Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Wonder Land

Waterville and surrounding mountains under a sprinkle of snow 

Happy New Year to all of you, and don´t forget to take a few photographs during the cold but dry spell.
Winter scenes are quite good for graphic compositions and of course snow and ice on the gound are just so unusual here in the South West of Ireland that you simply have to keep a record.


The two photographs above were taken near Lough Derriana, north of Waterville, Co. Kerry.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reenroe Beach , Ballinskelligs, in Winter Light

View from western end of Reenroe Beach towards Waterville
Don´t be afraid of the cold wintery days right now, as long as it is reasonably dry you can still go out with your camera and capture the blueish and pink colours in the sky towards sunset in the afternoon.
Find those clouds, they make a picture much more interesting than just blue sky, and maybe another interesting subject like the water spray of the waves in the next picture.
I had not brought a tripod with me for this walk, so to steady your camera, especially if you have a heavy lens attached, make do with whatever you can rest the weight on, even your walking partner´s shoulder...

By the way, I read about some place names along the Skellig Coast again the other day in Michael Kirby´s books and Reenroe which is obviously the English version of the Irish name Rinn Rua, means the Red Riff, I suppose, that is the place from where I took the first Photograph in this article.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stars in the Sky

Last night we watched the cold and clear sky only for a few minutes and saw a number of "shooting stars" from this Decembers meteor shower highlight, the Geminid Meteor Shower. They are exceptionally impressive this year because it is near New Moon, so the moonlight does not distract from or diminish the visibility of the meteors´lights. It seemed last night they were everywhere in the sky but I read today they sort of radiate from a source within the Gemini or Twins, hence the name.
I added a link to an interactive astro viewer under the links in the left side column, you can change the location (it´s New York by default, you can also change the language for the stars between Latin and Englisch, for that you need to click on the full featured astro viewer, so if you don´t know where to find the Gemini, this is a help...)
Another tip for watching the sky at night is to be in a really dark place, so turn off all the lights around you or even better travel to a spot where there is as little light as possible.

October night sky on Bray Head, Valentia Island 
with view towards Portmagee

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our man on Skellig Michael

Here is an article in the Irish Times Magazine about Lighthouse Keeper Richard Foran, who just successfully finished a photography course with me, an interesting read, enjoy...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Certificate night in Tech Amergin Waterville

Congratulations to all my Fetac Level 5 Digital Photography Students, here you see the smiling Richard Foran, Bridget O`Shea, Trish O`Sullivan, Eileen O`Leary and me, from left.
The picture was taken by Lynda Higgins( thanks Linda), two other students Tom Horgan and Joe Hardy could not attend the ceremony.
Thank you very much again for taking part in this course
that you finished all with great success.
Keep the camera going and your eyes and hearts wide open!
A big thank you to Angela and Susan from Tech Amergin
 for the support I´ve received.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Killarney Photo Workshop Review

Thanks to all who came out and joined me on the photo workshop in Killarney´s National Park.
The heavy rainfalls had put Ross Castle´s surroundings under water so we moved on to Torc Waterfall and Muckross Gardens.
Our main project was to capture the flowing waters with long shutter speed anyway and some of you sent in quite good pictures of the mighty waterfall and other pictures too, some of which I am showing here.
Thanks again to the students in my Waterville and Caherciveen Photo Courses and to the guests.

                               Deirdre Booth

Mairead Murphy

Mairead Murphy

      Cormac Dineen

       Mairead Murphy

Cormac Dineen

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Winter in the Kerry Mountains

Laune River and Kerry Mountains

What came down all over Ireland as torrential rain was to cover the highest mountains in Kerry, the McGillycuddy Reeks, in snow.
Back from my photo workshop in the Killarney National Park I took several photographs at this spot between Killarney and Killorglin and stitched some of them together afterwards to the panorama above.
For our workshop we actually could not go near Ross Castle, the carpark and most of the walkways were flooded but we were able to take pictures at Tork Waterfall and in Muckross Gardens, more about that later...for now, thanks to all who joined me there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Archaeological Excavations at Ballinskelligs Castle

                                                          Ballinskelligs Castle on a Winter´s morning

Only now I came across a website which publishes archaeological findings in Ireland.
If you want to know what exatly was found during the excavation of Ballinskelligs Castle ( I suppose for the book about The Iveragh Peninsula, An Archaeological Survey of South Kerry, Cork University Press,1996 by Ann O´Sullivan and John Seehan) read about it in detail on excavations.ie

