A Digital Journal

Photography by Tony Triolo

Ireland – A Photographic Challenge Part I

It has been several weeks since I made a trip to Ireland, surely enough time to recover from any jet lag I might have had.  I thought it was about time I post something about the experience.  While it was a great trip overall, photographically speaking, it could have been better.  I’m just being honest here.  Two things conspired to make it less than the best trip I have ever taken.  One reason was of my own doing, but the second reason was beyond my control – the blasted weather.  Although we had little rain during our eleven-day stay, we did have enough bleak, gray and overcast days to make photography a real challenge.  While I can appreciate a cloudy day for shooting portraits, or even a rainy day for doing street photography, I generally prefer sunshine for recording scenics and landscapes.  Gloomy skies did seem quite appropriate for the two days we spent in Dublin’s fair city, but once we hit the road (left side over there) I prayed to the weather gods to give me only sunny days.  Ireland just looks best in the sun.  It is the greenest place on the planet, and it owes that unique distinction to all that rain it receives.  I get the paradox.  Nonetheless, I wanted the sun to bring out the vibrant greens of all that glorious countryside.  I now know why Ireland is often referred to as the Emerald Isle.  I also needed the sun to bring me blue skies and help give sparkle to all that water surrounding this island nation.  Unfortunately, my prayers went largely unanswered.

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The second factor that prevented me from bringing back the best images possible, was the result of a decision I made while planning for the trip.  I decided weeks before, to travel as light as possible.  My wife and I decided to invite our three grown children to join us, and I knew that space in the rental car would be limited.  Luggage for five adults is considerable even when you implore your companions to pack efficiently.  I know my family and I suspected that my request would be roundly ignored.  It was.  Even though our youngest child was unable to make the trip, it was still a challenge to find room enough for all those suitcases, backpacks and duffel bags.  Each morning, I was faced with a new riddle to solve – how to fit an ever-growing number of bags, packages, laundry and gifts into a non-expanding vehicle.  With that reality before me, at least I could take some comfort in knowing that I had done the right thing – that I had decided to travel light.  Instead of bringing along the SLR camera with all those long, bulky and heavy lenses, I would just bring the Leica M rangefinder.  Not only did I save on bulk, but my bag weighed-in at half what the SLR did.  While that was great, I knew that I would be sacrificing some functionality.  I thought I was okay with that, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t.  While the Leica M is a great camera for taking street candids, it is a slower machine and lacks much of the automation I had grown used to.  It has no auto focusing, has lower ISO sensitivity and has far fewer features, and while it does take remarkable pictures given the right circumstances, it can be frustrating to use.  I found that I missed too many pictures that I would have gotten easily with an SLR due mainly to the time it took me to focus the scene.  Having to rely on my aging eyes to focus correctly is becoming more of a challenge as the years roll by.  Focusing “long” lenses can be downright impossible, and it is the main reason why the 135mm is the longest lens Leica offers for the M system.  Don’t get me wrong – I get excellent results with the Leica, but usually it’s when I can take the time to critically compose and focus.  Traveling around a country (even one as small as Ireland) with three other individuals, in eleven short days, can test one’s ability to find the time to do anything right – let alone, precise photography.

That being said, here are a few of the better images that I did come away with.

Lower Lake at Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains

Glendalough

Glendalough, in the Wicklow Mountains, is home to one of Ireland’s oldest monastic sites dating back to the 6th century.  It was sacked by the Vikings numerous times but still survived for over 600 years.  The Lower Lake (above) is located just west of the monastic enclave where several structures still stand, including the old gatehouse, round tower and the cathedral.  My son and I made the two-hour hike through the valley taking photographs along the way.  This shot is of Lower Lake.

