June 29, 2006


If you are six years old, the ideal airshow lasts for 10 minutes; all the planes arrive together and drop enough sweets and fizzy pop for every child in the crowd. At the Galway Airshow last Sunday, most of the little mites were bored long before the first plane showed up. However, as the afternoon wore on, the tide began to fill the bay, and with it came common jellyfish (Aurelia aurita). And how the kids squealed with delight at the sight of their very own sea monsters.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@105mm, ISO=250, aperture=f4, speed=1/500 sec, polarizer.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:22 PM | Comments (1)

June 27, 2006

Reaping the Whirlwind

On Saturday evening, I was standing in the forest of the ffrench demesne in the east Galway village of Monivea. Ostensibly, I was there to take photos - in reality, I was just feeding the midges. It's a spooky kind of forest - tall, straight opine trees block out any glimpse of sky. A little after six, it suddenly became as dark as night. I figured that there was a downpour on the way, so I hurried back to a clearing where I'd parked my car.

Once I was clear of the trees, I could see a huge, black cloud directly overhead. Since I was carrying a tripod, my main worry was lightning (I can think of better memorials than a camera sitting on the ground beside a small pile of ashes). As I struggled to collapse down the tripod as quickly as possible, I kept an eye on the sky. Around 6.25, I noticed a column of air forming in the middle of cloud. There was no sound, but the air was rising just like steam escaping from a boiling kettle.

Within a minute, the funnel of air had taken a more familiar, narrow shape, and a wider whorl of air (rotating more slowly than the funnel) began to form [pictured above].

After a few minutes, the column of air suddenly elongated, snaking down to the ground [pictured above]. I wondered if it will touch down. Imagine the damage it would do, imagine the shock of the unsuspecting people below, and more importantly, IMAGINE THE GREAT PICTURES I WOULD GET. That prospect faded as the funnel suddenly dissipated, before beginning again but smaller.

There wasn't much chance of it touching down - the stormcloud never came close to the ground, and about 8 minutes after it first formed, the funnel lost power and dissolved into the surrounding cloud. That's the first time I've seen such a phenomenon , and it's just a thousand years since the first European tornado was recorded in Ireland (Kilbeggan Co. Westmeath) on April 30th, 1054 [though I'm sure they were occurring long before then]. If I had lingered in the forest for another ten minute , I'd have missed it completely (I guess I should thanks the midges . It also helped that I was carrying two cameras - one with a telephote lens and the other with a wideangle. Some days, you just get lucky.

You can see a great series of pictures taken two years ago in Cork by another photographer of a much bigger tornado . I sent off an email to Met Eireann to see if there was any other reports of tornado activity, but they didn't reply (they did report a tornado last month in their monthly weather summary). A more detailed analysis of tornado activity across Ireland in August 2001 can be found here[pdf file].

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Posted by Monasette at 11:15 PM | Comments (6)

June 25, 2006

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Flypast during the airshow at Salthill this afternoon on a very hot sunny summer day.

Eagle over Galway Bay - USAF F-15 Eagle jet lights up the afterburner during a flypast. This plane is part of the 48th Fighter Wing, based in Lakenheath, East Anglia.

Posted by Monasette at 11:36 PM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2006


Stuck for something to photograph over the weekend ? If you're into nature, a trip to the bog or a woodland should help - bog cotton and foxgloves are in bloom (just don't try to eat one). In the city, there's an outdoor ceili at the Spanish Arch and there is also a Capoeira festival organised by Grupo Candeias. A wha?

Capoeiro is a type of Brazilian martial arts [no, I didn't know they had one either] which marries fight techniques with dance moves and acrobatics. They gave a great display in Eyre Square this morning - I post a gallery when I get time. Personally, I'd like to see the Brazilian community do a bit of marrying of a different sort. Given that a quarter of Gort is Brazilian, imagine what their football team could achieve if they crossed the rhythm and athleticism of capoeiro with the Kissinger-like efficiency of the third-man tackle. Unstoppable!