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sunrise over Ballinskelligs Castle in late November

                          Ballinskelligs Castle , Co. Kerry
To capture the sun rising at this time of the year at least means you don´t have to get up too early.
I went to Ballinskelligs Beach a bit earlier actually to find out the best positions and after taking a few shots of the sunrays illuminating the clouds from a low angle I realised the light would be shining through one of Ballinskelligs Castles windows soon- which they did...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Valentia Lighthouse in a Spray of Salty Waters

                                             Valentia Lighthouse at Cromwell Point

Well, today was not exactly the weather for any outdoor pursuits, with very high winds and the occasional wintery shower. Still, I was tempted to see and take photographs of the big waves at Valentia Islands´ north side around the lighthouse. I didn´t go down the last part of the road for fear of getting drenched and for my camera gear beeing destroyed in a freak wave. It was quite impressing however to see and feel the sheer power of the elements.
Afterwards I took care to clean tripod et all thoroughly from any salty spray which you need to do even in finer weather conditions when you take photos near the sea.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas in the Heart

It does not feel like Christmas yet, it is warm, sunny and not windy today for a change. Will be out later hopefully to catch the sunset...
Every year before Christmas we sort of wait for Fairytale of New York to beeing played on the radio as a reliable harbinger of the holiday.
This year I think, Bob Dylan´s Polka rhythmed "Must be Santa" must be a sure runner up...

Photowalk Killarney- a one day photo workshop

A one day photo workshop and walk in Killarney´s National Park will take place on November 28, 2009. My photography classes´ participants from Waterville, Caherciveen and I will meet at Ross Castle car park at 10 a.m. to capture some pictures along the shores of Lough Leane and of Ross Castle.
After that we will visit Torc Waterfall and hopefully be able to take some blurred water images. Finally we will have some little time to spend near Muckross House.

Everybody, not only course members, welcome! There is no workshop fee!
If you have a tripod please bring it with you!!!

(Also sturdy shoes, raingear etc...)
I am looking forward to seeing you there!
(If you have any questions ring me on 087 6606586)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Horse Island in Ballinskelligs Bay

It is quite surprising how well the light conditions in November are for taking landscape photographs. The clear and crisp winter light has this blueish cold colour temperature which is quite dramatic and conveys a sense of lonelyness and longing mood. The high swell of the Atlantic Sea after our usual stormy weather and the occasional illuminating sun shine only add to the drama.

Horse Island is a small island in Ballinskelligs Bay, not far from the pier, where fishermen and holiday people have their boats moored during the Summer months. As well as that some boats will go to Skellig Michael in Summer if the weather is favourable.
The Irish name for Horse Island is Oileán na gCapall, and Michael Kirby, fisherman, painter and poet from Ballinskelligs (1906-2005) writes in one of his books, Skelligs Calling, about the Irish place names in and around  Ballinskelligs Bay, that it isn´t quite clear where the name comes from but that there are more than this Oileán na gCapall along the Irish coast.
Until the end of the 1950s there lived two families on Horse Island, the Barrys und the Fitzgeralds, when life became too hard and uncomfortable on the rather barren island, especially in Winter. Even if the distance from Ballinskelligs Pier to the island is not that far, a heavy swell from the Atlantic through the narrow sound made crossing by boat impossible a lot of the time and the families finally moved to the mainland.
In his book Skelligside Michael Kirby writes about the Lady of Horse Island, his aunt Julia Kirby, who in the 1860s married a David Fitzgerald from the island but was soon left a widow with six children.
Her relatives from Ballinskelligs helped as much as they could and often in Spring French fishing boats would come for mackerel and the Breton fishermen would keep her company and she would look after them when the weather was to rough for them to go out with their boats. Tobacco and "sour" red wine was exchanged in the village for milk and eggs and some French cooking of cockels and mussels and sea snails was introduced to the area.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sun drenched...in France

For all of you who long for a bit of sunnier climes right now, maybe my new photobook about the South of France can cheer you up a little.
The pictures in this book were taken on a trip to the South of France in September 2009. The only camera I had with me was a Panasonic Lumix LX3, a camera that I really started to like after working with it for the last couple of month. The camera is very light compared with the DSLR that I usually use and the image quality is very good.
The great advantage of those small pocket-sized cameras is that you can carry them around with you all the time and use them as a kind of diary or sketchbook.
A particularly wonderful feature of the LX3 is the ability to set everything, including the focus, manually. I shot all images in aperture priority mode, for convenience.
After taking some hundred shots I changed the focus setting to manual focus and
took photos that are intentional blurred or seem to be out of focus. I like the blurred images actually more than the ones I had taken before, mainly because they remind me of some French Impressionist paintings and leave more space for imagination and phantasy . I am still experimenting with the manual focus and use different aperture settings to get some interesting shots with this great little camera.
A book with other images from the same trip will follow soon.

