The Woods on Velvia

Back in those ‘good old days’ when I shot (and processed) a lot of medium format Velvia. Before getting entirely sick of it and selling my Jobo processing kit and forgetting which box my Bronica got stored in. Amazing what jumps out at you when you haven’t opened Lightroom in a year or two. I should really look for that Bronica…

Last of the evening sun


What with it being the first of the year and all, I usually get the urge to do something productive, if only in an attempt to prove to myself that I can and in the hope that I’ll continue to try to outdo myself as the week/month/year progresses. Productivity started early(ish) this January 1st with a trip to the gym. Yes, I’m one of those people now.

After all that unpleasantness was over, I wanted to get out somewhere local to catch the last of the sunshine. With the sun rapidly disappearing below the hills, that local somewhere was the beach at Ringaskiddy.

For the first time in what feels like years (actually, it probably is years) I went out with only the 150mm macro lens, with the intention of getting some moderately decent shots of the random crap that washes up on the beach, one of my favorite things to photograph. I could and should probably link to a post showing the last time I used this lens, but it’d take too long to find. Another job for the list I guess, sorting out this blog theme to be properly searchable.

It was great to get out just in time to catch the lovely evening long shadows, even if it meant I couldn’t feel my face, hands or ears by the time I got back to the car. Winter has been particularly mild in Cork this time around. We got a cold week or so in November, then a balmy 10 or so degrees the rest of the time. January may be about to remind us that it’s still winter with temperatures dropping back to a more seasonal 3 to 5 degrees. It’s worth it for that low winter sun though.

If nothing else, this taught (reminded) me that the macro lens isn’t particularly forgiving. Photos that looked sharp and appeared somewhat in focus on the back of the camera, thanks to the focus peaking feature in the magic lantern firmware, were quite disappointing once I got them into lightroom. I guess I’ve been spoiling myself with the 24-70L on the 60D too much. All my other lenses look soft in comparison.

Not to worry, I’ll most certainly have the 24-70L on the camera tomorrow when I head down to the Ring of Kerry for some landscape goodness. Hell at this rate, we might be looking at a photowalk before spring.

Cobwebs Away

Since moving back to Cork a few years ago, I’ve started to rediscover some of my favorite local places where I’d go to get out of my head for a few minutes and enjoy the familiarity of the scenery. More often these days, I don’t think to grab a camera before leaving the house, but looking at it another way, I guess I always have a perfectly serviceable camera in my pocket. The photos just very rarely make it any further than Instagram.

There isn’t the same process of physically removing the memory card and reviewing the spoils in Lightroom, before choosing a select couple to upload to Flickr (which I don’t tend to do anymore either) or to the blog. But this isn’t a long, sorry tale of how modern conveniences have made us lazy. It’s a short walk up a hill and back again with a couple of photos I felt the need to take at the time.

It was pretty late in the evening on Sunday before I managed to sufficiently motivate myself to put shoes on and leave the house so with the fading light I wasn’t sure the OnePlus3 I bought back in July or August would perform as well as it did. With small brightness & contrast adjustments, I ended up with a pretty decent result.

I parked at the beach in Fountainstown and having received the now standard ‘who are you and what are you doing here’ looks from a couple of the local dogs on the beach, I made my way up the path next to Angela’s Shop (because walking up the hill is just boring).

As usual, I walked at a pace that most would find uncomfortably fast, slowing down occasionally to be a nosy bugger and look at the astounding amount of planning notices posted on the roadside. The new building boom seems to be entirely concentrated to the Fountainstown coast road. I’m still curious how a few of the newly constructed houses on that road got planning permission in the first place, sitting there on the side of the hill sticking out like a sore thumb and all.

About 2.5km later, I was back at the start and the small group of people I’d left in the car park at the beach was now a large group. Standing around drinking mulled wine and having fun like it’s Christmas or something. Hippies.

See, who said blog posts have to be coherent and well planned?

The Wilds

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It’s been a little while since we were really in Kerry, not just passing through Kenmare or Killarney on a round trip from Molls Gap or Strawberry fields (a wonderful pancake house near the Kenmare side of Molls Gap). Really in Kerry, like so far west the land stops and the next stop is America.

