Sunday, 11 January 2015

Glendalough - Now and Then


Glenalough Upper Lake. January 2015


Every now and then we all do things that appear a bit harebrained and as a photographer, it seems to happen with slightly more regularity. It sounded like a good idea at the time but seeing as the previous visit to Glendalough in the Wicklow mountains, back in September had been so magical, the suggestion by my photographer friend of making a return visit for another shoot as I passed through on my way to West Cork yesterday morning, was not unwelcome. So I said yes without a second thought. Actually, the second thought was that there was an excellent establishment there providing good hearty breakfasts - so why not?! Not only that, a couple of days previous, another photographer friend had mailed me the link to a fascinating set of archive photographs taken in 1913, of places in Ireland. Unusually, these pictures were in colour and had been taken by two French women, Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon-Alba, and included two views of Glendalough. An ideal opportunity for a 'now and then' shot if ever there was one.

As before, I had sailed into Dublin on the 'graveyard' crossing, due to arrive into port at 6am. However,  despite the unusually mild temperature of 13 degrees, indicated on my night-time drive to the ferry it was the high winds that were of more concern. With force 9-10 forecast, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride, and with stabilisers duly deployed, the boat made a safe but slightly slower crossing of the Irish Sea. Disembarking at 6.30 am, it was still dark as I set off, the location programmed into my sat nav - yes I am finally beginning to trust these gadgets but I don't know why. Knowing that it would want to take me on an exit route from the port which has a toll, I thought I would take a slightly different route to avoid this unnecessary inconvenience, trusting that the sat-nav would recalculate the route to take me out on the east side of the city. Instead, and to my surprise, it took me out west, ultimately taking me right over the winding Wicklow mountains in the dark. Now I know why I never trusted these gadgets - give me a real map any day!

By now, the 13 degrees of the night before was reading 3 degrees with the wind still buffeting the car as I negotiated my way around the debris fallen from the trees. I was pleased when finally I emerged from the wooded area onto the open mountain road but this brought new hazards. Potential ice, maybe the odd animal and the unpredictable humps and bumps in the road surface, sending the contents of the car, up into the air. I quickly questioned the wisdom of the sat nav - Why this way? With the openness of the landscape, it was possible to see way ahead, and in the distance I could see the red glow of some tail lights - I wondered which other mad soul might be up there at this dark hour in the morning? Bit by bit, I gained on the other vehicle, until, a few miles from my final destination I had caught up, realising it was my friend - the other equally harebrained photographer. With both of us relieved to have made it to Glendalough safely, we opted to go for an early breakfast to wait for the dawn - which, unlike our previous visit, this time arrived unspectacularly without any sunshine. We made our pot of tea last, glad to be out of the biting wind but all of sudden, the sun burst though. Cue cameras!

We wrapped up against the elements, slung our kit over our shoulders and set off on a walk to the Upper Lake, where we had experienced the magical conditions back in September.

Remember this?...

Glendalough Upper Lake. September 2014


Despite our frozen fingers, we had gone to take photographs and although our results yesterday showed the winter colours, they bore no resemblance to the beauty of the colours from that still morning - but this is the joy of being a photographer, recording the 'now and then'.
On the subject of now and then, I wasn't to forget the other reason for my visit - to find the location that those two French ladies had used, back 100 years ago.


Then - Glendalough Round Tower 1913
Now - Glendalough Round Tower 2015























Finding the first spot wasn't too difficult (I was doing this from memory as I hadn't printed off a reference copy of the old photograph) Not much changed apart from a few gravestones missing and the sculpture of the greenery being slightly transformed.

The second spot, I knew was going to be a different story. I remembered there were many more trees now than there were then. I did my best but the trees obscured much of the cathedral and, due to more trees, we couldn't move any further back or up on the far bank of the river which ran between the location and the subject, and which would have provided us with the open view of this early Medieval monastic settlement.


Now - Glendalough Round Tower and Cathedral - 2015


Then - Glendalough Round Tower and Cathedral - 1913


Mission accomplished, and with the prospect of four hour drive to West Cork ahead of me, we set off on our separate ways, vowing that we would choose a nice warm summer day for the next now and then visit to Glendalough.



Thanks to my friend Neil for the link to the photographs, An t-Oileán the blogger who posted the images, and Ray, my equally harebrained photographer friend.




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