December 29, 2007

2007 and all that

Sunset over the flooded Shannon Callows between Clonmacnoise and Shannonbridge last week.

The year is ending as it began - with torrential rain and high winds. It's probably not the best conditions to climb Carrauntoohil tomorrow. I will see out the rest of the year in Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry, and with a bit of luck, might even catch a glimpse of the sun occasionally.

It's also that time of year to mention that the Irish Blog Awards are open for nominations for the 2008 awards.

Posted by Monasette at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2007


So much for the season of goodwill. Cardinal Brady castigated RTE for refusing to play a Christmas advert for Veritas, the religious publisher, that included a reference to the crib [Veritas shops sell cribs for Xmas], - the cardinal described it as political correctness gone mad. Except that it wasn't. RTE had asked Veritas to clear the advert with the Broadcast Commission beforehand , but Veritas didn't bother. They just resubmitted the ad with the word crib omitted. And when Irish Catholic Bishops described the decision as an affront to Christians, maybe they could have pointed out that the crib is omitted from another place too - the Bible.

And when the Cardinal had a pop at astrology, fortune-telling and the like as the new Irish superstition, I wonder what he thought of an older one - the belief that the appearance of a star in the sky would fulfil an ancient prophesy, and all that.

The Irish have been celebrating the passage of midwinter for millenia, but for as nearly long as Christianity has been in Ireland, Clonmacnoise has been a beacon of spirituality. Located along the ancient natural causeway of an esker that cuts through the midland bogs, and overlooking the banks of the Shannon, Clonmacnoise enjoys almost the same solitude today as it did 1500 years ago.

I was driving to work early last week through Ballinasloe when the sign for Clonmacnoise caught my eye. Sod it, I thought, no one ever died wishing they'd spent more time in the office - I swung the car south and headed for the Shannon. Just before the shortest day of the year, marking the very depth of winter, the beams of the rising sun illuminate the round towers. The orange light slowly creeping down the buildings, marking the advance of the day. There is a national school near the site, and I could hear the children chattering as they readied for the day. Great learning and scholarship has taken place on this site since the middle of the sixth century - those kids have a lot to live up to.

Whatever you believe in, have a good holiday.

Posted by Monasette at 12:22 PM | Comments (3)

December 19, 2007

The Kettle, Boiling

It's a bit unsettling standing ankle-deep in freezing cold water while listening to the crackle and spit of high voltage electricity just overhead. The powerlines stand in meadows near the river during the summer, but in winter, the Shannon Callows flood across the flat landscape .

The powerstation at Shannonbridge might be located on a crossing point of Ireland's largest river but it draws its power from the bogs that surround it. The powerstation is powered by burning milled peat [which boils the river water, generating steam which turns the turbines ]. Between the fizz of the powerlines, and the clatter of the rail cars, my evening shoot wasn't quite the solitary experience that I anticipated.

Despite the fact that the station is only a few years old, it has already undergone a refit. It seems that the river water is a bit too much for the plumbing, which corroded, requiring a shutdown [though it looks to be open again now]

Posted by Monasette at 11:41 PM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2007

Sunrise at Silver Strand

The waves are slowly washing away the cliff at Silver Strand, between Salthill and Barna, just west of Galway City. When I took this picture at around 8am on Saturday morning, there wasn't a single other person there. You don't need to travel far to get away from it all.

Camera = Canon 5D, lens = Canon 24-105@28mm, ISO=50, aperture=f22, speed= 1.3 sec, tripod.

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Purchase a copy of this picture of Silver Strand, Galway.

Posted by Monasette at 11:31 PM | Comments (3)

December 11, 2007

All Washed Up

Last Gasp - dead trout washed up by the Owenriff river in Oughterard, Co. Galway.

If they ever want to remake the Muppet Show, there's a cast just waiting to be asked here in Galway. Right now, they are trying to run the water supply, but no-one will miss them if they decide to go. At 6.30 am this morning, a leaflet plopped through the letterbox from the City, urging us all to conserve water. It wasn't too hard to do - there wasn't any water coming through the taps since yesterday afternoon in the west of the city.

You'd wonder how there could be a shortage of water in Galway - if it's not falling on your head, it's practically flowing through the streets. The river Corrib is in full spate, and despite all the reconstructions, most of the mill-races and canals still exist in the city, and they too are full. Just last night, while taking a few night shots near a canal lock-gate, an otter popped his head up for a look at the strange creature wrestling with a tripod on the bank. He swam around for a bit, had another look before swimming off. [Despite my travels around rivers and lakes across the west over the last few years, that's the first live otter I've ever seen in Ireland].

