My “Location Scouting” Trip to Ireland

I call it a “Location Scouting” trip, mostly because I know this — I want to go back again!!! (here’s a few shots from the photo book I always create after each trip).

First, a little about Ireland
What an absolutely magical place! The Irish people are as warm, witty, and kind as everyone said they would be, and we had an absolutely wonderful experience from beginning to end. It truly is a beautiful country, and even though I just saw a tiny bit of it for five days, it makes you want to spend months there and just explore the countryside and learn more about the people, their history, and their lives.

Now, for the shooting
This was a family vacation trip (joining me, Kalebra and the kids was my brother Jeff and my in-laws, so we were seven in total). I knew from the outset that photography would not be the focus, and honestly, that was fine with me. I never got up for a dawn shoot (it would have awakened the wifey and kids for sure), and at sunset we were usually at dinner, so I just had to shoot in whatever light was there. The only problem was — there wasn’t much light at all.

Ahhhhh, the weather
We were there for five days (with two travel days on either end), and it rained every single day. All day. When you woke up, the sky was dark gray and it looked like it was ready to rain. If you looked outside and didn’t see dark gray clouds, it was only because was already raining. There were a few moments each day when the sky would start to clear a bit and the rain would pause, but literally just for few minutes here and there. I read while I was there that July had been Ireland’s rainiest month in history, and August was already looking like a record-setter as well. Yup, that’s when we chose to go. (LOL!).

I didn’t push that shutter enough
I only shot around 150 shots a day total, including multiple frames shot for HDR and Panos, which is really low for me (I shoot twice that in a 3-hour football game), but the weather kind of limited what I could shoot. For example, we drove out to the famous Cliffs of Moher, and it was so socked in with fog and rain, we couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us (not to mention it was windy and cold!. Brrrrrrr!). So, while me and my gear got plenty wet, I never pushed the shutter button once.

We had originally planned to get up to Galway, and spend more time in Cork, and to see Shannon a bit, and well… we where having so much fun (we got to stay in Dromoland castle, which everybody loved — especially my six-year-old daughter), that we wound up doing more relaxing and playing around they we had planned, but it made for an incredibly fun vacation for everybody.

The Gear
I took my Nikon D4 (so I could shoot in really low light if necessary), and I took two lenses: My 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 VR lens, and I had tried out a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens from (awesome folks — highly recommended) a few weeks back, so this time around I borrowed Matt’s 16-35mm and it’s a great little lens (though I can’t really justify buying one when I already have a 14-24mm, but the advantage of the 16-35mm is that you can use 77mm screw-on filters (like the 8-stop Tiffen ND I took with me). I also took an Oben travel tripod with a Really Right Stuff Ballhead. That’s pretty much it (I actually did take a lightweight flash kit, but never even got a chance to use it once).

The danger of setting your own expectations
I had in my mind the kind of shots I was hoping to come back with. You know the ones —- the tiny thatched-hut village with a quaint dirt road overflowing with a flock of sheep and stranding a Land Rover. Well, I never saw anything like that. That’s the danger of setting expectations — you go thinking you’re going to get a particular type of shot, but then the reality of where you wind up sets in you’re disappointed with your shots, (which I was), and it’s not Ireland’s fault, and its not the weather’s fault. It’s my fault. I should have gone open to whatever came my way, instead of standing there saying “This isn’t what I was really looking for. It must be somewhere else here.”

Now that the trip is over, and I put my photo book together (seen here), I’m happier with what I got then I was while I was there, but it sure makes me want to go back and capture those giant waves crashing against the coast, and sheep in the streets, and sweeping landscapes under crisp blue skies. I now have a better idea where I want to go when I go back, and I have some specific locations I want to return to. I also want more than five days.