Alternatively, you could go the airshow tomorrow in Salthill, featuring the Red Arrows. Not everyone will be there - newly appointed Green Party mayor Niall Ó Brolcháin , and Labour Party deputy mayor Billy Cameron are supporting the Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW) boycott of the show in protest because some of the pilots have served in Iraq. [Given that the war in Iraq has driven the US and many European countries to seek out other sources of energy and reduce their dependency on oil, maybe the Mayor should turn up to cheer them on]. No doubt the Shinners won't be there either. They have a problem even recognizing the Irish armed forces, let alone other ones [or maybe they're afraid the Irish forces will recognize them]. The GAAW planned to meet at the Claddagh and release ninety-nine bio-degradable red balloons (no doubt also playing Nina's hit of the same name - in itself, a war crime). Alas [as the Irish Times reports this morning], releasing balloons into the path of low-flying jets is a breach of the Air Navigation Act, so even that gesture might be scuppered. There will also be kite-flying in Renmore, if that's any consolation.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@24mm, ISO=400,Aperture=f13,speed=1/500 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

The Early Riser

The man painting the exterior of the Katy Daly pub beside King John's Castle in Limerick had an early start last Saturday. I had parked there at about 5.40 am and he had already painted the pillars outside the entrance [he was touching up a sign on the wall in the photograph above]. And his motivation for starting work so early ? Well, it seems that, if he waits until later in the day to do his work, some of the local lads emerging from the pubs thinks it's hilarious to give the ladder 'an ould shake' on their way home [these are the lads going home in the afternoon - the aristocrats of the drinking class]. It's not so funny from the top of the ladder.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@92mm, ISO=800,Aperture=f5.0,speed=1/1600 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006


A male Banded Demoiselle damselfly (Calopteryx splendens) photographed in the undergrowth near Island Bridge on the bank of the Clonbrock River (near Ahascragh) today - as near as dammit to a summer idyll on an evening such as this.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=400,Aperture=f7.1,speed=1/100 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:52 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2006

Golden Light

In April, the fields glowed with a carpet of dandelion blooms. In May, they are again covered with gold - this time of buttercups. There's no time to waste if you want to see them - the first cut of silage is well underway.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=320,Aperture=f7.1,speed=1/2500 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

Thanks a million, Big Fella

Shining city - the dawn light last Saturday illuminates the 1916 memorial on Sarsfield Bridge in Limerick, as well as the Clarion Hotel* in the background along the rejuvenated waterfront of the city.

On Friday, a Mayo man, one who was Taoiseach of Ireland three times was given a state funeral [the midwife who delivered him in Castlebar Hospital was a grand-aunt of Enda Kenny, the current leader of the Opposition]. A passionate patron of the Arts, he died on W. B. Yeats birthday.

Back in 1989 or 1990, I was a recital in St. Mary’s Cathedral – it was a ‘college gig’ – a rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons organised by the Arts Society in NIHE Limerick. It was quite an experience – the sound of the music echoing in the gloom of an eight hundred year old building. There was a commotion at the interval, and suddenly, the main doors of the cathedral were thrown open, the sudden burst of light dazzling everyone inside. It was “The Boss”, and in the low dusk light, even he cast a long shadow. He strode inside, gave us all a wave and was off again.

Charles J Haughey divides opinion in death as much as he did in life. To his supporters, he was a generous man, a decisive and visionary leader with a grand sense of Irishness. To his detractors, he was corrupt, divisive and maybe even a danger to democracy. So what of his legacy ?

Bertie Ahern’s graveside oration laid it out :- Haughey began Ireland’s economic growth with the opening of the International Financial Service Centre [IFSC] in Dublin, introduced socially-progressive legislation such as legalized contraception [for married couples only – he described it as an Irish solution to an Irish problem], free travel for pensioners, and tax-free status for artists. His love of art meant the restoration of a number of state buildings, including Government Buildings and the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. He is also credited with taking the first tentative steps of dialogue that ultimately led to the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

His critics would point out that most of Haughey’s generosity was founded on giving away other people’s money. Tax breaks for builders, bankers, the equestrian industry, free travel for pensioners and tax-free status for artists – all bequeathed by a man who never bothered pay tax himself. The renovation of state buildings occurred at a time when his government was closing hospitals – cutbacks that he had vigorously campaigned against in opposition. And his contribution to Northern Ireland must be balanced against his cynical opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement – an opposition that was dropped when he regained power 2 years later. He was the only major political leader to behave in such a partisan manner in the 20 years of what is known as The Peace Process. And though both his brother (a priest who led the funeral mass) and his son spoke proudly of Haughey as a family man, a loyal and loving father, son and husband – others might ask why such a man would publicly humiliate his family by having a long affair with a gossip columnist (who wrote about it in her column week after week in a Sunday newspaper). He showed little loyalty to his ‘good friend’ Brian Lenihan 16 years ago during the latter’s failed presidential campaign – he was fired at the behest of Fianna Fáil’s coalition partners – the much –hated [by FF] Progressive Democrats. When Lenihan fell ill, Haughey used some of the money raised for his treatment to pay for his own extravagant lifestyle.

