty and tranquility all in one place!

Other posts related to this trip to Ireland

Tags:

Category: Ireland, Photography, Travel

Comments (2)

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  1. ABarlow says:

    Man, what an awesome scene. Really hope one day I’ll get to go to that place. It’s tops on my list!

  2. Lee says:

    Thanks Aaron. It is an awesome place with 360 degrees of beauty!