Contrast this with Cuba or India
In India, I had a guide and driver, and it was just Kalebra and I so we could cover a lot of ground each day.  If I saw something I wanted to shoot, the driver would just literally pull over. If I wanted to shoot a particular thing, the guide knew right where to take me. Same thing in Cuba. But in Ireland, we were literally on our own  — seven of us in two rental cars, so it definitely changes how you shoot on your trip.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, it’s only about my photography failures, because I had one of my best vacations ever (and we got to celebrate my wife’s birthday while we were there, which was a blast). I saw a beautiful country, met some lovely people, I watched Olympic boxing in a pub with a pint of Murphy’s, I got to stay in an amazing castle, watched my daughter learn archery (and she rocked it!), watched my son row across a still lake in the morning mist, saw my wife experience a life-long dream (I’ll leave that for her to tell on her G+ page), and saw my brother make a beautiful chip up out of the bunker right and land right near the hole on the 18th green. We had lots of laughs, wonderful meals, and at one point we almost drove straight into a stream (another story, with more laughs). It really was a perfect trip, and set me up to go back again when photography is the focus, and I can’t wait to go again to shoot, and to return once again for another family vacation just like it.

Thanks to everyone here and on my Google+ page who sent me ideas on where to visit, where to shoot, where to stay, where to eat, and what not to miss. I missed some of it, but now I have a perfect excuse to go back to one of the most beautiful, warm, welcoming places I’ve ever seen. :-)

  1. Glad you had a great time. Love the images as well. especially the tree tunnel. It’s something I like to shoot when I find one (and I’ve found a few). Just out of curiosity, did you create this book with the lightroom book module??????

  2. Hey Scott. Glad you enjoyed your trip to our humble little island. In terms of the weather, it’s been one of the worst Summers on record. If you think it’s frustrating putting up with it for 5 days, Imagine how we feel after two months of practically non stop rain. On the plus side, you do really appreciate the sun when it does come out!!! You got some great shots. If it’s any consolation too,  a lot of people come here with the wrong expectation of what this country is actually like. TV and Movies likes to portray us a certain way, but that Ireland is gone a long time ago. I hope you get to come back and spend more time here – you won’t regret it. In terms of the weather for photo taking, the best times of the year are probably Autumn and Spring, although there’s some amazing Light here in winter as the sun stays low in the sky and you get that “Dawn” effect for most of the morning. And if you ever feel like teaching a class here…. ;-)

  3. Hi Scott,

    I was laughing so hard while reading your post. We spent our “summer” holidays in Ireland last week and I think we had nearly the same experiences (even the birthday celebration). Did you have the “We’re all gonna  die!” screams in your car too? ;-) Driving on the wrong side of the road definitly drives you crazy.
    Well, better weather next time.
    (But all the locals told me: “You don’t go to Irland for the weather.”)


  4. Glad you had a ball here for your hols Scott! Now this week the sun is beating down, still not what you would call Florida weather but a big improvement on last week! Hey, don’t forget Ireland has a Northern bit too! Next time try and fit in Ulster. From Donegal, Danny Boy country, through Derry (UK City of Culture 2013) through the Glens of Antrim (Including Giants Causeway) Bushmills Whiskey, to Belfast (loads of Titanic stuff!) down to the Mountains of Mourne and west to Armagh and the Lakes of County Fermanagh, you’ll need more than a week. Would love to see you over here again and perhaps meet up for a pint of the proper black stuff Guinness!

  5. Ireland is a Magical place, yes wheather can be a little “disappointing” but when you get that little sunshine coming off the clouds sparkling on the rocks and the big waves … well there you breath the real Magic !

    Thinking of that place always brings me such intense sensations into my heart for all the great time  spent there I really wish  can go back very soon.

    Scott you took such wonderful shots out there … I had no way of bringing my camera when did my trip  and have to say I am still crying for that.

    thank you for sharing such great images.

  6. Scott, I love the mood reflected by these images and the ‘castle in ruins’ dappled by the warm light just rocks… you could never get it this way if the weather was different :-). That image alone was worth the trip, but the overall moodiness just does something special as it reminds me of the Azores, my berth place. Azores is an archipelagos of nine islands in total that in many ways equals the look and feel of Ireland with the exception of castles — there are none.


  7. Lovely photos and book Scott.  I think you have convinced me that I need to be creating more photo books to keep some memories alive.  Did you do this book in iPhoto or Lightroom?

  8. Scott, I hope someday my photography can produce such “disappointing” images. Those were amazing (and your Paris travel video makes it look so easy!). Great photos and I always look forward to more.

  9. Scott,

    These are beautiful composed photographs of the Emerald Isle.  You are very fortunate to have the means to travel when and where you want to.  I always enjoy your perspectives on travel relating to photography and I enjoyed your recent travel class on KT.  Your willingness to share your knowledge is inspiring!

  10. Whoa, Scott!  Thanks for taking us with you to Ireland!  Just some magnificent captures and what a beautiful place to visit!  Your photo book is just fantastic and such beautiful colors … man oh man!  Hey I notice under gear that you took a Tiffen 8 stop ND filter.  I’ve been thinking of getting the Tiffen 10 stop ND for our vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Mid-September (hopeful some autumn shots and lighthouses).  Would you suggest the 8 stop over the 10 stop?  Oh, and I’ll see you on the 29th in Denver!  Can’t wait!!!  Hopefully, I get your CS6 book before the seminar.

    Again, thanks for sharing your memories of Ireland with us!


  11. Scott, you sell yourself short.  Terrific pictures…and all from a pool of 150/day?  Amazing.  You must have watched that Kelby Training class on travel photography!

    Less than month to PSW Vegas….can you believe it?

    Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

  12. Is it weird I’ve learned to guess when you’re out of the country? The signs are on the blog. Everyone else but you will post content…then BAM! PHOTO BOOK! I love it :D

    Ok, obsess much? lol but seriously, this book is one of the best. Ireland…sigh….ok I need to get to work.

    Thanks for inspiring!

    1. Oh come on —- I posted nearly every day but one. In fact, I think I posted every day but the usual days (Guest Blog Wednesday and Pimpy Thursday which Brad posts). :-)   Thanks for the kind words about the book. I do these on the plane ride home. :)

  13. I am thrilled you had a wonderful time in Ireland.  It is most certainly a many visit place where each time you discover more to experience with every visit.  Your photos bring me back, thank you for that.  I know your heart had to soar watching your son and daughter enjoying themselves.  Definately a time to put the camera aside and just enjoy.  So I guess next years B’day present to your lovely wife will two weeks in Ireland !  Again, thank you for bringing me back to a place I love with your notes and photos!
    Chris Ryan

  14. Awesome pictures Scott, makes me want to go to Ireland :)
    I made a similar experience on our recent Vietnam trip where I “knew” before the trip what kind of pictures I wanted to come back with – despite what Cliff Mautner warned against in one of the first videos I saw on :)

    When I was done sorting through my pictures and editing the best ones I was actually really happy with what I had – even though mine are by far not as good as yours are :)

    I still welcome any feedback and comments – positive or negative, since I’m still a newbie :)


    1. Michael: I think you got some great shots there (made me want to go to Vietnam, and I think that’s the idea behind great travel photos — they make you want to go there). :)

      I like your people shots bests, but I also liked your shots of Ha Long Bay. Nice job! :-)

      1. Thanks Scott, much appreciated! You, your books and significantly contributed to those images – well and my wife of course, who let’s bring the camera on every trip ;)

  15. Scott, could you tell us where the photos were taken exactly? I am staying in Ireland for six weeks from tomorrow onwards, and I would love to visit some of the sights and places shown above!

    1. Sure. Here goes: The cover shot was taken on the Dingle Peninsula not far from Killarney. In fact, most of the shots here were taken there (all the coastline shots, and the colorful city shots). The castles are the Ross castle (opening spread) near Killarney, and two are from the Blarney Castle (where you can kiss the Blarney Stone). The waterfall shots are Torc waterfall also very near Killarney, and the lake with the reflection is Killarney lake. The other castle pictured in a spread and in other places was the Dromoland castle near Shannon, and just a few hours from (you guessed it), Killarney. Hope that helps, and have a great trip! :-)

  16. I absolutely love your photo books you make from your trips, and I love the photos you shared.  The castles and the greenery are really what catches my eye. 

