Pulteney Bridge in the Evening, Bath

To visit England is to continually commune with the past; there are few places in the world in which history is as diligently preserved or where it coexists to thoroughly with the present.

Pulteney Bridge in the Evening, Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom
Panorama from 5 vertical shots, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 2 seconds, ISO 31, tripod.

There is arguably no other place in England where the past is as well preserved as Bath. Named for its famed Roman baths, the city has been a spa city since ancient times, and the restorative properties of its thermal springs were known even before the Romans arrived. Because of its Roman baths and its elegant Georgian architecture, the entire city of Bath was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

In a city justifiably famous for its architecture, finding one outstanding structure to photograph on a short trip is no small task. I could walk among the neoclassical Palladian buildings in the city for days and never grow tired of the view. It is unquestionably one of the loveliest cities in Europe.

But there was one structure in Bath that charmed and intrigued me beyond all others — the Pulteney Bridge – which crosses the River Avon. Built over the course of twenty years, the bridge is the kind only rarely seen today, with shops built along its full length on both sides. Though it has been altered somewhat over the centuries (it was completed in 1774) it still looks largely as it did when it was built. As I set up my tripod on an early summer evening, I thought the bridge must look just as it did decades ago, when Jane Austen walked the streets of the city.

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Stonehenge in the Morning

Traveling through England to Cornwall, I couldn’t resist making a brief stop at Stonehenge. It’s one of the most intriguing sites in the world, and even if I only had a short period of time there, it was better than not seeing it at all.

Stonehenge Monument in the Morning, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
Single shot, focal length 26mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 242 seconds, ISO 64, tripod, ND 10-stop filter.

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I made my way to Amesbury, the nearest town to Stonehenge. The countryside in that part of England is beautiful and impossibly green, and though one of the world’s most famous sites is located there, it’s an area that appears largely untouched by modernity. Tour buses rumble along its roads daily, but England has managed to keep the countryside around Stonehenge mercifully free from development and over-tourism.

My plan was to arise just before daylight and capture Stonehenge in the mist of early morning. I wanted to capture something of the mystical pull that the ancient stones seem to exert on people, and I thought that either early morning or twilight would be the best way to do that. Unfortunately, as Stonehenge is an archaeological site, visitors are only permitted during daylight hours, and when I booked tickets online, the only available time was at 11AM, well past daybreak and long before twilight.

But I found that even at midday, Stonehenge wields an ineffable power. I’d seen photographs of those massive stones hundreds of times, but photographs can’t prepare you for the actual site. I can understand why seekers and pilgrims from around the world make the trip to Stonehenge; it may not actually hold an otherworldly power, but it certainly feels as if it might.

Ultimately, I didn’t need mist or the blue hour. I simply photographed Stonehenge with the light that I had, using a long exposure to blur the gray clouds of an overcast sky. Stonehenge is enough. The mystical pull that the place has exerted for centuries is no less powerful under a midday sky.

With storm clouds moving in, I packed up my gear and headed for Cornwall.

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Dark Hedges in the Morning, Northern Ireland

One of my favorite stops on the trip through the UK and Ireland was the Dark Hedges, a famous avenue of beeches planted in the 1700s. Over the centuries, the trees have become gnarled and twisted, and appear to reach out over the road, making a particularly picturesque scene. Though the beeches have been a beloved spot in Northern Ireland for years, in recent years the Dark Hedges have become something of a celebrity due to their use as a filming location for Game of Thrones.

Panorama of Dark Hedges in the Morning, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Panorama from 7 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 180mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/6, ISO 64, tripod.

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The hedges have become so popular, in fact, that it is difficult to find a time when the lane isn’t crowded with tourists. The road is a popular stop for tour buses, and there has been so much traffic in the area in recent years that there are concerns that the roots will be damaged. Of the 150 trees which were originally planted, only about 90 remain, and tourism to the area doesn’t appear to be slowing. In the last few years, storms have claimed a few of the remaining trees, either uprooting them altogether or causing enough damage that they had to be cut down.

But I was lucky. We arrived early at the Dark Hedges, before the tour buses made their way there, and had the lane to ourselves. No matter how many times you’ve seen photos of the Dark Hedges, when you see them in person you can’t help but be moved by their eerie beauty. As was often my experience in England and Ireland, my mind moved to fanciful places, and I found myself thinking of the stories I’d heard of the hedges. Not surprisingly, given their sinister appearance, the hedges are believed to be haunted by the “Grey Lady,” who darts from tree to tree.

For this early morning shot, I used a telephoto lens to capture their density. I then used a panoramic technique and shot multiple vertical frames to fix the limited angle of view I got from using a telephoto lens. The Dark Hedges is a beautiful spot, and I think this image captured the atmospheric quality of the lane.

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New Brighton Lighthouse, United Kingdom

Back in England, we headed towards Liverpool, where we planned to photograph another stretch of coast and another lighthouse. This one was the decommissioned New Brighton Lighthouse, which was built in the early 1800s and was in use until 1973.

