Things have been a little tight on the photography front lately – I have been doing other things involving computers and looking at satellite imagery but not taking very many photographs of my own. I’d like to get to Sligo for some of the big waves before they leave us again by the spring…maybe I will be lucky.
This photograph was taken in Brittany last March. I got a lot of really nice shots there which I haven’t finished harvesting for the site yet. This was taken on the Pointe de Raz, a lovely, lovely part of the coast of Brittany and which I learned, age 15 how to pronounce correctly (apparently I was doing it wrong, dammit).
What I see in this photograph are endless possibilities, endless options, I think it’s a suitable way to look at the start of a new year, when the days are (slowly) getting longer and (apparently) getting slightly warmer. We haven’t done too badly on the weather front this year (so far no snow) (and not much frost).
I intend to go back to Brittany again this year; I would have liked to go in March again but that’s unlikely to be practical at this point in time so it’s more likely to be September. There are a raft of places in Finistere and Morbihan that something pulls me back, such as the Pointe du Raz, and the boatgraveyard of the Blavet River. But I would also like to go t the Ile de Sein and Ouessant this time, and possibly, Belle-Ile. I will need time.
Now, in January, is a time for dreaming and planning, and thinking about places to go.
I haven’t taken that many photographs this year.
I’d like to say it’s not because I have a crisis or anything.
It’s a beautiful sunny morning here in Dublin, with a glittering blue sky. Maybe I should have been up earlier. Maybe, maybe not. I’ve spent 30 minutes this morning looking at surf photographs, wave periods and weather forecasts. It looks like today might have been the day to go to Clare, not tomorrow. I may not now travel. I’m looking for one special photograph this year; I don’t know what it is but I don’t think it’s a kite photograph and anything I don’t think I took any photographs of kitesurfing this year. Would have liked to go to the Aer Lingus KSP in Mayo but the way things worked out, I just couldn’t until the very last day and it poured rain that day. I really couldn’t face the four and a half hour drive to not take photographs in the rain. Because I know that’s what would happen. I live in Ireland. I spent half of my early days taking pictures in the rain and I know, if what you are looking for is one special beat of your heart, and you have spent a lot of time in many conditions looking for it, you know sure as hell where you’re not going to find it. Pity I couldn’t make it the previous week but them’s the breaks.
So I haven’t taken that many photographs this year. I don’t – unlike previous down years – think it’s because I’m losing skill with the camera (see this post from around a year and a half ago on this). I’ve been very lucky this year. I have take a lot of photographs I love, including two which are sitting in my parents home on canvas waiting for a wall for me to hang them on. I’m happy with some of what came from Finland, very happy with some of what came from the Tall Ships, very happy with some from Clare, like this:
I’ve learned a lot about myself. In fact, I started this journey on a surf photography course with Lucia Griggi when I discovered I didn’t care about being a professional surf photographer. I’d always written off being a professional photographer living in Ireland because I couldn’t face the weddings which are pretty much the bread and butter. But I had idly wondered about surf photography. I can’t do it because…for me the business side of things leaves me completely and utterly cold.
There’s this moment, when you’re taking kitesurf, or wave photographs, when you’re standing there, snapping away, wondering where to stand, where to point. Mostly this is a bigger deal when I am standing on the point in Doolin, my absolute favourite place to take wave or spray photographs, and I don’t know where I’ll get the next perfect sculpture either against a rock or rolling on. You have very little time to make those decisions and it is exhilerating. To some extent it’s the same with the kitesurfers.
So I might take somewhere between 300 and 1500 photographs of a day and I’ve had all this exhileration of trying to second guess the sea, wondering will this be the photograph, the one that I have to print on canvas or, if and when the wave photograph comes, the one I do try to get in the magazines. I’ll drive home – and it’s a three and a half, four hour drive from Doolin to Dublin – not knowing, waiting, and hoping that in the tiny box beside me – is a photograph of my dreams.
That hope ends for better or worse when you open up a computer and start finding out. That hope, that wonder, that exhilaration turns into a cold assessment of what’s a definite goner and what you can do something with. Invariably, most of the time you’ll be disappointed.