    Of the photos you shared here on the blog, what percentage would you say are HDR?  You have a way of making your photos looks so awesome that sometimes its hard to tell if they are HDR or not. :)

    1. Hi John: Nine photos are HDR in these spreads. :)   The reason they look that way is that I mix parts of the original non-HDR image in with the HDR, because some parts of nearly every HDR photo just look funky, so the parts that look “over effected” I paint back in the original photo. Sometimes it’s a little, sometimes it’s a lot, and sometimes I just put the original photo right on top of the HDR and lower the Opacity until the blend of the two looks good to me. Hope that helps. :)

  17. Where do you find the time to edit, develop, and publish these books so quickly following a trip?!! I never can get around to it other than getting a few prints done at home and it drives me nuts.

  18. With all due respect to your skills as a photography, Scott, I don’t think I’ve ever see a picture of Ireland that hasn’t been beautiful. It is one of the few spots on the globe, any longer, that I would love to visit (with cameras in tow, of course!). I am supremely jealous.

  19. Great images Scott! I wanted to let you know you have the same spread on pages 5 and 12. Didn’t want you to have your book printed with a duplicate spread. 

    Thanks for everything!

      1. Scott…Liz is right when clicking through the pages 5 and 12 are the same. I think it is just the app displaying the book as opposed to the book itself.

  20. Scott, your photos and your story of Ireland are not just beautiful they are very inspiring. I am very fortunate to have a young family and often find myself struggling to get out and shoot when the timing is best. I am not complaining either, I just feel familiar with the challenges that you faced and you persevered and came away with a photobook that anyone would be proud to call their own, and wonderful memories with your family as well! Kudos to you and love all the shots! Thanks for sharing. 

    1. Hi Bill: Since this was a family vacation, I struggled with it, too. I never got out for a sunrise shoot, and I missed all the sunset shoots while we were at dinner, but that was OK by me. I was lucky that overcast days actually mix well with the Irish landscape, so I kind of got away with shooting in the middle of the day, since we really hardly ever saw the sun, and when we did, it was just for a few minutes. 

  21. Tell us more about the Oben Travel Tripod. I have been looking for something good and small/lightweight to use while traveling. I didn;t see it listed in your GEAR area, so hopefully you can tell us more about it.

    1. Hi Joe: There’s not much to tell. It’s very much like the Gitzo travel tripod in size and weight (it’s Carbon fiber as well), but it’s a bit cheaper in price. I still love my Gitzo, but this is a good fall back position. B&H carries them. :)

  22. Scott,
    Your photos and the way you placed them in the photo book are just so beautiful not to mention inspiring. If I may ask, what company did the photo book?

    Linda Walker

    1. Hi Linda. Although these caps where made in iPhoto (simply as a timesaving measure, since I put this together on the plane), but the final versions will be created in Lightroom 4 and uploaded from Lightroom 4 to I’ve been doing most of my books there recently (because of the LR4 integration), and the quality has been great. Hope that helps. :)

  23. Scott I won’t pretend to take credit for you hitting these locations but I have literally walked everywhere that you shot and have images from many of the same geographic locations. Your images are gorgeous and make me long to go back. I have been 5 times and so wish I could take my wife and show her how gorgeous this country is. Is there anyway to order a copy of that book for myself and one for my mother who absolutely loves Ireland.

  24. Absolutely gorgeous photos and I can’t wait to go to Ireland in the future myself and hope to just be able to get a fraction of really great shots as you did. I really love the two page castle shot! Any chance you can walk us through the setup of camera gear and settings to what you did with the image editing? I watched your Paris Travel shooting and editing and learned so much from that. A big thanks to you (and your staff and family) for sharing all those ideas, inspirations and helping the rest of us aspiring photographers.

    1. Hi Angie: There’s no fancy camera settings — I shoot in Aperture Priority mode the entire time, usually wide open at f/3.5 for the 28mm wide angle shots and f/5.6 for the 300mm shots. If I’m shooting an HDR shot, I change the f/stop to f/11. That’s as complex as it gets. As for the post processing, if you saw my class, you know exactly what I do to them. Cheers. :-)

  25. Stunning photographs, to be sure! But it looks like they were taken from some picture book – did you go a library?????? Nice try with the “wifey and kids” thing. Just kidding, of course. Great shots!

