Martin McKenna waited nine hours in sub-zero temperatures to get this stunning photograph of snow on Glenshane Pass... but it was worth it
Storm chaser Martin McKenna will do anything for a striking image – and here's the proof.
While the rest of us were tucked up in our beds with the central heating blasting, he spent nine hours trekking through bogs and over fences in some of Northern Ireland's wildest country in search of the perfect shot of the first snows of winter.
Martin joined forces with fellow photographer Paul Martin to spend Monday night documenting the arrival of the arctic blast, only hanging up their cameras after 7am the next morning.
"I'm into severe weather photography, I love severe weather," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I'd been checking the weather charts and I knew there was potential for snow across Northern Ireland. So Paul Martin and I decided to make a night of it.
"We spent the night up in the mountains doing winter photos, and, in fact, the snow was far worse than was forecast."
The pair headed straight to one of Northern Ireland's most notorious uplands – the Glenshane Pass and the neighbouring Benbradagh Mountain. They encountered some bouts of wild weather, interspersed with clear spells that were perfect for photography.
"The weather would clear to give beautiful star fields and the Moon shining down, lighting up the snow. It was epic," Martin, from Maghera in Co Londonderry, said. "This image was taken from near the Ponderosa Bar of Glenshanon and the Glenshane Pass before dawn, at around 6am.
It was ranging constantly between nasty and beautiful, but there was this brief calm period when the stars came out and the snow calmed down.
"Ten minutes later, we were getting sideways snow and hailstones and we had to run to the car and clean the cameras off."
Armed with flasks of tea and chicken soup, the pair dressed in three layers of clothing and kept their boots dry by wrapping plastic bags round their socks.
"That's in case there are any leaks in your boots, it keeps your socks dry and it's another layer of insulation," Martin said.
"The wind chill was about minus eight."
They even encountered one very rare weather phenomenon, a flash of lightning known as thundersnow. "It was really beautiful. I was still buzzing the next morning because it was so amazing," he said.
Yesterday, Northern Ireland woke up to the first snows of winter, with high ground cloaked in a white blanket.
Police issued warnings about icy road conditions as motorists rose early to scrape thick sheets of ice off windscreens. Overnight snow showers scattered the Belfast and Castlereagh hills, but much of the snow landed on the Sperrin Mountains in the west. As the snow moved south, it heralded a windy, rainy night as heavy, squally showers spread down from the north west.
Forecasters Meteogroup said there is likely to be some lingering rain first thing this morning, clearing to give sunny spells and showers.
"Some of it could fall as hail or sleet, with a risk of snow over higher ground," forecaster Andy Ratcliffe said. "It will also be windy with gale force winds from the north west. Tonight will be drier, setting the scene for the rest of the week, which will be cold but largely dry with sunny spells and overnight frost."
"I'm into severe weather photography – I love severe weather. I had been checking the weather charts and I knew there was potential for snow across Northern Ireland. So Paul Martin and I decided to make a night of it. We spent the night up in the mountains doing winter photographs and the snow was far worse than was forecast." – Martin McKenna