I’ve seen many different assessments of how many throwaways a photographer might expect to have out of any individual session. A keep rate of 5-20% seems to be the most common amongst the people I’ve talked to about this. You get one keeper in twenty, you’re doing well.
That’s an awful lot of disappointment to be overcome. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get one huge star of a photograph that will define that day but mostly, what you get….is a few keepers and nothing life changing. This is what photography is for me. A few stars over the last 6-7 years, a few keepers and an awful lot of disappointment.
I couldn’t do it for money.
So I can’t see myself ever making it as a surf photographer either. I know in my heart that there are people who are far better than I at it anyway. If you don’t me, hop over to Clubofthewaves.com and have a look for Mickey Smith – even better, here’s a link. And pick up Tonnta and Carve any time you’re in a newsagent that has them. Tonnta in particular have published some extraordinary shots of his.
The tagline on this site is “Notes from a photographer on a journey”. I guess what this note is saying that I’m still on that journey but I’m at a crossroads, and I’m rejecting routes on that crossroads by process of elimination. I don’t want to go the club photography route, the wedding photography route, the prosurf photographer route…Sometimes, it seems, you just go where the road takes you and somewhere at the end there might be something special to make the journey worth it. Call it soulphotographer if you like.
And now for your more regular service of things I have seen on the web that you might want to have a look at:
Michael Clark spoke at Google lately. His adventure sports photography book is a must have if you’re interested in adventure sports. Here’s a link to the talk.
Roger Sharp has some hints for submitting stuff to the surf magazines. He’s connected to Carve and Tonnta so his advice is Well Worth Following. Have a look for that here.
I get my weather wind and waves information from Windguru and Magic Seaweed most of the time. Also Surf Republic are good with the forecasts for Ireland and they have links to even more surfcams than I do.
On Saturday, I took a mosey around the south docks and had an eerie feeling at the contrast between the yesteryear mood of the tall ship masts and the late twentieth century architecture that surrounds the quays in Dublin these days. And I was reminded of something.
A few weeks ago I was in the National Library and they have a few photographs on exhibition there (amongst other things – it’s worth a wander in if you have time some day) including, at the moment, this one of a ship in front of the Customs House. That photograph dates from 1858 according to its catalogue, by the way and there is also this one from William Lawrence, sometime beween 1890 and 1900 I think. I like to think that in the hey day of sail, the quays would have been full of masts like the photo above depicts. Of the photographs I took of the ships, it’s the one I like most; a chaotic collection of masts and ropes and flags and rolled up sails.
The Tall Ships appear to have been a huge success in Dublin. I’ve always wanted to have a closer look at them again because of some of the stunning photographs I have seen by Guillaume and Philippe Plisson like this one of the Belem. (some info about the Belem here). Word has it there were around 200,000 people in the city centre to see them sail off yesterday. That’s quite extraordinary; would make me want to see it happen again and soon.
I’m sorry I wasn’t in a helicoptre for yesterday; I was in Cork so a long way off. However, the Irish Defence Forces had someone flying around and some of the results are here. Worth a look at their other shots here.
Sailing ships are beautiful. I still feel for the loss of the Asgard II although you can now go and look at the Asgard (I) in the museum in Collins Barracks.
and the old and the new again.
Interesting fact. If you switch on satellite imagery on Google maps for Tampere you can see that the photographs of the lake were done at different times of the year. In short, the imagery for the city was done in the middle of winter when the lake was frozen over, and as you move north, there’s a sharp line between the seasons.
Anyway, Tampere. I was in Tampere once, about 13 years ago and we went up *somewhere* to see a view of the two lakes. I had a compact camera with me at the time and I couldn’t do justice to the view. I think it’s fair to say I still haven’t really.
This was taken from the top of the observational tower in Pynnikki which isn’t that far from the centre of Tampere. I can say this because I walked back to the railway station from there having discovered on the way up by bus that it was only around half an hour of a walk.
