Trip Leader: Gareth McCormack
Location: Achill Island, County Mayo
Maximum Group Size: 5
Exertion: Low to moderate
Cost: €750, including 3 nights of accommodation
Availability: 5 places left
Achill is Ireland’s largest island, and exudes a unique, other-worldly atmosphere. It’s also home to a treasure trove of natural features. The cliffs of Croaghaun are amongst the highest in Europe, and the juxtaposition of mountain and sea sets the tone for the whole area. Towering clifflines offer fantastic views, while sandy coves shelter beneath green mountains.
Gareth has been a regular visitor to Achill for over 30 years, and has developed an intimate knowledge of the island’s secret spots. Favourite photo locations range from remote harbours to panoramic viewpoints, all lit by the fresh, changeable air that can be expected from such an Atlantic outpost.
The photography course is based in the village of Keel, at the heart of Achill Island. We stay in a spacious, self-catering house, with a private bedroom and ensuite bathroom for every guest. The house is just a short walk from the pubs, restaurants and beautiful beach in Keel.
Breakfast is incorporated as part of the accommodation package, but no other meals are included. During the weekend we’ll stop to buy sandwiches or eat together in local restaurants and cafés, as dictated by the schedule of events.
This photography workshop has an exertion rating of low to moderate. Photo locations are all easily accessible by car, with short walks along paths or across open ground to reach our shooting positions. This may involve some steps, steep gradients or uneven ground. If you have any questions about the physical demands of the trip, please contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss the locations in more detail.
Photographers of all levels of experience and ability are welcome to join the workshop. Whatever your level, Gareth will help you extend your skills over the course of the weekend.
This photography course makes the most of the May bank holiday weekend. We meet in Achill on the Friday evening, and begin with an informal welcome session. Here we discuss the weekend itinerary, and some of the main photographic points we’ll be addressing during the workshop. The Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be split between outdoor field trips and indoor theory sessions. The workshop ends at 1pm on Monday, allowing participants enough time to travel home on Monday evening.
All field trips will be undertaken by car-pool, with short stretches of off-road walking required to reach each location. The exact locations of our outdoor sessions will be dictated by weather conditions on the day. The focus will be on the superb coastal and mountain locations around Achill Island. These include the incredible view from the top of Menawn Cliffs, the dramatic rock outcrops along the Atlantic Drive, and the secluded cove of Keem, at the western tip of the island. Scenic harbours and a deserted village means there’s plenty to keep us busy. If weather conditions dictate however, we may also explore further afield into Mayo’s Ballycroy National Park.
We’ll time our trips to make the most of the weather, and schedule dawn and dusk outings whenever the conditions are favourable. Though all of Achill’s locations are strikingly beautiful, each spot provides its own challenges and opportunities in terms of photography. As we explore each spot we’ll discuss the merits of different shooting techniques and approaches to composition, and experiment with various vantage points across the scene.
The indoor sessions will take place within the house. Here we will critique the images we have taken in the field, and discuss ways to improve them. We’ll examine the theory behind great landscape photography, including issues such as researching the location and the importance of individual expression.
We will also look at different equipment and how to use it, and examine technical matters such as controlling depth of field and using histograms to manage exposure. There will also be a tutorials on Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom and Photoshop, where Gareth will pass on tips for processing and optimising your images.
In addition to these indoor sessions, the whole weekend course is aimed at facilitating one big, group discussion about the art of photography. The aim throughout is to allow Gareth to share the experience he has gained over twenty years as a professional landscape photographer, to help you take more striking photos.
Payment: The price of this workshop is €750 is per person. This is the same whether you want a single or double room – please let us know your preferred room arrangement when booking. Full payment is required to reserve your place on the weekend.
Cancellation: If you book a place on the workshop and have to cancel for any reason, we’ll be happy to refund the full amount prior to 30th March 2021, minus a 3.5% cancellation fee (this covers our credit card charges). Cancellations made after this date will only be refunded if we can find a replacement.
COVID-19: In the event of government restrictions around COVID-19 meaning the workshop is no longer possible, we’ll let you know as soon as we can. We’ll endeavor to reschedule your workshop for a later date, but if this isn’t possible, full refunds will be given.
Insurance: Please note that it’s the responsibility of the customer to ensure you have adequate personal and equipment insurance to cover yourself for the weekend.
Camera Equipment: Bring all your camera equipment, including any lenses, tripods and filters. Remember cables for downloading images, and if you use a laptop for processing, bring that too. Some off-road walking may be required to reach photo locations, so we recommend that you pack your equipment in a small rucksack to facilitate moving around. Make sure your camera bag offers enough protection in the event of being caught in rain.