  26. Sorry you didn’t get good weather Scott, but I’m so glad you had a good time. You certainly captured the light beautifully. Come back soon!

  27. Hi Scott!
    Great perspective on Ireland, you managed to hide the bad weather feeling really well and in fact use it for great pictures.
    A friend of mine saw one of your workshops in London 2-3 months ago but I’m waiting until you come to Switzerland, I do hope that it will happen soon… What are my chances?

  28. I am beginning to see the wisdom of this book thing … you have some spectacular photos in this one! I think that over the years as you look back, it will be the book you look at and enjoy much more than your computer screen.

  29.  Scott, I’m with Linda, and would really appreciate a recommendation on the company who produces your photo books.  I’ve used one that I’m not very pleased with and don’t want to make that mistake again.  Your photos are so beautiful, and I agree with the comment that there is something so much more satisfying in seeing such beautiful photography showcased in print rather than viewed on a screen.  After this post, I think many of us have now put Ireland on the bucket list!  I would really appreciate knowing who did your photo book!  P.S.  Even though I rarely comment, I religiously follow your blog, you are an inspiration!

    1. Right now I’m doing my book through Lightroom 4, then I upload straight from Lightroom’s book module to and the books having been coming out just great. I really think you’ll like ’em (and thanks for the kind words in your comment, and I hope you’ll become a more frequent commenter). Cheers. :)

      1.  Thanks for taking the time to reply, and I will become a more frequent commenter!!!
        Cheers back to you from New Zealand where I’ve been living for the past 17 months. As you can imagine, I have photos from this beautiful place that could fill many books!  In a month I return home to Utah (also a beautiful place!)

      2. Great post Scott. I was just about to ask if you did your books through Lightroom 4 and Blurb. I have done a number of books through My Publisher and Shutterfly. My favorite has been My Publisher. Great quality, fast turnaround and always exceptional service. But, I have been considering using your suggestion for a future book. Nice work Scott. And, by the way, it always rains in Ireland. When Lynn and I were there it rained for 12 days straight. We have great photos of us riding around The Ring of Kerry in an open horse drawn cart wearing black garbage bags for cover!

      1. Scott…. I’m sure Tourism Ireland would love to sign you up as a Brand Ambassador ;-) glad you and your family enjoyed your trip, Philip

  30. Scott-
    Stupid question, how do you get the small images of the book on your blog.  I’m sure it’s easy, but I’m just missing it.  Told you it was stupid.  Thanks  Bill

  31. Scott it was awesome to see those pictures from Dingle, cause we just walked the hole dingle way two years ago and just took the same pano’s. Thanks for sharing, we’re sure we are coming back soon. From germany its just one hour flight, awesome country. Glad you and your family had a great time!

  32. County Kerry is beautiful and you have just scratched the surface of places to shoot in Kerry. As you know I am partial to the cemetery shots with the dark clouds overhead. Someday we have to go there and then onto Groningen and my cousins will take us around and show the places to shoot.

  33. Hi from Istanbul Scott,

    I am also in process of making my first book about our wonderfull Russia trip through Lightroom and having great time.. Could you pls tell what font you have used on the cover ?


  34. Hi Scott – really stunning.  When you’re out and about with/without your family making your travel photos, are you keeping a small bag with you?  I’ve read on some of your past posts where you just had the 28-300 and a D700 or more recently the D800.  Here you had the two lenses with you, so I was wondering if you’re picking a lens for the day in the hotel in the AM and just putting the camera/lens on a strap over the shoulder or are you toting a little backpack or sidebag along?  I’m also wondering how that plays into your sense of safety when you’re in some locals where you might not want to broadcast “camera!”.  Finally, I haven’t used the book module in LR4 yet – just as easy as the Apple process?

