Sunday, July 26, 2009

Illaunlaughan, a tiny island in the Portmagee Channel

Illaunlaughan is a very small island in the Channel between Portmagee and Valentia Island.
The name could have two meanings, Oileán an Lóchán, the Island of dry grass or broken seaweed, or Island of Lochán, a saint that could be associated with the island.
Archeological excavations between 1992 and 1995 revealed well- dated material which proved the existence of a small monastery between the 7th and 9th century and subsequent use of the island as a graveyard for the communities of Portmagee and Valentia Island..
During the mid 7th to mid 8th century period three domestic huts and a small oratory were built with posts and sod , cut blocks of grassy turf, for the walls; the roofs being thatch with local material. Possibly two shrines for relics were erected at that time.
Later the existing sod oratory was replaced by a small drystone structure, no more than 1.2mx 0.8m and in the 8th to 9th century again by a drystone oratory. Also a new gable shrine was erected to house the relics from earlier graves.

This gable shrine is the most prominent visible feature on Illaunlaughan, (there are two more in the area , one in Killabuonia and the other in Killaluaig).
A single drystone hut, almost perfectly round and 4,5m in diameter, similar to the huts on Skellig Michael, replaced two earlier sod huts.

One leacht is integrated at the northern wall of the stone oratory. A leacht is a simple quadrangular drystone structure. Its purpose could have been either an altar, a memorial or monument for pilgrimages or a grave or gravemound. This leacht was filled with soil, gravel and small stones and finished with larger stones and white quartz stones placed on top as a token by pilgrims.

They are clearly associated with ecclesiastical sited and are found mainly in western coastal ares.
The archeological excavations found evidence of fine metalwork and mould fragments
as well as material for establishing the dietary customs, living conditions and burial habits which continued after the religious community left the island in the 9th century.
The island seemed to be too small to be fought over or disturbed by later generations, the local population buried their dead here but not within the graveyard of the monastery, the spirituality of the place was always respected.

To find out more check out Illaunlaughan Island, an early medieval monastery in County Kerry by Jenny White Marshall and Claire Walsh

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Heritage and Photography Workshop on Church Island

After a very rainy night I
opened my eyes in the
morning to see the
sun shining,what a day.
Greatest photography
weather,blue sky,
clouds that move and
a slight breeze,just right.
Our boat man,
Neil O´Shea, brought
us safely to the island
where the tripods
and the cameras had
a rest, while Paddy Bushe
gave an
interesting and detailed
talk about the history
and heritage of
Church Island,
or Oileàn an Teampaill,
the Island of the Nobles.

Most interesting are the
tomb stones,leachta and
of course the two main
buildings,St.Finians Church
and St.Finians Cell.
I liked the small
walls and steps
that are there after
all those hundreds of
years exposed to
the weather.

Here are a few tips
how to take images of details,
stone crosses and

Set image quality to high or fine, or take the images as raw and jpg-files, so you will get more details in your images, particularly if you want big prints later on.
Also set ISO to 80 -100, for best results.

Use a tripod,it slows your movement down and makes you think about the image you are going to create.
Some of the tripods were a bit light for outdoor photography, but can always steady them with some kind of weight. Some tripods have a hook at the bottom of the center column where you can hang e.g.your camera bag as a weight or some fishing net filled with stones...

Follow the light. Look where the sun is and take pictures in the opposite direction. Most cameras on automatic settings get confused if you shoot in the direction of the sun, the sky will be pale or too dark,you won´t get this if you point the other way. Just make sure your own shadow is not in the picture.
You will get nice detailed images of inscriptions and carvings if you get the sun at an angle of 45 degrees or less.

Take images of details, a lot.
To tell the story about the things you have seen, take as many photos of details as possible. Use portrait mode for details and get close to your subject or zoom in. For whole buildings landscape mode with a wide angle setting is better especially inside rooms.

Experiment with aperture!
If you like your images a bit different reduce your aperture from for instance f/13 down to f/6.3 or f/5.6
this will give you a nice blurred background and helps you focusing on your subject.
On the other side you can get some nice shots when you stay in wide angle mode and take pictures with apertures 16 or 22. Everything will be sharp and crisp.

If you are having a slr camera, try the mirror lock and a remote control. You will be surprised how much less camera shake you get. This is in particular great for long exposures, night shots or macro photography.
Better again if you put your camera on to a tripod.

Carry a second battery ,enough memory cards and your camera manual with you. A plastic bag weighs nothing and keeps your camera bag dry in the seldom event of some soft Irish rain.

Thank you all for taking part in the workshop, especially Peggy O´Shea who sent in these three pictures.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Water Lilies in Waterville Lake

If there is one beautiful flower during the summer months it must surely be the Water Lily. Maybe it is not the actual flower on its own, but the serene and calming ambience of a lake on a summer evening with the blooms and petals floating in a slight breeze.
The indigenous water lilies are a welcome addition to any lake because they indicate clean water and provide shelter and food for fish and other little creatures.

pinhole photography

Read some more at

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sunday Treats in Ballinskelligs

The summer holidays have started here and everybody is more relaxed. New attractions and activities rang in the summer, like our lovely little country market in Ballinskelligs. Freshly baked cakes and quiches, smoked mackerel and homegrown vegetables, as well as local crafts and some bric-à-brac are being presented every Sunday from 11am to 4pm.
But a very special treat are the musicians who play in the garden or in Barbara´s Beach Cafe. Everybody can join in and everybody is certainly having a good time, which is all a Sunday should be about.

Claire Horgan and Sean Garvey

Barbara has been running the cafe for the last few years. While you are being served home made sandwiches cakes and soup, you can browse through a large collection of lovely, old black and white photographs from the area and all over Ireland, old and new maps, a selection of books and CD's by local writers and musicians and local crafts and knitware. Open all week from 10am to 6pm.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Pinhole Photography

Inny Estuary
Waterville from Reenroe Beach

The pinhole technique goes back to the principle of the Camera Obscura which is, put very short, a box or a room into which light from an object falls through a very small hole onto a light sensitive material, which could be some tracing paper, a glass plate, a film or a digital sensor.
The projected image is "on its head", like our eyes are working, basically.
There are all kinds of pinhole cameras, you can build one yourself, which you probably did in Science at school, there are big wooden boxes with photo chemically sensitive glass plates or film rolls, and there are pinhole caps for some digital camera types, which you put on your camera instead of a lens.
This is what I did for these pictures, to a true pinhole expert it may be cheating, but then I just wanted to try out what it would look like.
The result still has that slightly blurred, imperfect and timeless feeling. And I like it very much, so, I think, a "real" film pinhole camera is on the wish list now...