John Coveney Photography - People Places & Wildlife | Surfing the DART at Seapoint

Surfing the DART at Seapoint

November 22, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I’ve done a bit of daylight storm chasing in Co. Clare, here and here – and around my local patch in Dun Laoghaire. However, George Karbus’s iconic night time shot of Lahinch during the 2014 storms shows that the “daylight” bit just limits your thinking! So when yesterday’s sea area forecast predicted a north to northeast gale in Dublin Bay – coinciding with dusk and high tide – I knew exactly where I want to be – at the Martello Tower at Seapoint. My hope was to capture the DART* carrying on despite the power of the sea. As it was, it was not quite as dramatic as I had hoped – because the gale peaked in Co. Wexford and because the 3.5m high tide was about a metre less than a spring tide. Nonetheless I like contrast between a normally routine suburban landscape and natural world stirring itself.


Before I go any further, I want to stress that I took this these shots SAFELY from the shelter of the Martello Tower – shooting close to stormy seas is inherently dangerous because every so often there is a bigger wave than normal – traditionally every seventh wave – but more likely at random. Every year people are washed off rocks to their deaths so coastline photographers should constantly assess sea conditions before and DURING their shoot.


I knew it would be pretty dark when I got there about 5pm and that my Canon 85mm f1.8 lens would be the tool for the job – although it’s normally more used to the civilised environment of indoor events! Even so, I had to push the ISO up to 16,000 to get exposures of 1/60th to 1/80th of a second. The first shot is only 1/20th of a second as can be seen from the movement blur – but I like it anyway!


The processing in Lightroom was simple enough – given the high ISO values there’s no point in obsessing about technical quality – just get the story out! I set the white balance to auto to remove the orange glow of the street lighting, added contrast in the light areas by dropping the highlights to -100 and boosting whites to +62, and similarly in the dark areas with -49 on the blacks and +53 on the shadows. Clarity was +35, vibrance +14. Noise reduction was about +65 with the same for masking. I also added a subtle vignette to focus attention on the centre of the shots. Once I got one shot the way I liked, I simply copied the settings to the rest (Ctrl Shift S).  Finally I cropped my keepers according to whether I want just the trains and waves, or to include some of the background buildings. I experimented with B&W conversion but I though the loss of the colour of the railcars weakened the shots.

Roll on the next northeaster!


*Trains spotters will recognise that the last two shots are actually one of Irish Rail’s “Dublin Southern Commuter” service trains.



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