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Portlairge

I’ve been visiting County Wexford for over 10 years (my wife is from there) but it was only this June that I learnt about the Portlairge wreck in Bannow Bay when I read about it in a blog post on Kieran Russell’s website.

I was very excited about having such an interesting subject to photograph only 10 minutes away from where I stay when in Wexford and at the tail end of October I finally got my chance on the morning before my family and I caught the ferry to Wales for my brother’s wedding.

It had been a long time since I’d photographed something that required checking the tide times. High tide was at 05:50 and sunrise at 07:14. Not having much experience of tides I didn’t know whether the tide would have gone out enough to expose the sand bank that the boat sits on, which I didn’t want. So I decided to get to the boat for the beginning of blue hour (before the dawn when the sky slowly starts to lighten).

However, it was so dark that I could hardly see the boat. I decided to set up but I had to use manual focus and even then I couldn’t really tell if I’d got the focus right. Eventually it got light enough that I could see what I was doing but it wasn’t plain sailing from there.

First of all I had trouble getting the composition I wanted because a low wall made positioning my tripod difficult. Then I discovered that the app that I use to calculate exposure times isn’t set up for 9 stop ND filters which is what I was using. Of course, all I had to do was check the time for a 10 stop filter which it does cover and compensate but whether it was the early start or the pressure of time constraints, I just couldn’t work it out.

I’d taken so long getting my exposure time as I wanted it that I hadn’t reviewed my shots properly, and it was an hour after I first got to the location before I noticed that because I was shooting with a telephoto lens on a long subject that the back of the boat wasn’t properly in focus. I switched up my f stop and got in one 4.5 minute exposure when what had been a full battery before starting had ran out of juice. Because I had neglected to pack the charger I decided to call it quits lest I drain my only other battery.

I needn’t have been concerned about the tide because it didn’t get any lower as far as I could see. In fact, if I’d stayed in bed an extra hour I probably would have had more success.

I had another subject which required a high tide and a long exposure planned out for my time in Wales and from checking my handy app (Tides Near Me) I saw that only the first morning did I have a chance. However, a cancelled ferry put paid to that.

Then heavy rain meant I didn’t get out with the camera at all before the wedding. The wedding and the subsequent hangover meant it was the day before heading back to Ireland before I did get a chance to head out.

I drove to Carreg Cennen Castle for the dawn but ended up not being able to find the spot I’d picked out on my previous visit. The dawn had broken by the time I found it but the light was completely flat and it remained that way for the whole day.

Frustratingly there was a lovely play of light across the landscape as I drove to the ferry the following day. I had one more location in mind in Wexford before making our way back to Galway but the conditions changed for the worse at the last minute.

Not a successful trip photography-wise with only one image to show for it. And to be honest I’m not satisfied with it. I would prefer to have shot the boat from a lower angle, but that would mean standing in the water. I find the land on the horizon distracting also. Fog would be ideal in this case, but the chances of high tide and fog while I happen to be in the area are pretty slim.