David Cleland: Horses on Tyrella Beach

The Image

David Cleland

Tyrella Beach, Dundrum, Northern Ireland

Time / Date
 10:00 / December, Sunday, 2012

The Technical


Camera: Fujifilm X20 (Pre-Production)

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/1600
Aperture: f/3.6
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 7mm (28mm equivalent)

The Story


I had been asked by Fujifilm to make a short film talking about their new X20 digital camera. I had already taken a range of sample images with the camera but thought that Tyrella was by far the best location for the video shoot as it is my favourite beach of testing new gear. I hadn’t planned to take any photos while we were out as I was focused on the film.

Interestingly, the light changed and as the mood on the beach changed along came a couple of horse riders. It was too good an opportunity to miss and I spoke to the group to seek permission to take a few test shots.

It was the perfect setting, the beach was moody, the sun was in the right location above the Mourne Mountains and I was phenomenally fortunate to have such an interesting foreground subject.

To be honest I think unexpected photographs hold the most value. The unplanned opportunity when you expect nothing yet come home photography rich, those are the special captures.

The Scene: 

The beach is vast, silent but the wind. I was very aware of the reflection of the sun along the wet beach and spotted what appeared to be a pathway of light along the wet beach towards the mountains. I felt the horses were following the patch of light making their way towards the Mournes. I also noticed the detail in the tails as they swayed from side to side and this pointed down towards the reflection of the horses on the sand. There was slowness in the movement that mirrored the relaxed feel of the beach.


Despite having a full frame digital SLR for video creation I still opted for the X20 (pre-production). For me the Fuji’s are the type of camera you can use without thinking about it, the X20 suited the scene and it also offered an amazing 7mm (28mm equivalent on a 35mm full frame sensor). The X20 and X100s are the perfect carry around camera ready to capture than unexpected opportunity but importantly they are powerful enough to capture an exceptionally high standard image. I think the experience is as important as the photographic outcome and I love heading out with my X range cameras with no expectations, some days you come home with nothing but when you do see something special the camera is there to document it forever. When I look at this photograph I don’t just see the Mourne Mountains and the horses, I hear the water, feel the cold and am transported back to that early Sunday on the beach.

Making the Shot:

I really didn’t think about the shot I wanted to achieve I just wanted to document the experience. I knew what I was seeing in the beach was relatively unique for a December morning, the sun had broken through the clouds the Mournes were visible and there were two horses running up and down the beach. I wanted to capture what I was seeing.

Editing & Processing:

As the X20 was a preproduction unit I was restricted to capturing in JPEG. This was unusual for me as I generally capture my images in RAW and process them from scratch in Lightroom 4. With this image (and the others shot that day) was re-learning how to process JPEG images. I didn’t want to over process but I did want to bring out bit more of the drama that I experienced that morning so I muted the vibrancy and saturation.

Looking Back: 

The horse riders were happy to pose for photos and perform once I had marveled at capturing one of the horses up on its hind legs. I gracefully declined the offer, I feel there was more gained from documenting the experience of what was happening naturally than trying to recreating a scene. I think there is more value in genuine reportage photography.


If you current camera is so big that it only goes on special photography projects and trips it is too big. Purchase a quality camera that is light and portable enough to carry around all the time but also delivers quality images. Once you have a camera with you as part of your routine start looking at everything as an opportunity. It is amazing just how many photography opportunities arise as part of everyday life. There is no better place to start documentary photography than documenting your own life experiences.


I draw my inspiration from a range of different sources. I am a massive fan of Ansel Adams for his stark and striking mono landscapes. I also studied the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson I have a massive admiration to his loyalty to single focal length and wonder how much would we all learn to sticking to just a single prime lens for a year.


About the Photographer

David is a landscape and reportage photographer from Belfast Northern Ireland. As well as teaching film and animation David is also the author of The Long Exposure eBook and regularly contributor to www.FlixelPix.com.

Website: http://www.flixelpix.com
Twitter: @flixelpix
Facebook: /flixelpix

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Comments (1)

  1. Our First Photographers - The Image Story

    […] David Cleland is a landscape and documentary photographer based in Belfast, Ireland, who is renowned as a long exposure expert and proponent of the Fuij X-Series line of mirrorless cameras. David has contributed a beautiful image from Tyrella Beach, Dundrum, Northern Ireland. View David Cleland’s image story. […]