Bray Head Hotel

Admittedly, I had intended on skipping the part of last Saturday’s photowalk that took place in the hotel. My intention was to come along after the start and meet the crowd in Kilruddery gardens for some sunny sauntering and leisurely photo taking. As if to motivate myself to take some photos, I even cleaned my 5D’s sensor for the first time since I bought it several years ago.

On arriving suitably late in Bray and buying a cup of distinctly average coffee (meow, I know), I met up with the gang. Although an hour had passed since the start of the photowalk, they had only explored the first two rooms of the hotel. In the run up to the event, I did a little (very little) googling on the Bray Head Hotel. What came back to me were images of a deteriorating building which seemed even worse internally. The photos seemed to suggest that it was in a serious state of disrepair.

It was quite a surprise to walk into the reception of the hotel and find quite the opposite. Although downgraded to a guest house, the hotel has been maintained perfectly by the current owner. You feel like you have to adjust your clothing style back 50 years when you walk in the front door, it’s as if you traveled back in time simply by turning a door knob. The hotel has been host to several film crews for movies such as The Commitments and (as the owner pointed out) a story on the life of Jimi Hendrix.

It’s all still very much intact, kitchen, breakfast room, function room, two bars (one of which still serves the public), nightclub and more bedrooms than the owner has counted. As I walked solo down one of the dimly lit corridors, I couldn’t help but think I was an extra in “The Shining”. There was an eerieness in the quietness of the place and before long the layout of the corridors and doors to rooms seemed to suggest that Stanley Kubrick himself had a hand in designing the building. I can’t remember if this was all before or after David suggested that the hotel was “The Overlook Hotel” of Ireland.

Before I go on, if you haven’t seen “The Shining”, Kubrick designed the visuals of The Overlook Hotel in such a way as to screw with the viewers sense of space. Doors where they shouldn’t have been, rooms that were impossibly large given the layout of the building and huge open spaces where they had no business being. Stuff like that. There (is) was an excellent video on online that went through it in some detail but sadly Warner Brothers had it taken down. There’s a taste of what the video discussed here. Go get a copy of “The Shining” and watch that instead. It’s not that scary. Honest.

On the first few floors the rooms were all pretty much as in the photos on this post. It’s almost as if they’d been maintained this way for novelty value. There was some evidence of restoration and modernisation, mostly due to updated fire safety regulations, but it was few and far between.

On the fourth floor, we seemed to catapult forward 20 years. I believe I commented that I had stayed at £120 a night hotels in London that weren’t as well appointed. To be honest, even the rooms on the lower floors were more luxurious and modern than those in some London hotels I’ve stayed in. It was almost like being in a different building. After venturing out onto the roof of the hotel and taking some photos of the beach, I retreated back inside to the cool and shade of the fourth floor.

The owner showed us around a selection of some of the fancier rooms and the guest lounge. We (that is, the royal we) assisted in freeing some windows that had become stuck due to being recently painted. I even hung a net curtain or two. Had I a CV with me at the time, I’d have applied for the position of caretaker. On this occasion, I had to be content with the title of ‘useful man’. I’m happy enough with that.

A glance at the clock revealed we had been strolling around the hotel for over four hours and making the relatively short drive to Kilruddery was pointless due to their opening hours. Probably a good thing, neither I nor Julie have ever been there so we can go together at some stage in the future.

These and more photos are up on my pix.ie account. My thanks to David for organising the trip.

War Memorial

It’s a while since I was last down in the War Memorial park taking photos. In fact the last time was probably some time in 2010 on a trip down there with Julie to photograph all the trees shedding their blossom. It’s somewhat appropriate to post this now given that I’ve we’ve gone back on the ol’ running (or at least shuffling along at slightly faster than walking pace). The War Memorial park is one of the top locations for such activities.

So there ya go! War Memorial park. A great location and only down the road too. Couldn’t ask for more. Well, I could, but I won’t just yet.

Hobbies and Hiatuses

Or “a not so brief description of what I’ve been up to” possibly. Buying and drinking beer apparently. I have also been making it though. This was the fridge a couple of weeks ago after a particularly interesting visit to Sainsbury’s outside Belfast. I’ve tasted about half so far and there’s only one I took an instant dislike to. Yes, it was the Badger. I also took the opportunity to further my home brewing exercise with the purchase of a couple more kits. While doing so I realised that I’ve outgrown kits. It’s all just too straightforward. Boring maybe. Open a can, whack the contents into a bucket. Fill the bucket and stir. 5 weeks later you have somewhat acceptable beer. If I’m going to be going through the motions in the first place, I want a good result. So with that in mind, I’ve decided that once my last kit is out of the fermenter (in a few days time) and half the batch of St Peters Golden Ale I’m currently bottle conditioning is consumed, I’m going all grain. That being, making beer from scratch. As in, here’s a bag of grain and a couple of bags of hops; Now go make some beer. I briefly toyed with the idea of moving from kit brewing to extract brewing but I know I’d only end up a few weeks into that and I’d want to move onto all grain anyway. I’ve already taken the OCD step of building a portable activated charcoal water filter (which, by the way, does a bloody brilliant job on the tap water) so I figure going all grain is the next step.

