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Toome Bridge Night Photography

It feels like Christmas has come early this year for I now have in my possession the famous Canon EFS 10-22mm USM ultra wide angle lens which is one of the finest wide angle lenses one can get for a x1.6 crop sensor DSLR so in conjunction with my Canon 450D this set-up yields an impressive field of view of over 107 degrees, or put another way it would equal 214 apparent full moon diameters which is truly vast indeed. The lens is also made of very high standard optical quality with a quiet ultra sonic auto focus mechanism, in fact, it produces less sound than the Canon 100-400mm telephoto lens which handles like a dream in its own rite. Furthermore the 10-22mm produces a field with well controlled vignetting and barrel distortion and although it does exhibit some slight curvature of frame it does so to a much lesser degree than other lenses of a similar focal length. This lens is favoured by many serious amateur and professional photographers and is a keen favourite among storm chasers, architectures and landscape photographers the world over and for this reason I have a always considered it my dream lens as it would suit all my areas of interest and open up a plethora of more creative and dramatic photo opportunities, however to buy it new I would have needed to pay between £500 and £600 and at such a hefty price tag it is no wonder that few claim to have one in their collection and for me the situation was no different. I had decided that I would get it at some stage during 2013 after saving up for as long as I could however in the meantime I had forgotten all about the lens until I met my Dad a week ago and together we went on a photo shoot to document the stunning Autumn colours before the season came to an end. It was during this shoot that my Dad produced the Canon 10-22mm lens and I was instantly shocked because there was the lens I have been wanting to try and my Dad had it the entire time. To cut a long story short my Dad let me use it for the Autumn shoot and a week later he agreed to give me a long term loan as long as I put it to good use which brings us nicely to this image report.

Canon 10-22mm Ultra Wide Angle Lens

I took this image tonight in my room and as you can see its quite a serious looking piece of bold kit however despite its appearance it really is very light and compact and very well built. As soon as my Dad very kindly lent me the lens less than a week ago I had been eager to try it out and as soon as the sky cleared and the stars came out I had been 'playing' with the lens so I could quickly adapt to its wide nature and get myself tuned in and ready for action. I spent two nights shooting stars over Glenshane Pass and was blown away by the size of the field, even the massive constellation of Ursa Major looked tiny on the frame compared to the view in the 18mm kit lens so I knew this would be a worthy companion for huge sky shots which would let me breath more easily and frame interesting foreground objects while still getting a large swathe of sky which was exactly what I needed. These first two nights were a learning experience and the lens had already proved itself by catching a bright Taurid meteor however by the third night the clouds had arrived and I lost the stars so I decided to try plan B which was to shoot the famous Toome Bridge at night time.

Toome Bridge Car Trails

November 6h 2012, I had photographed this bridge at night back in 2010 and 2011 mostly during NLC nights with several friends followed by a couple of random solo shoots so I knew the area well and all the best angles, my favourite was always the road shot looking towards the bridge close to the action as it offered the possibility of not only getting the bridge but also car light trails as well. The idea is quite straight forward, focus your camera at or close to infinity, stop your aperture down to get more depth of field and also to control the amount of light entering the lens, use a moderate ISO and a long exposure and by adjusting the exposure time accordingly you will get a decent image, you want to make sure the shutter is open for long enough to allow traffic to enter the frame and exit from the far end, if anything bright, such as car head lights or tail lights pass through the frame, then you will be able to record the trail making for a very dramatic shot. I had been shooting for half an hour then realised that to exploit the power of this lens I had to get up close and personal to my subject which is the only way to use an ultra wide angle lens. For this image I was open at 10mm and standing very close to the bridge and extremely close to the edge of the busy motorway which was quite unnerving and definitely dangerous so I had to be careful while watching my settings and the environment around me, I was wearing a reflective jacket and was pretty sure the drivers passing me thought I was the Police using a speed gun as several of them slowed down wondering what they may have done wrong. The above image was my best shot of the session and my best Toome bridge image to date and I was rather pleased with it to say the least, for me it underscored the phenomenal potential of this amazing lens.

This image was taken during November 2011 and separated from the first image by one year and five days exactly showing the very same scene. This was using my 18-55mm kit lens at 18mm wide angle during another solo shoot on a night of great clarity with crisp air and stars on view. I was standing on the same side of the road with the same kind of shot in mind however I was much further back from the bridge in order to get it in the frame with car trails and on both occasions the double stacked lights from passing trucks gave me two rows of red lights which delivered a greater impact to the scene, car trails are good but at wide angles they can be low to the ground so it can be a good thing to wait for a large truck or bus to pass through the frame to get a much more dramatic result. Now compare this 18mm frame with the 10mm frame above for a sense of scale, on the 18mm image check out the leading edge of the bridge on the near side of the road then look back at the 10mm frame and you can see that's exactly where I was standing for the first image!. I was standing within 6ft of the bridge itself, almost within touching distance, and yet I was able to fill the frame with the entire structure and still have some sky to spare along with the truck trails which is a fantastic example of how extensive the field is on the 10-22mm.

