Our first taste of Dublin, starting very early in the morning took us to the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield Village and the Guinness Storehouse near the outskirts of downtown Dublin. Both of these sights are museum pieces at this point but still interesting in their own ways.
This being my first trip to Ireland, I wasn't sure what I'd find. I did have some ideas I wanted to explore: doorways or points of entry, roadways and or corridors to illustrate moving through space; either psychically or psychologically, textures, patterns, light and dark, life and death. And above all try to capture what its like to be there.
Our second day started with an early morning train ride to Kilkenny. The only thing I knew for sure was this was the home to the Smithwick's brewery. In fact, St. Francis Abbey which is home to the brewery was the first of many ruins we saw. Graveyards full of Celtic-crosses, centuries old churches and medieval streets all to be found here also became a recurring photographic subject. They never did get boring to try and capture.
As with all my work I try to move around quickly, see as much as possible, hope for good light and capture both what is obvious and maybe what is less obvious.
Dublin's top two cathedrals, Christ Church and St. Patrick's are in fact part of the Church of Ireland; not the Catholic Church. This is mainly due to the long tangled history of the Irish and Great Britain. Additionally, they both had wealthy families backing their restorations, the Guinness family for St. Patrick's and the Jameson family for Christ Church.
Trying to find a way to capture these churches is a challenge. Beyond the impressive scale of the things by looking closely one can notice the complexities of how they are built.
Dublin Castle sits on the site of the original Viking fortress where Dublin was founded. The English ruled from here for 700 years. The Norman tower is the last remaining part of the original castle the rest being built over the centuries to suit its various functions. To see so many different architectural designs as part of one complex offers nearly endless possibilities for photography.
This probably qualifies as the first major ruins on the trip. Strategically placed high above Tipperary and fought over for many hundreds of years, there is a ton of history here.
Faced with changing weather and light conditions, and little time, I tried to capture as much as possible of what remains. As always I looked to capture smaller details and hope to convey a sense of what this place is both now and from long ago.
Located on the southern coast of Ireland, Kinsale had one of the best and most important harbors of the 16th-18th centuries. Here we have everything including a great looking town with great food, the spectacular ruins of Charles Fort, wonderful views of the harbor along the Scilly walk, and Desmond Castle.
During a travel day, stopping at the Kissane Sheep Farm on the edges of Killarney National Park along the Ring of Kerry. Watching the farmers and the dogs, who did most of the it, working the sheep out of the hills simply amazed.
The shots here are of a different sort as I was trying to capture the dogs and sheep in action. The beauty of the place did not go unnoticed either.
Prior to the sheep farm we stopped for lunch in Kenmare, and after the sheep farm continued on towards Dingletown stopping momentarily now and again to admire the sites along the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park.
Dingle Town on the southwest coast is amazing. We arrived in time for a great dinner on our first night, and had two more to spend in taking in great food and drink, music and scenery, culminating in the Dingle Food Festival which took our stay here to a whole other level. All in all I would say, if I had to choose, these three days were my favorite of the trip.
The spectacular coastline of the Dingle Peninsula takes you to all manner of sights. Ancient structures both in ruins and intact, the now lost settlements of the Great Blasket Island people, coastal views, and a taste of modern rural Ireland.
With so much to see, my overriding photographic approach here was to capture the place as I saw it. Hopefully these glimpses into this part of Ireland will help illustrate just how magical this little corner of the country is.
Our brief visit to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, rising as high as 650 feet straight down to the ocean below, came with not so ideal weather. At least if you wanted to see the cliffs. But the howling winds, cacophony of the crashing waves, the veil of fog still provided a visceral experience. I hoped to capture the idea of looking over the fence and knowing the edge is there somewhere. As our time dwindled, the fog lifted a bit, and we got to see some of what we could only imagine earlier.
Another too short stop at the otherworldly landscape of the Burren provided an entirely different but no less fascinating experience. Known to have one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems in the world. This is the kind of place I would have loved to explore for days if I could.
We had two days in County Galway. Galway City is the biggest and really only city on the western coast of Ireland. It provided an interesting contrast to the more rural and small town feel of the locales we had just visited.
However, a day trip to Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands brought us right back to a more rural and desolate environment. Made of same fascinating rocky landscape as The Burren and cliff edge home to the 2000 year old fortress Dún Aenghus.
On our way out of Galway we stopped for a quick look at Cong with its church ruins juxtaposed with a new highly modern church.
We covered a lot of ground both on the road and in Irish history over the course of the two days represented here. We had only one overnight stay in Westport as we journeyed from Galway and eventually into Northern, Ireland.
It was here, traveling through what has become known as the Valley of Ghosts that for me, a real understanding of the famine and its lasting affect on Ireland.
And, in addition we have more villages, ruins, centuries old high crosses, castles and one of Ireland's Nobel Prize winning writers.
An all too short couple of hours in Derry yielded an impressive number of photos. To me that's an indication of how fascinating this city is. Steeped in history and conflict Derry and Northern Ireland are in peace time but the reminders of past differences as well as optimism for the future are clearly on display.
With two nights in Portrush on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland we were greeted by a spectacular storm upon arrival which quickly turned into fantastic weather. This was fortunate as we visited Finn MacCool's bridge to Scotland aka the Giant's Causeway, the heavenly atmosphere of the Old Bushmills Distillery, and crossed (a small section) of the ferocious Atlantic Ocean on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and saw the ruins of Dunluce Castle literally hanging on the edge of the Northern Irish coastline.
Back in picturesque Portrush we found the unique northern accent and super friendly citizens a joy to have some drinks with and enjoy some great dinners.
Another of our short stops. We were lucky to see a number of important sights, but we really only barely scratched the surface. The most striking thing comparing Belfast to Dublin is how much more modern and highly developed much of it is. Here in Northern Ireland the lasting effects of the famine on the Republic of Ireland are most clearly visible. Additionally, the sectarian forces that had been at work for centuries played and continue to play a role in the still evolving modern Ireland and N. Ireland.
After circumnavigating the island, seeing such wonders and gaining some kind of an understanding of Irish history, coming back to Dublin made for yet another new experience. It felt different the second time, probably for many reasons. Most importantly as our trip was coming to an end the significance of sights we saw and things we did in these last few days was not lost to us.