Maybe that’s Charlie’s legacy – the contradictions and his ability to divide opinion. The Celtic Tiger really started when he regained power back in 1987 – the first set of tax breaks granted to builders began the rebuilding of the city and town centres that continues to this day. He also began the tax-break economic policies that also continue to be the basis of much of Ireland’s prosperity. The last ten years has proved to be another of his lasting monuments – a succession of Tribunals of Enquiry that have uncovered a litany of payments from property developers to politicians, not just to Haughey but many politicians (including his son Sean, last week ). Tax evasion continues to be a national sport [The building firm Bovale announced a 25 million euro settlement with the Revenue Commission today].

Haughey lived his whole life aping the manners of a country squire [ironically, the very sort that the founders of the Republic had fought to remove], with the stately home, the yacht and the recently-acquired rich tastes in wine and clothes. It was funded with borrowed or scrounged money with no idea of how it would be repaid. Today, the country is full of walled mansions and the whole nation is bent on joining the property class, not just in Ireland but across Europe. We are in hock to the hilt, and living the good life with no expection of it ever ending , and no idea of what will happen if it does. It is still pretty much funded on tax-breaks and the building industry. And as for ostentatious tastes, we are rapidly becoming a nation of Beverly Hillbillies. [People remarked on the thousands from Munster that flew to Cardiff for the European rugby final in May – it was little noticed that 2500 people flew to New York to watch a GAA qualifier. From Roscommon!]. Yachts, helicopters, big cars, second homes – we want it all, whether we can afford it or not. There's a little bit of C J in all of us.

Charlie, maybe you knew us better than we’d care to admit.

* I had originally called the building an office block (there is another shiny new office block along the river but you can't see it in the picture). Thanks to Sean for the correction.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 70-300mm@300mm, ISO=100,Aperture=f5.6,speed=1/160 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:41 AM | Comments (3)

June 16, 2006

The Sea Eagle

Yesterday evening, the German fishery protection vessel, the Seeadler, slowly sailed into Galway Bay and docked in the harbour. Like the Irish naval vessels that often visit Galway, it is charged with enforcing fishing laws in European Union waters. However, it is not the first Seeadler to sail in the German Navy and ninety years ago next week, its namesake began an adventure worthy of any pirate ship.

The Pass of Bahama was a steel-hulled sailing ship with a cargo of cotton bound for Russia when it set off on June 24th 1916. On August 1st, it was intercepted by a Royal Navy ship, boarded and redirected to a Scottish port for inspection. On the way, it was intercepted again, this time by a U-Boat and brought to Germany. The ship was armed and converted to a Commerce Raider, effectively a pirate ship, with a mission to prey on cargo ships supplying Britain during the War. It was also renamed Seeadler, the Sea Eagle.

Seeadler was commanded by Felix von Luckner, a young officer whose great-grandfather had been Marshall of France until an encounter with the guillotine. Seeadler was disguised as a Norwegian freighter (Luckner even hung pictures of the King & Queen of Norway in his cabin) and, on December 21st 1916, she set sail for the Atlantic. The disguise worked - seeadler was intercepted by a British ship but fooled the boarding party. The modus operandi of a Commerce Raider was to approach a cargo ship under disguise (in seeadler's case, flying the Norwegian flag). When it was close enough, it would hoist the German Naval Ensign, fire a warning shot across the bows and either board the ship or sink it by shellfire. seeadler was supposed to be a sailing ship but the Germans had fitted it with an engine, as well as two artillery pieces.

Luckner captured 16 ships in his nine months as a 'pirate' - 6 British, 6 French, 3 American and one Italian. All but one were sunk - scuttled after they had been boarded, and their crew taken prisoner. The reason that one ship was spared was due to a simple reason. Though known as the Sea Devil, von Luckner always attempted to avoid loss of human life (despite having to shoot out the radio masts on many of the ships that they attacked - just one sailor was killed in all their actions, as a result of a steam pipe exploding). After seven ships had been captured and sunk, the Seeadler was full prisoners. So when the Carbonne was captured in the South Atlantic, Luckner piled all the prisoners on board, put one of the captured captains [Capt. Mullen, of the Pinmore] in charge and set it off (he had removed all the radio gear and rigging first). By coincidence, von Luckner had worked as a youth on the Pinmore fourteen years earlier [he still sank it].

Von Luckner crossed into the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 1917. That August, while moored at a reef at Mopelia (near Tahiti), the ship ran aground in disputed circumstances [a this paper outlines the various possibilities ]. Von Luckner took five sailors and set sail for Fiji in an open boat (hoping to capture another ship and return to his crew). They posed as, variously, Norwegian and Dutch sailors on their journey - after sailing a total of 3700km, they were captured and interned in New Zealand. The rest of the crew , hearing of his capture, set out to escape - they hijacked a French boat and headed for South America - they ran aground off Easter island and spent the rest of the war in Chile. That left just the American and French prisoners on Mopelia (nearly 50 in all) - an American, Capt. Smith, took another open boat and, with three others, sailed 1600km to a Samoan island to fetch a rescue ship for the rest of the prisoners.

