Friday, April 24, 2009

Heritage and Archeology in South Kerry

Along the Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula you can find a wealth of witnesses from the past. Standing Stones, Stone Rows and Circles, Boulder Burials and Wedge Tombs, Stone Huts or clocháns, Ring Forts and monastic or ecclesiastical buildings.
There is evidence that people inhabitated this part of Ireland as early as the Mesolithic Period, after the last Ice Age, although most of the above mentioned constructions date from the Bronze Age, 2500-400 BC, and after.
With rich findings of metal ore new tools were used to build bigger and more elaborate constructions.
Cahers on elevated sites were built to protect small farming communities. These earthen or stone ring forts enclosed a number of dwelling huts, storage huts and animal shelters. Three very fine examples are to be found in South Kerry, two of them north of Caherciveen, Cahergal and Learcanabuaile and Staigue Fort near Caherdaniel.

An impressive Stone Row which points towards the setting sun on Winter Solstice is situated in Eightercua right outside Waterville on the Sneem road.

Valentia Island is dotted with Standing Stones and Stone Crosses, Megalithic Tombs and Clocháns. The Transatlantic Cable connected Europe from here to New Foundland in North America. On top of that fossilized Tetrapod footprints were found down at the sea near Valentia Radio Coast Station. During the summer months visitors can find out more in a delightful little Local Museum in Knightstown, Valentia Island.

With Christianity came some famous monastic settlements in the 6th century, the most amazing and awe inspiring of them on Skellig Michael. They began as small isolated eremitic communities also on Church Island in Lough Currán near Waterville and on Illaunloughán in the channel between Portmagee and Valentia Island.
Later, in the 12th century some of these monasteries became Augustinian Priories and Abbeys, the Skelligs were left for Ballinskelligs Abbey, Church Island got Romanesque Art added, and Inisfallen, founded as a 7th century monastery near Killarney became the Augustinian Priory of St. Mary, where monks lived and studied and created the famous Annals of Inisfallen.

Two castles in South Kerry stand out as remnants from the past and are easily accessible,
Ballinskelligs Castle on Ballinskelligs Beach and Ballycarbery Castle in Caherciveen.

For more pictures go to my website´s heritage/ buildings photogallery.

The Ordnance Survey Ireland, Discover Series Map, No. 83, will give you detailed information about the location of many of the above mentioned.

To read more about the History and Heritage in South Kerry two books are essential,
the small but very informative Antiquities of the Ring of Kerry, by Jason Bolton, published in 2008 by Wordwell Ltd.
and the heavyweight The Iveragh Peninsula, An Archeological Survey of South Kerry, by Ann O´Sullivan and John Sheehan, published in 1996 by Cork University Press.

And finally, there are three books that will go straight to your heart by Ballinskelligs´ own Michael Kirby,
a fisherman, painter and writer of books in his native Irish language and, good for us, three books in English
  • Skelligside, 1990,
all published by Lilliput press,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Valentia Ice Cream

These cows come home on beautiful Valentia Island
to give their milk for the making of some delicious ice cream,
not always but often under a rainbow that supposedly has got the famous pot of gold buried where it touches the earth.

Now we don´t need any pots of gold but are happy enough with Caroline and Joe Daly´s Valentia Ice Cream
which you can buy in local supermarkets all year round
or sample at their Ice-Cream-Parlour during the months of summer. Click here to find directions etc...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another evening walk at Reenroe Beach

After sitting at the computer for hours it is always good to stretch your legs and get moving. Reenroe is the nearest place to be at the sea and have about an hours walk on the sandy beach.
Of course it takes me longer because I have a camera with me most of the time and these clouds and the special evening light were too good to miss.
See that tree stump washed over by sand stirred water or is it water stirred sand? A long shutter speed blurred the moving waves so you get this.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chocolate in St. Finian´s Bay

Easter is almost over and again we might have eaten too much chocolate or is there ever too much of it? In The Glen, St. Finian´s Bay, Co. Kerry, there is a little chocolate factory, which has been producing some of Ireland´s finest handmade chocolate for the last ten years or so. Anything from chocolate bars to truffles to Easter eggs is made here by local women under the leadership of the owner, Colm Healy.

You can buy Skelligs Chocolate in a number of shops in Kerry and indeed all over Ireland and in England too, or you can shop online at

The best you can do by far is to come to South West Kerry for a short or even better a longer holiday, visit the chocolate factory and taste all the delicious samples which will sate your chocolate craving for a day maybe.

Last year and this year before Easter I took some photographs of Skelligschocolate´s many products.

