From the homeland…

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Niamh and Dan are another of my two angels. Both have been an incredible resource to Lori and I as we navigate our somewhat choppy current waters. Hailing directly from back home in Ireland, their accents haven’t waned one bit, and it does my heart good to hear them speak in their classic soft-singing Irish tone. Both doctors in the local community, they’ve shared compassion (and expertise) with our family, though as you might expect in a situation like this, that extra level of knowledge Lori and I have been able to attain has felt especially valuable.

Niamh and Dan have been there for us – in what felt like a life-saving operation, right before I had a PET Scan done it was Dan who somewhat spontaneously and thankfully drained a ton of excess fluid from my lung when I had pneumonia – and as is the case these days, we have a hard time truly expressing our thanks for their support. They’ve been there for us anytime and at all times, frequently asking how they can help, and also providing relevant insights and experience about the entire process/situation – much of which we’re just learning to gather for ourselves.

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We wanted to give Niamh and Dan something of ours… that might mean something to them too… so we had a print of this scene from Dunmore Head on the Ring of Kerry printed biggish at 20×30 right onto metal. From Dunmore Head near Coumeenoole, you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert – just off the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. There’s an almost 3-D look to the metal printing, and the scene literally pops right off the surface. Turns out Dan has actually spent time sailing in and around these very islands! To my angels from Ireland, Niamh and Dan – here’s a little glimpse from home – thank you.

Spending a little time…

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4-10-14 websitecover Lately I’ve been spending some time exploring my portfolio of landscape photographs. Though feeling physically and mentally much better between rounds of Chemo, I still haven’t quite mustered up the energy to spend much time outside, never mind having the oomph to be out early or late capturing any new good light on the landscape with the camera. That leaves me fondly reminiscing about some of the work I’ve already done, and as I do so, I get to spend a little time perusing my web site – and you know what that means… yes, tweaking.

As you can see from the screenshot above – http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com – I’ve abandoned (for now) my attachment to a single strong black and white coastal image in favor of a more eclectic, colorful, and assorted view of what is distinctly Acadia National Park – after all, there is so much to see in Acadia, why not show her off in all her glory?

We’ve had a lot of incredibly generous local support in response to our little medical emergency, and as a way to say thank you, Lori and I have been selecting prints that we think people might appreciate, and we’ve been ordering and delivering them as thank you gifts.

I’ve learned that it’s one thing to conceptualize, experience, and actually create any one of my photographs, but I have to admit, following the process through to where it physically gets printed and held in hand – whether it is printed on canvas, paper, or better yet, on metal – it is quite exhilarating to hold a piece, especially since many of these pieces to date have merely been images on the screen.

I’ve a couple of big pieces being printed on metal on the way as “thank you’s” to our friends, and I’ll be sure to grab a pic of what they look like “in-person” as it were when they arrive. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in purchasing from what I believe is a new and improved web site, please use the discount code “chemo” when in the shopping cart area – despite it’s not-so-nice meaning, it will get you 25% off any purchase 😉

A Window to the World

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I’m celebrating the fact that I actually got off my you-know-what and made a new landscape photograph – one that I’m actually prepared to share! I hadn’t visited Acadia in several months, but all that changed this past weekend when local photographer Chad Tracy and I cruised down to MDI for a quick photo expedition. Despite the below freezing temperatures and the biting wind, standing on the rocky shoreline of my favorite national park never felt so good!

I’ll share a few more photographs from what was a beautiful sunrise over the next few days, so stay tuned. After exploring a part of the granite “ledges” along the Loop Road near Thunder Hole, our original plan was to meander back toward Sand Beach to maybe do some long exposures with the surf. We got sidetracked though when I realized how close we were to this unique location, and since the sun was already up, I was excited to visit at a time when I wouldn’t get the willies from it being too dark.

The ecosystem within this sea cave is extraordinarily delicate, so Chad and I were extremely cautious about making sure to walk only on the solid rock. Although not a huge secret, and relatively easy to find, to further protect this little gem I made Chad swear not to divulge the location to anyone else. The approach to the cave – and the floor inside – was quite slippery and tricky to navigate, and to add to the mystique, this location is only accessible at low tide. It was quite an experience to spend some time in here, and as we looked through the window out onto Frenchman Bay, we appreciated the shelter from the chilly winter air. I like this photograph, and I’m going to add it to my portfolio.

