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:
- 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!
- 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.
- As if that was not enough, an undulating black road curbing out of sight adds to the depth and drama of the scene.
- Using a long lens and walking the length of the tunnel (almost a mile long) you can craft an unlimited number of scenes.
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: