No matter where you live in Northern Ireland, it is a blessing to be no more that a couple of hours from the Mourne Mountains to the South or the beautiful beaches of the North Antrim Coast. So what would you do on a Sunday morning when you know that there is going to be a beautiful Spring sunrise and your alarm is set for 5.15? Would you turn over and go back to sleep or get up and head for the North Antrim Coast?
As a landscape photographer there was only ever going to one answer to those questions.... So with the camera gear packed & a flask of tea at the ready I set off for Benone Beach at Downhill near Castlerock which was about an hour away. I had already planned that I wanted to get shots of a local landmark, Mussenden Temple, which sits right on the cliff edge overlooking the beach and which the sun would rise behind at approximately 7am - so that's where I was heading..
As I headed North, the first signs of sunrise started to appear but as it was cold, there was also a lovely light mist covering the fields and that was when I was hit with a dilemma - I was on the Motorway and passing Slemish Mountain to the east which was wearing this mist like a shroud but backlit with the colours of the early morning sunrise - I had two choices, come off the Motorway at the next exit and head for a vantage point to capture the Slemish sunrise but that would mean I would miss the sunrise at Benone or just stay on the motorway & hit Benone at 7am as planned.... You will see from my pictures that I decided to keep going North so that I would get the the beach around 7am, which would give me enough time to get set up for my shots of the temple.
I arrived at Downhill beach in good time and although it was starting to get light, the sun still had not made it up above the Temple just yet.
I had the beach to myself with the exception of a lone dog walker & got set up along the beach looking east towards the cliff with the Temple appearing as a silhouette. It wasn't long before the sky started to change, producing the most beautiful pale pastel shades of blue, pink & peach - this is the time of day photographers call the Golden Hour.
The early morning light could also now be seen through the windows in the Temple & the low tide meant that I was able to catch fantastic reflections of the cliff & the temple in the wet rippled sand. I spent the next 40 minutes grabbing shots from a variety of vantage points along the beach, with the sky changing colour the whole time.
Around 8am I decided to head back to the car and following a well earned cup of tea drove the short distance to Downhill Demense where you gain access to the paths leading up the Temple & the ruins of the Bishops House - by now the pastel colours of the early sunrise had given way to a glorious blue sky day with some wispy white clouds providing a little more detail for the shots I was about to take.
Little did I know at the time, but my next dilemma was to result in me getting a mention on the local Northern Ireland news the following day & selling some pictures to the press - you see, my dilemma when I came out the gates of the Demense was, do I turn left & head for Portstewart or turn right and go back past Downhill where I had just come from & head on to Magiligan, a peninsula in County Londonderry, which is separated from County Donegal by a small stretch of water.
Well I decided to turn right and the next hour or two was spent walking and photographing from a variety of locations along that stretch of coastline, eventually returning to where I had started the day. This is where the local news story comes in & it was a real case of being in the right place at the right time. This particular beach allows cars to drive on it at low tide - unfortunately someone had driven a little too far on the previous day & despite the very low tide, got stuck in some very soft sand & had to abandon their vehicle which was subsequently consumed by the sea as the tide came in. The driver was back today & waiting for a salvage team & I got chatting to him & watched with him as the tide started to recede to reveal the roofline of his jeep & subsequently most of the remainder of the vehicle. I took a series of shots from different angles and posted them on Twitter the following day, only to be contacted by UTV who wanted to purchase three of them for their news piece on this event!!
So, after a very early start & with plenty of material to process when I got home, I headed off back in the direction of Belfast - it was a great morning & I hope you enjoy the results in my Album "Mussenden" which includes some of the submerged car shots......