March 28, 2008

Aughnanure Castle

Last Autumn, I found myself on a road overlooking Belmullet on a dark and starry night. I had arrived in the town about an hour earlier, and noticed that the sky was clearing. I quickly checked into my B&B and drove out of town, beyond the glare of the street lights. The sky was so clear that I could see the faint veil of the Milky Way hanging over the night sky. So I parked my car in a lay-by, walked back to a gateway and set up my tripod so that the lights of Belmullet were reflecting in the sea, and above, the sky twinkled with stars. Without warning, a hot blast of air hit my neck followed by an ungodly shriek in my ear - I nearly expired with fright on the spot.

Ok, what had actually happened was, while I was concentrating on setting up my camera, a black horse had strolled across the field and decided to introduce himself with a friendly whinny in my left ear. By the time my heart-rate had returned to sub-sonic, a thin fog had rolled in (ruining my shot), and my new-found companion had got bored and wandered off. On the plus side, I had inadvertently done my bit for road safety merely by standing in the gateway. Belmullet appears to be the north-west capital of boy-racers, and there was plenty of them zooming down the road where I was standing. As soon as they spotted me in the gateway in a high-vis jacket standing by a device on a tripod, each of them suddenly discovered third gear, decelerated rapidly and approached the town in a manner more befitting a vehicle of the road rather than an incoming jet.

I've been spending more time taking pictures at night recently, simply because, until recently, the nights have been longer than the days, and I don't have much time during the day anyway. Normally, I don't mind wandering through graveyards or forests in darkness too much. It's the open fields that I worry about. My greatest fear is not encountering a bunch of Buckfast swilling hoodies 'on a night out' but a bunch of silage-munching bullocks intent on a bit of pucking.

The original object of my photographic expedition last week didn't work out - I really needed a wingman, and volunteers were surprisingly thin on the ground. The subject was basically a swamp with overhanging brambles (it will look better when I figure out how to take the picture I can see in my mind - honest), and after an hour of stumbling about in muck and getting my face scratched from stuff that I couldn't see, I gave up (hmm...on reflection, absence of assistants might not be such a mystery after all). Since the night was still young, since the sky was clear, since I had managed to avoid any psychotic ruminants and since Aughnanure Castle was nearby, that's where I went.

I didn't plan on lingering at Aughnanure - I was also planning to visit the windfarm near Spiddal - so I only took a few pictures. And in the few seconds that the shutter was open, a shooting star lit up the sky, and became part of the image. So for anyone who couldn't make a wish for want of a star, have one on me.

Posted by monasset at March 28, 2008 08:04 AM

Damned good photo this John..whats the exposure?? BTW we are down in South Canterbury, NZ and I frequent your site often! Keeps me sane man....Keith.

Posted by: podling at March 28, 2008 09:36 AM

Great story about Belmullet. Great photo. I'm in awe of your photography -- and enjoy your writing and insights as well. It is a joy to see Ireland, ancient and modern, through your eyes. Many thanks, once again, for making Ireland's glorious and offbeat West visible from way over here across the Atlantic.

Posted by: Helen at March 31, 2008 02:13 AM

Smashing shot. The shooting star is icing on the cake.

Posted by: Latchiko at March 31, 2008 03:23 PM

Great story. Even more magnificent photo.

Posted by: Chris Bonney at March 31, 2008 04:41 PM