castle

Sheela na gig

three castles

Shortly before my holidays I had some business to attend in Kilkenny, and used this as an opportunity for a detour through the countryside. I took the Freshford Road and turned right to Three Castles. This is a beautiful road with some very nice spots for photography. Because my friend used to live there, it is a ‘memory lane’ to me as well. The first picture was taken from Martin Campion pub doors.

According to the Lonely Planet, there is 0 things to do in Three Castles, Ireland. I object to that. There is a castle, church and graveyard, and some day I will put up a post about them. This time I only took one picture of the castle, from the road – I think it looks nice in b&w.

three castles

Also, there is a beautiful limestone bridge, dated 1790. I walked a little bit further and found a roadkill – a huge pine martin. I was very sad for the unfortunate animal. Wildlife in Ireland is scarce. I took a picture but didn’t feel like posting, because the carcass was badly damaged.

threecastles bridge

After driving through Three Castles, I turned to Ballyragget. The village of Ballyragget was named after le Raggeds who had lands here in the 13th century. This castle was built in 1495 and belonged to the Mountgarret Butlers who lived here until 1788. Richard Henry Piers Butler, 17th Viscount Mountgarret, died in 2004. He served in Irish Guards – well, some of the Mountgarrets were in opposition to the crown in the 17th century and distinguished themselves by defense of Ballyregget castle.

There is no access to the castle grounds, so I just took two pictures from the road.

ballyregget

ballyregget

Oh, how could I forget! I bought a .99 in Ballyragget! A .99 is the name for and Irish cone ice cream, the best in the world 😉 If you happen to drive through Ballyragget, buy one in the local store.

After enjoying my .99, I left Ballyragget and turned to Lisdowney, a tiny village on the border with Co Laois [ lee-sh]. I have fond memories about the place and the church where I once helped with the Christmas music rehearsal. Some day I will share more pictures and stories.

These pictures of the countryside don’t need much comments.

lisdowney

horses

lisdowney

Irish graveyards are special. If you are interested, you might check the link – a friend of mine takes part in the project Historic Graves. This is St Bridget’s, Aharney,  graveyard.

lisdowney

You probably wonder, why this title, and where is Sheela? Now we are getting there! 🙂 My plan was to drive to Cullahill and take a hike through the forest. When I approached the village, I took this picture of the Cullahill castle ruin. I zoomed it to see what kind of bird was sitting on the electrical wire, and then I noticed something interesting on the castle wall!

cullahill

A Sheela! There was a Sheela na gig on the castle wall! I didn’t have a longer lens – you can have a closer look if you open the link.

There are a few theories why people placed the sheelas on the churches and castles – I guess they had some benefits from doing that. It is amazing how this one survived the centuries and the destruction. They say there are 101 sheelas found in Ireland, but most of them in museums.

cullahill

I was so delighted about the sheela, and so proud that I got the picture.

This is the Northern wall of the castle, badly damaged by cannons of Cromwellian forces in the 17th century. The hill of Callahill in this picture, where I was heading, is hidden right behind the castle.

cullahill

Across the road from the castle there is a ruin of a chapel.

cullahill

My hike was over before it even started. I was driving that extremely narrow road to the hilltop, mortified with the thought that someone might drive downhill and knock me off the road to my death. When I reached a parking spot, I quickly turned around and drove back even more horrified, because this time the abyss was on my side of the road. There was one car parked, and fortunately no one else felt like hiking that afternoon. I even didn’t take any pictures of the hill.

On my way back  I took a picture of this property near Freshford. It is for sale. Thatched roof looks so cute.

freshford

The sky finally cleared and  I drove home.

lisdowney

Thank you for taking the trip with me!

inesemjphotographyHave a wonderful weekend!

Red rocks and castles

latvia

Latvia I and Latvia II to those who just joined the trip.

