landscape

Traveling American Southwest, Part I

three gossips

I have this image of Three Gossips taken in color at the sunset, but I added  gradient and changed color balance to make it look like a distant memory, because I will share some almost forgotten, and for most of you, unknown memories… in my next blog, Part II 🙂 But first, let’s go back to the story about our Southwest travels.

We have made two trips to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, in 2007 and 2008. Our first trip included:  Arches National Park, Four Corners, Little Colorado River Gorge, Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon, St George, Cove Fort – a round trip  we had made in five days.

There is no photograph that could adequately depict the stunning beauty of Arches National Park. You come there in awe, and you leave in awe. If you are short of time and cannot stay longer than one day,  I would suggest something like that:

Morning – Devil’s Garden Trail and Landscape Arch ( 2 hours) and probably another 2-3 hours if you want to walk to the end of the trail ( we didn’t);  Double Arch ( 30 min); The  Windows ( 1 hour). It is just how long it takes to walk. You will need more time – driving, taking photographs, sitting and admiring the scenery.

Afternoon – Delicate Arch ( at least 3 hours; parking is limited!); Balanced Rock before the sun goes down ( 30 min). Check the map to calculate how long it takes to drive from place to place.

Check out the links to the long and short trails, but regardless of the distance you have to take a lot of water with you.

There are 2000 arches in Arches Nation Park. Well, perhaps 1999, since the Wall Arch collapsed in August 2008.

The best photographs of Delicate Arch come out in the afternoon. We went there first thing in the morning. It made sense because we had no idea how long it takes to hike, and we really wanted to stay there a little longer. Photography wasn’t our priority.

In the first photograph, Delicate Arch is just around the corner. The weather is changing to overcast, and the arch looks differently every half and hour. Sitting there and staring at the arch was one of my favorite activities in the Park. If you have been there you know what I am talking about.

arches

May 24-25 2007 145res

arches

This is the Landscape Arch, or what is left of it after the first slab of sandstone fell off in 1991. Still, it is the longest natural arch in the world with the span of 290 feet.

Arches

It is the Devil’s Garden trail, the most spectacular of all the trails in the park. The weather was changing, and by the time we reached the Landscape Arch, it was raining and we turned back.

Arches

These formations are called “fins”. I mentioned them in my previous blog.

Arches

The rain stopped and we actually visited more arches than expected. We took beautiful photographs of the Balanced Rock half an hour before the sunset, and the Three Gossips a minute before the sun went down.

This is the Window Arch. For the scale, see a tiny human sitting in the left corner.

arches

The following day we started our unhurried trip to the Grand Canyon, a ” hole in Arizona”. It is hard to put the Grand Canyon in words and pictures, and yes, “not all holes are created equal” 🙂 I was standing there speechless and almost breathless.

South Rim, Colorado River. Here we spent a day, hiking around and down in the canyon.

Grand Canyon

North Rim, the following day. There, we took a short  but breathtaking  Bright Angel Point trail.

GC

We walk along the narrow ‘peninsula’, surrounded with the stone ‘waves’. At the end of the trail, The Bright Angel Point, most of people just stand and stare across the vast expanse. It is difficult to believe that this  is all real. I think you will love reading this very informative and very poetic article about the area down there.

angel fault

Reading displayed information I had to smile. What is the Bright Angel Fault?  As I learned, faults are fractures in the Earth crust that occur under the pressure – compression, extension or side-by-side movement. The Bright Angel Fault is such a fracture that stretches almost straight across the Grand Canyon from the South to the North through the Bright Angel Canyon, which was formed through erosion along the fault.  Yes, the view that we see at the view point is not technically the Grand Canyon, but a side canyon,  the jagged border ridge of the Bright Angel Canyon!

The Bright Angel Fault is still active and has produced small earthquakes that visitors sometimes feel. The fault is visible as  a 186 foot displacement: you can see it in the image of the distant South Rim, where the left side of the horizon line is visibly higher than the right one (sorry it is heavily zoomed and taken with a 3 mp camera)

angel fault

I have read a lot about the side canyons, and I still have more questions than answers. I know that I will never hike the Grand Canyon and see everything by myself. I can only pray that the people who go there in the future are considerate and respectful to the Nature.

Little Colorado River Gorge, and Marble Canyon and Navajo Bridge are worth to mention not only because they are located on the way to Grand Canyon National Park and to stop there seems like a natural thing to do. These places are beautiful.  Cross both  – New and Historical Navajo bridges, and enjoy the emerald color of Colorado river if you travel early in summer. Little Colorado river is a bright  blue color, but later when the rains start, they both become chocolate milk  brown, and as the saying goes ‘ too thick to drink, too thin to plow’. Marble Canyon and  the Grand Canyon join where the Little Colorado River enters the Colorado River.