On the morning after the Galway Camera Club celebrated the 2007 Xmas party in Oughterard (we like to start early), I drove down to "The Shrubbery" park through which the Owenriff river flows. Like every other river in the west, the water level was much higher than a couple of weeks ago. There was a 'tide mark' of leaves along the grass marking where the river had been even higher the previous day or two. In the middle of the river (which is only a stream in summer), there is a small island (only a few yards wide and about 12 yards long), which is linked by an ornamental bridge (above). On the island on Sunday morning was a dead trout (pictured, top). It was either trapped among tree roots when the water receded (I suspect that the island was inundated when the river was in full flood) or maybe the toil of swimming in a torrent wore out the fish and it just washed up there. Either way, it wasn't long dead when I found it - there was hardly a mark on it, and it was a good size (more than a foot long). Just the sort of snack a passing otter would love.

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Posted by Monasette at 08:24 PM | Comments (3)

December 09, 2007


Despite the fact that this picture was taken at midday, it was still dark enough to take a long exposure shot of this river in flood. Heavy rain, dark clouds, high winds - welcome to winter in Galway.

Camera=Canon5D, lens=Canon 24-105@24mm, ISO=50, speed=5 sec, aperture=f22.

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Posted by Monasette at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2007

Shining Paths

Camera=Canon5D, lens=Sigma 10-20@10mm, ISO=1000, speed=30 sec, aperture=f4.

I was hoping for clear skies earlier in the week, and last night, I got one. For about 10 minutes. As I write this on Saturday morning, the rain is hammering down outside, driven by a gale-force wind. Yesterday evening, around 5.30, I stopped at Ballyforan Bridge, a crossing point across the river Suck between counties Roscommon and Galway. I had planned to take some pictures of the flooding around the bridge - the rain of the last week has caused the Suck to burst its banks from Ballyforan to Ballinasloe.

I arrived too late to take landscapes - darkness had fallen. But for an hour or two yesterday evening, it was a clear and very cold night, and the sky was filled with stars. The picture above shows the bridge on the right (streaked with light from cars crossing the bridge) and the flooded river now stretches to the treeline in the distance. Overhead, the horizon glows with the lights of distant towns and above, the glitter of many stars. You can even see the delineation of the Milky Way.

Stars reflected in the flooded fields near Ballyforan bridge, co. Roscommon.

Camera=Canon5D, lens=Canon 24-105@24mm, ISO=1000, speed=30 sec, aperture=f4.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2007

The Thickening Sky

There's a gale blowing outside, much worse than last week, and a torrent of rain has fallen over the last week or so. By Saturday night, frost is predicted, and we might get clear skies again. This picture was taken near an abandoned schoolhouse near Ballinasloe in east Galway - The evening sky reflected in the plastic wrapping of silage bales stored in a field by the road.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2007

Stormy Waters

This little chap was with his Dad hiding behind the wall at the diving board at Blackrock at the end of Salthill Promenade. He was getting a great thrill from watching the waves and ducking behind the wall when some spray would crash over the wall. Alas for him, he turned to tell his Dad about a particular wave that he had just dodged when another came in, caught him and left him spluttering. That'll learn 'em.

Camera=Canon5D, lens=Canon 24-105@35mm, ISO=200, speed=1/320, aperture=f16, 2 stops underexposed [by mistake - corrected in post-processing].

The front page of the Irish Times showed a satellite image of northern Europe - over the North Atlantic, the whorl of a huge storm obscured most of the ocean. Waves of 45 feet were predicted off the west cost this weekend - people were warned to be careful while walking along the coastline. As it turned out, the waves did not seem as intense as other storms. On Salthill Promenade, high tide was at 9.30 am on Saturday, and though the sea was choppy, there wasn't the scenario of waves and spray crashing over the Promenade road [so beloved of picture takers like myself].

Camera=Canon5D, lens=Canon 24-105mm@24mm, ISO=400, speed=1/320, aperture=f4, 1 stop underexposed [corrected in post-processing].

The bad weather has tended to arrive in short, sharp bursts. After, ahem, a hard morning's work taking pictures along the Prom, I decided to treat myself to brunch in Mocha Beans coffee shop, which is probably my favourite breakfast spot, since it overlooks the Prom. While inside, at about 1.30pm, the sky darkened as if night, and a sudden storm broke outside. Rain and wind lashed the promenade while we all sat drinking cappuccinos inside. The kid in the picture above wanted to run outside, and eventually dragged his dad (left in picture above) out into the street when the rain stopped. Last I saw of him, he was on his Dad's shoulders, squealing with delight at the force of the wind against his face.

Near Fanore yesterday evening, high along the cliff road, people were gathered at a point where the waves were much higher, and where the spray could sometimes reach toe road itself (at least 100 feet from the sea cliff). Last year, I saw four Japanese tourists getting a drenching (and almost a permanent one) at the same point when a huge wave came right over the cliff (luckily, they weren't at the edge). This year, good sense seemed to prevail, and nobody got too close to the edge.

Camera=Canon40D, lens="Canon 100-400mm@235mm, ISO=800, speed=1/500, aperture=f5, 2/3 stop underexposed."

This picture was taken on Saturday evening [~4pm] in very low light. As you can see, it is very 'grainy'. This picture was taken with a Canon 40D which does not have the same low-light capability of the 5D. In this case, I think the grain suits the picture.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:41 PM | Comments (4)