New Brighton Lighthouse in the Evening, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 17mm, aperture f/9, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 64, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Unlike the Fanad Lighthouse, which stands on a jagged, rocky coast, the New Brighton Lighthouse sits on a sandy beach. It sits where Liverpool Bay the River Mersey meets, and although it is no longer necessary to guide ships away from the shore, the lighthouse is still meticulously maintained and is a historic landmark.

The coastline here was not the dramatic coast of Donegal. Standing among the rock formations near Liverpool Bay, the sea didn’t feel ominous or threatening. The water was a welcoming presence and I imagined families coming here for picnics and looking for shells in the shallows. The lighthouse, once a guardian and guide, is now merely a reminder of another time, a draw for modern-day photographers rather than a guide for seafarers. I found myself again lost in thought, thinking of the not-so-distant past.

Among the photographs I took of the lighthouse, I discovered during processing that one of my colleagues made it into a shot. My first instinct was to scrap this shot, since my purpose was to capture the lighthouse and not my traveling companions. But on second thought, I liked the image. It shows the scale of the lighthouse, and the comparatively tiny stature of my colleague suggests the vulnerability of humans against the sea.

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Fanad Lighthouse in the Evening, Ireland

Our next stop in Ireland was along the coast of County Donegal, in the Republic. Donegal is remote and it takes a bit of effort to get there, but the reward is one of the most strikingly beautiful stretches of coastline I’ve ever seen. The Atlantic here can be savage and unpredictable, and the rugged coastline reflects its long, frequently tumultuous past with the sea.

Fanad Lighthouse in the Evening, County Donegal, Ireland
Panorama from 2 horizontal shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 60 seconds, ISO 64, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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We made our way to the Fanad Peninsula, which is one of the few remaining Gaeltachts, or Irish-speaking regions, left in the Republic. The windswept peninsula feels far removed from the modern world and the ancient tongue spoken by many of the people there only adds to the feeling of having stepped into the distant past.

The entire peninsula is beautiful and untamed, and popular with photographers as a result. The Fanad Lighthouse, in particular, is a popular location for photo shoots because it’s framed by rugged cliffs. In Ireland, the weather can change dramatically in a short period of time and it’s often said that you can experience all four seasons in one day. While shooting on the peninsula, we found this to be true: in the span of a few days, we experienced stormy skies, roaring ocean waves, vibrant sunsets, and rainbows. No matter the weather, the Donegal coastline was breathtaking.

We returned to the lighthouse over several days, shooting in different light and in different weather conditions, hoping to get the perfect shot. This one, with the faint hues of a rainbow over the lighthouse and the sky lit by a distant sunset, is my favorite of the lighthouse shots. I think it captures the dramatic beauty of Ireland’s coast and its ever-changing conditions. Those conditions almost cost me some of my equipment, by the way. While photographing between the rocks, I caught the full force of a wave as it washed over me — and my camera! Fortunately, both camera and photographer survived.

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Panorama of Giant Causeway, Northern Ireland

As it happens, I wasn’t the only one whose mind took a mystical turn at the sight of the Giant’s Causeway. The place has inspired myths and legends from time immemorial and the most persistent is the one which gives the causeway its name.

Panorama of Giant Causeway in the Evening, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Panorama from 5 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 71 seconds, ISO 320, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Ireland is a place with a rich culture of legends and folklore dating back to the ancient Celts. One of the most well-known figures from Irish mythology is Fionn MacCool, a giant. According to legend, MacCool had a feud with the Scottish giant Benandonner, who challenged MacCool to fight him. MacCool built the causeway between Ireland and Scotland so that the two giants could meet, but realizing that Benandonner was much larger than he expected, MacCool was hidden by his wife, Oonagh. Oonagh disguised her husband as a baby and tucked him in a large cradle. When Benandonner crossed the water and found the sleeping “baby,” he was terrified and concluded that if the baby was that large, his father must be a giant among giants. Benandonner then retreated to Scotland, pulling up the stones of the causeway as he went.

It’s a fantastical story, but the otherworldly landscape of the coast is the kind of place that inspires such thinking. Looking out over the water — where, on a clear day, you can just see the coast of Scotland — I can imagine ancient people, prone to colorful tales and with a love of the spoken word, crafting a story worthy of such a magical place. Ireland is bewitching, a place that captures your heart as well as your imagination.

After a few days, the other photographers and I left Northern Ireland, as we had other destinations to explore. But the Giant’s Causeway is a place that will linger in my memory for years to come, I’m certain. In all of my travels, I’ve never seen another place quite like it.

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Giant Causeway in the Evening, Northern Ireland

Two months after my children returned from England, I returned to that part of the world as part of a group of photographers who would travel to England, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland to photograph landscapes. I knew from my time in the United Kingdom earlier in the year that that part of the world was a dream destination for landscape photography. With mountains, wild coastlines, and lush green countryside, I knew it would be a productive trip.

Panorama of Giant Causeway in the Evening, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Panorama from 2 horizontal shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 13 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast quickly became one of my favorite destinations on the trip. It’s a strikingly beautiful part of the world where ancient castles dot the countryside and each bend in the road seems to reveal a misty glen. It was hard not to be charmed by this beautiful land.

