Thursday, January 23, 2014

                                                                             A walk to Athassel Priory.                                                               A medieval road that has so many stories to tell, stories of laughter, love, terror, murder & life. In a county with such a rich history roads like these have so much to tell, but we have to be their voice. Tipperary has a built heritage that would put most counties in Ireland to shame. If you threw a stone in any part of this wonderful county you would be hard pressed not to hit a historical site, it maybe stone age, iron age, bronze age or early medieval, middle or late medieval. As I walk this road I wonder if Lord Inchaquinn used this road on his way to Athassel Priory, a visit that resulted in plunder & in the end of this great priory. After his visit no more would the bell call the monks to worship, no more would the workers be seen in the fields planting or saving crops or tending livestock. A peace fell on Athassel priory as Inchaquinn headed back to his home in Bunratty, his English master pleased with his violent conquest of those peaceful men of god. This road has also seen famine, the poor people of this rich green fertile valley “The Golden vale” they could not have seen their precious potato fail. A population to big for their island home, to poor to grow anything but the praitie & kept in ignorance by Lord & Master.
                         This road has seen more resent action during our war of independence & civil war the barracks at the top of the road was attacked.
                                                                                                 But this road has also seen & heard laughter it was home for many years to the school house, children from the village of Golden would walk each weekday to school. A two story building which is now in ruins but as I pass I can still hear the children at play. I often wonder about young couples heading to the village for the fair or for the dancing at the cross roads, young love in early bloom. The farm workers heading to & from work over the centuries, planning their days & their lives. How many dreamed of traveling to other countries, of the chance to make a new life, to make their fortune & to be able to help their families back home. We can now say that “Far away hills are greener” but to people who worked long hours at back breaking work those hills are the only thing that offered hope. So many people would have kept some little bit of sanity in the hope that they could save enough money for a passage to England, Australia or North America. Athassel Priory now lay in ruins but we need to remember that at one stage it was one of the most important priory’s in Ireland & England With the prior having a seat at parliament. A one mile walk to this wonderful site & yet I cannot but think how much history has this road seen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


There are a few rules in photography that can help to take your photography from nice to wow. One of the first is a basic composition rule "The rule of Thirds". On many modern cameras now you can actually put a grid on screen which makes sticking to the rule of thirds easy. The idea of the rule of thirds is to stop you putting your horizon in the middle of your image & basically cutting your image in half, very often you can end up with two images in the one photograph. Another basic com positional rule is to include foreground interest, which helps to lead you into the image. When I go to create an image I think of myself as telling a story, I take time in com position to see if I am telling the whole story of what is in front of me. This may sound simplistic, that's because it is, good photography is about taking time & care before you press the shutter button.A good photographer should be interested in being out taking photograph's & less interested in sitting at a computer trying to enhance the images they have already created. No matter how much work you put into a bad photograph you will seldom   make a great photograph of it. So in observing the rule of thirds you are basically putting the horizon on the top or bottom third of the image. For fore ground interest you do not necessarily need something spectacular, a rock,a clump of rush's etc. However if you can find something that adds a burst of color all the better. One of the key things to remember however is that you should not go home without an image just because you could not keep these rules. At the end of the day you have to be true to yourself, if you like a scene & the way you are composing it,then go for it. You will find plenty of people willing to offer opinions & perhaps criticism on your work, so don't be to critical of yourself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Song for Ireland.

Living on your western shore, saw the summer sunset, I asked for more, I stood by your Atlantic sea & sang a song for Ireland. These are some words from the song "song for Ireland." How often I have stood on our Atlantic shores waiting for the sunset & could hear these words in my head as I appreciated the beauty of this mystical country. A country for it's size that has an incredibly diverse landscape, a landscape that has captured the hearts & minds of artists, writers etc. for millennial.As a photographer standing on our shores watching the waves crashing on to shore, seeing the light dance across the water,or a distant boat heading out to sea all you can do is try your best to bring the beauty of the scene as it unfolds in front of you to the people who will view your image.  You make the decisions how to compose the image, do I wait for the sun to drop a little further in the sky, will I silhouette the boat  against the light or include those rocks in the foreground.Then when you have made all the decisions set your aperture & shutter speed, perhaps double checking your meter readings you press the shutter & create a moment in history. The reason I double check everything is simple I am still using film cameras, I do not have the luxury of looking at my image on the LCD screen & deciding to make changes by re-shooting. It is my personal opinion that this is a good thing, it slows you down, it makes you aware of what can go wrong. I often in fact urge my photography class who use digital to pretend they have only 24 or 36 exposures. To pretend they are using film so that they to will slow down & try to go home with 24 great shots rather than 124 shots with only a few great ones in it. Going back to the song, Ireland really needs to sing at the moment, to lift peoples spirits, to get people to listen, but most of all to get people to come here, to see & appreciate this beautiful country for themselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photo. This