If you haven’t seen my full portfolio yet – if interested – you can click on over and check out a selection of my favorite images on Acadia and Beyond (in addition to Acadia, I’ve shared images of Maine, Ireland, Death Valley, Yosemite). If you do visit the site, drop me a line… I’d love to hear your thoughts. If interested in purchasing from the site between now and the New Year, to save some cash be sure to type in the discount code “Acadia” when checking out. A bargain… Happy holidays!

And yes… I’m trying out a new blog theme. Feedback appreciated on that too 🙂

A change of pace…

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I had been searching for the original RAW file of this scene for a while. This is a blend of two exposures… one for the land in the foreground, and one for the much brighter and sun-reflected light on the ocean. I wasn’t thrilled with my first go at blending the two exposures, but for the life of me I couldn’t seem to find the original files to give it another try… until recently. Maybe this is one that would look good printed on metal?

This is from the last trip I made home to Ireland (with Sam), and shows The Great Blasket Islands from Dunmore Head in County Kerry. Here’s the original post… taking the Slea Head Road west out of Dingle, we spotted a little harbor tucked into the rocks with a pretty beach. From a distance it was beautiful, and up close… even nicer. Looking over our shoulder though, we saw what looked like a path winding its way up the hillside toward the ocean. Eager for an adventure and the possibility of a nice view, we started hiking.

I thought I was going to have a heart attack… too many Irish breakfasts and too much Guinness lately had me struggling to keep up with Sam. When I finally did get to a flat spot, I dropped my backpack and told him to go on ahead… I needed a rest.

So… in the photograph above you can enjoy the view I had from the spot I decided to rest. The headland we were on was called Dunmore Head, and you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane off to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert. This was classic windblown and rugged Irish coastline, and as has been the case most everywhere we went on that trip… it was totally deserted and ours alone.

Here are a couple more photographs to help give a sense of where we were. The first shows our first look at the scene (the arrow shows where we were when I made the photograph at the top of this post), the second is a more intimate view of the harbor and beach, and the third is the view from the other side of the headland in the late afternoon sun. After out hike we headed back into the town of Dingle for dinner, and you can just imagine how good Guinness Stew for Sam and Shepherd’s Pie for me tasted in a local pub… all washed down with a nice pint of course. Beautiful.

On Location: Game of Thrones

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or you don’t subscribe to HBO – then you will be well aware of the epic “Game of Thrones” TV drama series. The show is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin, and “Game of Thrones” is the first book in the fantasy series. Not for the faint of heart, the show combines the drama of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the debauchery of The Tudors, with blood and guts, sex and betrayal, crime and punishment all front and center. Anyhoo… the visually impressive series is filmed in all sorts of exotic locations including Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, and… my home country of Northern Ireland.

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I believe it was at the end of the second series that the scene above was introduced as the “Road to Harrenhal”. Locals in Northern Ireland know this special place as “The Dark Hedges”, a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim. I was fortunate to be able to photograph this intriguing place on a recent visit home, though I believe that a new shiny green fence has been installed along the roadside since I was last there, somewhat negatively impacting the aesthetics. It is a moody place nonetheless, one that is rumored to be haunted by the Grey Lady, a ghostly figure who walks the lane beneath the beech trees.

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Many other scenes from Game of Thrones have been filmed in my home country. The picturesque location above might be recognizable as part of the Iron Islands, but I know it better as the working harbor of Ballintoy. I’ve always known that Northern Ireland was filled with some of the most stunning landscapes imaginable, and it comes as no surprise that the visionaries who brought this series to life chose to film there. The Glens of Antrim, the Mourne Mountains, the Antrim Coast, and Ballintoy Harbor… these are just some of the locations that have been highlighted as the stunning backdrop to what is one of my all-time favorite shows.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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Just a short post this morning with a couple of pix to celebrate what was always a fun day growing up in Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday back home, and although it hasn’t quite reached those heights here in the US, there are enough ex-pats to make sure that it gets plenty of attention. Anyhoo… here’s a sampling of photographs from my home country, leading off with The Dark Hedges, and followed by a few other famous and not so famous sights…

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Kinbane Castle

See more of my Ireland photographs…

here: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com/p641596536

and here: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com/p830260940

On display…

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I have been looking for a way to display/house my photographs for a while now, and although I like the ability to create a WordPress gallery right here on the blog, it wasn’t quite fitting my needs. So… I decided to create another web site to display my photographs. Choosing a domain name, organizing content, and choosing which photographs to include… I quickly learned that there’s lots to think about within this process.

