Flightfest

IMG_0585

Instead of joining the crowd milling around the docklands, I chose the lazy option and photographed the entire FlightFest event from my living room. While I may not have had the best seat in the house, it was certainly the most comfortable ūüôā

When I got over the initial fear of seeing a Boeing 737 descending and flying that low over the city, I enjoyed the show quite a bit. That first pass by the Aer Lingus plane was bone chilling stuff though.

IMG_0805

IMG_0470

IMG_0658

IMG_1760

IMG_1030

IMG_1362

IMG_1836

I used my cheap and cheerful 70-300 (which was the second lens I bought way back in the Canon 20D days) for most of the event, only switching to the shorter 70-200L at the end. I found myself wishing for a 100-400L for the entire thing though…

Theres a few more up on Flickr.

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.

Photo Rally 2012

Insurance renewed, road tax paid. 6000 mile service not done but time to get photo rallying once again. We decided to start on Saturday and the trip out as far as Roscrea would work well given that I needed (wanted) to call into the home brew shop in Mountmellick to get some supplies (and another kit). Having ridden as far as Rathangan and completely forgot to stop at the rally point near Robertstown, we doubled back and eventually found the point after a lot of head scratching, swearing at the GPS and double checking with Google maps satellite photos.

No sooner had we parked up at Ballyteige Castle (that was the rally point) and taken a few photos that I noticed some rather menacing clouds coming our way. Bit of rain, no big deal. No. Horizontal snow/sleet/ice and lots of it. Admitting defeat fairly early on in the snowstorm, we packed up and headed back to Dublin, stopping occasionally to wipe the one inch accumulation of snow off the windscreen of the bike. Fun times.

So we tried again the next day. The weather was significantly better.

Capard ridge trig pillar near Mountmellick. I still don’t have a good understanding of what a trig pillar is or was but I imagine it’s for measurement or performing some kind of calculation. If anyone wants to enlighten me, feel free. This point was reached by a fairly easily traversable muddy path. No fecking about avoiding the huge puddles, just roll on the throttle and power through them. Glad I hadn’t spent a couple of hours the previous week polishing the wheels and engine bars. Oh wait, I did.

The best was yet to come. One that we’d heard was abandoned when the group arrived at it. One that, now that we’ve done it, I’m sure will be abandoned by many who don’t wish to get half of north Tipperary encrusted onto their shiny machines. It’ll be equally abandoned by those who have an overwhelming fear of dropping their bikes.

Monaincha Abbey, just outside Roscrea. Not much to say except ‘holy shit’. Last year the ‘off road offering’ involved getting your bike from a car park on the top of a hill up a dry stony path. The stakes have been well and truly raised this year. If you make it through the first muddy path, through all the puddles, past all the ruts and avoiding the branches that want to smack you in the face when you ride by, you’re in for a treat. Through a gate into a field where the path as you knew it pretty much disappears. Instead you get muddy rut A or muddy rut B. Pretty much nothing to do except put down the power and see if you can keep the bike upright. Then you get to step off the bike and sink down to your ankles. Now this is photo rallying at it’s finest! I was almost tempted to sit at the abbey and wait for someone to turn up on a Goldwing. Yes, us GS owners are a smug lot. Self-entitled too!

I will freely admit to preferring the sweep and camber of a nice bit of bone dry tarmac over a soggy, torn up farmers field any day. This mostly comes from riding into said soggy fields, dropping the bike and realising it’s not that easy to pick back up. My off roading is henceforth to be put on the back burner until such time as I get a bike that weighs about a third of the GS and has knobbly tyres on it. End of story.

From Roscrea, back onto the N roads and toward Carlow. My favorite town in all of Ireland. Oh yes. Sarcasm, me? After trying to get around the road works and truly awful drivers (of which there were many) in the town, we headed to the Carlow/Kilkenny point at Old Leighlin. Time was pressing on so this was a quick one. The locals also seemed to be puzzled at our presence. Someone better tell them to expect hundreds more bikers before the year is out.

The evening was drawing in and our plan (well, my plan) of squeezing in the Wicklow point (near Blessington) before night fall was doomed. Thankfully it’s on a route we regularly take for a Sunday spin anyway, so no harm done. The rest of the journey was spent avoiding¬†nyctalopic idiots driving at 40kph and of course the flurry of people you usually get when out riding that are unusually and unreasonably aggressive towards bikers.

So, 4 points down, 20 to go!

That time of year

Been on a bit of an analog thing of late, thanks in no small part to the quantity of velvia scanned some weeks back. No updates in a while because I started a new job a couple of weeks ago and outside all of the settling in, trying to remember as many new names as possible and all that, I haven’t been hugely inclined to udpate the blog. These three were taken with the Diana fisheye lens that Julie got me some time ago for my birthday and/or Christmas. To tell the truth, I’d never successfully used it on the Diana before and it spent much of it’s time on my 5D thanks to the EF adapter that came with the gift.

I completely blew these out too but after some scanning luck and some wild slide bar wanging in lightroom, I got a somewhat acceptable outcome. Not to everyone’s taste I’m sure.¬† Subject wise, they are of course in the botanic gardens in Dublin on one of the last (or possibly the last) photowalk I attended up there while the place was under a blanket of snow about this time last year. The increasingly dark and cold evenings reminded me of these photos and have made me hope that the snow either stays away for as long as possible or doesn’t come at all this year.

Maybe some ‘novelty’ snow on Christmas Eve/Day. After that, I can’t be dealing with it.

Not very wintry but it was the next shot on the same roll so what the hell. The inside of the greenhouse at a much more friendly temperature.

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

Coffee & Beer

The inaugural ‘Coffee & Beer Photowalk’ (so obscure you probably haven’t heard of it) took place today in Dublin city. The guest list was severely limited by a committee formed specifically to decide on the Coffee & Beer Photowalk guest list. They’ve since been disbanded due to allegations of nepotism. The walk was carried out at a determined pace, planned out with military precision and executed with such preciseness (if that’s even a word) that it would have made baby cheeses cry if such cheeses were added to the guest list by the aforementioned committee.

The rules of the photowalk are simple. Buy a camera, meet in 3FE, drink coffee, walk at an accelerated pace to Against The Grain and drink beer. Photos are entirely optional. I broke with tradition by actually taking some photos, mostly after the beer had been consumed.

I took the opportunity on the long, torturous yet delightfully sunbathed walk home to test out this new camera with results I’m not too ashamed of. For a maiden voyage anyway. My brief moment on the wrong side of the (luas) tracks was productive yet terrifying. Terrifyingly productive.

I refuse to blather on about the camera until such time as I’ve learned how to use it. I almost said ‘until I’ve read the manual’ but I think we all know that’s never going to happen. Suffice to say that working with a 35mm fixed lens is an entirely new experience.

More of this kind of thing is available for your immediate perusal on Pix and Flickr.

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.

The change of plan

“T’ra”, a term used¬†interchangeably¬†by some. It can mean either hello, thanks, excuse me or goodbye. The change of plan came on Saturday and after deciding I wouldn’t be spending a third night in the general environs of Chorley, I headed slightly further north to Yorkshire. Found myself a gorgeous B&B in Carleton and spent the day cruising around the Dales getting further sun burnt in an amusing pattern.

The above is a straight out of the camera shot from my adventures today, while taking this shot my internal¬†monologue¬†was in overdrive. “See that house down there, 12 of us lived in one room and had nowt to eat all day except when father came back from t’mines with half a loaf of mouldy bread.” Then another strongly accented gentleman pipes in with “Half a loaf? Only 12 of you? You had it easy. There was 18,000 of us all huddled in one corner, only heat we had was from a gone out candle, father would thrash us with his belt when he got home from the mill and all we’d have to eat for the entire week was half a bag of damp coal.” No idea what I’m on about? You need to click on this then lad.

Making my way back south tomorrow, down to somewhere on the outskirts of the Peak District. That’s back to the original plan. I’ve got 150km of B road and off road routes in the sat nav, ready to be followed with less than pin-point precision. My usual method of navigating while on the bike normally ends up with “Ah, that feels like it’s the right direction”. Worked well so far anyway.

Outbound

20110423-102643.jpg

Procrastination, I’ve got it. For the best part of, if not more than six years I’d been talking about how some day I’d take a mad notion and do this. Jump on the bike, book the ferry and go see some people in Chorley that I haven’t seen in probably close to 20 years. Maybe more out of the feeling that if anything happened to them and I hadn’t gone over, I’d regret it for anything between a year and the rest of my life.

The trip I’d some day take never really materialised despite numerous google maps I created and several queries on the price of the ferry crossing. Some day turned into today and I find myself aboard the floating cr√®che that is the Irish ferries Jonathan Swift. I’m fairly sure too that the disagreeable chap that barked instructions at me in broken English on the car deck has well and truly screwed the new saddle on the bike too. Shit.

Before I arrive in Chorley, I need to constantly remind myself that it won’t be the same place I knew from our family visits there in the 80’s and early 90’s. People I regarded as being invincible back then will have grown older. Only in direct proportion to how older I’ve grown I suppose. I don’t think I’m adequately prepared (in my head at least) for how difficult this afternoon could be.