We took an overnight trip down to the land of ‘here be dragons’ beyond Kenmare to celebrate our anniversary and stayed in Parknasilla. Of course, while you’re down that far you might as well go a little further and see all the sights there are to see…

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All the way out to Valentia, my first trip out there since back when Danny (who is of course sadly no longer with us) brought us to the top of the above very same hill to look over the world below. Just for giggles I decided to fire up the archive and check exactly when that was; August 2007. A lifetime ago. As I was already neck deep in the archives, here’s one from that trip.

Valentia 2007

I sure did love my ND filters and precariously placed tripods back then. Anyway, that’s enough sunshine and white fluffy clouds, back to the overcast greyness of it all.

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Of course when the opportunity presents itself, it’s only right to take a spin down to Sheeps Head. We got there, excuses were made and we didn’t walk out to the lighthouse. “Oh I’m not wearing the right shoes” and “I don’t have a waterproof jacket” were the top two. My excuses of course, but Julie seemed happy to go for tea instead of taking the walk. Next time we’ll do it. Yes, next time…

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While processing these photos, I decided to use the Google Nik collection I downloaded recently but never really figured out. As expected, the vast majority of the filters available are tacky as hell or completely batshit crazy. It brought me back to the time I used Picassa and had to wear sunglasses while processing photos. Purple sky? you got it! Blue grass? Sure, why not? I’m interested in going back to Silver Efex though, I do love some black & white and I’m quite pleased with how the one b&w photo I chose to process with Silver Efex came out. As for the rest of the photos above, it was pretty much a case of gathering them all up, throwing them in a sack with Google Nik, letting them fight amongst themselves and then observing the results.

The below was more of an accident. I’ve taken this picture in different counties, countries and continents. Not shown are several photos of old bundles of rope, rusted chains and lobster pots. I am indeed a creature of habit.

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The end of the year

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As per usual, it’s been a quiet few months photography wise. The camera phone has completely overtaken the DSLR as a means of recording events, places, people, everything. The farthest those photos ever make it is to instagram. As a means of delaying the onset of cabin fever as we approach the end of this festive season and indeed the end of the year, we left the house for the first time in days and made it as far as Garretstown, by way of Kinsale. I even brought a proper camera with me this time.

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As we’re both fighting off seasonal colds, walking on the beach was limited and time spent in the car with the heater on was preferred. When the sun came out from behind a very large rain cloud that appeared to be on it’s way to Waterford, we did have to jump out and brave the wind for a few minutes though.

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Happy new year everybody!

Currabinny Woods

So 2014 was shocking. But only in a ‘motivation to blog’ way. Looking back, I can see I’ve got three posts for the entire year. Looking at my Lightroom catalog doesn’t tell an entirely different story. I’ve got maybe two or three sets of photos that are waiting to be processed and yes, it’s entirely likely they never will be. I’ve got two more honeymoon posts to get written and about a third of the photos yet to process. But looking at photos of sunny France in the middle of freezing cold January in Cork is torturous so it’s not likely they’ll see the light of day for another few months yet.

My intention to ‘focus more on video’ in 2013/14 ended up meaning that not only did I not do a lot of video, I took feck all photos too. That’s not to say there isn’t a backlog of videos waiting to be edited and put into some semi-meaningful order in Final Cut Pro either though.

January is a funny time of year. Everyones broke after Christmas but it doesn’t stop thoughts of spending money from lingering on the mind. Or maybe that’s just me? Over the last couple of weeks I’ve caught myself oogling new camera equipment. Not just that though. I also decided I need a new car, a new job and a new place to live. I know I don’t need any of that (aside from the car maybe, we’ll see what the mechanic says next week). It’s the usual January feeling that you have to dig yourself out of the old and start fresh in the new year.

I even spent some time thinking about how much extra I’d have to raise to get a new one if I was to sell my 5D, 60D, X100, Nex5N and my Bronica. Yes, I already have too many cameras. Knowing that I barely use what I’ve got, I shook myself out of the ‘must buy stuff’ funk last week and resolved to get out with the camera for the first time this year and come home with photos. They didn’t have to be good photos, they just had to be 1’s and 0’s on a memory card that I could throw into a blog post. Just to make myself feel better of course, like I’d achieved something.

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A short but entirely enjoyable trip to Currabinny woods to stomp around in the mud for a bit. Then down to the pier to splash around in the high tide. Surf & turf? I dunno.

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Now, back to business as usual?

Ballinspittle Bluebells

Well, it’s been a while. Amazing how moving to a different county, getting a new job and oh yeah, getting married, tends to divert attention from blogging and even picking the camera up. After Julie got a tip from Jamie on the location of some bluebells, we added it as a pit stop on a fairly short tour around west Cork last weekend.

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I’m not keeping it a secret, the forest is at Ballinspittle. That’s just outside Kinsale. Head towards the Old Head and you can’t go wrong. I put the 60D back into action and borrowed one of Julie’s lenses for once. She bought an 85 f1.8 not too long ago that although a lovely lens, is just a bit too long on a crop camera. That’s not really true, it’s miles too long on a crop camera. I’m really regretting selling the Sigma 30 f1.4 some years back when I thought I’d never have another Canon crop camera. I have been considering buying a Samyang 35 T1.5, but I’ll put that on the ever increasing list of stuff to buy when I win the lotto.

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Yes, I said T1.5 and not f1.4. I believe in a previous post I mentioned I had bought the 60D with the intention of doing some (well, more) video. I loaded magic lantern on it and dug an audio cable out of my huge box of cable junk to allow me to connect a Zoom H1 I bought (again with the intention of doing some video) to it to capture better quality audio than you would ever get on the 60D’s built in microphone. Aside from a couple of small projects, the video never really happened. I’m making another go at it, I just need to storyboard a few projects I can work on that will be accessible for someone that really doesn’t know video but has a decent handle on the whole photography thing. Editing video and coming out with something watchable at the end of the process is still very much a mystery to me.

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I did shoot a small amount of video at the forest and I’ve thrown together a rough cut of clips. It’s below and also on Youtube.

Lessons learned include
1. If I’m going to keep doing this, I need some ND filters. Possibly a cheapish variable one.
2. I may also need one of those clip on viewfinder things. Focus peaking on grayscale display helps but it can’t do much against bright sunlight.
3. I couldn’t hand hold a camera and keep it steady if my life depended on it.
4. Final Cut Pro video stabilisation is terrible and should be avoided unless it’s absolutely unavoidable.

But back to the photography.

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Nice to be back out. Nice also that I was able to remember my blog login. Hopefully it won’t take me over 6 months until I update again.

Fota Gardens

I thought “I’ll post some photos of a recent trip to Fota Gardens, then link back to previous visits” but I can’t find any previous visits. Well, there’s one, but I would have imagined there should be far more than that on here. Maybe I’ve just been very selective about posting photos of the gardens on here. Yes, selective. That’s the word. Not lazy. Never lazy.

The car park at Fota, which I always kind of appreciated for it’s rough & ready feel, has been dragged into the age of health and safety. Gone are the pot holes, the tree branches that would poke you in the head as you fumbled around in your pockets for your car keys and the giant gaping muddy puddles that’d fill your shoes as you stepped out of the car. It’s a grand tarmacadam affair now, with an access road that leads right down to another well manicured car park only a swung cats distance from Fota House itself. Convenient but I’m still not sure about it. Probably mostly because I fear change.

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Taking advantage of sunny days, as one must when they rarely occur, we took a drive to Fota during a weekend trip to Cork. Fota Gardens is one of those places that rarely disappoints. A trip to Fota (either the gardens or the wildlife park) has to meet some strict criteria before it’s counted as a write off. Two main headings are ‘full of noisy tourists’ and ‘full of noisy children’. Thankfully on this day it was neither of the above.

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As you might expect, the gardens were still very much in a state of reawakening when we visited, thank the long winter for that I suppose.

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Nowt more to say on the matter, just looking forward to a long weekend in Cork.

Camden Underground

Doing a little bit of an end of year clearout of the Lightroom catalog, I found these had been sitting there for quite some time. I’m attempting to make a point of revisiting Fort Camden (which you’ve already seen plenty of in the past on this blog) every second or third time we travel to Cork for the weekend. This occasion was even more special as some new sections of the underground tunnels had been cleared out, restored to the point where they are safe to be in and then opened to the public.

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The newly opened section includes a carefully restored spiral staircase which leads you back up to ground level. We got the full story about the restoration of the stairs including the vandalism that met the volunteers when they first found it and even the political battle that had to take place to get the banister painted the colour it is now. In many ways, speaking with the volunteers and hearing their passion for the fort and the truly amazing work they’re doing has taken over from the initial excitement I felt at just being in the fort and being able to access these places to take photos. There is speculation that this newly opened section of underground represents just a small percentage of what is left to be explored and restored in the future.

Roll on the 2013 season and even more new discoveries!

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From Crosshaven with Love

Julie heard of a ‘Vintage Market’ taking place last Sunday just outside Dublin at the ‘village of Lyons’ near Celbridge. Turns out the place is a wonderful spot, even if the vintage market turned out to be more of an antique fair. However, she did manage to pick up a couple of pieces of interest and while thumbing through some old posters and postcards, I found the below.

It’s a postcard from Crosshaven, Co. Cork although I believe it’s been mislabeled. If I recall correctly, Fort Carlisle is across the mouth of the harbour, accessed via Whitegate. The scene pictured on the postcard is of the Fort Camden, which you might recall (as I’ve posted about it a couple of times; Here and here.) was reopened not too long ago thanks to the amazing effort of a group of volunteers.

Better still, on flipping the postcard over I found it was actually sent to someone. I love old photographs, postcards, posters, etc but I always find something lacking when I turn an old post card over to find it was never actually used. Also note the Crosshaven postmark, 4th August 1927. This would have been before the fort was turned over to the Irish government and it’s name changed to Fort Meagher in July 1938.

Bluebell Hunt

In Cork two weekends in a row (a rare treat) and the promise was made to seek out some bluebells to photograph. Currabinny woods has nealy always been a good spot, something I believe I pointed out on the morning we were setting out to go and take some photos. Without knowing I’d already jinxed the operation completely. Although there were bluebells, there was nowhere near the amount I’ve seen in previous years. So instead, I contented myself with using the remaining frames on the roll of God knows what that was in the A-1 while Julie tried to make the most of it.

When the film counter rolled past 24 with no sign of it stopping, I imagined that the loaded film (which had been in the camera for months by now) was a lovely roll of black & white. Just the ticket for bluebell photography. So I pretty much rattled off the remainder of the roll. I shot the sky, trees, the ground, Julie, grass, more sky. You get the idea. Having rewound the completed roll, it was a nice surprise to open the camera and find a 36 exposure roll of ‘that expired film’ staring back at me.

My distaste for scanning is intact and as such, expect to see spots, lines, hairs and other foreign bodies lurking in the scanned negatives above. It’s only the very special photos these days that get the full spit polish in lightroom. Again the DSLR sat in the bag and the above is a product of my two (and only) gorgeous lenses for the A-1; the 50 ƒ1.8 and the 135 ƒ2. There is a shopping list but it’s better not to explore that too much in case my bank balance gets wind of it and goes into hiding. Let’s just leave it by saying there’s a couple of ƒ1.2’s on there. Or, if I was feeling extra flush, maybe one of those ƒ0.95’s you don’t really see many of anymore.

I could go on and spitball at length about how my love of the FD lenses has led me onto the notion of selling an unused EF lenses and buying a Sony NEX-5N but then I’d just be waffling. And that wouldn’t be like me…

Detour

A little bit delayed but better late than never. Premier Pro was driving me nuts so after upgrading to 12gb ram, it’s driving me slightly less nuts. Nuts slightly less. Either one. For some reason (after doing some minor colour corrections), it took about 1,000 times longer to export this video from Premier Pro than it did pre-corrections. I’ll figure that one out eventually.

I’m still pretty much in the testing phases with these drift cameras, their first big trip will be in a couple of weeks time to the highlands.

The above is the first part of the Easter weekend trip to Cork. We took the road to Cork less traveled by riding down to Carlow, into Wexford and onto Waterford before hitting Cork from the east. A surprise attack on a Friday afternoon to get the weekend off to a flying start. The reason for the detour was to get some otherwise pain in the ass photo rally points in the bag, namely the ones in Wexford near New Ross and the slightly less pain in the ass Waterford point just outside Dungarvan. From Dungarvan it was a straight run (via the perfectly twisty main road) to Cork.