This funny face is one of the landmarks of Ieriku Nature Trail in Latvia. There are at least fifteen of them, hidden in different places for the visitors to discover.

latvia

Recently I discovered another funny face, although not in Latvia. It seems that one can find them anywhere in the world 🙂

The Zvartes Rock is one of the most popular and scenic devonian sandstone rocks in Latvia. It is 44 m high. Locals come to the rock for a swim – very shallow river Amata deepens around the rock creating a natural swimming pool.

latvia

Red sandstone rocks can be found in many places in Latvia. I have visited a few trails marveling at the beauty of these natural formations. This one is the Gutman Cave in Gauja National Park.

latvia

To get to the cave, I took a cable car ride.

latvia

latvia

Gauja National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Latvia. There are more than 500 cultural and historical monuments, and it is open for the outdoor sports like hiking, boating, cycling and skiing.

latvia

Visitors are gathering for an open air piano concert in the Sigulda castle grounds.

latvia

Speaking of castles – there are many beautiful castles in Latvia, and one of them is situated in the central part of the country. Cesvaine Castle  housed a local school for many years. Jealous? 🙂 I sure am. After the fire in 2002 the roof was replaced, and now the castle looks like a fairy tale. The castle park is another hidden gem, mysterious and romantic.

cesvaine

Not only the castles – every old country house looks beautiful.

latvia

Endless fairytale pine forest smells so good! They say this fragrance can cool global warming. 

forest

Baltic sea is beautiful in any weather…

fog

… and at any time of the day.

sunset

And how can I forget those cute fishing villages and delicious seafood?

To finish this blog, there is another vintage car we have spotted. Another Volga.

car

This is all I wanted to share. Hope you enjoyed these photographs from Latvia. I am sure that many things changed since that trip, but the Baltic Sea is still there 🙂

My holidays are coming to an end. Next week I will travel back home and fight jet lag for another couple of days – comments are disabled for this post because I won’t be able to answer them. Thank you for understanding, talk to you later on 🙂

inesemjphotography Have a happy weekend and a great week ahead!

Traveling blog: I am learning from you

Many of the bloggers that follow me and I follow in return are doing amazing job and I admire them. I am overwhelmed by talent! Last week a passionate  blogger and mental health advocate Sheri de Grom http://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/ asked me to join the Traveling blog. I felt so grateful and truly humbled. Sheri is doing a job of tremendous importance speaking for the people suffering from mental illness. Her blog is a powerful tool, my blog is only a little piece of love I have for my fellow human beings.

As I accepted the invitation, here are a few questions I am supposed to answer.

What I am working on at the moment?

I am planning to visit Saltee Islands, Co Wexford, for bird photography. Now I am doing some research for this trip. My next destination is Cliffs of Moher, also mostly for bird photography, and after that I am going to Dublin for street photography (Pride festival).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, it must differ a bit because I write in a language which is not native to me. Common sense tells me to rather keep to photography than do any writings, but sometimes there are things I do want to tell about. . I write just about everything:) When I work I am thinking, and if it looks like a good thought to share, so I do. Sometimes I read about some place or person, and I like to go and see them by myself, take my own pictures and share. Usually I don’t have a detailed plan, because I love to surprise myself too:)

Why do I write what I do?

I feel good when I think that somebody smiles reading my blog, or sighs, or drops a tear, or gets inspired for doing something special. I must love humans, otherwise why would I pursue portrait photography:) I want them to be safe and comfortable, to understand and love humor, to be touched by beauty and amazed by new knowledge.

How does my writing process work?

I am a person who is amazed with things all the time, so it is easy for me to pick up a subject. I write what I see, what I know, what I care about. Most of the times I am smiling when I write:). Usually I do research and write a draft; then I take pictures, and then… I write all over again.

Here are some fellow bloggers who have accepted  my invitation.  I don’t know why I am so lucky to meet the most amazing people! Please visit their blogs. I know you will love what they do.

Incredibly talented Hattie Wilcox,  http://availablelightonly.com/ , http://writingwithoutahelmet.com/   I am walking through her blog like through an enchanted forest. Every picture tells a story, every word of poetry takes me away.

Warm humor of Emily Grace http://beefandsweettea.com/  always makes my day. When I read her blog I do want to have a goat and chop the mustard… I want every day to be a National Agriculture Day. Today I stuck behind a tractor on my way home – had no bad feelings, seriously:)

Leyla Garza http://darkpink.wordpress.com/ ,  her photographs will tell you what a young girl likes. She lost her lens cap you see, and since then she cannot stop taking pictures:)

Here are some pictures from last week. Hope your day is nice and peaceful.

road

castle

castle

woods mono

Photography tip of the day: photo editing is art itself.

inesemj_photographyHave a great day!

