Tuesday 27 January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day

Keep the memory alive

70th anniversay of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Sunday 25 January 2015

Landmark - 20 Years in Ireland

Loading the Isle of Inishmore (facing a force 9/10 crossing) two weeks ago

"You should go to Ireland, you will love it"

Those were the words of recommendation given to us some 20 years ago by both friends and family who had already traversed the Irish Sea, to explore the Emerald Isle. A country which, at that time many British people still viewed with unwarranted suspicion. We didn't actually need much encouraging though and in June 1995, himself and I took our very young family on the long drive through South Wales to Pembroke, where we boarded the Isle of Inishmore, bound for Rosslare in the south east corner of the country.

Archive image

One of our most vivid memories of that sailing was the distinct smell that blew on the breeze, coming off the land, and reaching us several miles offshore. At the time we didn't know what it was but it became the aroma we subsequently associated with our visits when we either arrived at the port or the airport year after year. "Ahhh, that's Ireland!"

Following that first visit, which included a stay in a traditional West Cork former farmhouse, Ireland became the regular choice for our annual holiday. We had fallen in love with the beautiful country and its people, and along with the friendly welcome given by our hosts at the cottage, we returned to the same place for several years, inevitably becoming great friends with the couple in the process. Sadly for us, the cottage was eventually taken on by another member of the family and we had to seek alternative accommodation for our visits. This made us think, and we finally put down our own roots in West Cork in 2008.

Roll on to 2015, twenty years since I first sailed to Ireland.
When I booked my ferry crossing for the 10th January just gone, I was surprised to see that the usual ship on the Holyhead - Dublin crossing (our preferred route now), was off service, and I would be sailing on... The Isle of Inishmore, albeit the replacement ship of the same name. It kind of brought the whole twenty years together. I have totally lost count of the number of visits to these shores in that time, but I now consider the UKs nearest neighbour as my second home. (And no, we don't have recent Irish heritage) However, I did notice one change during this trip, in that the new ship now seems to be registered in Limassol rather than Dublin - a sign of the economic times no doubt. Apart from that, I still have the same excitement when I board a plane or a ship bound for Ireland, despite having found out that that distinct (but not unpleasant) aroma of Ireland is, ahem...natural field fertilising (Do you get my drift?!)

Boarding the Isle of Inishmore on the 'graveyard run' out of Holyhead

True, Ireland has been hit hard by the recent economic recession but there are signs of new life. With the Spring on the way, it is the right time to forge ahead with my West Cork Photography Weekends, sharing the delights of this one particular corner of Ireland with any of you who may have contemplated a visit to this lovely country. Also, with the new attraction of the Wild Atlantic Way running right past our front door, it couldn't be better placed as a location to come and learn the basics of photography whilst enjoying the scenery and nature. If photography weekends aren't your thing then just come and relax at The Yellow House B&B* (double and single room available) on selected dates, where the catering specialises for those who need a Gluten Free diet.
But please note, these workshops and the accommodation is currently limited to this season only for now, (depending on how this goes, availability may be rolled out in the Autumn too)
So don't spend too long thinking about it - we didn't. Let me just repeat what was said to us:

"You should come to Ireland, you will love it"

*The Yellow House B&B is currently listed on the airbnb website for the benefit of international travellers. A dedicated website is soon to be live but in the meantime, do feel free to contact me direct - oh, and share the good news around too!

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.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Looking Forward - 2015

With 2014 now having been consigned to memories, Facebook, Twitter and blog pages, I am looking forward to 2015 with equal measures of excitement and fear.


Well, I have had a plan in mind for a couple of years now, and a whole long series of events and circumstances have finally aligned in eclipse-like fashion, and January 2015 is the time to take off the UV specs and see the aura of this solar-eclipse moment in its' true light.

In simple terms, I'm going for it!!

Many of you have been scratching your heads thinking and asking - what?
Well, regular blog readers and media followers know that I am fortunate to be able to split my life between two beautiful parts of two countries - East Anglia, UK and West Cork, Ireland. You will also know, that as a freelance photographer, work in the form of commissions and assignments can be rather up and down, so it is always in mind as to how to supplement and secure a steady living. What many of you may not know, is that I have also been tied to a particular work commitment for 19 years, albeit just a Friday for the past 16 of those. However, circumstances will change from this weekend, maybe temporarily, maybe permanently, I have yet to see but what I can see is that I won't get another opportunity like the one that is facing me now. Six months leave to try a new venture but with the security that there will still be the original work opportunity waiting for me at the end of it - should I want it.

The venture? I will keep you in suspense no longer. On Friday night (the forecast high winds permitting :-/ ) I will be sailing into Dublin on route to spending the next four months (until mid May) in West Cork, putting my all into my new venture. From our cottage overlooking the Atlantic in the far corner of Ireland, I will once again be running weekend photographic workshops and short breaks, following the successful trial back in the Autumn. As the breaks are residential, I will also be turning my hand to playing hostess, and whilst I have my white pinny starched up, I thought I may as well continue with the hosting by offering B&B during the slots when I'm not passing on my photographic enthusiasm to beginners and improvers.

Sadly, following a few personal issues and set-backs over recent weeks, it has meant that my websites have not gone fully on stream quite yet but do check out initial details of the photography breaks on www.celiabartlettphotography.co.uk

For information about the B&B, please drop by www.theyellow-house.com in a few days time, when details of the rooms for half term, a Valentines weekend package, the St. Patricks weekend and the Easter dates will be available for booking (or message ahead with your interest.)

And what of himself and mutt? Well, if it wasn't in part for himselfs encouragement I wouldn't be giving this venture a try, with the view to rolling out shorter blocks of workshops and/or B&B breaks on into (dare I say) 2016. This will mean I will only abandon him for short bursts of domestic duties then, rather than the long spell I will subject him to this time. Yes, of course I will miss him but not as much as I will miss my little walking companion!!! Mutt will be staying here in the East to keep himself company. As I sadly realised yesterday during my regular walk with mutt, it will be the summer before I see the familiar skeletal landmark tree again (in the picture above) but those four months will fly by and I am looking forward to charting the progress of spring again, this time in West Cork.