As before, until I pay my $60 a year dues to Vimeo, the above embedded video is in bog standard SD. If you want to view it the way nature intended, go to the video page on Vimeo for some HD lovin’.

Part 2 will be along shortly and will be a much less time lapse affair. Off into the wilds of west Cork & Kerry for that one.

Sheeps Head

It’s probably as much about the pilgrimage to the end of the world as it is about the photography, but Sheeps Head is one hell of a location. It’s almost always as windy as hell (or as windy as I imagine hell might be on a windy day) down there, soggy or even sinky under foot for at least 30% of the walk and you never really know if one of the animals roaming the headland is going to take an instant dislike to you and formulate some kind of velociraptor styled attack. Having said all that, I wouldn’t change it one bit. If it’s not my favorite location in west Cork for the last few years, it’s certainly in the top three.

As with many of my favorite locations, it did eventually receive the Bronica coverage. PanF+ was the film of choice. This all happened a couple of years ago. Then the film sat on a shelf and greeted the full extent of the morning sun every morning for months. The only reprieve it got was when it was wound clumsily onto a spool, thrust into a tank by a ham-fisted operator (that’ll be me by the way), developed incorrectly (most likely) and hung up to dry in a dusty spare bathroom. So if you see some spots, water marks, hairs and some light leaks in these pictures, you’ll understand how they got there. Having said all that, I still intend on printing at least two of this set. I think it’s got less to do with being happy with the photos because they’re technically good (which they obviously aren’t) and more to do with the location.

Camden Again

I will eventually round up the photos from the Cork photowalk a couple of weeks ago. This is the last of them, another visit to Camden with the rest of the gang this time. It’s pretty much the same up there, although with the notable exception of several new rooms now being open to the public. Most of these rooms were hosting an art exhibition but there were one or two that were bare, as pictured above.

Although not very visible in the shot, the majority of the floor space in this room was converted into a shallow pool with several tiny boats doing laps. Yes, I thought the reflection was more interesting than the boats and chose to compose and expose accordingly.

Other than that, Fort Camden is as it was from our last visit so there’s no major updates. They did open one of the piers at the end of the impossibly long (and quite steep) staircase though and it is nice to see the place further developing. We were all treated to sunshine again for our morning at the fort, rounding off the Cork photowalk nicely. When those snowy winter months roll in I’ll have to start putting together some thoughts for Cork Photowalk 2012. Thanks to all that attended, great to see some new faces and of course equally great to see all the regulars. Hope you all enjoyed the day (and a half) out.

The full set from the photowalk is available on Pix.ie and Flickr

Church of St Anne

The second stop in last weekends 1.5 day photowalk in Cork, the church of St Anne in Shandon. I spent much of the time walking up there hoping it was open as on a few previous trips I’d found that the opening times were a little optimistic. As always, the claustrophobic and acrophobic were invited to remain at ground level, the climb to the top of the tower isn’t one that either of those two groups of people would particularly enjoy.

The view from the top is still as good as it ever was although I don’t think the photo below does it any kind of justice. It’s worth the couple of euro entry price to climb up there and see it for yourself.

Home from Home

When you’re not in your luxurious quarters, you’ll be able to roam the grounds, play some football, listen to your favorite bands on your very own state of the art music system, build sandcastles, enjoy dipping your toes in the cool Cork harbour water and wave at the locals. If you’re good, you might even get back to the mainland in 14 months. Yes, you’re on Spike Island courtesy of the department of justice.

If you’re there in 2011 however, you’ve either made a wrong turn in your yacht or you’ve paid for the pleasure of touring the now closed down (and mostly burned down) Fort Mitchell prison. They could go as far as to title it “Spike Island; More than just a prison you know!”

By the time I was old enough to comprehend it, I was told that the island visible off the coast of many of the seaside spots I grew up next to was a prison. Nothing more, nothing less. I wasn’t informed that before those times, it served as a monastery, a colony and a strategically important military stronghold to guard against unsavory types making their way into the inner harbour.