As photographers we have never had to work so hard. The advent of digital photography means that more people can produce high quality images with even the most basic compact camera. Many will never need or want to know how or why their images was captured in such a way, all they need to know is they like it, if they don't they delete & try again. It is getting harder & harder to make a living from photography as more & more enter the realm trying to make some extra money from something they love. That is exactly how I started,a hobby became an obsession & eventually I decided that as photography was the only thing that I was ever really good at I was going to give it a go. So I am not or could not have a go at anyone else, we all have to start somewhere, you love photography & you see potential to make some money great. I suppose all I can really ask is that you do not sell yourself short, put a real value on your work & try to do yourself justice every time. It is easy if you already  have a job to settle for a little extra, but remember by doing that you maybe depriving someone else who is depending totally on their photography part of their income. I have had to compete in the past for work with people who have a good salary every month, who naturally can afford to beat my price for a job, & the only winner is the company who can probably write the cost of against tax anyway. I have always encouraged peoples interest in photography, but at some stage we have to stop & ask the question where is photography going, will newspapers continue to pay for high quality images or will they start to settle for mobile uploads from who ever happens to be on the scene. Will the work be there in the future for the photographers who would risk life & limb in order to make sure that image of war is on the front of your paper as you have your morning coffee. I have probably forgotten more about photography, than some photographers will ever bother to learn, but when it comes down to it does anyone really care ???????.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I have been fortunate enough to visit most if not all of the counties of Ireland at this stage. There are aspects of every county that are stunningly beautiful & will keep any visitor en trawled.In recent years however I keep returning to Connemara & in particular to the area near Cleggan & Claddaghduff. These are small rural villages that rely heavily on tourism to supplement incomes. The nearest large town is Cliffden, a town that is picture postcard in its perfectness. The number of artists,from many artistic disciplines who live in this area give real testimony to the natural beauty. In short you would want to be dead not to appreciate what this area has to offer.  The beauty of the Sky road out of Cliffden would leave the most ardent traveler wondering if they have ever seen anything as beautiful.Looking out across the Atlantic towards some of the many Islands of the coast, it can hold your attention for long periods,as the light dances & flickers on the ocean.  You can also visit the some of the islands via the mail boat from Cleggan or if you do not fancy a boat trip you can drive across the strand to Omey Island at low tide. Park up the car & walk across to Omey, this island is truly magnificent. You can also take a trip to Letterfrack & visit the Connemara national park, walks & audiovisuals on Connemara for those that do not fancy walking. Continuing on to Lennane & the Majesty of Killary  Fjord, Irelands only Fjord.Again you can take a boat trip on the Fjord or just drive around & explore the area which has much more to offer. I have visited this area 7 times in the last 2 years & each time I leave it looking forward to my return, after that I cannot say more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Following the light.