Tampere is at the meeting of two lakes. It’s an old industrial city with a lot of textile works in its history I think. A lot of the city is redbrick industrial and all those buildings have been cleaned up. It is one of the prettiest small cities I have been in. I recommend a trip there, particularly in the summer when the skies are this colour:
The place is full of chimneys like this. There is a massive lock in the middle of the town as well which has a walkway full of those love locks you often see:
and some superb street art.
Sometimes when I look at parts of Finland, the cities in particular, I see what we could do here in Ireland. I know they are – to some extent – gone down that road in Cork which is another amazing small city. I would put Tampere and Cork on more or less a level plane except that Cork is less likely to involve mosquitoes.
This is inside the main hall of the railway station. I happened to be there waiting to get a train to Tampere, which is probably the second biggest city in Finland (it’s either that or Turku) and was intrigued mainly by the chandeliers. The railway station in Finland is probably not that much bigger than Heuston Station but it is an iconic building in Helsinki, in much the same was as the Eduskunto (Parliament building) which I didn’t get to this time.
There are, I think, four of these guys, guarding the front of the station, two left, two right. The station is a little over 90 years old and was designed by Eliel Saarinen in the early twentieth century.
I went to Helsinki for the weekend as you do because I had intended to go for a week but the Olympic C1 canoe final got in my way and somehow I thought it would be viable to go to Finland for 3 days instead. You can and incidentally, the weather is generally better in Finland in the summer than it is in Ireland, anecdotal, sample size once, measured over the last three days.
It was my third time in Finland; but it’s more than 10 years since the second time. Helsinki was covered in snow the last time I was there, in February 1999, and it rained the previous time, although I wasn’t based in Helsinki but in Rauma. This time, the misquitoes left me alone, a good thing as usually the vicious deathwishing menaces feast on me like it was the last day of their lives which, incidentally, it usually is. I got on a plane home in July 1999 with 28 welts on my legs and suffering quite a bit of pain. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that mosquitoes are never that far north. They are.
Anyway, the above is one of the cathedrals. I didn’t take a whole lot of photographs while I was away and only 24 made it past QC and a few more will probably get posted here or over on windsandbreezes over the coming few days. It was a bit cloudy in Helsinki yesterday (still splendidly warm though) so I wanted to try and do something of the white on white variety. I’ve done this with flowers against white skies in the past but I don’t always get enough of a white subject or a white enough sky. The picture is slightly askew because I was standing at a slight angle avoiding all sorts of festival trailers. Having reviewed google image search for cathedral in Helsinki it’s fair to say this is a reasonably unique take on things.
On a vaguely related note, I was at the National Gallery in Dublin during the week and in particular was looking through their bookshop (it’s wonderful; you should at least take a look) and one of the things which struck me is that nearly every thing in the world has been photographed at this stage. How do you do something unique now? How much of it is luck and unusual conditions, how much of it is technical proficiency or technical excellence in the equipment? Take a building for example? Where do we push boundaries now?
I don’t know and I don’t profess myself to be any sort of a groundbreaker.
Doolin Point again.
This is from last week’s impromptu road trip to Clare, where I took last week’s picture of the Cliffs of Moher which, incidentally, pix.ie picked up as their picture of the day on Monday much to my surprise
I take a lot of photographs like this. Part of it is that I am looking for something in particular, a combination of colour, shape and feeling. I don’t think I got as much of it this time as I did the previous time when I had a ball altogether.
So I’ll just have to keep on going, I think, and if I am lucky I will hit a day sometime in the winter when it’s windy, sunny and the swell is fairly decent.
While I was in Clare, I dropped into the surf shop to pick up a photograph by George Karbus which is not on his website but you should go and have a look at his gallery anyway because he has some amazing stuff. In my view, a bit of an unsung hero worldwide on the sea photography front. He has an exhibition running down in Kerry at the moment, until 15 August. Details are on his site.
Moving swiftly onwards. There during the Month of May I spent some time going through old photo albums for a family event and discovered that much to my surprise, there was a fairly decent amount of material for me to play with. I hadn’t been expecting to find very much pre around 1963. So it was astonishing to find photographs going back to the early 1940s. It transpired my grandmother had taken them all.
This was news to me because I only remember my grandmother as quite an old lady, and never one brandishing a camera and shanghaiing all the children into standing straight and smiling at the camera. Even in my earliest memories, she was at least 80. I remember playing tinwhistle at part of her 85th birthday – a treat to stay up late. I was about 12 at the time I think. Anyway she died about a month short of her 93rd birthday so she wasn’t around when I started taking photographs seriously.
Like many young people in Ireland, my grandmother emigrated to America when she was a young woman. She was 21 when she got on a ship in Queenstown as Cobh was still known at the time to travel to Boston to her Aunt Mary. She arrived into Ellis Island on 5 June 1920. This I know because her record is online and I have seen it.
While she was in America, she bought a camera which I think may have been a box brownie and my dad tells me she always had film in it. Hence a fairly rich selection of photographs of his family in the 1940s, including his Communion photographs. I’m not sure when she travelled back to Ireland.
I did, for a while, wonder where I got it.
I was up and in Tesco at 7.30am yesterday. Sunday. How mad is that?
After breakfast, after considering my options and desires, I got into the car, and drove to Clare, to Lahinch. Again. It took around 3 and a half hours. I came back last night.
In the middle, I did the cruise to the Cliffs of Moher, for the second time, and got seasick again. Taking photographs when you are seasick is a less than pleasant activity. The haul wasn’t the greatest but I like the one above and this one.
I really will have to put seasickness tablets into the glove compartment to cater for those days I have the crazy idea to drive across the country and get on a boat, completely unplanned, so that some day, some time, I can actually take pictures of the seastack without wishing I was dead. I don’t do sick very well.
In the meantime, Clare was as wonderful as it ever is. I wish Dublin was just a little closer.
I took my macro out to play this morning. This may be why I now also have issues with hayfever, but that’s alright. I will be leaving the country to go back to the city this evening and there may be less pollen there. MetE says there isn’t much pollen around but I have some doubts that they are right.
Anyway, the sharper eyed amongst will notice that this is shot on aperture priority. My camera is giving some occasional trouble by way of not working properly on occasion. Currently it will not allow me to make any adjustments at all while on full manual. I can get around this on aV but it’s a hassle as you set under or over exposure but it’s just a hassle. Also, it refused to talk to the computer yesterday.
But still, it gives me some nice photographs. This is a dew laden leaf from my parents’ garden.
I’ve learned to make life far too easy for myself so when days like yesterday turn up, days like today get very hard.
I took more than 700 photographs yesterday. I want it to be clear this is nothing – in the past I have taken 1500 photographs, to even 2000 in a day. And I’ve processed them all and uploaded them. On the same day.
I can’t do this any more, mainly because I have a lot more going on in my life. So it took me around 2 and a half hours to work through yesterday’s set and have come to the conclusion my workflow needs some adjustment, starting again, with shooting fewer photographs. Even fewer, at least.
I haven’t really had an opportunity to cast an eye over them in a unjaundiced manner but I do like this one. It’s Ross Harte, one of the young guns – except he’s not a junior any more, whom I’ve been photographing pretty much since I started this game.
He’s gotten very, very good in that time. Compared to everyone else I saw yesterday, he was on a different planet. I have a lot of photographs; he is also very photogenic even when he’s not flying through the air.
Yesterday highlighted the second biggest risk I run taking photographs of kitesurfers after being injured by something going wrong in the water with a kitesurfer. Yesterday I got terribly sunburned. I had sun care with me but hand on heart, it obviously didn’t go on enough. And yesterday might have been the warmest day in Ireland in about 5 years. You could tell this. Everyone was happy. People were even wearing bikinis. Swimming in the Irish Sea. And because I spent some time in there getting sunburned, I can tell you that the water was warm. The wind was a bit chilly but fairly corrosive though * looks at arms with some regret *.
The next time I am writing a Risks in Photography bit, it’s likely that sunburn will feature. It’s reasonably easy to mitigate – wear long sleeves and this will reduce the extent to which I require suncream which is horrible for people also trying to manage electronic equipment. Can’t win.
I shot a lot of portraits yesterday, of which I love this one:
and this one
I may not have shot enough action shots, that’s all.