Taking this picture brought a tear to my eye. I took it while standing on the top of Abbey Hill in the Burren and there was a gale force wind blowing at the time (it was New Year’s Day this year). The wind was so strong that not only were my eyes watering so much that I couldn’t really see if the image was in focus, but the tripod was shaking so hard that I didn’t think I’d get any useful pictures. On the way up to the summit, both rain and hail fell but it cleared by the time I reached the top.
If you’re a regular visitor to this website, you’ll know that I like taking images with a long-focus lens. It means taking pictures with a lens that magnifies the view that you can see unaided, similar to binoculars or a telescope. The biggest lens I have is a Canon 100-400mm zoom, which magnifies the image to about 8 times normal size, when it is attached to the camera that took the image above – a Canon 5D¹.
Images taken with telephoto lens have certain characteristics. One is that the subject of a picture can be isolated from the background [i.e. the background appears blurred, throwing the subject into sharp relief], depending on the camera settings. Another is that the distance between objects in an image is compressed – i.e. everything in the image appears ‘pulled together’. That effect is visible in the image above, and it is one of the reasons I like taking these sort of pictures – it literally gives a perspective that cannot be gotten from just staring at the landscape.
For example, it is only from my vantage point (and staring though the viewfinder) that I can get a real sense of how Lough Corrib dominates the city, and what a huge body of water it is. Similarly, the compressed view of the city shows how small it really is, and also how much shrubbery surrounds it. In the larger image, I’ve labelled some of the better-known landmarks. The day was a bit hazy, but it is difficult to find a day sufficiently clear that would give a better level of detail. Because of the wind shaking the tripod, I used a very high shutter speed – 1 / 1600 of a second. That speed was necessary because any shake at all would cause the tiny details in the picture to become blurred.
Here is the same view – taken within minutes of the picture above – taken with a wide-angle lens.
¹Because my wife is a professional photographer, there is no shortage of cameras available in our house. My preference would have been to use the Canon 5D Mk II, which captures far more detail (it has a much larger sensor – the piece of electronics that actually records the image). Alas, I’m banned from taking it ‘cross-country’ since my expeditions tend to be a bit hard on cameras – I haven’t actually destroyed one yet, but years of getting wet, covered in dirt, occasionally dropped and other indignities means that the camera that took this image has quite a number of replacement parts (new flash hotshoe, new shutter mechanism, part of the outer casing, etc) – it is a bit like Trigger’s broom.