I found one of the most picturesque spots on the Antrim Coast at the Giant’s Causeway. It’s a landscape from a fantasy and unlike any other place I’d ever seen. The causeway is made up of thousands of octagonal basalt columns of varying heights that lead, like stepping stones, down into the sea. The columns were formed millions of years ago, when Antrim was the site of intense volcanic activity. When lava forced its way up out of the earth, it eventually cooled, and as it cooled, cracks formed, which created the columns.

As a man of the twenty-first century, I understand how the Giant’s Causeway was formed. I have enough knowledge of science to understand the processes that went into the column’s formation. But just the same, there is something about that place — about all of Ireland, really — that puts me in mind once again of distant, lost worlds. Wandering along the jagged Antrim coastline and its mysterious columns that lead down under the water’s surface, I found myself again lost in reverie, imagining an ancient people dancing underneath a night sky.

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Man O’War Beach, United Kingdom

Returning to Lulworth Cove just as the sun was starting to set, I decided to wander a bit more in the area and see what other natural wonders Dorset would reveal to me. In my years as a travel photographer, I’ve learned that sometimes the best photographs are the unexpected ones, images made of places that you never intended to find.

Man O'War Beach in the Evening, Dorset, United Kingdom
Single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 29mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 32 seconds, ISO 200, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Near Durdle Door, I found one of those places. The small, horseshoe-shaped cove ringed by Man O’War Beach was a place I had somehow managed to miss earlier in my trip. Now I found the small inlet lit by the fading sunlight of a late afternoon, a pink haze falling over the horizon. I was grateful to see it colored by sunset.

I made my way down the cliffs and onto the pebble beach. I knew there were other travelers nearby; I could hear voices and traces of laughter in the distance. But I felt very much alone, as if I were the last person on earth. This wasn’t melancholy; I was perfectly at peace and content to be alone, to see this small sliver of England’s coast without the distraction of other people. At the end of what was sometimes a challenging trip, those blue hour moments at Man O’War Beach were an unexpected coda, serene and lit by a fading sun.

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Stack Rocks in the Morning, South Wales

As the days passed, I explored more of Wales’s southern coast, becoming more charmed by it each day. Though getting to some of the area’s most scenic points often involved additional planning and extra effort, it was worth it; the landscape was ruggedly beautiful and I had the sense that I was standing on the edge of the world.

Stack Rocks in the Morning, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, United Kingdom
Panorama from 3 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 61 seconds, ISO 64, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Near the Green Bridge I found the Stack Rocks, two limestone pillars that once formed an arch themselves. Seeing the two formations in such proximity to each other made for a fascinating glimpse of the workings of nature, a sort of before and after image of the effects of time and the sea on the coast. One day — likely in the very distant future — the elements will take their toll on the Green Bridge and it, too, will remain only as stacks.

The trip and the Pembroke coast continually led me to whimsical frames of mind. Getting to the Stack Rocks required traveling winding, narrow roads only wide enough for one car at a time. Driving through the rural, largely unpopulated countryside, I encountered more animals than people. In the beams of the car’s headlights, rabbits, foxes, and even a badger darted across the road. I began to think back to one of my favorite childhood books, “The Wind in the Willows,” by Kenneth Grahame. It seemed that at any moment, I might encounter Toad in his motorcar.

I took many photographs at Stacks Rocks, but this is my favorite. I think it captures the solitary beauty of that part of Pembroke, and the misty, otherworldly quality that left me imagining characters from my childhood as well as legends of old.

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Green Bridge in the Morning, Pembrokeshire

Arranging transportation to the Green Bridge was only one of the obstacles I faced on this shoot. As I discovered after my arrival in Pembroke, the area lies within the Castlemartin army tank range, and on certain days, tourist access to the area was closed because of tank firing. I’ve photographed some rather inaccessible places and had traversed steep, winding cliff paths to get a shot, but the Green Bridge was beginning to feel impossible.

Green Bridge in the Morning, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, United Kingdom
Panorama from 3 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 60 seconds, ISO 64, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

There was no schedule that I could find regarding the army training, and I certainly didn’t want to inadvertently find myself in the sights of a tank gunner. Eventually I found that the Pembroke tourist office maintains a schedule for the tank range within the nearest two or three days. The tourist office informed me that the Green Bridge was open to tourists for at least the next day. Finally, it seemed I would reach my destination after all.

I photographed the bridge from every possible angle, hoping that I’d be satisfied with at least a few of the shots. As it happened, I’d picked a good day to see the bridge. It was early in the day and the bridge was shrouded in mist from the crushing waves; it made for a particularly atmospheric image. Again my mind wandered to distant worlds.

One day, the same forces that created the bridge will bring about its end. Time and the inexorable power of the sea will wear away the stone arch, or possibly send it crumbling into the bay. But that time was far away, and for the present, I was content to have the ancient formation to myself and to look out over a misty seascape from my rocky overlook.

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