Click on the book to enlarge and to look at the photographs in your own time.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sunset over St. Finian´s Bay

Whenever you get a bit of calm weather now get out your camera gear including the tripod and chase the rare but beautiful winter light. Sunset comes earlier now and with it the chance to capture flowing water at longer shutterspeed. Be patient waiting for that special light, even after sunset there can be magical streaks of pinks, purples and reds in the sky - combined with threatening dark clouds you will get these moody landscape images.
Be careful for yourself and your gear and don´t forget to wash off any salt water from tripod etc...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bray Head on a November´s Sunday Afternoon

                                         The Skellig Islands

Taking photographs in Winter needn´t be dull, even if there is the odd rain shower. Once the sky is not totally overcast all the time, shafts of sunlight can make a scene look very dramatic indeed.
Bray Head is at the westernmost tip of Valentia Island, there is even a proper way to walk up to the old tower, from where the Skelligs can be seen to the South West and the Blasket Islands to the North.
The photograph above was cropped in Photoshop, to make it look a bit more interesting.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Autumn in Killarney´s National Park

For truly colourful Autumn photographs I like to go to Killarney´s National Park.
Here are still vast stretches of dense, indigenous forests, with trees that right start showing lovely yellows, browns and reds. Near the entrance to Muckross House is Torc Waterfall and as the day was not too bright, I tried to capture the flowing water as a soft and milky blur which enhances the appearrance of a magigal, secret forest where strange little creatures might or might not live and be merry.
It is always a temptation to capture, in this case, the whole picture, waterfall, but as you can see with the three following pictures, the more you close in or crop in your subject, the more interesting it gets.
I gave the chosen aperture, shutterspeed, focal length and the lens with each picture.
The main decision here is to have a longish shutterspeed for the blurred feel of the moving water, for that you need to choose  a very small aperture (big number).
By the way, all photos were taken with ISO 100 and the help of a tripod of course.
If you want to go and try this yourself, be careful with the slippery stones and take some waders with you.

f/22, 2.0sec, 28mm with 17-40 mm lens

f/32, 25sec, 73mm with 70-200mm lens

f/32, 30sec, 125mm with 70-200mm lens

More details, even more cropped in:

f/32, 30sec, 120mm with 70-200mm lens

f/32, 30sec, 185mm with 70-200mm lens
For more reading on long shutterspeed and blurred effect, click here or check out the labels on the left.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tips for Landscape and other Photography

After all the photo workshops and photo holidays of the last summer and September I would like to sum up what was important in teaching and guiding those who attended my photo tours here in South Kerry, Ireland.
I have written about most of this before, and you may want to read those articles from earlier blogs.
There are four main categories which are more or less to be considered before setting out and taking landscape or other photos
1. Location and time of the day
2. Composition
3. Exposure
4. Technical considerations

Location and time of the day
Of course you can take photos everywhere. I often see tourists who stop at some beauty spot along the Ring of Kerry, they take out their cameras, shoot a picture or two and then travel on to the next nice view.
If you are in the area for a little longer you can find out while driving or walking what spot is really worth your time taking a planned landscape photograph. Find out which way the sun is hitting that spot at a certain time of the day. It is easiest to take pictures with the sun from behind you, everything is lit evenly and there should be no problems with the light metering, wether your camera is in automatic mode or you do it manually. All the colours come strongest and most saturated with the sun light directly shining on them. Light from the sides allows for a more pronounced contrast, it will give you dark shadows and more interesting structures.
Find out which position makes a picture even more interesting or unusual, walk around a little, try an elevated position or go down with your camera (and knees).
Pictures taken during sunrise or sunset have a special quality of light and you should really try to get up early one morning. Again, think beforehand, where do you want to go, in which direction is the sun rising and at what time. Be there a little before the actual sunrise, give yourself time to set up everything without a rush.
For sunsets, again, find out the direction and time and do not only take a photo of the red ball sinking into the sea but also before and after, literally everything has a more dramatic colour, there are deep shadows and the actual sky is well worth being taken after the sun has gone, the blues and pinks and yellows can be quite extreme and beautiful.
If you go near the sea make sure you know the tide and the swell on that day, wear sturdy shoes on cliffs etc.and just be careful.

