Image Reports

Site update 25th May
Here's a few images from some local storm chases this past few weeks, nothing exciting yet but im hoping for a couple of severe thunderstorms this summer or even a supercell with some night time lightning thrown in!









Two images from an aurora watch one night in April which proved fruitless. Chances of aurora are slight now as the daylight hours grow longer but still a slight chance as always. Looking forward to the bigger displays now this Autumn..



Dunlewey Church

I eventually made a return trip to Dunlewey Church in Donegal where I shot a star-trail image a few years back in hazy conditions and always vowed to return. I teamed up with Martin McKenna on a clear night and we headed for Donegal. At the foot of Mount Errigal sits the old ruined Church of Dunlewey. The church was built in the mid 1800s of white marble and blue quartzite and with a little bit of moonlight looks great in a long exposure at night. We tried a few star-trails outside and inside looking straight up. The moonlight did a great job of illuminating the stonework and showing up the detail in the building. A few flashes of the torch along the doorway and inside completed the scene in the first trail.




These shots inside the church were only possible with the extreme wide angle lens, the Samyang 14mm



Later in the night we headed down to the lake and the fog was beginning to build at this stage. It actually came in so fast it caught us off guard and we had to wait until it cleared again before getting the shots we wanted. This first image was taken at 01:02 and the second at 01:04!






This last image I got as the fog cleared briefly before it closed in for the night and forced us to pack up, but we were happy and Donegal never disappoints.
Summer Twilight


It has been a very difficult Noctilucent cloud season for me with the obvious cloud issues and work commitments so I haven't been able to image any displays, I had a brief visual sighting back in June. The above image was taken one summers night while waiting on NLC to appear, - they never did. I thought I had the perfect foreground here with the boats gently drifting in the calm lough and the orange twilight with the brighter stars shining through. As I write this (July 26th) it's pretty late in the season but im still hopeful of a last ditch attempt to get a shot in 2015...

Monea Castle Aurora

An unexpected but beautiful aurora borealis display lit up the skies on 16/17th April. I had arranged a photo shoot with good friend Martin McKenna to the Fermanagh countryside and Monea Castle. We were taking advantage of the recent good weather and clear skies for some much needed night-sky photography. There was a chance of aurora that night but we never expected what was about to happen. A phone call on route to the castle from a friend of ours revealed that the aurora was happening right now! On arrival at location a quick test shot showed aurora behind clouds - these clouds miraculously cleared just in time as the aurora erupted high into the sky with pink and purple curtains of light moving left to right behind the castle. We had talked about getting this shot and here it was happening before our eyes! We couldn't believe how the beams were towering above the castle.


The most intense period lasted maybe 10 minutes if that. We raced around trying to get a few different angles on the castle, the image above is my favourite from the night.




I Like this low down angle on the castle, I have a star-trail image to work on from here.

It was nice to catch this stunning show in a new location and to our knowledge the first time from Monea castle.


ST. Patrick's Night Aurora
The major aurora display on St.Patrick's night 2015 was the best i have ever seen. From the brightness/ intensity of the aurora to the movement and overhead corona, this one will take some beating!! At one stage after 11pm we were surrounded by aurora! it was even stretching into the south overhead which is rare from Ireland. It was jaw-dropping to watch and i found it difficult to concentrate on taking images.



The sea turned green for the 17th March!!




An aurora corona forms overhead during the peak of the display.





Razor sharp beams of light during a later outburst at Giants Causeway
Loughmacrory Star-trail
Tuesday night was clear so I decided to make the trip up to Loughmacrory to take some shots. I haven't tried a star-trail for a while so after some searching for some foreground and a composition i was happy with i set the camera up for a 1 hour trail. 145 images later here is the result.



The water was so calm that night and i picked up some nice reflections as a result, thanks for looking.

Geminids 2014
I always look forward to the Geminid meteor shower every year. It's one of the best showers and 2014 was set to be good as the moon was waning. The weather has ruined viewing chances on the peak night this past few years and 2014 looked to be no different. With this in mind I decided to try my chances on the 12th - a day before the peak.


The destination was my home area in Tyrone which has pretty dark skies. This is a wide angle shot with the Samyang 14mm, you can see the first geminid of the night caught on camera above the large tree.


Another Geminid here close to the horizon. Note the green colour in the meteor as it vaporized in our atmosphere.