I hope you can enjoy the pictures for now and then the real things soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Short Glossary of Camera Settings and Techniques

This glossary is in alphabetical not in logical order,
You might want to use it before you buy a new camera or lenses or to come to terms with some of the important settings on your camera.

The aperture in your camera is an opening of variable size where the light enters the camera (like the iris in your eye, only made of metal blades).
The size controls the amount of light coming in at a set time (shutter speed).
Now- the confusing part is the numbers on the standard scale, the f-stops:
f/1 f/2.8 f/3.5 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 f/16 f/22 f/32 f/45 and f/64
The higher the number - the smaller your aperture gets,
f/1 would let in the full amount of light and f/64 the least.
Aperture determines the sharpness of a picture:
the smaller the aperture (number becoming bigger) –
the more of a picture is in sharp focus.

Compact camera:
Camera (mostly digital now) with fixed lens, often zoom.
Single Lens Reflex camera using film.
Digital Single Lens Reflex camera using a sensor.
Both SLR and DSLR have interchangeable lens systems
that allow a wide range of different focal length lenses to be used with the camera.

Depth of field
This is the amount of sharpness throughout your picture.
It is controlled by your aperture settings only;
A small aperture (big number) brings more of the subject into sharp focus.
Depth of field is a creative tool to put more or less emphasis on parts of the subject.
If you only want part of your subject to be in sharp focus, use a bigger aperture (smaller number).

The amount of light a picture receives controlled by lens aperture and shutter speed.
A picture gets the same exposure e.g. with
f/5.6 (aperture) and 1/125sec (shutter speed) as it would get with
f/8 (smaller aperture) and 1/60sec (slower shutter speed).
The ISO setting on your camera (digital) or on the film plays a roll too, a higher setting allows you to take pictures in darker environments but they will look more “grainy”.

Focal length of a lens
A lens focuses light at a specific distance.
It is normally marked on the lens barrel in millimeters:
lenses marked up to 35mm are a wide angle lenses (used to include large areas of a scene such as landscapes)
40-55mm are “normal” lenses (because they see about the same as the human eye)
above 75mm you have telephoto lenses (they allow you to isolate areas of a scene because the viewing angle gets smaller or take in distant subjects).

Lenses with fixed focal length:
Cover just that distance
(achieve better quality but you need more than one lens for
your camera depending on what kind of picture you want to take-
remember you cannot change lenses on compact cameras).

Zoom lenses: cover a range of focal length, e.g. 70-210mm
(but the bigger the range of a zoom lens the harder to keep image quality-
the quality of an image taken with a fixed lens of 135mm is better than with a zoom lens
set at 135mm)

States a films sensivity to light and has been adopted to digital photography to represent the response of a digital sensor to light.
With ISO 400 you get 4 times the light sensitivity of an ISO 100 setting,
so the lower an actual light level the higher ISO you might want to use.

Raw or Jpeg
Shoot RAW and you get a file with all the data captured by the image sensor
but you need more capacity on your memory card and you need to process the RAW file before you can print it.
JPEG images can be used and printed immediately, they need less capacity, so more will fit on your card.

Shutter speed
The length of time light is allowed to fall on the sensor inside the camera, represented in seconds and fractions of seconds.
1/8000sec is the shortest possible time and 30 seconds the longest in preset. If you want longer times in dark conditions press B(bulb).
Be careful to avoid camera shake, with longer times you might want to use a tripod.
Shutter speed is used to control the overall exposure (together with aperture).
It can also be applied to get special effects, e.g. with a slow shutter speed subjects which are moving begin to blur, like flowing water or moving car lights -
On the other hand you can freeze an action in sports with a fast shutter speed.

White balance
Allows to adjust the way in which a camera records the colours in a scene.
There are usually preset settings for sunshine, overcast, day light or tungsten, which is artifical light, etc.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Summary Portmagee Workshop 04/04/2009

Hello photographers,

thank you very much for taking part in the Portmagee workshop. To give you some reminder what we did on Saturday and to enable you to repeat this in your own time, here is a summary.

1.Camera setting

Always have your camera on the best image quality setting, this is very significant as this setting is responsable for the look of your photos, particularly if you order prints or print out yourself.

If your camera supports raw files, take the pictures in raw and convert them later to jpgs with the software that came with your camera .

If you have to shoot jpgs, select the finest quality setting. Look at your camera manual how to change the settings.

Always switch off the flashlight. Natural light is a wonderful source and gives your images this special touch.

We are very lucky to live in a region with changing light, fast moving clouds and clear air, perfect for landscape photography.