Clothing: Ireland’s climate can be notoriously changeable. Bring good, waterproof footwear, and warm, waterproof and windproof clothing to protect yourself in all weather conditions. Bring sunscreen too, because you never know! We discourage the use of plastic wherever possible, so also recommend bringing a resuable water bottle.
We keep our group sizes small so the exact content of each workshop can be tailored to the needs of individuals. If you’re a beginner, Gareth will help you get out of auto settings for the first time. If you’re more experienced, you may need no technical assistance, but constructive critique on composition and aesthetic decisions might expand your options and repertoire. On most workshops, topics that generally come up include:
Q: I’m a complete beginner – will your workshop be suitable for me?
A: Yes. Our workshops and tours have small group sizes, so much of the tuition is on a one-to-one basis. We encourage a friendly and collegiate atmosphere, and more experienced photographers generally help by offering their own advice and encouragement. After all, we were all beginners at one point ourselves, and can empathise with how mystifying the technicalities of photography can appear. A key point for beginners is to relax – with a few pointers, taking great images is often much easier than you realise.
Q: I don’t have a tripod / expensive camera / any filters. Is this a problem?
A: Tripods are essential for good landscape photography and long exposure techniques. Having said that you can come on a weekend workshop without one, as Gareth normally carries a spare tripod you can try out. However this isn’t encouraged for longer tours. If you’re unsure about buying one, we’d encourage you to at least borrow or rent one if you can. Please don’t buy a cheap plastic or lightweight ‘traveller’ tripod. They’re too flimsy for serious work and will cause you enormous frustration. Investing in a good tripod is one of the most overlooked aspects of purchasing photography equipment.
Most of our workshop clients use digital DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses, but these range from Hasselblads to basic starter cameras. We also have people who still shoot film or black and white only. You could come on a workshop with just your phone and still benefit – in fact we had one weekend where the best images came from somebody doing just that. If you don’t have any filters but are interested in learning to use them, Gareth will have some on hand to try out. You’ll then be a better position to decide what you want to invest in afterwards.
Q: How physically demanding are the locations to reach?
A: Most of our photo locations are easy to reach, and accessible within a couple of minutes walk from the car. However the ground underfoot may be uneven, slippery or wet. We avoid long or arduous hikes, but to reach more adventurous shooting positions – which are entirely optional – you may need to cross loose rocks or steep slopes. If you have any concerns about your fitness for this trip, please get in touch and Gareth will be happy to discuss the individual locations with you.
Q: Workshop or tour – what’s the difference?
A: Our workshops are short, typically two or three days long, and based within a defined area. The emphasis is on education and assistance from Gareth, but we also visit plenty of good photo locations, hopefully in good light. We’ll also have at least one formal seminar on post processing during the weekend. Tours are longer trips that visit several geographical areas, with the emphasis on exploring the best locations in the best light. Of course instruction and assistance from Gareth is still part of the package, but the theory and processing sessions are less formal. Instead we use bad weather as an opportunity for image review, with one-to-one or small group sessions on post processing workflow happening in a more organic way.
Q: How long is a typical day?
A: There’s no schedule set in advance for any of our workshops or tours. In order to match our locations with the best light, we stay as flexible as possible. Typically we’ll shoot at sunrise if conditions allow, returning to the hotel afterwards for breakfast. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of early starts – sunrise shoots are always optional. We’ll certainly shoot during the day, prioritising locations that best suit the weather conditions. Even if it’s a travel day, we’ll stop at one or two interesting places along the way. Evening and sunset shoots are also a staple whenever conditions allow.
Poor weather can be useful too. On weekend workshops, we’ll take the opportunity to look at post processing. On longer tours we generally use poor weather to relax and recover, review our images, and perhaps think about post processing if people are keen. When conditions are favorable for several days in a row, regular dawn and dusk shoots can quickly become exhausting, so we do factor in the need for downtime during the day. Nothing kills creativity quicker than fatigue! If at any time you need to slow down and skip a shoot, that’s fine too.
Q: Can I bring my spouse/partner even if they’re not interested in photography?
A: Yes, absolutely. We visit beautiful and interesting locations, so there’s much to enjoy even if you aren’t interested in taking more than snapshots. We often stay in the same hotel for two or more nights, so non-photographers are free to take time out from the field trips and do their own thing. There’s often plenty to see and do within walking distance of our accommodation, and sometimes leisure facilities at the hotel too. Just ask if you want more details about this particular trip.
There are only five spaces available on this photography course, so we recommend you book early to avoid disappointment. If you have any further queries about the weekend, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: