Kilruddery Gardens

IMG_0157It seemed that I’d been missing opportunities to get to Kilruddery Gardens left right and center over the years we lived in Dublin. So in the run up to moving, a list was made. Kilruddery was on it. Thats the entire story really. Needless to say it’s a great place, worthy of another visit when/if I should find myself in Dublin with time to kill at some future date. Less words, more pictures.

IMG_0344IMG_0331IMG_0277IMG_0241IMG_0229And so on and so on. Ah, just one more then…

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Offering Assistance

Wait, whats your name again? It’s only been [counting on fingers] June, July, August, September, October, November; Oh almost 6 months since I last pressed the export button on a batch of photos. I suppose as long as I post once a year I can still refer to myself as a (photo)blogger in the sometimes polite circles of whippersnappers that know about these things.

It seems the more cameras I buy, the less photos I take. The less photos I take, the less I open up Lightroom. The less I load up Lightroom, the more guilty I feel when I do eventually load it up and see photos from 2010 still sitting in my ‘to do’ queue. I blame a Catholic upbringing and the uncanny ability to feel crushingly guilty about almost anything at the drop of a hat.

So I found the 5D (classic*), charged up the battery and grabbed the 50 ƒ1.8 and Julie’s 100 ƒ2.8 macro. I was supposed to be offering assistance to Julie, who was shooting some knitty/crochety stuff. As usual, I proved absolutely useless by mooching around by myself and taking photos of grass.

My appreciation for the cheap and endlessly cheerful plastic 50 ƒ1.8 is intact and while it might not be the sharpest or best built of Canon’s lens portfolio, its hard to argue with the bang to buck ratio. Its also the first time in a while I’ve shot with a prime (I don’t know if the X100 counts here as you don’t really get a choice).

I’m mostly pleased with the results, if only because looking at them proves I actually went outside into the countryside with the camera. Shooting this kind of stuff brings me back in a big way to my first couple of years with a DSLR, then a Canon 20D. Shoot everything, get a 10% keeper rate then go absolutely nuts processing them. The once blue sky is now purple, rivers run orange, that kind of stuff. I am a serial abuser of presets and/or slide bars. I attribute most of my early preset madness to being introduced to the notion of post-processing an imagine in Picasa. The only thing that is missing from the equation is West Cork but that is a whole different conversation/blog post.

*5D Classic: What forum users now refer to the 5D Mark 1 / original 5D as. A moniker I don’t especially enjoy, possibly because I still own one. Tied in some way to my use of ‘whippersnapper’ in the above text.

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.

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.

Maiden Voyage

If you cast your mind back to this and lived to see the other side of it, you’ll understand why I recently bought a couple of Drift Stealth cameras to make the filming process a little easier and a lot less stomach churning. The above was the maiden voyage and very much a learning exercise. I need to see what the hardware can do, what it can’t do and what I shouldn’t make it try to do before the ‘big holiday’ to the Alps in August. This was a routine trip from Dublin city down to Wicklow and back again. Thankfully back again that is, the low/no petrol light was taunting me for most of the ride back to Dublin.

With the included mounting hardware, I ended up with a camera on the engine bars (more on that later) and one on the side of my helmet. That still left me with oodles of spare hardware, velcro pads and elastic straps to play around with so I’m going to need to come up with a few more mounting locations. The helmet was the winner, video (shot at 720, 60p on both cameras) turned out smooth. The engine bar location, if I decide to reuse it, will need some work. Perhaps a kind of shock mount. Thankfully the cameras have standard tripod mount screws on them so I can spoil myself with the myriad of mounting options out there.

Things I learned
1. I don’t need to check that the camera is still on the side of my head every 5 minutes. The velcro is strong and all the bobbing around to look at the camera in the mirror just screws up the footage.
2. Nodding or generally acknowledging other bikers on the road leads to further footage foul ups. I think I’ll have to adopt the standard European leg waggle. Not that many bikers in Dublin return the salutation these days anyway.
3. Mounting on the engine bar is generally going to be a no-no. There are certain speeds it works beautifully at and if I continue to use that point I need to become aware of those speeds. Otherwise it’s a rolling shutter fest.
4. Syncing footage between two cameras is a bit harder than I previously imagined it would be.

Another interesting thing I learned is that the majority of car drivers behave a lot better when they spot a camera on the side of your head. Some even slowed down to stare.

A note on the music is perhaps required. When I go out on rides like this, I never fail to default to two albums. “Between Two Lungs” and “The House That Dirt Built”. It’s proven to be great back road riding music. So before I get takedown notices from and/or sued by Florence And The Machine and The Heavy I invite you to play the above at the appropriate volume.

Also and somewhat vitally, the above is standard definition but the footage is actually in 720p. I can’t currently do HD embeds from Vimeo because I haven’t paid my dues to them for a ‘plus’ account. ($60 seems a little overkill at the moment and I may just end up using Youtube). So if that kind of thing bothers you and you want to view it as I intended it to be watched, you can get the 720p version on the video page.

Next stop, Austria.

Remembering finer days

Until I actually produce some new images in 2012 (I haven’t picked up the camera at all this year yet), I’m not going to stray too far from safe ground. The safe ground is currently Velvia. Going back over the old images I should have blogged months and sometimes years ago, I found these images from Powerscourt in Wicklow that sat in Lightroom being tweaked and fiddled with every now and then. Velvia has always been, for me at least, quite difficult to get right colour balance wise. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head and replicate exactly what I recall from the day and other times it ends up being too blue, too green or too much like nuclear fallout.

Remembering finer days; Because now that I’ve dusted off the motorbike for 2012, I’d like to see some blue in the sky again. Maybe even temperatures above 4-6 degrees in the middle of the day. I don’t ask much really.