Dublin Doors

Dublin Doors

We flew into Dublin and spent the first couple of days exploring this lively capital.  My daughter wanted to meet up with an old schoolmate who now lives in the city.  Her friend’s husband sings and plays traditional Irish folk music in a pub in the Temple Bar district, so naturally, that would be our first stop but not before we all took a brief nap at our B&B right after we arrived.  We met our daughter’s friends and had our first Guinness.  It would not be our last, but knowing we had to hit the ground running the next day, we decided to limit ourselves to just one.  On our walk to locate the tour bus-stop the next morning, I came across these doors (above), typical of Dublin’s extensive collection of colorful portals.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Roses were still in bloom in mid-October in the town of Kilkenny. The castle (above), formerly the site of the Irish Parliament sits on a high embankment and has a commanding view of the River Nore.  The Norman fortress controlled much of southeast Ireland in the Middle Ages and still dominates Kilkenny, one of the country’s most historic and pretty inland towns.

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Sand ripples at a beach near Enniscorthy

A pub in Kenmare

Kenmare

My son and daughter take a break from sightseeing outside a pub in Kenmare.  It was still early, so the place wasn’t open yet.  Kenmare is a lovely village at the mouth of the River Sheen famous for it traditional lace-making.  It’s also an excellent base for exploring the Ring of Kerry.  We noticed that Ireland has no shortage of pubs or barber shops.  Not sure if there’s a connection there.

Row Houses in Cobh

Row Houses in Cobh

The town of Cobh which lies on one of the three islands in Cork harbor in southern Ireland is famous for one distinctive fact – it was the last port of call for the Titanic before it took off on its ill-fated Atlantic crossing in 1912.  There is a museum in Cobh commemorating that event, but we found it quite lacking.   In my opinion, the Titanic museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is much better.  The town’s other landmark is its  impressive Gothic Revival cathedral which sits on a commanding position high above the harbor.  I found these brightly painted row houses located adjacent to the cathedral more interesting to photograph, however.  They are typical of urban dwellings in this part of Ireland.

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The Kerry Peninsula

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

There were days when we did have a glimmer of sunlight.  The sun would make a quick appearance and then quickly hide behind the clouds once again.  The shot above was taken during one such short-lived period.  It was made at Bunratty Castle during one of our last days in Ireland.  To be more precise, it was made at the Bunratty Folk Park, a recreated village depicting rural life in Ireland at the turn of the century.  We had visited the castle itself the night before, where we attended a medieval banquet and enjoyed minstrel music.  I did take some photos of the castle itself and will post those in a couple of weeks.

Ross Castle

Ross Castle

This shot, above, was made during a break in the rain.  It was made at Ross Castle near Kilarney (yes, there are a lot of castles in Ireland).  For good reason, castles and cathedrals just do not look very appealing in the rain, so I was soon looking for something else to photograph.  Opposite the castle, on the other side of the creek, I found this collection of boats.  Half of them were partially submerged, but that only made them all the more appealing to me.  The light level was so low that I had to resort to using the tripod.  I think this is my favorite shot from the trip, but I’m not exactly sure why.  Maybe, it’s the peacefulness of those boats on the water.  Maybe, it’s all that green.  But just maybe, it’s all those lovely raindrops.

Check back in a couple of weeks for Ireland – A Photographic Challenge    Part II

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Europe, Ireland, Photography, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Alabama Autumn

    Alabama does not immediately come to mind to most people when thinking of fall foliage, but this state can produce some amazing color when the conditions are right.  This autumn is shaping up as one of the better ones for vibrant displays of color in this state, more often considered for its caliber of college football and fine bass fishing.  Now admittedly, Alabama is no match for  the super-saturated fall colors found in places like New England or Colorado, but it’s not too shabby either.  Today, I had an opportunity to make a quick drive up to Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville, to see just how well this season’s “color” was shaping up.  I was not disappointed.  Here are a few samples of what I found at the Monte Sano State Park and at the Burritt Museum.

Japanese Maple and Bamboo

Japanese Maple and Bamboo

Burning Bush

Burning Bush

Grape Vine

Grapevine

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Alabama, Madison County, Nature, Photography | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments