February 27, 2008

Hell Raiser

Spin City… funfair on Salthill Promenade in Galway last summer.

A very excited nine year old made the visit down to Galway last summer during the Arts Festival to stay with his aunt. In his mind, Galway meant just one thing – the funfair. Alas, it bucketed rain on the Saturday so we told him that he could go to the funfair on Sunday instead. That didn’t go down well, and bringing him to the latest Harry Potter movie and then to the dinosaurs on Shop Street didn’t lessen the angst much.[Mind you, sitting through that Potter movie didn’t lessen my own angst mush either. It was like someone looked at one of the Lord of the Rings movie and thought, ”hmm, if I remake that with kids and make it dumber, I’ll have a hit”. And dammit, he was right ]. I thought there was a few scary scenes for you kids but the only scene that really gave him an eeewww” moment was when young Potter kissed a girl. Small boys, eh?

The next day, the weather was kinder. The young lad was up at dawn, ready to go. I was sent down to the prom to see when the fair opened. I spotted a guy doing a safety check on the rollercoaster and asked them when they would open. He didn’t understand at first, but after an impromptu session of charades,[me pointing at my watch and shrugging to indicate what time, and he counting off his fingers to indicate the hour], I learned that it was a two o’clock opening. Hmmm…what language is the safety manual written in, I wondered.

Part of the Transitions series

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Posted by Monasette at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)


My site was under attack from spammers today so I've had to turn off comments for the moment. I'm using an old version of Movable Type so I ended up deleting and recreating some entries. Unfortunately, I had to delete some legitimate comments too. Sorry about that - I truly appreciate it when people take the time to leave a comment. While comments here are closed, you can always leave a comment on the guestbook of my other site. As for the spammers - may their toast always fall butter side down!

Just a quick thank you again for all the effort that Damien Mulley has put into organizing the Irish Blog Awards which will be on in Dublin on Saturday. And thanks to the judges who saw fit to include this site in the shortlist for the photo category. As for the rest of the nominees, best of luck on the night. Their sites (listed below)are well worth a look. And thanks again to all of you who stop by the site - hope you find it worthwhile.

Best Photo Blog Finalists

* Skyroad

* Rymus

* Gingerpixel [and winner !]

* Latchiko

* I Take Photees

* In Photos

* Red Mum

* Winds and Breezes

* Krystian Kozerawski Photoblog

* Mcawilliams

Posted by Monasette at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2008

The Stars of Orion

Bright trails of the stars of Orion form a background to a long-exposure image of the Round Tower at Kilmacduagh, which is also illuminated by moonlight. Taken on the same night as the fly-past of the ISS & Space Shuttle. The round Tower at Kilmacduagh is the tallest in Ireland and leans over by a metre from the vertical.

Camera=5D,lens=24-105@24mm,aperture=f9, speed=921sec (15mins, 21 secs)**,ISO=640.

The constellation of Orion has hung in the night sky for the entirety of human history. A coincidence of cosmic alignment has caused the stars to appear, from the vantage point of Earth, as if in formation. They first appeared as they appear now around 1.5 million years ago, around the time as an early ape-man, Homo Erectus, began to figure out how to use tools and fire. The constellation is a human invention - from other points in space, the constellation does not exist, because the stars are quite a distance apart from each other.

The stars of Orion, particularly the three bright stars in a row known as the Belt of Orion [Zeta, Epsilon and Delta Orionis] feature in almost every culture in recorded history - one of the markers of human accomplishment in any early society was the study of astronomy, and Orion is one of the most noticeable and easiest to find in the sky.

A beam of light pictured in the star trails above left the constellation around 900 years ago, around the time that the round tower at Kilmacduagh was built. It was half way through its journey when Galileo developed the first telescope and opened up the unseen heavens for observation. I took the picture last week, and when I got up that morning, that beam of light was passing through the heliosphere - that boundary where the cosmic rays of the Sun (the Solar Wind) clashes with the force of the Interstellar Medium - the cosmic rays that pervade the universe*. Shortly afterwards, that beam of light would be as close as the furthest point at which humanity has succeeded in flinging an object [Voyager 1, launched in 1977 and now roughly 9.8 billion miles from our Solar System*].