I hope you have enjoyed the images and write up and perhaps found it interesting enough to try car trail photography or invest in an ultra wide angle lens for yourself and take your creative potential to the next step. A 10mm lens will exaggerate near and far subjects at the same time with background subjects looking smaller and further away than they actually are which makes this lens much more difficult to use with a greater level of skill required and for some action scenes it may also need some extra guts on behalf of the photographer to get up close with a greater chance of risk and equally of success. I have a lot to learn about this lens including its pros and cons however I can foresee some fun days and nights ahead as I put the lens and myself to the test. For me the Canon 10-22mm lens is ideal for large aurora displays, all-sky NLCs, great comets with huge tails and for close weather and storm images so lets hope that nature provides me with a multitude of phenomena to practice on during the months ahead. Thanks very much for reading and thanks very much Dad!.

Toome Bridge

July 19th 2013, in the middle of a heat wave accompanied by warm humid nights when sleep was a challenge so the time was better spent out under the night sky doing photography. On this night Omagh photographer Paul Martin and my partner Roisin and I went out for an all-night photo shoot, the plan was to capture NLCs from the Antrim coast and have a BBQ at the same time which we were really looking forward to, however once we arrived at the coast it was like driving into a Winter scene, there was an unbelievable dense fog covering the ocean and roads until they both blended in together as one, the fog was cold and we could feel drizzle on our faces and by the look of things it was going to stay like that all night so we called off our coastal shoot, high moisture content combined with cooler sea surface temps meeting warm inland temps generated this crazy pea soup fog so we turned around and drove back S inland where the temps would be more stable and hence a greater chance of clear skies.

We had a fantastic dusk BBQ at a picnic table near Curran and the sky was crystal clear with stars appearing and with them was an NLC display, however the display was faint and low down so we anticipated that it could return before dawn when it could look more impressive so we used this darkest time of the short Summer night to do other night landscape photography, we decided on Toome Bridge because it is such a famous and dramatic landmark which is fun to shoot and also because Paul had never photographed it before, so this is where the three of us spent the next few hours. All images were taken once again with the 10mm ultra wide angle lens, we found this great vantage point in the field adjacent to the bridge along the E bank of the River Bann. This was a really photogenic angle with the blue/purple bridge reflecting on the calm river, I used the red light on my head torch which brought up the grass and bushes along the bank which made for a nice contrasty foreground subject. You can see Paul standing to the lower L of frame in action with this own camera. Due to the weeks of heat the water level was unusually low so we where able to take turns standing beside the river at water level, this is rare indeed as this river is normally high and deep and a very dangerous place to be near, this is the first time I have ever got to photograph from this part of the river which was a cool experience.

Toome Bridge

Another image this time without Paul in the frame, you can see the trail from a car headlight crossing the bridge. It was such a warm, calm, and peaceful night, we could hear Fish rising and breaking the surface of the water with a ripple and occasionally nocturnal Birds would fly over the structure with their bellies lit by the lights which was surreal.

Toome Bridge

An hour later we where on higher ground at the side of the carriageway level with the bridge. It was a week night so traffic wasn't as busy as usual so I got another rare chance to stand on the middle of the main road and shoot the bridge head-on which felt really bizarre. There where pockets of mist drifting across the sky and when they passed above the lights it produced a crazy effect which you really had to witness in person. Excuse my shadow on the road, this was a technical error as I wasn't aware it was in the frame at the time, however this lens is so wide it's nearly impossible not to get my shadow in it with the lights in this direction, I was using a cable release but should have used my timer and walked back.

Toome Bridge

A very close night time communion with Toome Bridge at 02.00 on a Summer's night, this felt like a ghost road and I was half expecting tumble weed to blow across in front of me. I have to say this is a really cool bridge and great fun to shoot, I have never been disappointed anytime I visit here and always come back with images I am happy with, however you can't let your guard down here as it is a dangerous place as traffic can arrive on the scene very quickly, luckily Paul kept watch for me while I was busy with the camera.

Toome Bridge

Paul gave a shout to alert me so I grabbed the camera and ran back to the edge of the road, he said it was an approaching lorry which was perfect timing because it produced this nice set of light trails for me as it crossed the bridge making for a nice end to the night. I will be adding more images of this bridge at night over time so I can keep them all together on this report.




Martin McKenna

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