People often ask me what I do for a living and I feel like saying I chase and try to capture light. I would not be telling lies because as photographers that is exactly what we do. I am fortunate enough to live almost on the banks of the river suir, looking right across at the Galtee mountains. One Day last week I had just finished writing something when I looked out my sitting room window, shafts of light were streaming through the clouds and lighting the mountains like spotlights. It was amazing and as often as I see these light shows in Ireland they never loose their magic. I dropped everything hopped in my car and proceeded to chase the light, heading towards Bansha and from there on to Rossadrehid, I was heading for Lake Muskery. No matter what time of year you visit the Galtees, their beauty will blow you away but you should always treat these mountains with respect. The one thing you should remember is how quickly weather conditions can change and while as mountains go our ranges may not be considered very high, they can still be very dangerous. I had left instructions where I was going and what time I expected to be back etc. I love the walk up through the wooded areas following the road way as you get higher you realise the stillness and tranquility of your surroundings, sometimes interrupted by the bleating of sheep. With a couple of nice streams along the way to add to the scene there are great photo ops. A little further on you climb the stile and from this point on you appreciate having good walking boots as the going gets a little rough. It is an incredible walk to the lake, the beautiful Galtee mountains rising up around you, you would want to be dead not to appreciate its beauty. Before you come to the lake you pass a couple of more streams which all add to this wonderful seen. However the real scene is to see Lake Muskery set back into the mountain, as light dances across the water, putting on another show for you it feels like another world. I find it hard to drag myself away from the lake, but I am conscious that the light is fading fast. No one wants to get caught on the mountain at this time of year, especially without the proper camping equipment. If you feel however that walking in the Galtees is a little bit strenuous then this area has pleanty more to offer. You can do the Glen of Aherlow drive stoping to enjoy the great veiws of the Galtee mountains. There are many historic and holy sites, St. Pecauns holy well, St. Berriherts well and kyle, St. sednas well situated at Clonbeg church and Moore abbey which was built around 1204 by Donough O' Brien King of Thomond. The bottom line wheather you are interested in photography, hill walking or just a nice day out this area of Tipperary has a huge amount to offer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Art of Photography.

I am changing direction slightly for this week to address an issue that has been raised with me on numerous occasions by many people. That is the question "is photography really Art". People say to me from time to time that photographers just push a button take an image and then can just put it into photoshop and manipulate the image, where as a painter has to do a lot more work. I won't argue that the detail in many paintings are incredible and leave me in awe of the talent involved. People will often say to me you must have tons of great images of Athassel abbey or The Rock of Cashel and I have a small number from each. You see when you go to create a really good image as a photographer a few things have to come togeather to really make your image special. The weather has to be right, the light has to hit your subject in the right way and you have to go back many times to an area at different times of day and different times of year. I personally do not use photoshop, I prefer to put the time into taking my images at the right time and in the right conditions rather than sitting at a computer tweeking images, but that is only my own personal opionion. To me photography is about trying to get everything right before you press the shutter button, to create a little bit of history. Thats right you capture a little bit of history each time you take a photograph, because it is next to impossible to recreate and get every single element in the image the same , you have frozen a moment in time. People also think photographers and think of weddings and family portraits, confirmation or first communion. The majority of people find it hard to understand someone trying to make a living only producing wildlife and landscape images, most of which are sold as framed images for your wall. Yet in every other country around the world this is considered normal, people say these countries have bigger populations so you have a large customer base, they also have more photographers. This situation is improving with more exhibition spaces and more interest in original art works rather than the framed poster of someplace you don't even know. The public are begining to ask for something that means something to them or that moves them in someway.
This raises another question why buy of one person and not another, price will be key, but that should not be the only criteria. You have to ask yourself is this artist attracting attention, don't accept the artists word, if they say in their blog, award winning ask what awards was it national or international or was it more local. One of the best ways to judge is if awards were given by their peers, did other photographers or artists feel that this persons work was good enough to be rewarded. Ask the artist if their work is represented by a gallery, or if they have work in art collections etc. If you are going to pay for a piece of art why not try to pick up a piece that has a realistic chance of proving an investment in the years ahead. Photography is proving to be a great way for people to start their own art collection without breaking the bank. I suppose the bottom line is I truly believe that photography when done well and with the right subject matter is truly Art, but every person will and must make up their own minds. You may prefer to have a water colour or oil on your wall and your neighbour may prefer to have a black and white photograph, because if we all liked the same thing life would indeed prove very boring. I have only gone back to creating black and white images in the last couple of years, but there is little doubt that they have a timeless quality that most people love. The most important thing as far as I am concerned is that people expose themselves to art, go and visit the local exhibitions open your mind and heart to art. We are not the free loaders that many think, few artists will ever make enough money to gain tax free status, but we can prove valuable in promoting the county and the country. Tourists to Tipperary and Ireland love to have exhibitions and art events to visit, its one more thing to do while they are here. Personally I have always tried to promote Tipperary and Ireland wheather I am exhibiting in Ireland or abroad, and I am quiet sure that most artists feel the same.