September 27, 2007

Up, up and away

I asked this nice lady to turn and smile, so she did...the British School of Ballooning get all fired up in Athlone this morning.

When I lived in Athlone - a town in Co. Westmeath on the banks of the Shannon - more than a decade ago, one could justifiably complain that there wasn't much to do or see there. Now, the economic boom has strengthened Athlone's claim as a major regional centre - new developments have transformed the architecture of the town and, with a number of attractive riverside developments, it has finally stopped "turning its back" on the river.

But some of the old habits remain. There is an international ballooning festival taking place in Athlone this week. This morning, dozens of huge balloons took off from Summerhill College at the edge of the town at 8am. The morning was clear and sunny, and there was no problem getting right up to the balloons as they took off. But did anyone show up to watch? Nope, apart from a few camera-toting chaps such as myself (and I had to drive from Galway for the privilege). Maybe no-one gets up for 8 o'clock in Athlone. Next year, they should have it in Galway.

Camera=Canon350D, lens=Sigma 10-20mm @20, ISO=100, Aperture=f5.6, speed=1/160.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:16 PM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2007


We've had a few sharp, clear mornings in the west this week. It's good to see the sun again, even if it is through frosted breath. Picture above is of a sunflower.

Camera=Canon5D, lens=Sigma 180mm MACRO, ISO=100, Aperture=f11, speed=1/160, flash=2 X Elinchrome Dlite4, softboxes.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:06 PM | Comments (1)

September 24, 2007

Stumbled Upon

Chance can be a fine thing. At the end of July, I drove down to Limerick to meet Dervala for a few pints in Nancy Blake's pub and a very nice evening it was, too. I had booked the next day as a holiday, and the only thing had on the agenda was to make home to Galway that evening. Naturally, I didn't take the most direct route, and despite the fact that huge showers fell all over Munster that day (it was July, after all), I managed to avoid every one of them.

By late afternoon, I had managed to cross into Clare and, driving along a narrow country road, I glimpsed a splash of colour through a narrow gate as I drove past. Hoping for a picture of summer colour, I found a safe place to park the car about 100 metres from the gate. Even as I got out of the car, the scent of clover and other flowers was almost overpowering.

Strolling into the field was like entering Eden. Almost every sort of Irish wildflower was growing in a huge meadow that swayed in the breeze and stretched across several hills. Butterflies and damselflies fluttered and buzzed from blossom to blossom. I wandered around for about an hour with camera and tripod, before deciding to take a picture of two ash trees growing side by side in the middle of the meadow. As I lined up the shot, I noticed something moving in the background on the hill behind the trees. It was a herd of deer, that somehow had not spotted my movement. Thanks to the strong breeze, they didn't sniff me out either. They had almost perfect camouflage, their spots mimicking the white blossoms in the meadow and their fawn hides blending perfectly with the dull brown vegetation. It should be noted that, since the deer are Fallow deer, they didn't evolve that camouflage for Irish vegetation, since they were only introduced onto the island by the Normans about a thousand years ago.

Alas, there was a problem. To save weight, I had just brought my camera and short zoom lens (24-105), along with a tripod. The lens is great for landscapes but not for wildlife. I have a perfectly good lens for wildlife pictures but it was sitting in the car (and it was too far to go back for it)I managed to take cover and sneak in quite close to the deer once they went behind a hill. Because I was so close to them, once I began taking pictures, they heard the shutter on the camera (despite being downwind) and took off. The shot above was the first one I took - subsequent shots just show the deer literally high-tailing it over the hill.

I trudged back to the car, rueing the missed opportunity of getting a better shot. As luck would have it, a hawk skimmed past as I made my way back - again, out of range of the small lens. I wasn't too downhearted - any day spent in carefree wandering around the Irish countryside has to count as a good one.

