Not as Expected. I Find a Stone and a Deer in Wicklow

Written by
Wicklow waterfall Wicklow waterfall Darren McLoughlin

Today was one of those days, I had nothing big planned but I had a meeting in Belfast scheduled for the afternoon. And as always I had a plan to head to the coast for sunset even if today’s weather was not going to be kind in providing warm sunset colours.

The meeting in Belfast was cancelled at short notice, postponed by mutual agreement to later in the week. So instead I headed towards Wicklow for some landscape photography.

Wicklow is known as the Garden County and is situated south of Dublin. Home to some of the best locations for landscape photography in Ireland it is an easy choice, mountains and valleys, lakes and rivers make up this county.

Today I headed for a wooded glen, a river valley and a waterfall. The walk through the woods was long and steep, with mossy covered paths,walking through tunnels of rhododendron and passing fallen trees from the recent storms.

wicklow not belfast-5579

Finally arriving at the waterfall, the viewing platform did not afford a great view over the waterfall. Actually I find this very often with waterfalls in Ireland, with some notable exceptions such as Torc in Co. Kerry and Powerscourt Waterfall in Co. Wicklow, the viewing options just aren’t wonderful for the photographer looking to get some long exposures.

It takes some effort usually, and in recent weeks I have been making more of an effort. Clambering over rocks and wading through streams and it has been enjoyable.

Today it was quite the clambering session over the mossy and very slippy rocks, fallen leaves and moisture from the waterfall adding to the difficulty.

Clambering over mossy rocks, the waterfall behind me.

After a short time I got as close to the waterfall as it was possible to photograph, a lot of mist was being thrown up and had I got any closer it would have covered the filter on the front of my lens.

It is a good image of the waterfall (main article image), although I was lacking in options from where to shoot. No doubt it was better to have made the effort rather than shoot from the viewing point. The water was roaring and there was a thunderous sound.

On the way back along the path there were some scenes worth stopping for and I even found a heart shaped stone.

I found this heart shaped stone in Ireland

Leaving this place I headed on to Glendalough, the most popular tourist destination in Wicklow. Receiving one million visitors every year, if you arrive to Glendalough after 10AM on most days in the summer you could be forgiven for thinking that you were on Grafton Street. Thousands and thousands of visitors make it almost impossible to move, and certainly it becomes difficult to photograph. The car parks fill up after this time of day as well. My advice is to arrive early or arrive late. Most of the day tours from Dublin will be gone by 4PM.

Glendalough means valley of the two lakes, and was one of the most important monastic settlements in Ireland. Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century it remained an important centre of learning and spirituality until destroyed by English forces in the late 14th century.

The valley today is heavily wooded and does contain some ancient forest (read more about ancient woodland in Ireland here), but in recent centuries was quite bare of trees, the mining at the top end of the valley required a lot of charcoal for smelting and the forest was cut and coppiced.

Today I arrived at 4PM and with sunset being close to 5PM I headed off from the first car park, which is free and close to the Monastic City but a 2km walk to the upper lake and the views up the valley.

Choosing the green path, the red path was closed for repairs I went past the monastic city with its cathedral and the lofty height of the round tower back dropped by mist shrouded woodland.

Red tones from an autumnal Irish landscape

It was raining a little by this point. Stopping to take in the scene almost completely dominated by red rather than the stereotypically Irish greens I think to myself that overcast, rainy weather is just as good for the photographer as any other weather. Perhaps it is not what the visitor to Ireland wants to see but we can make the most of overcast days on a photo tour.

As I set the camera level on my tripod, two walkers pass by and one says “Isn’t it just a beautiful day for taking pictures?” The other points me in the direction of the lower lake and tells me that there are some lovely autumnal colours just there. This is one of the moments that I really like in photography, meeting people and talking even if I do know the area well I let the ladies talk and we chat for some moments. They were serious walkers with all the gear, hikers you might say. The rest of their group followed and I got a few hellos but no interaction.

 wicklow not belfast-5583

Stopping at the lower lake I take a few photographs. I am particularly drawn to the view up the valley.

The rain is getting heavier by this point, although it is not a downpour so I head off through the trees in the direction of the upper lake.

As I walk up the green road path it is getting darker and I get to the hilly section, messing with my phone for a little I happen to look up, not for any reason but there stood in front of me is a deer. I stop, it obviously sees me and I quickly change my camera’s settings – ISO50 and f18 will not be of much use under the canopy.

Sika deer on the path at Glendalough

Choosing a high ISO and large aperture, I take a few images with my camera still on the tripod but with legs folded in so it seems more like a monopod. The deer continues to browse for food but after a few moments it looks up just as I hear something approaching from further down the path. At first I think it is a walker with a dog, but it turns out to be an approaching jogger.

Sika deer at Glendalough

Now that really is a moment I enjoy, even if it only lasted a few moments and wasn’t under ideal circumstances; to stand so clhose to a wild deer in Ireland with no fences.

At the upper lake there are a few people around some with dogs. It is quite dark now and I take a few images of the lake with the clouds closing in before heading to the Reefert Church a short distance away.

Looking up the valley at the upper lake in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

So today was not as expected. I was supposed to be in Belfast, not Wicklow. I like both, and I have planned to be in Belfast in the next few days so really Wicklow was a good choice for today. I probably would not have headed that way given the weather conditions but it turned out to be a good day.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 March 2016 00:30
Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.

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