The image above took about a quarter of an hour to expose**, and in that time, that beam of light travelled from beyond Mars, through the atmosphere and struck the camera sensor just in time to make the image. Well, a whole bunch of light rays hit the sensor, really - otherwise, it wouldn't be much of a background.

As you are reading this, light is leaving the Orion constellation that will reach Earth in the early 2900s. I wonder if Kilmacduagh's tower will still point to the night sky. And I wonder, of all the buildings erected in Ireland during the last fifteen, free-spending years, will any of them still stand to reflect Orion's light?

* Voyager I will soon be the first man-made object to encounter the heliosphere.

** The Canon 5D was set to perform in-camera noise-reduction, which means that, after the first exposure, it took a second one of the same duration to help cancel out some of the noise (i.e. fuzzy bits in the background) in the image. The total duration was therefore nearly 31 minutes.

See all images in the Kilmacduagh series.

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Posted by Monasette at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2008

Diamond Hill and Beyond

The first walk in the hills since Christmas, and a great day for it. Beyond the rock pool on top of Binn Breac beside Kylemore Abbey lies Diamond Hill and Tully Mountain.

Posted by Monasette at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2008

The Cow's Lick

The mud packs are to die for…advert for beauty parlour in a farmyard on the Roscommon side of Athlone.

Somewhere in Africa, a tribesman takes time from herding cattle in the Savannah to take a break. He picks up a copy of National Geographic and begins flicking through it. He starts to read, in ever-growing amazement, an article on the beauty habits of the Irish – bizarre hair straightening rituals to ruthlessly remove any trace of a genetically-bestowed curl, amazing tales of people smearing themselves in orange dye or baking themselves in cabinets to simulate a suntan, the wearing of outfits designed for non-beer swilling species. What a strange place, he thinks.

The service industry in Ireland, of which the beauty industry is a sweet-smelling part, is one of the rapidly growing sectors of the Irish economy. There isn’t a square inch of your body that some-one can’t charge 150 euro an hour to reshape, recolour, defoliate or just disguise. It’s just as well, since other traditional industries are shrinking rapidly, none more so than farming. Many farmers have already made the transition to part-time farming, combining a day job in an office, factory or shop, with feeding cattle when they get home. I don’t know how many farmers combine hairdressing with farming, but I’d like to think that their cattle or sheep are the best coiffed animals in the parish. It’s the least that you’d expect.

Camera=40D, lens = Sigma 10-20mm@10mm, aperture=f6.3, speed=1/320 sec, ISO=320.

The first image in the Transitions series

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Posted by Monasette at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2008

In the Shadow of the Cathedral

Despite all the building work that has taken place in Galway in the last 10 years, there are still plenty of sites in the city ripe for redevelopment - particularly along the river and mill-races that run through the city centre. The dome in the background is that of Galway Cathedral - Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas.

Camera=Canon 5D, lens = 24-105mm@60, aperature=f7.1, speed = 30sec, ISO=320, Tiffen 87 infra-red filter.

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Posted by Monasette at 09:55 PM | Comments (4)

February 18, 2008


Eyes left - mute swans prepare to land at the Claddagh.

There is a flock of Brent geese wintering in South Park, between the Claddagh and Salthill. And it's bringing out the twitchers too.

Posted by Monasette at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2008

Kilmacduagh Tower and Stars

The Brightest Star - The International Space Station [ISS] and the Space Shuttle flying over the Kilmacduagh holy site in Galway on a cold, starry moonlight night last week. I took a picture of the ISS last June when it flew over Salthill.

Camera= Canon 40D, lens = Sigma 10-20mm@10mm, aperture = f9, speed = 30 sec, ISO800.

In the twelfth century, the monks of the monastery at Kilmacduagh (founded by St. Colman in 632) decided to build a bell tower. Apart from summoning the monks to prayer, it would have been useful as a watch-tower too - Kilmacduagh had been attacked in the past by Vikings. Around the same time, the good friars in Pisa in Tuscany decided to build a bell tower too. They decided to throw a bit of money at the project, and go for something a bit fancy.

Well, the two towers ended up with one thing in common - a distinct slant. The Leaning tower of Pisa famously leaned from the start, whereas the Kilmacduagh tower began its leaning more recently [at least I assume so, since descriptions of the tower in old texts make no mention of the slant.]