Trim Photowalk

Trim

Last Saturday (although curiously it felt rather like a Sunday) was Trim Castle photowalk. If you remember all the way back to 2010, the first Trim Castle photowalk was in February. This year, to mark the one year anniversary of the passing of our friend and Trim native Danny O’Brien, the walk was held in April. The route was a familiar one, from the grounds of the castle up the river to Newtown Abbey and back. Well, some made it back. Others got mysteriously waylaid in the pub.

I took the opportunity to finish off a roll of ‘free film’ in the A1 and also gave the LX-3 (a Panasonic for those that think I’m talking about Star Wars) a chance to stretch it’s legs after I bounced it along the pavement in Cork some months back. It’s a little bit creaky but it does the job¬†marvelously.

Great to see a lot of the familiar faces again and somewhat confusing to see a lot of new people who’s names I didn’t know. The turn out for the walk was certainly above what I had expected. Roll of sticky labels and a marker the next time. The day was¬†outstanding¬†as far as the weather was concerned, real sitting on damp grass drinking irn bru kind of weather. Great day, apart from the bit where I screwed up my bike. But live and learn I guess. This and more is on Flickr and I’m sure I’ll be posting one or two more from the set over the coming days.

Half way to Silver

After I bought the bike back in January, I began hearing about an event called “Photo Rally” on a few of the bike forums. The idea behind it is simple, there are 24 locations throughout the island of Ireland and you need to travel to as many as possible to earn a bronze, silver or gold award at the end of the year. It’s not a recent idea either. It began way back in 1975 with a Limerick man.

Looking especially uncomfortable for some reason. No, I don’t much like having my photo taken.

Photographing your steed with all 24 landmarks earns you gold, 18 gets you silver and 12 sorts you out with bronze. The idea behind it is to get out and have some fun on the roads, finding new places and meeting up with likeminded folks. I may only be 9 locations into the challenge, but I’ve managed to pack in all three so far.

It’s great riding out into the countryside to some off the beaten track landmark only to meet a perfect stranger and be able to chat at length about where we’ve both been so far, where’s next and where we don’t think we’re going to get to before the November 17th deadline. My God, the previous sentence almost makes me sound like an approachable, friendly sort. Maybe I can blame that on the photo rally too?

5571286449_8a6ac1d333_d5571903014_f4238db432_d

All but one of my visited rally points have been wonderfully obscure. On the tops of hills, back country roads and some in villages I never knew existed. The Fermanagh/Tyrone point almost lived up to it’s ‘tricky’ status by throwing a short section of off road riding in the way. I can’t imagine too many guys on sports bikes are going to manage or even attempt that one. The photography so far has been quite simple. Although there is an incentive to be creative, I’ve found it quite difficult to do so with the criteria. It’s a simple case of ‘heres the shot, heres my bike in the shot. rally point complete’. Maybe as the summer comes in and the weather heats up a bit I’ll be more inclined to stretch my photo rally creative photography legs.

I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far and I hope to get as close to photographing all 24 points as possible. There was even talk on a popular UK bike forum about running a similar event in Scotland. As if I needed another excuse to jump on the ferry to the highlands for two weeks!

Irish Blog Awards, six years later.

IBA

The 2011 Irish Blog Awards group. In the back holding glassware, the winners that were present on the night. After six years, the Irish Blog Awards are no more. At least not in their current guise. What’s currently unknown is how or if they will continue. I’m not going to speculate on that.

Instead of idle oohing and aahing, here’s some linkage to previous IBA’s.
2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011

It’s said so often and by such a large number of people that it’s almost losing meaning now, but I will repeat that Damien Mulley has done more for Irish blogging and general Irish internet jiggery pokery than anyone else I know. After six years of putting up with all the associated bullshit that comes with a task such as organising the blog awards, I’m amazed there isn’t a series of shallow graves out in the Wicklow hills. If you’ll forgive the melodrama, losing the blog awards after six years of taking part in them is a bit like losing a family member. Or at least a family pet. Like that kind of pet that occasionally shits on the carpet but you love anyway. Or, like that family member that occasionally shits on the carpet but you love anyway. Depends what kind of¬†dysfunctional¬†family you’ve got.

I’ve been delighted to work with Damien and all the blog awards regulars over the years, including Rick, Fran and Brian. I’m immensely thankful that he looked to me to be the photographer for the awards and I hope I can continue working with him and all the other guys well into the future. Couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people to work with.

So that’s it then.

Flowers Made Easy

5421687122_eb02d586c6_b

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.

5421684526_50eb4ac11c_b5421690608_31b8b055af_b

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.