James Pion: The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

The Image

James Pion

County Ballymoney, Northern Ireland

Time / Date:
8:23 am August 12, 2012

The Technical

Camera Body: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Sigma 150-500mm f/5.6-6.7

Camera Settings:

Shutter Speed: 1/60s
Aperture: f/10
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 170mm

The Story


I have been shooting photos for going on 18 years now. Ireland and its landscapes has always been on my bucket list for shooting locations. This lesser known area Dubbed, The Dark Hedges was of particular draw to me. I have always loved shooting nature and especially trees so when I found out about this places existence I had to go there to see it and photograph it for myself! This location has a pretty cool story behind it. The Stuart Family, who at one point in the 18th century owned a home that Is actually behind me as I shot this photo planted these Beech Trees to welcome guests to their home as they traveled down the road. 200 + years later the trees stand looming over the road creating this stunning canopy or “tree tunnel” as I have heard it called before… They say if you come down to The Dark Hedges at dusk you might just see the ghost of the Grey Lady drifting in and out of the trees. Erie as that might sound I had to return at night for another photo of this incredible place however I did not see the Ghost in question. On the contrary The Dark Hedges were calm and beautiful. As I stood there shooting into the night I couldn’t have been more at peace.

The Scene: 

It was a beautiful early morning, with great natural lighting! I have seen quite a few images of this place but none of them seemed to make it feel as grand as it really is… I used a much longer focal length to compress the edges of the photo to gain this unique perspective of The Dark Hedges.


When I travel I basically take a mobile studio with me, although it isn’t always easy for me to get the gear to where I am shooting it it a sacrifice that I make in order to make sure I am fully prepared for any situation I might encounter while in the field. I shoot every type of photo you could imagine including Landscapes, Nature, macro, Portfolio/Modeling, Weddings, Events, Bodyscapes, Etc. Etc. Etc. so I tend to travel with a pretty full bag… My set up usually looks something like this…


  • Light stands (x2)
  • 430 ex II Flash
  • 580 ex II Flash
  • Assorted Triggers/wireless
  • Flashlights
  • Headlamps


  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Assorted film cameras


  • Canon 16-35 2.8l II
  • Canon 24-70 2.8l II
  • Canon 80-200 2.8l
  • Sigma 100-400 4.5-5.6 os apo
  • Sigma 150-500 5.6-6.7


  • Lee Filters Big Stopper ( 10 stop Filter )
  • Lee gradual nd filter
  • B+W circular polarizers

And a lot more Im sure I am forgetting…

Making the Shot:

I have seen a lot of people attempt a shot here and fail,( in my opinion) to create the right amount drama and Grandeur I felt this place deserved. My goal for this Shot was to create an atmosphere that was larger than life, To really make the viewer feel the sheer size of the trees looming overhead. From past experience in shooting I knew that in order to get the effect I was looking for I couldn’t use the standard go to ultra wide angle lens. I had to go with a much longer focal length. Something magical happens to a scene when you get a bit further away from your subject and use a longer focal length than you would immediately have wanted to use…. Instead of cutting the edges of the photo down a long telephoto lens will “compress” the edges of the frame creating this tunneling that you see… That is the effect that I feel makes this a great image.

Editing & Processing:

Post processing on this image wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I did my normal Hue, Saturation White Balancing and Cropping of the image in Lightroom 5 I then threw it into Photoshop CS5 and removed a few artifacts from the road and also a few chunks of fence that were showing through the grasses at the sides of the road….When I am editing a photo I try to edit the photo in the most natural way possible, while adding the color and definition I feel presented itself in real life.

Looking Back:

I chose this Image for submission because it was a very meaningful trip for me. I have a “thing” I guess you could say for landscapes, But especially ones involving trees. I was particularly happy with the way this image turned out and I feel like It represents my photographic talent’s well.


My advice to any photographer who is interested in taking landscape photos is to never be lazy, Take the gear even if you don’t want to carry it, get there early for sunrise, stay late for sunset, just because the sun is down doesn’t mean the land is gone, shoot after dark! Shoot something outside of your box, and never let your lack of knowing how to make a particular shot stop you from trying. Educate yourself on the things you want to learn and apply them in the field. All of the information you could ever want to better yourself technically is free for the taking. All you have to do is get online and find it! And most of all don’t get frustrated. There are plenty of times I have been to a location time and time again just to try and get a shot. And time and time again I have failed. But I will be there again, and I will try again and again until I am satisfied with what I have achieved.

I’m not 100% sure what drove me to become a photographer. It happened to me at such a young age it is hard to pinpoint any one thing that made me want to pick up a camera. I have always been overly artistic and have always been into one medium or another, But I will never forget the feeling I had the first time I picked up a camera and started shooting, Excited, Nervous, Powerful, and a mix of other emotions I couldn’t begin to explain. That feeling, will stay with me forever.



About the Photographer

James Pion has been shooting photos for over 18 years. His passion has taken him all over the world in search of the perfect shot. He loves experiencing new places and cultures. It is hard to create works of distinction in a world of original art… But James always strives to achieve just that. He fuse a relaxed shooting style and the use of natural and artificial light to attain a stirring and lasting imagery.  His design is transcendent  yet unexpected.  He sees the subject in its natural ideal.  He transform’s details into iconic memories, And endeavor’s to project individuality through his lens. His hope is to bring you something that you might not have seen before, something that you just might not forget.

Website: www.driftwoodimages.com
Blog: driftwoodimages.wordpress.com

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