I did the two kits I wanted to do when I was thinking about getting a homebrew kit. Those being the St. Peters ale and Coopers Irish stout which apparently tastes like stout made from coffee if you make it with dark malt extract, which I did). So next I guess it’ll be scouring the internet for recipes or God forbid, masterminding my own.

Ah but the camera. Or the cameras even. I almost forgot them. I took out my 5D to take the above photo and had to think for a few seconds how to use it. It all came rushing back after taking the first frame however. I find, like many I suppose, I’ve been tending to do most of my photography lately with my iphone. It’s the camera that’s always with you I suppose. I think I just need to throw the X100 into the car. Now that I’ve thought of that, I’ll charge the battery and put it in there tomorrow. There’s been a distinct lack of photowalking so far in 2012. Maybe I just haven’t been aware of any walks that were happening. Either way I need to get my arse in gear and get out with at least one of the cameras. Perhaps that’ll entertain me while I’m busying myself not getting the bike serviced because I know it’s going to cost me a few hundred quid. But roll on August and the trip to the Alps. There I’ll be able to combine all my loves; photography, motorcycling and drinking fine beer. Oh, and Julie of course.

New Moon

Grabbed this on my way out the door to work yesterday morning. Had I actually thought about what I was doing, I’d have put the 70-200 on Julie’s 5D2 and not my own 5D. It all went a bit wonky in post processing. It’s a bit of an odd feeling, going from shooting a photo to processing, uploading and posting within a 48 hour period. Worse still, I was almost tempted to post it last night. I don’t know if it’ll catch on.

This will probably be my last post for 2011, due mostly to the laziness that this time of year inevitably brings. That and the preoccupation of eating and drinking as much as possible. I might get a post in between the overlapping screenings of “It’s a wonderful life” and Harry Potter films on the various terrestrial TV channels however.

If I’m not back until 2012, have a very happy Christmas and a similarly merry new year. (Yes, I know). Back in 2012 for some truly epic Cork photowalks, some home brewing and more of the same non-specific whingery.

Colours of Autumn

My first post in December and I’m back with a couple of photos and a large bag of excuses. I became the newest splitter at the end of November when I left my old job and started a new one. I think either I underestimated how busy I’d be or grossly overestimated the ‘settling in time’ I’d end up taking because it’s been crazy pretty much since I started. Sadly, updating the blog has been far from top priority although it’s always stuck in the back of my mind. It doesn’t really help either that I haven’t been taking any new photos of late. Above are two shots from Powerscourt Gardens taken in October. I imagine the place looks a little different now.

Drogheda in the sun


Severed heads and ice-cream cones, just another day in Drogheda. Looking outside today it’s hard to imagine how I managed to pick up such a bright tomato red shade on all exposed skin yesterday while on the annual Drogheda Photowalk. We met late morning and began the day’s walking tour around the town, which I will admit is bigger than I had previously thought.  From our meeting spot we headed to Millmount museum where we were treated to a very informative (I honestly can’t figure out how the guy remembers so many dates) speech on the history of the town.

We got shown around the museum and were treated to a snippet of info on the tapestries housed there. No, I didn’t manage to shy away from doing the ‘Ve are here to inspect ze tapestries’ bit from Indiana Jones. Then, as Sarah rightly pointed out, the basement was full of ‘cool stuff’. A mix of old and not so old, including a 1990’s Telecom Eireann telephone that some poor unfortunate customer is most likely still paying equipment rental charges for.

The rest of the museum, as one might expect, was full of Drogheda’s achievements, famous faces and err, shoes. I never knew the Drogheda shoe was such a famous article of clothing. Apparently even St. Patrick wore them while he was dancing on snakes heads [citation needed].

After some expert level milling around the courtyard, we headed down toward some lovely lovely derelict stuff.


If only I could have secured myself a short notice tetanus shot and borrowed a big stick from someone for self defense I’d have been in there like a shot. I couldn’t help but feel teased by the whole affair. From there further down the road to a mostly abandoned flood plain where some creative group photography was practiced. I found myself on the outskirts of the group so I don’t feature. Having witnessed some of the less fearful members of the group put their eyes up to holes in doors & windows of the derelict houses, I wondered if they’d seen as many horror films I as I have. Nothing is more suspicious or more likely to result in a freshly poked out eyeball than a small hole in the door of a derelict building. Fact.

We moved on to a graveyard with delicious amounts of old headstones, withered flowers and sunlight partially blotted out by big leafy trees. Oh yes. Not before stopping for ice-cream and allowing Cole opportunity to photograph groups of girls. No phone numbers were taken, I have that on good authority.

Great day out had, even if I have to suffer for my stupidity afterwards in the form of sunburn. Thanks to Shane for organising and if anyone helped you, thanks to them too. Now to get off my ass and sort out details for a West Cork photowalk.

Jiggered

Proof that yes, I did take some photos at the Irish Blog Awards 2011 photowalk in Belfast. Also proof that yes, I’ve been very very lazy in processing them.  I blame numerous things including acute procrastination.

A truly beaten wheelbarrow that kind of sums up my mental and physical state after the last 6 weeks or so. It’s been almost non-stop traveling with work, 5am drives to the airport, 14 hour days, incomprehensible foreign languages and all that. I’d like to say I’m being given reprieve now that June is upon us but I’m back out to the airport at 4:30am on Tuesday morning. I’m going to stop now, only because I can hear the sound of tiny violins playing me off, Oscar acceptance speech style.

Crossing

While taking my time on the way back to the ferry from Derbyshire on a nice sunny morning, I found this place while quite lost. I was looking for a place to buy a sandwich and a cup of tea before hitting Holyhead for the ferry but that’s neither here nor there. For those interested in my sandwich and tea exploits, I did eventually find a shop with marvelously cheap & tasty sandwiches only about 5 mins from this spot. It struck me at the time that this was possibly the spot that Fran took some wonderful photos of the same bridge from recently. Or maybe slightly lower down. I wasn’t energetic enough to get off the bike and walk down the path.

This, of course, is the Menai bridge that links the island of Anglesey to mainland Wales. A much nicer sight than it’s neighbour down the river slightly, the Britannia Bridge. I could recite all kinds of wondrous facts and figures about it, but I guess if you’re bothered about that kind of stuff you’ll go to Google anyway.

Perhaps the most memorable part of my stop here was the look of utter disdain I got from an elderly gentleman as I stopped to take a photo. I’d get suspicious glances all the way through the process of putting the bike on it’s side stand, rummaging around in the top box for my camera, taking a couple of photos, stopping for a minute to appreciate the view (without the camera in front of my eye) and then repacking everything and getting back on the road. Perhaps I misread it? Perhaps seeing me arriving on a panzer, laden down with a holidays worth of dirty clothes and various trinkets was the most exciting thing that’d happened to him in weeks. Maybe months? I suppose I’ll never know.

As I so often tend to do these days, I also tried my hand at a quick panorama. This one is only about 8 or 9 photos, lovingly stitched together by the good people at Adobe and converted to black and white in Lightroom the only way I know how; Flinging sliders every which way until I see something acceptable. Rationalising the creation of these aspect ratio challenged jpegs, I often tell myself that ‘some day I’ll print a load of these and hang them up’. The walls will surely buckle under the weight of prints when I finally do get around to printing even a small percentage of my collection.

I have the greatest of intentions to start processing both Peak District and Yorkshire Dales photographs next weekend. The Peak District lot will be thin on the ground as I spent most of my time there on rocky dirt roads, wondering what the hell I was doing on rocky dirt roads.

Another part of Holland

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Struck me last night while clearing out some old photo sets from Lightroom, I’ve uploaded relatively few photos from various trips to Holland. These are from 2009 and have sat pretty much unseen since I took them. I’ve blogged a couple of them in the past but neglected the rest. Inkeeping with my attempt at uploading sets instead of singles, here’s the full set.

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Well, here are a few of them anyway. The rest of them are tucked away in obscurity over on Flickr. I have yet another set of photos from more or less the same area of Holland taken about one year later, mostly on film this time around. Those are still in the works.

I don’t know if anyone finds this thing of posting smaller images linked to outside sources particularly offensive to the senses. I’m sure if anyone has any major issues with it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Trying to get the best of both worlds and mix it up a bit.

Flowers Made Easy

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The Flowers Made Easy photowalk yesterday in Dublin went off without a hitch, thanks to all the folks at Flowers Made Easy and those at photowalk.ie that made the trip possible. To sum it up in as few words as possible, it was like a trip to the Botanic Gardens but without all the required walking. Also, as you may have been tipped off by the photo above, Fran was knocking about with some foam props.

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There was also an opportunity to photograph some of the general melee of assorted stuff next door in the warehouse. Good to pick the camera back up after quite a while. First photos of 2011. Now to get out to another photowalk and practice some more.

These and more are available over on Flickr if you want a looksee.