On Saturday evening, I went down to Rusheen Bay near Salthill in Galway. The light was fading, it was quite overcast, and there wasn't a bird to be seen anywhere (I had gone down there to scout locations for photographing birds at a later date). Even so, I carried a camera with the 100-400 zoom attached - just in case. Looking around, I thought to myself that the woodland near the shore would probably have more wildlife than the shore itself. And even as I was having that thought, I glimpsed a young fox in the middle of a clump of grass and bushes. It was so focussed on eating berries off a sloe bush, its ears pinned back to avoid the thorns, that it didn't notice me. Until I started clicking off a few shots, that is. After giving me a hard look, it scarpered. I've stumbled across foxes plenty of times in my wanderings but never while I was carrying the right lens. Even I get lucky sometimes.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:18 PM | Comments (5)

September 22, 2007

Well, that's that, then

Moon over Galway Bay, at Blackrock diving board, Salthill.

The year is beginning to draw to a close, marked this evening by the passing of the autumn equinox. It rained for much of the day but the sunset was clear and beautiful, giving way to a clear sky full of stars and a bright moon.

I took this picture at 8.30 this evening, about an hour after sunset at the diving board at the end of Salthill Promenade. There were very few people along the prom given that it was such a nice evening. Apparently, there was a sporting event on around the same time. I think I made the right choice.

Camera=Canon 5D, lens = 24-105@24, ISO=200, aperture=f9, speed= 30sec, exp =-1, tripod.

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Posted by Monasette at 12:36 AM | Comments (2)

September 16, 2007

September 11, 2007

To the Lighthouse

The first lighthouses were signal fires, lit on the shore to guide sailors to safe harbour, and sometimes lit to lure ships onto rocks so that their cargoes could be pirated. The plume of smoke on the Doorus/Aughinish peninsula on the Burren side of Galway Bay is probably no more than a summer bonfire, the plume of smoke rising so high only because of high pressure due to the warm spell of weather last week. In the foreground, on Mutton Island, is the old lighthouse, currently under restoration. Ships no more rely on it than the burning bushes across the bay, though I'm sure it is still a welcome sight for sailors heading to harbour.

Posted by Monasette at 11:27 PM | Comments (4)

September 09, 2007

Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick at sunset last Friday evening.

Buy this picture of Croagh Patrick at sunset.

Posted by Monasette at 11:59 PM | Comments (2)


On a visit to my sister and brother-in-law earlier this year, we were gathered, along with my niece and nephew, around the table for dinner. My brother-in-law accidentally blurted out a 'naughty' word at one point. My nephew (and godson) was taken aback for a second before, full of glee, he grabbed his Dad by the hand and led him to the hall. "Daddy has to sit on the Bold Step!", he chanted. There, he watched his dad who had to sit on the last step of the stairs to ponder on his crime. My godson knew where to find it, having spent a good portion of his time on it himself.

It is seven centuries since the construction of the Dominican Friary in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick began. It has a feature that I didn't notice until a local man pointed it out to me while I was there in May this year. Standing at the altar of the main chapel, looking towards the entrance, there is a narrow, angled window slot cut into the thick wall on the right hand side. The window is on the second storey and the angle is such that it gives a view of the altar only - it is impossible to look down on the rest of the congregation. Behind the window is a small narrow cell, where errant friars were forced to observe the religious services via the window rather than participate with their brethren in the chapel below. [I'd love to know what indiscretions would earn a friar a stint in the cell]. In effect, it was a medieval 'Bold Step' .

My godson will be 4 tomorrow - here's hoping he manages to avoid the Bold Step.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:31 PM | Comments (3)

September 02, 2007

St Augustine's Cross

For most commuters, there are two ways of crossing Galway City - either inch your way across the Quincentennial Bridge or advance at a similarly slow pace down the road by Lough Atalia, through the Docks and on to Wolfe Tone Bridge. Lough Atalia is practically enclosed by development nowadays, but the channel under the rail bridge allows the saltwater lake to be refreshed twice a day. And the ebb and flow of the tide also unveils a white cross at the waters edge twice a day, and then reveals it again.

St Augustine's Well probably takes it's name from a nearby fortress that disappeared more than four centuries ago (and where Forthill cemetery is now located). The well (the lime-washed circular structure to the left of the cross in the picture above) has been associated with healing powers for years, and was restored by The Galway Civic Trust . The Trust has been especially busy during this last week (Heritage Week) but their work continues year round. And they are always looking for new members.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:16 PM | Comments (5)