Maybe now that I’ve dusted the bike off, I’ll take the opportunity to blow the dust off at least one camera and actually get out and press the shutter button. Oh and get to west Cork on it (the bike, be surprised if you see me riding around Bantry on a Bronica).

Avondale

A trip to Avondale park last year with Vlastik where I took the opportunity to use a few of the rolls of velvia in the fridge. I thought I’d get rid of the remaining slide film as my intention was to develop it then sell the Jobo CPE I bought a couple of years ago on ebay. I think I’ve had my fill of developing anything other than black & white and the Jobo, tanks, chemicals and all the E6 paraphernalia are just taking up space in the ‘junk room’. On that, if anyone is interested in buying a CPE plus, some tanks, spools and whatever else I’ve got, drop me a line.

One thing I’ve never quite managed is metering for scenarios like being in woods where you’re in & around different lighting situations. One minute we were in bright sunshine, then overcast, then under trees. As a result, quite a lot of the 5 rolls I think I shot that day are under exposed. I’ve dragged what I could out of them in scanning & post processing but alas, there’s only so much you can do. Pity, because one of the shots I really wanted was killed stone dead by poor metering, as you can see below.

What I captured compared to what I saw on the day almost made me lock the bronica up in a cupboard when I took the slides out of the tank. I believe I even said ‘I wish I had taken my 5D with me’. Another one below. I got the forest floor metered with some accuracy but sadly lost all the background. Let’s just say I meant to do it that way; Focusing the viewers attention on the tiniest of foreground rocks and not on all that messy shrubbery in the background.

Thankfully, and not to put me off shooting velvia again, most of the shots came out pretty much as intended. If that’s my skill/technique, a triumph of post processing or the hand of God during development is for the viewer to decide. It’s not too difficult to appreciate of the ease and forgiving nature of shooting digital when you come back from a day of film shooting and and up with crap. But that, of course, is an old story so don’t go sharply exhaling in exasperation and rolling your eyes at me just yet.

It does go right now and then and the film captures things in a way you only wished you could have seen them. While waiting for the sun to come back out I shot a couple of frames of this scene. The difference between this and the next shot, taken only about 3 seconds later, is amazing. Timing, or perhaps impatience to move on was on my side.

A low ISO film, a tripod, a cable release, ND filters and a river. No prizes for guessing what happens next. Vlastik may also have some mildly amusing photos of me getting into a precarious position on some slippery rocks and perhaps even more amusing photos of me trying to return to the safety of the footpath. I heard somewhere that it’s now been made illegal to not take ‘flowing water’ photos when the opportunity presents itself. That was tacked onto the ‘HDR Swan photo 2010’ legislation in congress I believe. (Forgive the in-joke).

That was pretty much our trip. An enjoyably sedate couple of hours spent wandering about taking conflicting light meter readings, arranging leaves, pine cones and other detritus while moaning about having to go back to work on Monday. If you haven’t already been to Avondale, I very much recommend it. It’s here, not too far from Rathdrum in Co. Wicklow.

Oh and as it’s my first post of 2012, happy new year.

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.

The Lower Lake

Lower Lake

Lower Lake

To aid in Julie producing a sofobomo entry this year, we took a spin out to Glendalough on Monday evening. First time in a few years I’ve been there when the sun is going down. Apart from the swarms of blood thirsty midges, it’s a great place to be when the light levels are dropping. The above, in case anyone cares, is the X100 at a 20th of a second, ƒ8 at 2500ISO. I think by the end of the trip I was pushing it up as far as 3200ISO while all the time being amazed at what this little camera can do.

My sofobomo isn’t going ahead, despite several half-assed plans on what I was going to do. Maybe next year.

Tour de Wicklow

5439055794_0533f7d71d_zBuying a bike in January is exquisite torture. Mostly because with the shitty weather, you can’t actually get out and have a proper spin until mid February. It was still a bit too cold to enjoy thoroughly (a fact which I discovered to it’s fullest extent after I removed my helmet at Newcastle beach) and the dark clouds that hung over great portions of the journey appeared as if they might decant a biblical quantity of rain on me at any moment.5438102725_14d0595b1f_z

Wicklow is an amazing spot; It’s my west Cork away from home. Mountains, lakes, valleys and the all important poorly piloted rental cars creeping around as if their tyres are made of finest crystal. So just like west Cork and Kerry in the summer.

I started, quite predictably, by easing my way around the Sally Gap. Moved on down the Vale of Avoca where I found the copper mines after missing the turn initially. The resulting photos from the walk that was held down that way some time back made me instantly regret that I’d missed that outing.

I also quickly discovered a taste for off-road riding, taking a somewhat sketchy route up a road just to see what was at the top. Nothing, but the balls to the wall ride made finding out nothing was up there was entirely worthwhile.

Down through Avoca, onto the Arklow direction via some roads that I’m not entirely sure were for public use. I only say that given the amount of horse trailers and tractors I passed on the route. You know you’ve just gone far enough outside a major city when two vehicles are blocking a narrow road and they grant you the huge favor of allow you to pass. Ditto to the horse trailer driver who’s truck was blocking three quarters of a narrow road and he blocked the remaining quarter by standing in it filling out paperwork. Maybe I’m too patient, I sat there for two or three minutes while he finished, strolled out of the way and waved me on as if to say ‘there you go, you may pass now’. For a moment, I was in Kilgarvan.

For the record, I took a ‘proper’ camera with me but I think I only took about 10 photos with it. When they do eventually get looked at, they’ll appear on the flickr set along with the iphone photos.