    1. No camera bag most of the time. I just take the one body and lens out with me, but the one or two times that I did go out with shooting as the focus, I took my 2nd lens in a small bag and a tripod, but for most of what I did, I went with the “less is more” for travel photography theme. I did just what you said —- I put one lens on in the hotel room, and that was what I shot with all day. I hate having to worry about keeping track of a camera bag. As for sense of safety — I really haven’t had a problem with it so far. Lastly, as for Lightroom’s book module — it’s simple. Some things are better than iPhone and others aren’t, but overall I like it better because I can customize it more, (Apple’s is a fixed template, with two sizes available [in the template I use anyway]). I go through the entire Lightroom LR 4 process in my travel photography online class at

  35. Hey Scott,
    Off topic here. I was looking through my new Photoshop User Magazine Digital edition (have not got the paper one yet, since it’s so new) and as usual, I read your editorial first.  The feelings you you explain when people tell you when you see someone that ‘Gets it’ and the line “…such a thrill for an educator.” describes how I feel each semester when students understand or tell me that they couldn’t have done it without my help.  These moments mean more to me than the paycheck (Of course I like that too!)  I always tell them that all I do is give them a tool to use, and “they” are the ones that use that tool for success.  Of course this is usually Photoshop, but the Microsoft Office Suite comes into play daily as well..
    All I’m saying here is I understand and Thank you for teaching the masses.
    You Da Man Scott Kelby!!!

  36. The outdoor greens and the indoor reds are just gorgeous!  You wrote “saw my wife experience a life-long dream (I’ll leave that for her to tell on her G+ page)”  What’s the link for her post?  Thanx

  37. Hi Scott,

    I’m wondering if you ever considered making your trip books for sale. I’m certain there would be a number of people who would purchase it as a “Coffee Table” book. You could do any appropriate price markup through whomever does the printing and even donate the profit to a favorite charity. Loved the Ireland book.

    All the best,

  38. Scott, I was just in Athy, County Kildare for the Feile in June.  That’s Gaelic Football BTW.  The weather wasn’t quite as bad as your experience but I must say it was great to wear jeans and a sweatshirt in June.  When you go back and you’re in Dublin go to Croke Park on a clear day and do the skywalk.  They take you up above an 80,000 seat stadium where you get great panoramic views of Dublin and the surrounding countryside. You can see some examples on my page if you’d like, but I highly recommend it. You need a clear day or at least a clear hour for this but the views were great. 

  39. You got fantastic photos despite the quick trip and bad weather.  Think of this trip as the introductory trip for your next visit.  Sounds like you and your family had a blast!  I see some sheep in there :) and the castle….just gorgeous!  I have been following Kalebra’s posts about her awesome birthday adventures.

  40. ** QUESTION about image 2 **
    Love the lighting on the surface of the castle here.
    Can you direct me to a tutorial on adding dramatic lighting like this with Photoshop. I have a historic building with dull mono lighting that I would like to “light” with photoshop.

  41. Maybe it is because I have been there, but the photos you took in Ireland are the best I have seen of any travel pictures. other p-lace I could see myself or better photographers shooting something similar. Your Irish pictures were Terrific on compositions I would not have imagined. Especially the first four shown on yiur blog. The nest time you go ask Mr. Caponigro about Olcan of County Mayo as a guide and driver. You will appreciate the country and its history even more.

  42. Hi Scott! it’s wonderful to see the images of your Irish trip. When you wrote on the G+ that you will be in Ireland…you made me wishful to do the same trip…and I booked a plane for October! For 5 days i’ll be in Ireland, but at the moment i’m looking for which district to visit. So, seeing your phto i’m wondering:
    – which cities and districts did you visit?
    – which is the town (wonderful!) showed in the book togehter with your wife.?

  43. Hi Scott,

    Ireland… Such a nice place !

    From the book spreads you’re showing in your post, it seems you’re still using iPhoto to make your books, am I correct ? Just out of curiosity, any specific reasing why you’re not using LR4 now that it can make books ? 

  44. I thought I had read somewhere (now I can’t find it :( ) that you were taking more multi-exposure images (3 shots) and using them to do more HDR with the D4 because it added some functionality.  Can you be so kind to elaborate on this?  You mentioned that Cannon could do this for some time and not can’t find what I was looking for in your post.  Many thanks and always love to see your vacation albums.  Great inspiration. 

  45. Your standard layout: full page on one side, and matted photo on the other: I can’t find the layout for the matted photo in the templates. I’m guessing it’s a custom preset made by messing with padding on the photo & caption?

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