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Photo essay: Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and Causeway Coast

Rainbow sunshine: A photographic journey of the Sunshine Coast

Travelling up Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island brings plenty of opportunity to bask in the colour and beauty of this wild corner of the Sunshine Coast.

Deep green hills are covered by mist as a little sleet blows around the corners of the ancient stone structure that I am using for cover on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The muted tones are rich, deep and subtle and I am loving the look of the photos as they are revealed on my camera’s LCD screen. Then the sunlight suddenly sneaks through the cloud cover, washing warmth and contrast across the same scene with the resulting photographs just as compelling. This movement from muted mists to bright sunlight happens many times daily and is the story of our photographic journey of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.

Fanad Head Lighthouse is a great location for long-exposure photography. Image: Dan & Zora Avila
A moment of sunlight flashing through the misty rain along the quiet, meandering road at Classiebawn Castle Estate, Mullaghmore. Image: Dan & Zora Avila

We remind ourselves that it’s called the Emerald Isle for a reason. Rain. Out of necessity, we embrace it, having only a few days to cover so much coastline that attempting to reach each site in “optimum” conditions is a folly. The rainy, misty weather transforms images into lush, moody shots, resembling dramatic movie scenes. 

When offering photography advice to enthusiasts travelling across the Island of Ireland, our first tip is to prepare for all seasons in one day and believe the images you can capture will be amazing, no matter the weather – such is the combination of landscape, weather-beaten coast and accessible ancient structures. Soft, luminous green grasses find purchase within hexagonal stone structures of the Giants Causeway – born of violent volcanic eruption and rapid cooling in the sea. This scene is emblematic of Irish coastal landscapes and photographing this place alone is worth international travel.

Glenveagh Castle is the centre point amongst expansive hiking trails and storybook gardens in Ireland’s largest National Park. Image: Dan & Zora Avila
Grianan of Aileach dates back to 1700BC and feels like a medieval movie set at first light. Image: Dan & Zora Avila

Although enthralled with misty photography on the cliffs of Slieve League, or the thunderous Assaranca waterfall in County Donegal after rain, when the sun slips through clouds, especially at dawn or dusk, the true depth of colour is revealed. The imposing structure of Dunluce Castle washed warm at sunset was only eclipsed by the Druidic temple of the sun at Grianan of Aileach at dawn. Arriving early, the gates still locked we decide to make the 1.5-kilometre uphill run to meet the monument at first light, which poured through the stone entry of the amphitheater. Like almost everywhere else we had our hearts set on photographing, we enjoyed this spiritual place all to ourselves. 

A lively pub culture is inseparable from all things Ireland. Image: Dan & Zora Avila
Colourful Dublin is striking at sunset and comes alive with revelry after dark. Image: Dan & Zora Avila

The beauty of Ireland is shared by villages, towns and cities, with hamlets dotting the coastal route with convenient frequency. Dublin and Belfast offer a litany of photographic opportunities with Trinity College Library a favourite. The main hall of the library feels straight out of Hogwarts with rows of ancient books lining the rich timber room. This was the only place that we had to contend with tourists, but with a little luck, the visitors left the hall just before closing time, affording a few precious moments to capture the room, sans people, save the austere-looking security guard who gave us a cheeky smile and a wink as we left elated, knowing those few minutes made our day.

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History, scale and ambiance are all encompassing in Trinity College library, Dublin. Image: Dan & Zora Avila
Assaranca Waterfall becomes a torrent after a few days of rain and with easy access from the adjacent road, and no crowds to contend with, is a perfect place for misty photos. Image: Dan & Zora Avila

Driving the coast of Ireland on a photographic journey is a story of varied and emotionally moving locations that will enthral anyone with a photographic eye. Historic landmarks are linked by equally impressive driving routes such as through Mamore Gap, Glengesh Pass and Torr Road offering spectacular views. Although replete with landscapes and ancient structures that play so well with Ireland’s delicate light, the journey really is the destination in Ireland, with an endless saturation of visual power and serenity at every point that is so satisfying to photographers of all styles and abilities.

Gear used:
Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless camera
Fujifilm GFX100 medium format camera

For more images, view Dan and Zora’s Irish photo collection here.

See the video capturing the best of Dan & Zora’s Irish photographic adventure here:

Tags: Causeway Coast, Europe, Ireland, Photo essay, Photography, Virtual travel, Wild Atlantic Way

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