Von Lucknow managed to escape briefly from his POW camp - hijacking another boat and setting sail for islands between Tonga and New Zealand - but was captured after two weeks. He was returned home to Germany after the war - he sat out WWII- and died in Malmo, Sweden in 1966.

The Seeadler is moored beside the French minesweeper, Altair, in the Docks today [not to be confused with the Greenpeace vessel of the same name that French commandos tried to destroy in an Italian harbour 11 years ago].

Sources: Wikipedia Felix von Luckner, site about SMS Moewe, Mac's Website about Merchant Sea Raiders.

Posted by Monasette at 12:08 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2006

Fly Fishing

The air is alive with life - pollen, bees, butterflies and flies of every sort fill the sky. Swallows and wagtails perform all manner of aerobatics to harvest this bug-eyed manna from the heavens - for the garden spider, dinner serves itself. Same end result.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@105mm, ISO=320,Aperture=f7.1,speed=1/250 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:50 PM | Comments (1)

Only a Game

It would be a shame to spend the next three weeks indoors gawping at the telly, just 'cos there's a few matches on. The German organizers of this year's World Cup have tried to solve this "problem" by setting up open areas where ticketless fans can mingle, drink beer and watch the matches in the sun. This is either the best or worst idea ever, and possibly both. Incidently, Galway has much the same thing, except that you can't see the football - it's called Eyre Square.

RTE sent an intrepid reporter there on Thursday morning, to be greeted with a bunch of sozzled Germans who inquired," So vere are ze focking Guinness heads, ja ?", followed by a chorus of "There's only one country missing". Funny lads.

P.S. - finally got round to posting a gallery of the Country Fair in Laois.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 70-300mm@240mm, ISO=640,Aperture=f8,speed=1/1000 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 12:27 AM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2006

Flocking around

The sun is definitely wasted on us - I set off with a friend to the Country Fair in Laois in a convertible - by the time we got to Portumna, we had to put the roof up because it was too hot. I'll post a gallery from the fair later in the week. Picture above is of Mark, a duck shepherd from Scotland, and his bevy of performing ducks (led by Sir Francis, a shameless showoff of a drake).

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=400,Aperture=f11,speed=1/400 sec, spot-metered.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:57 PM | Comments (2)

June 05, 2006


Sunset over the Maumturks in Connemara, seen from Kinvarra on Friday evening.

Well, that didn't take long. Two days into a scorching hot Bank Holiday weekend, and half the country are already complaining about the heat, and nursing burns (last week's frost didn't take long to forget). Tomorrow is predicted to be more of the same. If you're stuck for something to do tomorrow that doesn't involve sitting in a beer garden guzzling pints [not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that - just try to have breakfast first], you might want to wander over to Emo Court near PortLaoise for the National Country Fair - plenty of photo opportunities and probably very few Dubs [they're all in Galway for the weekend].

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 10o-400mm@400mm, ISO=100,Aperture=f11,speed=1/5 sec, tripod.

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Posted by Monasette at 12:53 AM | Comments (2)

June 03, 2006

The Fountainhead

The new fountain in Eyre Square avoids the problem of becoming another litterbin - it's simply a set of waterjets spilling over flagstones. Some joker put detergent over the stone, causing the water to foam. Shouldn't complain - kids love it, and this morning, there were plenty of them throwing clumps of foam at each other [and better still, they can't fall in]. Today has been a scorcher - the best possible start to a three-day weekend. In the Bay, sailing boats make the best of the weather - in Eyre Square, this Galway Hooker will sail in all weathers and never leave safe harbour.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Sigma 10-20mm@10mm, ISO=100,Aperture=f11,speed=1/250 sec.

What's the deal with the shape of the photograph ? I used my extra wide angle lens to take this photo. It's designed for digital SLRs that are not full-frame, so, on an EOS 5D a vignette (or black shadow) appears as a border on the picture . I removed the black with Photoshop - otherwise, that's the shape of the resulting image. Kinda suits the shot.

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Posted by Monasette at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2006

Stone Cold Fanore

Rock pile near Black Head on the Burren walk to Fanore. Galway is across the bay.

Camera = Canon 350D , lens = Canon 75-300mm@135mm, ISO=200,Aperture=f8,speed=1/640 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 12:05 AM | Comments (1)