I’ve always made photographs for my own pleasure, though I really do get a kick out of sharing them online with others. I enjoy the comments and conversation they generate, and just lately I’ve begun to have prints made. There’s something special about having an actual print in your hands… sort of like that tangible feeling you get when thumbing through a tattered old paperback versus reading digital text on an e-reader. I wanted to be able to have prints made right from within the web site interface, and I also wanted to be able to make them available for purchase. Would anyone even want to buy prints of my photographs? Who knows? This is a question I have wrestled with enormously, but after much angst and self-doubt, I finally decided to dip my toes in the water.

I love to spend time and photograph the landscape of Acadia, but I have also had the good fortune to travel a little bit and create some great memories from places beyond my favorite national park. I thought about including my own name in the domain… davidpattersonphotos or something like that, but I just didn’t like the sound of it. Anyhoo, I settled on http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com – I feel like it kinda captures where I’m at with my photography.

So… Acadia and Beyond it is… some of my favorite photographs. I’d love to know what you think about the design, organization of content, and choice of photographs on display… thanks.

St. Patrick’s Day

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March 17 holds significance for me in two ways. First of all, and most obviously, it is Saint Patrick’s Day. Growing up in Ireland I can remember many a day spent very unproductively celebrating whatever it was we were celebrating… usually from an early hour too! Last year Sam and I were lucky enough to be in Dublin to join in with the locals as they did what they do best… great experience. If you want a quick fix from the Emerald Isle, check out my gallery of Ireland photographs, including the one below from Dunmore Head looking out toward Great Blasket Island.

Secondly, as I check the weather forecast for the coming week, I am pleased to notice that we are expecting a brief spell of almost 70 degree temperatures here in Maine. While definitely abnormal for this time of year, March 17 and St. Paddy’s Day always spell the end of winter for me. The clocks have just sprung forward, we are in the throes of March Madness, and in a couple of weeks we get to enjoy the dogwoods of Augusta during The Masters golf tournament. For me… this is a good time of the year, so cheers!

The Dark Hedges: before the bright shiny fence

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I just talked to a college buddy of mine who now lives quite close to the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, and he informed that a new, bright and shiny fence has been installed inside the tree line to help maintain control of the local livestock. Apparently it doesn’t exactly add to the splendor of the view, and that’s a shame, because this is a popular scene that has stirred the imagination of many photographers. While I totally understand the rationale, I can’t help thinking that a different strategy might have been employed… one that kept the sheep where they needed to be, and one that maintained the quality of the view.

This is a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim in Northern Ireland that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. Supposedly haunted by the “Grey Lady” who appears at dusk among the trees, I had an opportunity to visit here a few years back and although I did not see any ghosts, I was fascinated by what was once a pretty spectacular driveway leading to Gracehill Mansion, home of the Stuart family.

As you can see, over the past 300 years or so, the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create a remarkable sight. People flock from all parts to photograph this scene, and although it certainly might look pretty cool on screen, seeing it in person is far more impressive. If looking for directions on how to get to there for yourself, check out a post I made from a while ago… just one of the many remarkable sights to be found back home in Northern Ireland.

I can’t imagine what it looks like with a bright and shiny fence 😦

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

Little old ladies who knit…

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Growing up back home in Ireland, my mother would constantly be knitting – and I don’t mean goofy colored scarves or odd-sized mittens – no, she was hard core. She would knit for real. I can hardly remember seeing her sitting in the living room without a pair of knitting needles clicking away and a big ball of yarn unraveling on the floor as she worked. She would transform a simple thing into something beautiful… like art.

As a little kid I was often the recipient of her handiwork, and being the youngest in the family, I can recall being happy about having something to wear that I could truly claim as my own, and not another hand-me-down from one of my older brothers. The classic Aran wool sweater was a favorite pattern of hers, as I’m sure could be proven by taking a quick peek at the family photo album where Ronnie, John, Joan and I each at one point probably sported our own homemade woolen masterpiece. I genuinely believe though that it was me who benefitted most from my mother’s knitting – the fuzzy memories of a variety of colored woollen sweaters filling my limited pre-pubescent wardrobe still reverberate.

I don’t think it was until I got closer to my teenage years that I began to realize why my older siblings didn’t share my enthusiasm for wearing clothes that our mother had knitted. Not surprisingly, as my voice began to break and the world seemed to get a little more complicated, I too did not want to be seen dead in a big woolly jumper (western European for sweater) that had been made by my mother. Ah, teenage angst!

Fast forward a few decades and I now look back on those times with a much different lens. My mother passed away a few years ago before she even had a chance to meet Jack, and as the time seemingly flies by, I find that my memories of her are becoming more and more vague. A couple of old family photographs remain, but as much as I try, there doesn’t seem to be much else to hold onto. That was until Sam came wandering downstairs one morning during his college winter break wearing a big, hairy, woollen sweater.

I noticed it right away, admiring the workmanship and remarking how much it reminded me of the sweaters my mother used to knit. He laughed and told me it was one that Granny Miriam had made! Apparently, some twenty plus years ago, I had carried it with me from Ireland on one of my trans-atlantic trips, but over time it had somehow managed to become forgotten, working its way toward the back of a rarely-used closet. Sam had stumbled on it one day while rummaging through some old clothes, and with an intense appreciation of his Irish heritage, he knew immediately that he had struck gold.

I’m so glad that Sam uncovered something as precious and meaningful from our family past, and I’m even more happy that he wears it so proudly.

2011 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My favorite photographs from 2011

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As each year draws to a close, I enjoy taking a moment to go back through photographs made during the past twelve months and highlighting those that mean the most to me. I usually choose my favorites based on the physical and emotional experience I have, and it really does feel good to reflect on time well spent in places I enjoy. I have to admit, I also get a kick out of using the camera to technically create something I like to look at… making memories that will forever feed my soul. I hope that as each year passes my photographs get better – whatever that means – or at least that they invoke stronger feelings within me, both while breathing in and out perched on the rocky Atlantic shoreline, or now, as I sit here typing and reminiscing about early morning wake up calls and fingers crossed in anticipation of dramatic clouds and good light. Anyhoo… most of my 2011 favorites are – surprise, surprise – from Acadia National Park and the coast of Maine, although this year I also have a couple from a memorable March trip back home to Ireland with my oldest son Sam. Drum roll…

I had been itching to get out with the camera again, so I decided to visit one of my favorite places and see if I could capture some snow blanketing the famous round rocks below Otter Cliffs. An early start this morning got me here about 45 minutes before the sun was scheduled to crest at 6:36am, and as always, I had the place completely to myself. Though the temperature was certainly chilly, there was little to no wind blowing, and since I was dressed in several layers, the 13F actually felt quite comfortable.

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I spent a very enjoyable late afternoon exploring the area around the Marshall Point Lighthouse in the mid-coast community of Port Clyde. Originally established in 1832, the present lighthouse was built in 1857, and this is the same lighthouse Forrest Gump visited when he was traversing the country. This lighthouse is pretty unique in it’s design, with a 31 ft tall white granite and brick tower perched on the rocks at the end of a narrow walkway. A distinctive and striking black cast iron lantern houses a fresnel light that does not flash any more. The Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum on the first floor of the light keeper’s house was opened in 1990, and the whole area is meticulously cared for and maintained.

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Standing near the ocean as the night rolls in can be a somewhat unnerving experience, especially with the wind trying to knock you over and huge waves crashing in the not too far off distance. At the end of the day, the warm light from the beacon was quite comforting as I made my way back toward the car. I stopped one more time to soak in the scene… that’s when I saw this view of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

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I can remember visiting the Gap of Dunloe some 20+ years ago with Lori and some friends, and on that occasion we traveled in style with Dolly… the farting horse. Locals provide horse-drawn traps for the ride up to the gap, and the day we went we had a wet and windy journey up the hill, pulled by our horse who tooted all the way. This photograph is from when Sam and I visited Ireland last spring, and even though the classic greens associated with the Emerald Isle weren’t yet in full force, this was still a striking scene.

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Every single time I pass over the bridge that spans Marshall Brook I find myself staring at what I consider to be a breathtaking scene. There is something about the view laid out before you that catches my eye every time… no matter what the time of day or the prevailing weather conditions, I find myself always having to pull over. Looking north across the Bass Harbor Marsh toward Bernard (left) and Mansell Mountains (right), the eyes are treated to a snaking river that gently winds its way off into the distance.

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I spent an immensely peaceful early morning perched on a ledge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and I couldn’t help marvel at how this is a very cool way to start the day. The sun rises before 5:00 a.m. in the summer in Maine, and as you can see from the photograph above, the pre-dawn light on this particular morning was pretty special. When the sun eventually crested over Great Head behind me, it bathed the scene in amazing warm light, with the granite absolutely lighting up with color. This view is looking south along the rugged Acadia coast toward Otter Cliffs, and other than a couple of seagulls who kept me company on the ledge, I was here all by myself.

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So… I wasn’t expecting the conditions to be particularly special on this morning, but as the light slowly climbed from the east up and over my shoulder toward the lighthouse, I started to wonder if I might actually be in for a show? There were some soft, wispy clouds behind the lighthouse, and as the day began to brighten, my jaw literally dropped as I marveled at how the high clouds were being illuminated with a phenomenal pinkish hue. Knowing that the light probably wouldn’t last long, and with a big grin on my face, I worked quickly to try to combine all of the elements within the frame into something I liked. I couldn’t have ordered better weather conditions, and the impressive lighthouse that welcomes returning mariners to Bass Harbor certainly did its part.

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Taking the Slea Head Road further west out of Dingle, we spotted a little harbor tucked into the rocks with a pretty beach. From a distance it was beautiful, and up close… even nicer. Looking over our shoulder though, we saw what looked like a path winding its way up the hillside toward the ocean. Eager for an adventure and the possibility of a nice view, we started hiking. I thought I was going to have a heart attack… too many Irish breakfasts and too much Guinness lately had me struggling to keep up with Sam. When I finally did get to a flat spot, I dropped my backpack and told him to go on ahead… I needed a rest. The headland we were on was called Dunmore Head (I think), and from here you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane off to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert.

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There’s something about the fleeting appearance that Lupine make here in Maine which I really like. They explode onto the scene as the weather warms up at the start of June, but by the time July rolls around they are already starting to fade away. They are scattered all over the side of I-95 as I make my way down and back to work, and maybe it’s because they brighten my commute at this time of year, but I love the splash of color they add to the landscape. We went camping one weekend in mid-June… and despite the rainy weather, a good time was had by all. Late on the Friday afternoon we wandered up to the Beech Hill Road to hike the Canada Cliff Trail, and along the roadside we encountered a field absolutely brimming over with my favorite Maine flower… Lupine.

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If you want to discover examples of fall foliage colors in a pretty Acadia location, look no further than the path that runs alongside the Jordan Pond Stream. Starting out behind the Jordan Pond House restaurant, find the stepped trail entering the woods leading down to where the carriage road meets up with the stream, cross the bridge and make a left turn to follow the stream downhill and you will be treated to not only the soothing sound of running water, but also the wide array of foliage colors typically associated with a classic New England fall season.

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I had looked at the weather, and with a forecast of light rain and cloudy skies, it seemed like the perfect time to make a quick run down to Acadia before the fall foliage was all gone. I knew that the overcast weather and foggy conditions would offer nice even light in which to photograph the changing autumn colors at the top of Cadillac and the rejuvenated, rain-fed Jordan Pond Stream. First stop Cadillac… there is something special about being on top of a mountain when it is socked in with clouds and you have it all to yourself, and when that mountain is Cadillac, I’m in heaven.

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Fall foliage season comes and goes pretty fast around these parts, and when you factor in the potential for poor weather and the usual work commitments, chances are I might only have a couple of opportunities to try to make some photographs displaying the changing colors. This was the first photograph I made on a cool, rainy morning spent exploring the banks of the Jordan Pond Stream in Acadia National Park.

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A famous row of trees

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More from Ireland…. bear with me as I get my fix from home 🙂

The image above is of a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. As you can see, over the past 300 years or so, the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create a remarkable sight. Many people photograph this scene, and although it certainly does look pretty cool in this photo, seeing it in person is far more impressive. If looking for directions on how to get to this place for yourself, check out a post I made from a while back. Just one of the many remarkable sights to be found back home in Northern Ireland.

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

In the footsteps of a giant

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I can remember visiting the Giant’s Causeway as a kid and being fascinated by the shapes and patterns in the famous rock formations there. One year our family summer holiday took us to the Antrim coast and Dunseverick for two weeks, and from there it is only a couple of miles to this remarkable place.

From Wikipedia: The Giant’s Causeway (known as Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFómharach in Irish and the Giant’s Causey in Ulster-Scots) is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

I remember my dad telling us all about the legend of Finn McCool and how the causeway came to be, and of course I believed every word of his tall tale… who wouldn’t? This is still one of the most unique and magical places I have ever seen, and one that I would love to return to again one day with camera in hand. Surprise, surprise… a grey and rainy sky welcomed me on the day this photograph was made, so it seems only right to process it as a black and white.

From Wikipedia again: Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. In a variation, Fionn fled after seeing Benandonner’s great bulk, and asked his wife to disguise him as the baby. In both versions, when Benandonner saw the size of the ‘infant’, he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.

My auld Irish home…

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Isn’t that part of a line from a song?

It must just be the time of year… time when I start wondering what it would be like to go back home. Seems as though the older I get the more I want to visit… strange, I would have thought that it would be the other way round. It has now been more than 23 years since I got on that plane, and as always, you wonder where the time went. Feeling nostalgic, I took a wander through the archives from the last two times I visited home. It seems so long ago already, but here are a couple of never before processed photographs from the first morning Sam and I landed in Ireland. Arriving very early, we had some time to spare, so we took a run up into the Wicklow Mountains just outside Dublin. As we explored what was very remote terrain, we were treated to some wild light wrestling with fast moving and rain-heavy clouds… welcome to Ireland!

How to get to The Dark Hedges

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I check the stats for my blog every now and then, and when I do, I invariably find that certain posts are more popular than others when it comes to search terms. A post about a famous stretch of road in Northern Ireland from September 10, 2009 which I titled Dark Hedges is one such post. Other than three of my posts which were “freshly pressed” on the front page of WordPress.com generating views in the thousands, this has been my most viewed blog post. There isn’t a day that goes by where it hasn’t received at least a handful of views, and since I figured people must be looking for information on how to get there for themselves, why not share the location.

If this were a fragile ecosystem where sharing the specific location and encouraging additional foot traffic might endanger the local environment, I might be more reluctant to share specifics, but since it is a public road that just happens to be pretty remarkable, I don’t see any harm in helping others see it for themselves. This is a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy in County Antrim that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. As you can see, over the past 300 years or so, the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create an impressive sight. I have only visited this place one time, and on that occasion the light and atmosphere were not especially dramatic. For those of you planning on photographing this scene for yourselves… here’s hoping that the conditions come together perfectly for you, and that you come away with a special image that you are proud of 🙂

Directions: From Belfast, take the M2 north out of the city and look for the A26 just north of the town of Antrim. Take the A26 north toward and around Ballymena, and about 7 miles past Ballymena look for where the road forks with an option to take the A44 (Drones Road) toward Armoy and Ballycastle. Stay on the A44 for another 7 miles or so, and before reaching the village of Armoy, make a left onto the Bregagh Road. After about a mile you will cross over the B15 (Gracehill Road), and stay straight for another mile until you cross over the Ballykenver Road… turn the bend and prepare to say “Wow”.

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

Irish Hunger Memorial in NYC

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This city never ceases to amaze me. There’s always something new and interesting to see around every corner, and while exploring the lower west side of Manhattan on a recent short visit, we stumbled on the Irish Hunger Memorial for the first time. An oasis of green in a jungle of concrete and steel, this unique memorial in New York City is beautifully presented and a poignant reminder of constant struggles to provide the most basic of human needs.

