2020, the year when everyone realises, that Ireland is in fact the most picturesque country (my claim). One of my favourite spots in Ireland is and only has been Spanish Point in Co. Clare. I’ve been going there since I was a child and I hold many fond memories of my time spent there. I’ve spent a lot of time roaming around the area with my camera, snapping away at every little nook and cranny, playing with aperture, iso and shutter speed settings,  but the pictures I share always end up being of the beach, and it’s no wonder why. With such captivating views, looking over the luxurious Armada Hotel, it’s hard not to be mesmerised.

Last week I ventured down to get my fix of Sun, Sand and Sea and ended up spending a couple of hours experimenting with different shutter speeds to get an interesting long exposure shot. I was using my trusty Nikon D7200, a kit 18-105mm lens and a wide-angle 10-20mm lens. Sunset wasn’t due until 30 minutes after I arrived at the beach, so I spent some time shooting the whitewash as the minuscule waves drifted in and out. The shutter speed of the following shot was 1/40 of a second, with a 10mm focal length. It’s far from perfect but it captured a good contrast between the clarity of the sand and the water.


So how long should my shutter speed last for?

There is no finite answer to this question. It depends on the result you’re looking for, the kit you are using and the conditions on the day. It is worth taking some time to play around with shutter speed settings to get the best results.

Sun Sand and Shutter Speed - Spanish Point 1

Settings: Aperture F22, Shutter Speed 1/40 seconds, ISO 100, focal length 10mm

Once golden hour came, I was almost ready, but the foreground was lacking a subject. I took the nearest rock and placed it on the left to give some balance to the composition. I took some shots with the rock, trialling longer shutter speeds to give a silky feel to the water and to contrast the texture of the rock to the water. Unfortunately, I ended up overexposing the highlights in the clouds, and some of the information could not be retrieved. Other than that, I was satisfied with the result.

Sun Sand and Shutter Speed - Spanish Point 2

Settings: ApertureF/13, Shutter Speed 1/100 seconds, 10mm focal length, ISO 320

Photo merging in Lightroom

One of my goals for this shoot was to trial the photo merge feature in Lightroom. To prep for this, I needed to take four shots of different exposures in quick succession. After a lot of trial and error, I finally felt that I had four that would blend well together

I’m unexpectedly writing this post after deleting the obsolete shots and I don’t have screenshots of the photo merging process. But it is straightforward. When you’re importing photos into Lightroom, select the four photos or however many photos you’re using, right-click and click on photo merge option and choose HDR. If the information in each photo is similar, i.e. the same composition with different lighting, Lightroom will have no issues at merging them. It can take a couple of minutes. In the merge window, you are given some options, by using the deghosting “none, low, medium, high” options and clicking show deghosting overlay, Lightroom adds a red overlay to the areas of the image that may need to be fixed later. I went with the auto settings and “none” for the deghost option. I merged my four photos and worked on the result from the develop window in Lightroom.

Photo merge gives a similar effect to luminosity masks in Photoshop. However, while luminosity masks are more difficult to use, they do provide greater control over each colour channel, and from my experience, they produce better results.

Sun Sand and Shutter Speed - Spanish Point 3

Settings were merged from multiple exposures

Tip 1: If you’re keeping a bag with camera gear anywhere near the shore, be sure to have it zipped up and prepped for a quick getaway. The tide can creep on you.

Tip 2: If you intend on trying photo merge, use a tripod and touch barely touch the camera. If possible use a shutter release remote to take the pictures. Any more than a second between each shot and the composition may change, especially with clouds and water.