A Perfect Idea of Freedom and Flight
Followers of my Facebook ramblings will know that I went in the west for a bit of storm chasing last Sunday. The swell page on the surfers’ weather site, Magic Seaweed, was showing swells of up 15m while Met Eireann’s sea area forecast was predicting violent storm force 11 – “exceptionally high waves. Very large patches of foam, driven before the wind, cover much of the sea surface” – or one step below a hurricane. Originally the plan was to head for Mullghamore in north Co. Sligo or Rossnowlagh in south Co. Donegal. Apart from good landscapes and big waves, at only about three hours from south Co. Dublin, this is one of the closest stretches of the west coast to Dublin. However, the BBC weather forecast charts showed that the deep depression off the north coast would generate virtually continuous cloud cover and intense and prolonged showers over this area. Therefore, Murphs Yer Man and I decided to head for the equally close & scenic west Clare coast. Some breaks in the cloud were forecast there that would, hopefully give better light.
We worked our way along the coast from Lehinch to Black Head and I got plenty of competent shots between the hailstorms and the gusts. However, this one of the spray breaking over the cliff tops near Doolin during a short sunny spell was easily my best effort of the day. The great black-backed gull soaring effortlessly above the surf was the clincher – although I didn’t even see it when I took the shot!
I used my Canon 70-200mm f4 lens with my old but serviceable 40D – I had the 17-55mm on the 7D at the time and there was no way I was swapping lenses in those conditions! The settings were 1/1600th of second, f5.0, 122mm and ISO800 – basically whatever it took to get the shutter speed up to avoid storm shake!
In Lightroom, I applied a 2:1 crop to remove the uninteresting horizon as well as houses from further up the slope – followed by a little more cropping to get the gull near the thirds line. As the shot is all about movement and shape and there was almost no colour in it anyway, a black & white conversion was the next step. Then I pushed up the highlight and white sliders to accentuate the surf and spray, followed by more contrast and blacks to darken the cliffs and foreground. Finally, I added a split tone – quite a bit of blue to shadows and a of hint yellowy-orange to the highlights to warm them up.
If you get this far, I hope you've enjoyed the shot as much as I did - taking and developing it. The title is from Jonathon Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach.
Keywords: A Perfect Idea of Freedom & Flight, Cliffs of Insanity, Co. Clare, Co. Clare, Doolin, Great Black-backed Gull, Ireland, Irish Examiner, John Coveney, Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, bird, breakers, cliffs, flight, flying, gull, seascape, spray, storm, surf, www.johncoveney.ie
Incredible shot john,
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