Kilmacduagh was once a distinct diocese [it is now part of the Galway diocese], complete with Bishop and Cathedral, and such, the site would have been seen as a prosperous place (which made it a target for looters).

Throwing money [and almost unimaginable amounts of it, at that] at the problem is also a key part of space travel. During the week before last, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched to deliver a new module to the International Space Station [ISS]. Launching a Shuttle costs 450 million dollars a shot, and the ISS is budgeted to cost 100 billion euro over the lifetime of the project. The European Space Agency [ESA] contribute 8 billion euro and ESA likes to rationalise this cost by pointing out that 8 billion euro might seem a lot of money but it's only the cost of a cup of coffee per European per year. Such sums would have been unimaginable to the monks toiling away in spiritual pursuits in Kilmacduagh, but then, could they have imagined that the combined wealth of the Irish would one day surpass one trillion euro, as it did last week ?

For all of last week, the brightest star in the sky was, briefly, one that we built ourselves - the reflected light from the ISS and the Shuttle as they flew, docked together, over Ireland. This morning, the Space Shuttle departed from the ISS and will return to Earth on Wednesday. Who knows how long the ISS will endure in space - the tower in Kilmacduagh - the tallest round tower in Ireland - has endured for nearly nine hundred years already.

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Posted by Monasette at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2008

February 11, 2008

The Sunset Tree

I've passed this tree in east roscommon quite a few times, and have wanted to photograph it every time, but never got the opportunity, until this evening.

Camera = Canon G9, lens = 7.4-44.4 zoom @ 22mm, ISO = 80, speed = 1/320 sec, aperture = f3.2.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:51 PM | Comments (6)

February 10, 2008


The Empire State Building lit up in red and yellow to celebrate the Chines New Year, and lower Manhattan at sunset (picture taken from Rockefeller Center).

I don't often think about Senator Ted Kennedy, but he came to mind last Friday morning. The progress through pre-Immigration at Shannon had been glacial, and thanks to some bizarre queue management, I was almost the last person to check through the Homeland Security check. "Have you reported your passport stolen, sir?" Gulp.

I hadn't, and I didn't think the official was just making small talk. The flight was due to depart in 10 minutes, but I had to proceed to a back office (well, the official did - I had to wait outside). After five minutes, there was still no word - the officials hadn't actually started checking my passport - but the lady from Delta Airlines had a proposition for my girlfriend. "You need to choose whether you're coming on the flight or not - we're leaving right now". I was already being referred to in the past tense.

What to do ? It was too late to re-arrange the flight, and figured that any problem with my passport wouldn't be resolved the next day, so it looked like I wasn't going to the States after all. The aforementioned girlfriend decided that she wasn't going to go America on her own (though she did hesitate a bit when I asked her if she wanted to go anyway).

It was then that I thought of Ted Kennedy, and the time that he was prevented from boarding a flight in the States because he was on a security list (and being one of the most recognisable politicians in the country didn't help him either). I was wondering if, somewhere out there, an international man of mystery was using my identity. Or having a very common name carried a price (I'm glad my mother didn't go with Osama at my christening).

I asked the lady from Delta to check with the security guys in the back office one last time before the flight left. It turned out that they still hadn't checked my passport. Woebegone - we told the Delta lady that we weren't going. About 10 seconds later, the security folks finally got round to checking my passport - I suspect they just typed in my passport number into their computer again, and did it right this time - and I was in the clear. The Delta lady shouted - You need to RUN - and we began our journey to New York by sprinting down the departure lounge. Luckily, the pilot had obviously decided not to order our luggage to be unloaded until it was definite that I couldn't board (since that would result in an even bigger delay to the flight), so we were able to make the flight after all.

Needless to say, the week in Manhattan was great. There was a ticker-tape parade (due to the Superbowl win), a Super Tuesday electioneering extravaganza and I managed to see a Broadway play [Mamet's November, destined to be regarded as His.Worst.Play.Ever]. Despite eating about 10 times a day, I managed to lose a couple of lbs (it's called the Don't Take the Subway diet). I'll put up a gallery of pictures later this week.

Posted by Monasette at 09:08 PM | Comments (4)

February 06, 2008


Sunrise last week over flooded fields along the River Suck, on the Roscommon - Galway border.

Posted by Monasette at 11:32 AM | Comments (2)