2.Going shooting photos

When going outdoors, wear some clothes that keep you warm and the camera dry. Sturdy shoes or boots make you independent in any rough environment.

Make sure you have the batteries in your camera charged and enough space on your memory card or bring spare ones. Remeber that once you have bought the memory card there are no other cost involved in taking the photos so you can try things out as long as you like.

  • Use a tripod, it allows you to take pictures under any light conditions, even in complete darkness. By using a tripod you are slowing down the process of taking the picture. You look more carefully at your composition and the lens and camera settings.

  • Follow the light for strong colours. Have a look where the sun stands, keep the sun behind you but make sure your own shadow is not part of your photo.

  • If you are working with a zoom lens, work in the telezoom mode. This allows you to get closer to your subject.

  • Take a lot of details, they are telling the story and you can bring your personal taste into play. Those photos will make the difference when you compare your work with others.

  • When you compose your image move the main subject of your photo out of the center. Your images will simply look more interesting. Apply the Golden Rule (or Rule of Thirds). That means that you divide your image in three rows and three columns. Place something important where those lines meet or along the lines. (The problem is that you can not see those lines although some cameras have a grid included for the screen. If you have the opportunity - switch it on.

  • Take pictures in landscape and portrait format of the same subject.
  • If you have strong lines in your image make them part of your composition.
  • Go for strong colours. Place the strongest colours where the Golden Rule applies, out of the center of your viewfinder.

  • Bring important objects to the foreground. And keep the horizontal line level.

A word about shape.

Big spheres and round shapes in general can be quite domineering in a picture so crop them in instead of taking the whole.

Have a look at horizontal and vertical shapes in your photo. If you see them repeating include them in your composition.

Make the best of high contrast i.e. light and shadow.

Be carefule not to underexpose - if you point your camera at bright surfaces your camera gets confused when you work in automatic mode.

(You can compensate against over or under exposure with the settings of your camera, look at the manual how to do it.)

I hope you all had a good time at the workshop and feel inspired to take the camera and go out shooting. I`ve enjoyed the day with you very much.

Valentia Lighthouse 2

After our visit to the interior of Valentia Lighthouse I was motivated to capture the very nature and purpose of this great old building, so I set out one late evening to find the light beams illuminating the tip of Fort Point on Valentia Island.

The moon was out so it was not too dangerous to climb along the cliffs and I knew the area but if you want to try and take those pictures be very careful and get to know the lay of the land in day light first.
Never ever go out there when the rocks are wet or the tide is high!
The settings for my camera were manual - I needed long shutter speeds to get enough light for the exposure after I chose a small aperture and small ISO to get a sharp picture with little noise.

The real challenge is to get the shutterspeed right, I remember the last picture I took that night had a shutterspeed of 8 minutes.It takes
roughly the same time for the camera to process the image, i.e. before you see the image on the camera screen.You need to be very patient but the result can be very rewarding. The next time I go, I´ll take another camera body with me to do landscape and portrait shape at the same time.By the way, all photos are taken with a Canon 5d, 2.8 70-200mm zoom, 4.0 17-40 zoom,or 50 and 100 mm macro lenses.
May the light always shine to bring everybody safe home.
Click here for other article on Valentia Lighthouse.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Photography Workshop Portmagee

Last Saturday five photgraphy students and I set out for Portmagee to capture some landscapes but mainly details in the picturesque setting of the little harbour.
After camera checks and an introduction talk about composition and other things we set up our tripods and cameras and started taking pictures.
The day was dry and bright, fishermen went about their business and I was able to teach my students some skills with their cameras and tips about composition, light and shadow, colours and shapes and other basic photography know how.
In the afternoon we worked a bit on how to file the images and slight improvements with computer software to get the best possible preparation for printing.
We all enjoyed the day and I am looking forward to repeat this workshop, we are planning a trip to the Skelligs for this summer among other places.
The photos shown above are by a student...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Spring has sprung

It is warming body and soul, not food this time, but the fresh greens of grass, a hazy sun over the beach and lambs and flowers in St. Finian´s Bay, the Glen, as the locals call it.
And as the locals speak Irish -

Céad buíochas le Mac na Fairsinge.-

A hundred thanks to the Son of Plenty.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Black (and white) Clouds over Ballinskelligs and St. Finian´s Bay

Some of the nicest apparitions in the sky to look at are the fast moving clouds over this island in the Atlantic Ocean. I converted some into monochrome here. Although they are perfectly great and appealing in colour there is some etheral feeling about them in mono.