Neither did I know that it’s where “Little Nellie” (a Cork legend) was born. I can’t elaborate too much on that one, to me Little Nellie is mostly what I heard peoples parents threatening them with. “Eat all your potatoes or Little Nellie of holy God will come and get ya” and so on. It was either that or “we’ll put them in an envelope and post them off to the starving children in Africa”. Ah the 80’s were great.

It was strange being on the island after wondering about it for so long, much like the first time getting into Fort Camden. Spike was always that bit more elusive however as even with a telephoto lens or a pair of binoculars and some time spent in Crosshaven or Currabinny, it was still quite difficult to make out anything on the island except for high stone walls and lots of fields.

So walking onto the island for the first time, I was amazed to learn that it was more historically significant than just being a place to temporarily hold joyriders. Although we only saw them from afar (owing to a somewhat time restricted tour), we were told that there were houses, barracks, a church and a small town square. Almost hard to believe. It was all a bit confusing as we were lead around the winding path to the fort on the top of the hill. It was a place that people were born and grew up, where people were married and lived happily and then with a few more turns of the road, a place where teenagers were dragged in handcuffs and locked in cells.

Just as quickly it turned back into a military operation and it wasn’t difficult to imagine soldiers running through the narrow corridors of the gun room, loading shells and farting about with cordite. Then back outside into the bright August afternoon and it was a prison again. It’s all a bit confusing. The only two things I think I’d change about the tour are, 1; It was very wordy. Although our guide was a mind of information and very friendly, we were bombarded with names and dates in our frequent stops from landing on the pier to standing inside the parade grounds. That links in with 2; I think the tour is too short. Like maybe an hour or 90 minutes too short. After all the information is dispensed and the tour is led to some of the more photogenic parts of the fort, I’d like to see more than 20 minutes being allowed for people to be left to their own devices. 20 minutes to explore such a vast structure didn’t leave much time for anything other than a frantic dash to see a couple of rooms.

I can fully appreciate that the tour is in it’s infancy and given the opportunity, I’d like to raise a group large enough to return to the island on a private booking where hopefully a full mornings photography could be catered for. Given time and sufficient supervised access, Spike Island is a photowalk in itself.


A block (two photos above) where inmates were housed. The scene of a riot in August 1985 where prisoners took control of the block, burning it out.

Inside the outer gate

The English Market

As much as I’d like to have a witty title, those that know me will know I’m anything but. A little appetite whetting in advance of the Cork photowalk thats taking place later this month. This, as the title suggests, is the English Market in the center of the city. A wealth of food, drink and some clothing can be found inside along with some more obscure outlets. I’ve  always had a soft spot for the market and when living in Cork it was one of my regular haunts.

It’s just the spot to enjoy a sausage in a bap (I’m hesitant to call it a ‘hot dog’ as essentially what you’re getting is a half pound of meat in a soft roll) while sitting on the fountain (pictured right) and afterward sipping a coffee and lazily flicking through a newspaper while watching the world go by.

Of course you can also get the nights dinner while you’re there with plenty of butchers and a couple of grocers available. One of the more recent additions is a purveyor of fine cakes. Well, recent to me given how often I get to wander around in here nowadays. Along with the sausages and the coffee, I was particularly taken with some miniature pickled gherkins for sale at one of the stalls (pictured below). I have it on good authority that the same stall does fine olives and numerous other pickled and not so pickled items.

Speaking of pickled, it’s just a stones throw away from the Mutton Lane Inn, somewhere I hope to visit after the successful completion of the first days photowalking.

The market is a Cork institution and always seems to have as many tourists with cameras strolling around as it does locals fighting their way around for supplies.

Worth a walk by if only for the sights, sounds & smells. Don’t miss the fish section for some outlandish stuff and no matter what happens, don’t miss the seemingly daily show of tripe sales at one of the Grand Parade exits. For anyone that doesn’t want to google it, tripe is stomach lining. The sight of it doesn’t make me gag as much as it used to, but every now and then…

 

If you haven’t read up on the Cork photowalk, follow the link above. We’re going to be taking in Spike Island (the former jail in Cork harbour), some finer points in the city and Fort Camden the next day. All are welcome.