A Cry For The Last Child

In autumn 2008 I was feeling unwell and didn’t do any photography. That particular day I was limping across the bridge from the Plunkett train station in Waterford to catch a bus to the hospital, all soaked in drizzle and focused on my own misery. When I turned to The Quay I met the eyes of a giant girl looking at me from the Old Flour Mills over the river. I didn’t have any camera on me, neither was I planning to return to Waterford soon. I looked at the girl with regret and she looked at me with sorrow.

“I now see that sorrow, being a supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of all great art.”
De Profundis by Oscar WIlde
gottfried_helwein

Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com

Controversial, as some people say, artist Gottfried Helnwein was born in 1948 in war-torn Vienna, Austria. His biography you can read on his website ( all the links open in separate windows), and not only the biography. I have read his interviews and quotes, and also translated some from German, for good measure, and I advise you to do so to know all by yourself who he is, what he is telling and why.

gottfried_helnwein

Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com

Many people get confused when they encounter unfamiliar aspects of art; they tend to interpret the meaning based on their own culture, and get confused even more. They might even call this confusion “shock”. My daughter and I went to The Body World 3 exhibition in Salt Lake City a few years ago. The generosity of the donors’ last gift was humbling. Was this exhibition shocking? No. It was educational. Shock is something that locks, not opens. When one says that something is shocking, they stop thinking and learning right there.

gottfried_helwein

Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com

My Father was a POW from 1941 to 1945. I only know from my Mother that he escaped, jumped in the sea and swam, but was reported by a local farmer and imprisoned again in a different camp.  He would sit on the sofa with me to watch a cheesy war-related love story on TV, but start crying after a few minutes; he just wasn’t able to bear the mention of the war. What terror he had come through? You think it will never come back? You think that Fascism is a ghost of the past? Think again.

gottfried_helwein

Image courtesy of www.helnwein.com

“There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth. Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.”
 De Profundis by Oscar Wilde

Why children?

There are some blood-chilling statistics for you to think about.  In the wars during the 80s-90s more children were killed than soldiers.

School shootings. Did you hear about gun control in the 19th century? Yet from 1800 till 1900 there were only about 50 school shootings registered in the USA, mostly as revenge against the teachers, or accidental ; about 190 cases in 20th century and 145 cases  from 2000-2013. Statistics include also dormitory and drive-by shootings near the school buildings, and this information is only for the United States.  You can also check http://www.ijvs.org/ which goes for International Journal on Violence in Schools.

How about home violence, genocide, starvation, children sex tourism? How about the gruesome  discovery in  Tuam?  I can go on and on about all the children who came into this world to be betrayed.  Do you still consider the paintings of Gottfried Helnwein “shocking”?

“I feel there is a strong bond between artists and children and all other sacred fools”
Gottfried Helnwein in an interview with Yuchi Konno for Yaso, Japan

When I think about Gottfried Helnwein’s personality,  the only thing that truly matters to me is Family. He is a family man who raised his family well. Over fifteen years ago he bought a castle near where I live. He resides there with his family, his children and grandkids. I wanted to know what their safe haven looks like; to see what the artist sees when he is with his own, away from the media and curious eyes. I contacted his son Cyril and asked if I could take some photos around the castle grounds.

gottfried_helwein

gottfried_helwein

Isn’t it beautiful? They even have some ducks there, one named Donald. If you read the biography you will know that it is symbolic.

gottfried_helwein

gottfried_helwein

I felt a little bit like an intruder. I wanted to leave as fast as I can, and I wanted to stay as long as I may. Sweet children, two of whom are of my grandchildren age, melted my heart.

I was invited inside the castle which wasn’t arranged and which I never expected. It is so delightful and homely inside, with the afternoon sun beaming through the green vines covering the gothic windows. And you know what? It came out that I finally got to see all the images from that Waterford 2008 installation because Cyril kindly gave me a copy of the book The Last Child!

Having this peaceful home why would one bother crying warnings?

Any of us can make our home a castle: we can barricade ourselves from the world, protect our children from bad influences, home-teach, train in marital arts, life-coach them to be always on the safe side, you name it. And say you succeed when the rest of the world is falling apart. But let’s see it this way: do you want your child to be the last child?

Photography tip of the day: Focus on the eyes. As long as they are in focus all your image won’t look ruined.

inesemj_photographyHave a great weekend!