Trip Report – Ireland: The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges

Located in extreme North Ireland County Antrim, “The Dark Hedges” is an incredible street lined with 300-year-old beech trees that have grown together to form a tunnel.  For obvious reasons, we call this a tree tunnel.  This location has been on our to-do list for years and I have spent the last four mornings here – simply fantastic fun!

I love photographing trees, especially tree tunnels, but these trees are special for the following reasons:

  1. Beach trees have a smooth, neutral gray bark, which acts like a canvas for light.  The different color and angles of light are reflected off them like a 360-degree movie screen!
  2. Because the crowns of the trees have all grown together at the top with the sides open, the light enters from all different directions.  If you’re lucky enough to have clear skies (which is rare) the first rays of sunlight bathe the east side of the trees in a warm glow while cool colored light illuminates the west side.  The result is an incredible range of colors and shadows with trunks that look almost three-dimensional enhancing the depth of the scene.  On cloudy days, the trees are bathed in warmer tones from both sides.  Blue hour light turns the scene into an eerie tunnel of twisted tree trunks that would make Hitchcock proud.
  3. As if that was not enough, an undulating black road curbing out of sight adds to the depth and drama of the scene.
  4. Using a long lens and walking the length of the tunnel (almost a mile long) you can craft an unlimited number of scenes.

Dawn at the Hedges

Truly a photographer’s dream – almost!  The street is a busy farming road in the community with traffic all hours of the day.  Every few minutes you have to move your tripod to the side to let the cars, trucks and farm equipment zip by at up to 60 miles per hour.

If you’re a “Game of Thrones” fan, you’ll recognize the road from the show, which was filmed in North Ireland.   Now hordes, and I mean hordes, of people visit the site every day so don’t even think about photographing at sunset.  The place is crawling with people, cars, van loads and even tour busses full of would-be photographers. Fortunately, tourists don’t get up that early and the only nightlife is the local tavern.  If you arrive at the crack of dawn, you just might have the place to yourself (and the farmers of course).

All of this exposure (pun intended) has brought real challenges to the trees.  Old timers say the road is a couple feet wider than it used to be from all the traffic and tour buses driving through this fragile natural wonder.  If you’ve got this on your list, you might want to visit soon.  There is obvious damage to the trees and after 300 years, the wonderful trees are approaching the end of their life span.


I hope you enjoy these scenes from “The Dark Hedges” but here is a little secret:

“The best shots from my visit won’t make this blog.  They will be hanging on the gallery walls sometime soon so be sure and stop in.”

Trip Report – Ireland: Glandalough

Glendalough Tombstone

I have a few more posts about trip planning and preparation but I’m excited to show some of the incredible sites here in Ireland so we’ll save those for later.

 After arriving in Dublin, Ireland, we planned a rest day to adjust to the new time zone.  Of course, we couldn’t hang around the hotel all day so we drove 40 minutes south to Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountain National Forest.

Not only is the area a great natural area with two beautiful lakes, they have this super cool monastery more than 1500 years old!  Think about that; in the 6th century the Celtic Christians built this community and not long after Vikings invaded and took over Dublin.  Eventually these Vikings, were thrown out of power and many converted to Christianity and melted into the community.  They would have heavily influenced this entire area.

St. Kevins Bell Tower

There is a well-preserved tower rebuilt in the 1800’s, St. Kevin’s Chapel and cemetery full of incredible tombstones that have all kinds of Celtic artwork on them.  The cross, pictured against the evergreen foliage, especially intrigued me with its monikers showing Celtic patterns and farm animals along with a saddened cherub.  I’ve seen these same patterns in Viking tombstones and art all over Iceland.

Enjoy a few more sites from Glendalough


Glandalough6 Glandalough8 Glandlough7 Glendalough3 Glendalough4 Glendalough9



Trip Report – Ireland: Planning

I’m spreading Irish Kerry Gold Butter on my toast this morning as I get ready to leave for the airport to Dublin to explore my Irish roots.  Not sure how much Irish blood runs through my veins but regardless we’re excited for an opportunity to travel to the ‘Emerald Isle’ for a fortnight.

Preparing for an international trip might seem overwhelming at first but with a little practice things tend to go smoothly.

1. First select a desirable location out of the endless possibilities

This is the fun part, no drama, just hours and hours of web searches and introspection.  If this is your first international trip, pick someplace that speaks your language and drives on the same side of the street.

Another criteria is what is the current political climate.  You won’t enjoy an exotic location if your safety is a concern.  We photograph at the edge of the day when most areas are void of people and protection.  There’s never a gauruntee but many locations remove that concern.

Finally, you’ll enjoy scouring photography and social media sites scoping locations and subjects.

2. When to visit:

If you goat peak travel times, you’ll be frustrated getting good looks and spend top dollar as well.  Better to travel just off season than to battle the crowds.

Something I will always do during trip planning is search for a workshop.  Sometimes it’s better to go with a group and if you prefer shooting alone it will give you an idea of dates that are productive for photography.

On our first trip to Italy, we joined Jim and Magrit Nilsen’s wonderful tours of Tuscany  and Venice.  Jim was great about accomodating our needs as professional photographers while providing invaluable information on the area.

You can also consider a local guide.  They know the area and best times to photograph.  They also releive you from language, culture and safety concerns.  Most are more affordable than you would think and make sure you don’t book yourself into a dive.

3. Visa requirements are always a concern

Make sure you can get into the country before booking tickets and accommodations.

4. Arrange your tickets and accommodations early

A year in advance gives you all kinds of options but can lock you in.  Consider trip insurance if you are concerned your availability may change.  An option to cancel for any reason costs a little more but gives you flexibility for the unseen.

While I prefer to book my own trip, travel agents can be a valuable resource and have access to discount packages that may not be available to you as an individual traveler.

My flight is boarding, next stop Dublin!

Tip of the Day: What’s The Best Camera for Me?

Pacific SkiesI get this question at least once a day: What camera is the best for me/beginners/period?

Honestly? I don’t know!

That question is just as complex as asking a sommelier “what kind of wine will I love over all others?” You just have to try them out, and that’s half the fun!

Here in Northwest Arkansas we have several sources for camera and camera equipment purchases, some locations will encourage usage in store to make sure they are the best fit for you. If camera ownership is completely out of your budget, using your iPhone or Android can offer some amazing quality photos and apps like Instagram and SnapChat offer many editing options that can create perfect opportunities to gain knowledge on lighting, angles and zoom.

And if you have a source, borrowing or renting a camera for the day can actually provide an amazing opportunity to hold and view and work with the camera in order to fully understand if it is the best fit for you!

Follow to see more about how to find the best camera for you!

Tip of the Day: Shoot What You Love!

Antarctica IcebergBeing a photographer (or artist in general) is by definition a freeing and exciting experience. But what happens when you become stuck, when you lose focus, when you become so wrapped up your next shot that you forget what an amazing experience it is to be able to do what we do?

Shoot What You Love!

When asked recently about my dream location to shoot, I answered with “I am living my dream and anywhere I dream to shoot, we go.” and that is the truth. Last weekend it was sunflowers in Missouri, the weekend before it was the meteor shower in South Arkansas, this week? Who knows? That’s the point, shoot what you love! Dream it and do it! If you can’t get to Africa or Asia this week, then shoot in your own backyard.

Take a walk/train/drive/plane and find what excites you, what moves you and start there. My favorite experience shooting was at 2:30 am on an Antartic expedition and I was the only one awake and on deck. I was in shirt sleeves and the sun was beginning to peek up from the clouds, and the silence and stillness was breathtaking. I captured one of my most award winning photographs and still one of my favorites.

We get to show people a side of nature and life and the world they would never get to see on a regular day, and that is worth shooting!

Tip of the Day: Don’t Worry About Style

cropped-HP0112-copy1.jpgThese days we hear a lot about developing your own personal style with all kinds of advice on how to magically pull the style rabbit out of the hat.

Truth is, you don’t need to waste another minute worrying about personal style. Photograph subjects you love and the style will magically happen all on it’s own. Before you know it, people will recognize your style, perhaps even before you!

Here is my checklist for what to do until your “style” finds you:

Work On Improving Your Vision

How you see your subject is the only thing you have that no one can duplicate, others may copy but that’s another subject!

You improve your vision by becoming a critic. Criticize your own work ruthlessly then be just as critical of every image you see. If you look at your work from last year and think it’s the best you can do, you are done and won’t improve this year. We’re bombarded with imagery more than ever, make a habit of analyzing as much of it as you can.

Embrace Challenging Subjects and Light

We all love the golden light at sunrise and sunset, but that only gives you an hour of opportunity every day. Force yourself to photograph during the harsh light of day and you’ll find great images can be made around the clock.

Tighten Your Technique

Are you getting the best image quality every time?

  • Use a sturdy tripod
  • ALWAYS use a remote and mirror lockup when possible
  • Bracket and blend you shots so everything in the frame is at the optimal exposure

Shoot More Often

You may have heard it before, but “The First 10,000 Images are Your Worst”.-Henri Carter-Bresson.

You’re going to photograph a lot of stinkers whether you like it or not. Get them out of the way as quickly as you can.

Developing your “style” will happen after years of photographing the scenes you love, the way you love to see them. It’s a continual process that never ends.

I best shut this down and get back to developing my “style”!


International Photographic Competition Results Are In… Gold Again!

We at Ed Cooley Fine Art Gallery are so excited and proud to announce that Ed has been awarded the “Gold Photographer Award” by the Professional Photography Association For the second year in a row.  The award is recognition for outstanding achievement in the International Photographic Competition and we want to congratulate Ed on his hard work! Please enjoy the following photographs and follow the links to see more on our website. Thank you Ed for all you do and THANK YOU readers, collectors, clients and fellow nature lovers for supporting our passion to bring beauty to so many lives!

image“Morning Glory” Mt. Rainier National Park

“When photographing I wake up day after day dreaming about mornings like this. I could hardly believe my eyes as Mt Rainier was gloriously bathed in one of the most beautiful sunrise displays I have witnessed.”

Eilean Donan Castle“Dreams of Scotland”

“Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most recognised castles in Scotland, and probably appears on more shortbread tins and calendars than any other. It is, without doubt, a Scottish icon and certainly one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands.”


“Spring Eternal”

“Nestled up to the edge, I snapped this photo. I felt honored to have found this place of pure relaxation. I sat there for awhile observing this natural spa. Refreshed and hiking out I felt younger than I have in years.”

image1“Dolce Vita”

This vibrant image of Venice captures everything loved by locals and visitors alike. The beauty of the location and intensity of the colors elicit an immediate emotional response of dreams and desire to be a part of the image.                                                                       *Photo is set for release in November, 2015

Once again, Congratulations Ed and Thank You! Be sure to stay tuned as we announce more of the pieces awarded and click on the links for more information about the winning photographs.



Tip of the Day: Head for Nasty Weather

Summertime - Tuscany

In last weeks “Tip of the Day” I showed you an incredible mountain scene in the Rockies photographed with an iPhone 6! The great color and drama in that photograph was a three day thunderstorm moving in from the Southwest.

Notice the outdoor photographs that really impress you; they’ll have one thing in common — dramatic skies!  Clear blue, hazy, summer days are great for a sun tan but the light is so flat and boring your photographs won’t inspire.  Spend that time touring with your family or scouting locations for the next storm front to move your way.

Without a doubt, my favorite conditions are when stormy weather is moving into or exiting an area.  That special light just before the storm cuts loose makes everything so colorful and surreal that people won’t believe the scene “actually” looked like that.  Outdoor photographers spend more time waiting for the light than you can imagine. Sunrise and sunset make wonderful photographs but take a hot and muggy summer day with huge boomers building up and you can really get the magic happening.

Now when a photographer talks about “Light”, it’s not just light he is referring to.  It’s the whole combination of lighting, weather and conditions that is make up the magic sauce we use to create compelling photographs.

Don’t pay attention to those who tell you not to photograph in the middle of the day.  With the right conditions and technique some of your favorite photographs are just waiting on you – right in the middle of a hot summer afternoon!  Also learn to read the weather forecasts for your area paying special attention to fronts as they move through.  In many cases the day before they hit will be your best time to snag a keeper with beautiful color and skies.