A description from Wikipedia:

“The Irish Hunger Memorial, designed collaboratively by artist Brian Tolle, landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird, and 1100 Architect, is located on a one-half acre site at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, and is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Irish Famine that killed up to a million in Ireland between the years 1845 and 1852. The memorial was dedicated on July 16, 2002. It is a uniquely landscaped plot, which utilizes stones, soil, and native vegetation brought in from the western coast of Ireland. The memorial contains stones from all of the different counties of Ireland. The memorial also incorporates an authentic rebuilt Irish cottage of the 19th century. The cottage at the memorial is from Carradoogan in the parish of Attymass in County Mayo. The cottage belonged to the Slack family but was deserted in the 1960s. The Slack family donated the cottage to the memorial in “memory of all the Slack family members of previous generations who emigrated to America and fared well there.” “

Between 1846 and 1850, potato blight all but wiped out the main source of food for the Irish people and a catastrophic famine ensued. One and a half million Irish people died, and many more fled their homeland just to survive. The quarter of an acre Irish Hunger Memorial garden is a reminder of An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger), and it also recognizes the many parts of the world still affected by hunger today.

A raised overlook provides impressive views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, significant as symbols of the welcome afforded the immigrant Irish people. The outside wall of the memorial is adorned with almost two miles of poetry, statistics and quotes about the impact of the deadly famine.

Somewhat ironically placed deep within the Financial District of the richest city in the world, this site stands as a simple reminder of past and present issues around world hunger, and in a time when some of us have so much, it seems hard to believe that so many people across the globe still go without. Well worth a visit.

Four boys from Dublin

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Before it even became trendy to create a bucket list, and hopefully without sounding too morbid, I had already written down a few things that I wanted to do before I die. Probably like most people, my list included the usual suspects like exotic travel to far flung places and several exciting thrill-seeking activities, but it also included the wish to one day see a certain band from Ireland play live in concert. Just this week I got my wish.

Growing up in Ireland during the 80′s you couldn’t be anything but amazed at the music being produced by U2. They had a style all of their own, and quickly developed a reputation for raw, high energy shows. There aren’t many bands you can instantly identify within the first few seconds of just about any song they play, but there is definitely a unique and unmistakable U2 sound. Before long they had established themselves as a world-wide phenomenon and it became incredibly difficult to score tickets… oh, and along the way they produced some truly remarkable and memorable music.

With the mercury in New York City hitting 95 degrees, Sam and I drove the 35 miles from Granny and Grandpa’s house across Manhattan to the Meadowlands Stadium in a very frustrating and seemingly never-ending 4 hours! Traffic was horrendous, with the struggle to get into the Lincoln Tunnel an absolute bear. We persevered though, and at about 8:00 p.m. we rolled into New Jersey and ultimately the very crowded parking lot of the stadium. As we found our seats, we were amazed by the elaborate and impressive 160 ft tall set, and as the stadium filled to capacity, the huge crowd became quite a scene.

The four boys from Dublin – Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. – collectively better known as U2, put on a show to remember. Even though our seats were fairly high up in the stadium, we still felt as if we were a part of the performance, and as Bono and the boys cranked out classics like Sunday Bloody Sunday, City of Blinding Lights, I Will Follow, and Vertigo… along with the rest of the 80,000 concert-goers, we were treated to an awesome show full of intensity and energy… one that neither Sam nor I will ever forget.

Shiny and silver…

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Every now and then I get the urge to print something, and I figure if it’s worth printing then it’s worth printing BIG! I just sent this one off to be printed on metallic paper at 24 x 36, and I have a feeling that when it comes back I will like it. I love how landscape photographs appear almost 3D when printed on metallic paper, and the black and white processing should make this one really pop.

If I ever got serious about this whole photography thing I would love to spend some time learning about what goes into making a really good print… but in the meantime, I will trust (and pay) those with the ability and resources to take care of such a task. I am definitely developing an attraction to large prints, and I can’t wait to see this one up close 🙂

From Dunmore Head near Coumeenoole, you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert – just off the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.

Toward the highest mountain in Ireland

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Another from the Ireland stash… this is from our last evening in Killarney before we headed north toward Galway. There is a path just to the right of where I planted my tripod that leads toward the highest mountain in Ireland… Carrauntoohil (3406 ft). Carrauntoohil itself isn’t actually visible in this photograph, and I’m not entirely sure what the correct name for this path is, though I think it is either Lisleibane or Cronin Yard Loop. It was a spectacularly beautiful way to spend time as the early evening shadows stretched across a landscape that is known locally as Hags Glen. Can you imagine what this looks like when everything has greened up?