Fanad Head Lighthouse, Donegal, Ireland by Michael Thomas

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Picture Story

Fanad Head Lighthouse has been on my bucket list of lighthouses since I first saw it on the cover of LPM in April 2014. For me it had all the ingredients of a classic lighthouse image. Perched on a high rocky bluff with the waters of the North Atlantic on three sides and mountains in the distance, it is a large lighthouse with an attached light keeper’s house. While not the northern most point of County Donegal, it’s not far from it. The area is mostly windswept farm lands. To be close by for sunrise, I stayed at an inn perhaps 15 minutes away. While at the lighthouse the night before, I chatted with a fellow photographer from Germany who said he and his wife were staying in the lighthouse. If I get a chance to go back, I will surely try that option!

I used the evening to scout the location and decided that I especially liked the view from down the adjacent bit of coast. I made a note to go there in the morning. That evening the clouds thickened up at sunset, blocking any color from developing. However a farmer in a nearby field was burning debris. The smoke from the fire drifted across my field of view and produced a kind of simulated fog. While I was pleased with these blue hour images, I wasn’t ready for what I would see the next morning.

When I returned at dawn, the sky was mostly clear. I hurried down to my chosen location while the only other photographer there stayed near the car park for the classic view directly into the sunrise. I saw one cloud in the west moving towards the lighthouse and thought that was all I was going to get. Forty-five minutes later just before sunrise, the entire sky was full of colorful clouds. I shot images in a 300 degree arc. As a bonus, a beautiful rainbow appeared west of the main scene. I don’t think the other fellow even saw it as he intently focussed on the lighthouse before him, a reminder to always take a moment to turn around. Undoubtedly, it was the best day of my two weeks on the Emerald Isle.

This image is a two frame manual blend in Affinity Photo. Both RAW files were first processed in Lightroom. While this scene could have been captured in a single exposure, I wanted a longer exposure on the water to smooth it.

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