There are some rules for good composition of a picture (a photograph or a painting/drawing too). Try to think of some when you plan your picture, although nothing is set in stone here and of course you can experiment with everything.

The first and main rule is the Rule of Thirds. Position the interesting or important subjects of your overall picture not right in the centre but along some imagined lines or even better where those lines meet. Some cameras have this grid of lines built in the screen, if not, imagine your screen divided by lines into three equal parts of each rows and columns.

Another "rule" is to have some actual lines leading into your picture, ideally pointing towards the main feature. This highlights the main feature and also gives the picture some depths.

Another means of making your picture more interesting is to position something in the foreground, especially with big landscapes, like a beach and sky. With position I mean you either find something which is there already (a boat, a stone or some wood landed there by a storm) and use it as it is, or you can actually put something there, well nothing too heavy, please. Try several spots of elevation too, in this case rather from lower viewpoints.
Geometrical forms of features in your chosen subject play an important role too. Triangles can point at s.th. or if any forms are repeated within the picture make use of that. Something round or spheric, especially if it is big, does not need to be in the picture in full, parts of it are enough to let your eyes and brain recognize what it is.
And there we are, parts of it, parts of something or details are what I really like and encourage students to consider taking. It is about telling a story with a picture. A detail would rather evoce questions like what...,where...and why...?
Your mind will not just register a glimps of a nice landscape, which, ok yes, is beautiful but maybe get a bit boring after looking at it three times. To demonstrate this idea, here are three pictures of roughly the same subject and my favourite one is, you guess...

A story behind a picture can also be provoced when unexpectedly or with some patience and waiting on your part a live creature moves into the frame, like a bird or cat...
And finally, take photos of your chosen subject not only in landscape but in portrait format too.

Aperture, Shutterspeed and ISO are the three components which determine the exposure (that is the amount of light which hits the film or sensor of your camera).
If your camera is in Automatic Mode, everything gets measured and set automatically. That is fine and works in most cases. Also  a lot of cameras have scene modes for different light situations, which can help getting the right exposure.
Nevertheless I always encourage students to set their camera partially in Manual Mode.
With the ISO set as low as possible, say ISO 100, you then need to consider what kind of photograph you want:
A) a picture that is in sharp focus everywhere or

 note the "lines" going into the picture,
giving it more depth

For (A) you need to set your aperture high, that means a small number in your f-stops, e.g.f/22 if your camera goes that far, and then focus on s.th. which is about one third into the picture. (Your camera will subsequently choose the apropriate shutterspeed automatically.)

B) a picture that has your main subject in sharp focus but not the rest.
also note rule of thirds
       and leading lines

For (B) you want a small aperture, that means a high number in your f-stops, e.g f/2.8 or f/5.6, then focus directly on your subject which is supposed to be in sharp focus.

There is one main reason to use your camera´s shutterspeed priority settings: to capture a movement either very sharp in focus,e.g. to freeze some action in sports pictures: for that you need a very fast shutterspeed, e.g. 1/2000 sec
Or you want some blurred image, which is appropiate e.g. for moving water or the lights of moving cars at night: for that you need a long shutterspeed, usually seconds or even minutes. Your aperture will subsequently open up, that means you cannot take this kind of blurred picture with lots of light, a filter might help, but it is safest to take these pictures in the evenenings.

 Water appears to be still,
Something of interest in the foreground

Technical Stuff
I have always one tripod (or more) at hand, here in Kerry you need a sturdy one, even better when you can fix some weight to it, another useful gadget for SLR cameras is a remote self timer. These two help you to avoid camera shake, the use of a tripod also lets you think about what exactly you want to frame.
Take photos which really matter to you in RAW format, there is more information to work with, although you need a fairly big memory card.You also have to convert this format at some stage with some editing software because not every program can read RAW.
Always have enough batteries, memory on card and maybe some rain protection bags for all your gear.
Certain filters cann be applied to some lenses, they are helpful when the sky is too bright or they bring out clouds in a dull, or overcast sky.

If this sounds all a bit overwhelming, I can assure you I am not a dry, lecturing type of teacher, all  the tuitions where practical and hands on and tailored on the spot to arising topics, needs or problems.