The above image is a crop from a wide angle shot, check out the geminid burning up close to Orions sword


I stayed out past 4am observing but didn't see a significant number of meteors which was disappointing, perhaps the peak night was much better. I created this star-trail image from over 120 patrol images taken later in the night. There are a few fainter ones but they are lost in the trails. The hunt goes on for that fireball meteor caught on camera...

Fanad Head Lighthouse
This was my first proper photo shoot with the new camera in a dark moonless sky. I have been eager to get back to this location since visiting it during the summer. Fanad Head is one of the more northerly points of County Donegal and at the northern tip stands the iconic Fanad Head Lighthouse. Me and my Photographer buddy Martin McKenna had discussed this area for a night-sky shoot for some time. So Martin, his girlfriend Roisin and i landed at our target area just as darkness was setting in.


This is looking north, one of the first shots of the night.


A little later and the MilkyWay was really bright now. The quality of the dark night sky up here was evident.


We were aware of a small chance of aurora activity on the night and sure enough i caught this green glow on the horizon with subtle red colour above. What was also noticable on the night was the green airglow in the sky, probably the brightest ive ever seen. You can see it above and to the left of the aurora.


Testing out the high ISO on the 6d on the next two images. Looking straight up at the lighthouse and Milkyway with Andromeda Galaxy top of frame - ISO 10,000 20 second exposure.


ISO 12,800 and 15 second exposure on this one, lots of green airglow evident here too.


Check out Orion rising over the hills to the left of the lighthouse. One of the final images from a thrilling shoot at a new location and a return visit is on the cards perhaps with some moolight to play with.


New camera and first light
Some news and i have made a huge change to my gear. Out goes the Nikon D90 and welcome to the Canon 6d! I thought long and hard about this decision over the past few months but the low light capabilities of the 6d sensor could not be passed up. I look forward to the coming months with dark evenings and starry, frosty nights approaching. Also we are entering the new aurora season and fingers crossed for some good northern lights displays this Autumn. This is one of my first shots with the 6d at a local lough outside Omagh. I have paired it with the Samyang 14mm 2.8 for night work and first impressions are good. Keep an eye out for new images in the weeks ahead.




Storm Chasing 7th/8th June
Quite an active day of convective activity and storms for Ireland and the UK. I spent a number of hours at Mullaghmore in Co. Sligo with Martin McKenna and his girlfriend Roisin, watching storms mature and come to life producing impressive hail cores and lightning over the ocean as they moved north. We had a ringside view of these storms from the coastline as the warm sun beamed down. Im gonna add a few images for now as Sunday the 8th has the potential to produce storms as well and i will add anything from it here too.


Thunderstorm over the open ocean



Big storm building over Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore with Benbulbin mountain in the background.



Close range pulse storm with interesting structure



This funnel cloud was a nice end to the day, it was short lived and hard to spot against the background cloud, image is enhanced to see the funnel more clearly.


Just time to add this image from Sundays chase. It turned into an impressive day of storms one after the other, some of the structure was amazing, not to mention the constant lightning and large hail from a storm between Omagh and Cookstown - further images coming soon.





Wide angle shot shot with my car on the roadside and the farmhouse with the thunderstorm bearing down..

Some recent images - 11th May
Heres a selection of some shots from recent weeks

A friend and i had some fun shooting around this old cottage one clear night back in April




We experimented with various lighting techniques using flashes and torches and the moon was also quite bright. I really like the effect of the clouds in the first during the 30 second exposure. I then decided to set up for a star-trail from a different angle but after 30 or so shots the clouds rolled in and cut it short, ive posted the result anyway.




Met up with Martin McKenna for a night shoot in mid April and we headed to one of our favourite locations - the north coast. We had star-trail images in mind and hit the Giants Causeway and Dunluce Castle. The moon was 4-5 days from full so it worked a treat in lighting up the foregrounds for us. I still have a Dunluce trail to work on and will add it here too.


A shot taken at a footbridge over a small stream in the Poisoned Glen, Co. Donegal
Monea Castle Photo Shoot


County Fermanagh has some beautiful castles and they have been on my list for a photo shoot for some time now, so with the recent good weather and clear skies the opportunity presented itself last Tuesday night (11th March). I had messaged Martin McKenna and he was up for it so a plan was hatched, our target was Monea Castle. On arrival the castle was a lovely silhouette against the blue starry sky. As we walked closer to the site we noticed the gibbous moon was doing a great job of illuminating the castle for our photography. We got to taking images and this was the start of a 6 hour+ intense photo shoot in the grounds taking in every angle possible.





Above is a 50mm shot from way back


The atmosphere around the place was magical and there seemed to be an energy pulling you in and keeping us there all night, we didn't want to leave. I got set up for a star-trail on a couple of occasions as the castle has great potential for this kind of shot.



The above image is 157 shots stacked to create the star-trail final composite image. I have another star-trail to process and many more images from this new location to post, i will add them here soon.



Ive just finished processing another Star trail from the night which was taken closer in to the castle. It wasn't possible to get the north star, Polaris in the frame along with all of the castle so had to compromise. I'm still very happy with the result and love doing these star trail images!!



A wide angle shot showing the remains of a tower and perimeter wall that once surrounded the castle



A Shot from earlier in the night

Aurora heaven


The night of February 27th will be remembered for quite a while. We had simply the most incredible show of aurora I have ever seen. The colours were so vivid to the naked eye and i easily could see deep reds and some purple as well as green. My target was Beaghmore stone circles because it was close and i was running out of time. The CME produced from the recent X4.9 solar flare had arrived in late afternoon and it immediately stirred up the aurora. Beaghmore is a great dark site with good horizons from the west through the north and right around to the east. The ancient stones are also a great foreground interest. I met up with local photographer Jude Browne and my good friend and sidekick Martin McKenna was en route. On arrival the aurora was a green band and it got progressively better and went into outburst around 20:15. The green band brightened and huge red and purple beams stretched high into the sky. This is a small selection from that frenzy of activity, it was hard to concentrate on taking images as the visual show was pure mad.







The aurora died down after 21:00 so Martin and i made the decision to hit Lough Fea outside Cookstown for a change of scenery while Jude was very happy with her results especially as it was her first aurora, so she headed home.




Lough Fea now and this beautiful red ribbon of aurora greeted us. The waters of the lough were calm and just perfect for reflections. We arrived just in time as 5 minutes later it died down again and settled into a calm green band for the rest of the night. A truly amazing night and one not to forget for a long time!!

*I will complete a more detailed report with more images in the near future.






Major February snowfall
A quick update and a few images from a night of heavy snow showers then an all night adventure in a moonlit snowy landscape. I'm still recovering from this shoot so im not going into much detail here but will save it for the report. This old abandoned building on Glenshane was the highlight of the night under bright moonlight. I met up with photographer friend Martin McKenna and here we experienced bone chilling temperatures, huge snow drifts and beautiful winter scenes.









Drifts of snow sculpted by the wind



One of the gritters that was busy on the Glenshane Pass all night

New Galleries/Update 1st Feb



I have added three new galleries to the site - storms, floods and atmospheric optics. These are areas i am interested in and hope they compliment the site. It is a work in progress and i will be adding images continually, scroll to the bottom of the home page to view the galleries.

Another Atlantic storm is battering Ireland and the UK with heavy rain, gales and high tides. A number of coastlines along the west and south-west of Ireland have been badly hit again. The storm brought us a brief snowfall last night (31st Jan) but its all gone again today apart from high ground.

January was a quiet month for any sky action and i haven't been out with the camera since the Jan 9th aurora hunt. A new month now and fortunes will change and this weekend a CME glancing blow is expected to hit on the 2nd increasing the chances of aurora. The CME is actually from the same sunspot, AR1944, that created the CME that caused a frenzy on January 9th. It has remained active and rotated back into view, now called AR1967 - it better produce the goods this time around.

NOAA FORECAST

NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
Issued: 2014 Feb 01 0030 UTC

Geospace Forecast:

The geomagnetic field is expected to be mostly quiet on day 1 (01 Feb).
A glancing blow from the 30 Jan CME is expected to arrive around mid-day
on day 2 (02 Feb) causing unsettled to minor storm (G1-Minor)
conditions. Three CME characterizations and WSA-Enlil model runs were
conducted. The run with the most westerly origin brought the CME in
late on 01 Feb, representing the earliest possible arrival. The run
with the lowest speed brought the CME in almost 24 hours later.

Solar wind Forecast:

Solar wind parameters are expected to continue at nominal levels through
approximately mid day on Day 2 (02 Feb), when a glancing blow from
the 30 Jan CME is expected to enhance the solar wind.



Possible Aurora Jan 9-10
On January 7th the sun unleashed a powerful X1.2 flare from sunspot AR1944 that was almost directly facing earth. The resulting Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is fast moving and heading for earth. Various forecast models have the impact time anywhere between 00:38 and 09:30 UT on the 9th. This has the possibility to be a big event with auroras at Mid latitudes, this means they could be easily visible from good portions of UK and Ireland. Best time to watch probably the evening of the 9th before the next weather system moves in. Get out of towns into darker skies and look north and lets hope we all get a spectacular show!!

Aurora Borealis Updates:

Spaceweather
Spaceweatherlive
NOAA Space weather Prediction

UPDATE

Well im glad i said possible in the title as this event turned out to be a major let-down. All the forecasts, the hype generated by the media and tv, it all came to nothing as the predicted CME was not only very late in arriving but it was also very weak. So no aurora was observed anywhere except the very north latitudes which is nothing out of ordinary because all it takes is a moderate solar wind to spark aurora there. The turnout at Ballintoy was unbelievable, Martin counted over 40 cars at one stage. It was great to see so many people here waiting patiently to see the sky light up, must have been hundreds spread out all over the various locations along the coastline. These people made a real effort and came from all over, some traveling hours, i just hope they didn't get put off by the no show as there will be more chances in the months ahead and the aurora now owes us!!

Martin Mckenna and i had met up earlier in the day and were hopeful of seeing aurora but deep down knew something was badly wrong, we decided to make the most of the opportunity and get some images around Ballintoy. The moonlight was lighting up the rock formations and coastline so we spent hours shooting, it really is a wonderful area.


Photographers on Ballintoy Beach





Ballintoy beach with Orion dominating the winter sky


January 7th i was off hunting the aurora from an earlier M-class flare. Met up with good friend Martin McKenna and hit the north coast. This one didn't work out because of the weather and persistent cloud to the north. A weak aurora did appear and we spotted a diffuse glow above the clouds. I still managed to get a few images around the stunning Ballintoy Harbour though so we didn't come home empty handed!







Stormy Christmas weather
The run up to Christmas 2013 has seen a number of deep depressions slamming into the UK and Ireland and as i write another one is expected during the 23/24 December. These storms have brought heavy rain, severe gales and storm force winds especially to western and northern coasts of Ireland. Also inland there has been trees down and power outages and damage to property. My interest in these systems is in the post frontal airmass and potential thunderstorms it threatens.

Met up with good friend and photographer Martin Mckenna on two nights in the hunt for night-time convection and lightning. The first night we had limited results with storms and observed a few flashes but we did get stunning moonlit convective cells and a nice moonbow. Here was the scene at Downhill beach with convective cells over the ocean, Mussenden temple in the background and stars above.



The highlight of the night for us though was finding this gem of a waterfall and shooting it under bright moonlight in this long exposure.



Round two on Saturday the 21st and we were met with more success this time with multiple thunderstorms illuminating the sky to the north and north-west. I caught a few on wide angle lens but got my best capture of the night with the 50mm. The flash of lightning lit up the cell from within and two bolts are also visible hitting the ocean if you zoom in. My goal is to catch a c-g bolt hitting the ocean from a storm out to sea with stars above and its gonna happen one of these days. More storms are possible over the Christmas and New Year period so its worth keeping an eye out for great scenes like this. Thanks to all my followers in 2013, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!







Moonlit snow shoot


Its not even officially winter yet but we have had an early taste of winter weather here in Northern Ireland. Warnings were issued days in advance for a blast of arctic air that originated in Canada and with it numerous sleet and snow showers. A plan was hatched between myself and fellow photographer Martin McKenna to take advantage of this opportunity for a photo shoot. We were not disappointed as early in the night we were right in the thick of it on Glenshane Pass in squally snow showers. This was the beginning of an epic night of photography in freezing conditions on the mountain roads around Glenshane and Dungiven areas. Bright moonlight was the key to lighting up the entire landscape and with stars above we were in our element, A few shots for now and a report to come in the future, what a night!



Halloween Aurora
It's seems like a lifetime since i've witnessed a good aurora display, in fact it was April 2012, that drought ended on 30th/31st October. A stunning visual show on the north coast with a beautiful outburst at Mussenden temple and another short duration peak in activity viewed from the Giants Causeway. More northern lights can't be ruled out in the days ahead as the sun is pretty active at the minute.





UPDATE: Just completed this star-trail image from the night, it's 40 images stacked to show the rotation of the earth over 20 minutes and of course the aurora was dancing on the horizon all the time. Various torches were used to illuminate the temple and bring out the detail in this wonderful building right on the coastline. This and all images are for sale as prints or canvases.


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