In the image below, a view from the Old Navajo bridge.

colorado river

On the way back, we had a stop in St. George, UT,  and visited their Pioneer Park.  We climbed up the Dixie Rock for the downtown panorama, and I can tell you that the place is certainly worth to stop by.

Our last stop was the Cove Fort, with their curious exposition of the 19th century artifacts, workshops and the Big Barn. Lots of history, with no admission fee ( the place belongs to the LDS Church).  We even learned how to play the long forgotten game! 🙂

cove fort

There is a wonderful book  – Travelers’ Tales, American Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah… A great read when you feel nostalgic.

The other trip was also a five days long trip : Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Upper Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Mexican Hat, Utah State Route 261 and Moki Dugway, Natural Bridges National Monument,  Utah State Route 95 across the end of Glen Canyon, and a long drive through the breathtaking canyon country up to Salt Lake Valley.

As I said, we travel with no hurry. We stop to admire buttes and mesas; we  even climb them sometimes. We buy Native American jewelry made from  seeds,  beads and semiprecious stones; we watch the wildlife and marvel at the flowers bravely standing out against the barren rocks. One cannot plan discoveries and surprises.

desert

desert

On our way to Page, AZ we turned into the side road to check out a  unique place, a part of Zion National Park – Pink Sand Dunes.

Pink sand Dunes

It was fun to run down the dunes, and it is where I lost my wide angle lens…

We stayed in Page three nights exploring the area. Horseshoe Bend was one of the places on our list. I failed to take a good picture, but my daughter had a good fun taking pictures of me wriggling on my belly towards the rim with my camera holding hand outstretched, and with the mortified face. Due to the embarrassing nature, these pictures may not be published.

horseshoe

We went there again after dark. The full moon lit up the waters of Colorado River; wildlife enjoyed the coolness of the night, and we enjoyed watching the cottontails happily run around. I didn’t get any braver, and this sorry picture is the best  I have got.

Horseshoe bend

Another place on our list was  Antelope Slot Canyon. Probably many of you have heard about the tragedy that happened there in August 1997. We went to the safer and easier of the slots, the Upper Antelope Canyon ( the Upper and the Lower slots are a few miles apart) . All the land around Page, including Antelope Canyon,  belongs to the Navajo Nation. It is a family business, and we got a handsome young man for a guide, a University student who was on holidays at that time, and not only gave us photography tips, but also played the flute for us.

Antelope Canyon is one of the most mesmerizing places on Earth, where the light is everything. The corkscrew walls polished by flash floods change their color every second as the light bounces between the twisted columns. In the image below – Slot entrance.

slot canyon

Images taken inside the canyon, available light.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

In my next blog, I will cover the rest of our Lake Powell trip, and reveal my first (and last) celebrity crush from the 1960s 🙂

IneseMjPhotographyHave a wonderful weekend!

I want to see a Gruffalo!

antelope 185res

I am on holidays, and all I do is taking family pictures of no public interest. Yet, there is a place I really want to tell you about, so that if you travel through the area, you spare some couple of hours to visit, or even camp there over night. Antelope Island, Utah, a home to the Antelope Island State Park.

Great Salt Lake’s largest island looks like another world.

antelope island

It is my third visit, and I have a couple of photographs to share.

In the image below you can see a 7-mile  causeway to Antelope Island the way it looks from the top of the Buffalo Point. The causeway was submerged for most of the 1980’s, because of high lake levels.

antelope island

The island hosts countless nesting and migratory birds of about 250 species, including various species of waterfowl and  birds of prey.

antelope island

More than forty freshwater springs produce 36 million gallons of water each year supporting wildlife and vegetation. Pronghorn antelopes are native to Utah, and there is a big herd of them on the island.

antelope island

Bison, or American buffaloes, are the most famous residents. There are about 600 animals in different parts of the island.

antelope island

I have also seen hawks, lizards, mull deer, coyotes, and a porcupine in the tree.

porcupine

The picture of the porcupine is not great, but I think I was very lucky to take it.

Another attraction is the historical Fielding Garr Ranch, and I advise you to visit it. A tip: it closes early, so you better go there first thing in the morning.

antelope island

I could not resist to take a picture of this old Dodge pick up truck.

antelope island

Here is an awesome map of the Antelope Island I borrowed from Wikimedia.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAntelope_Island_State_Park_Map.jpg

The most spectacular is the road that runs along the eastern coast. I have never been there in summer, but even in the winter haze it looks like a different planet.

antelope island

antelope island

antelope island

Buffalo Point hike is very steep and rough, but it offers you some truly breathtaking views over the White Rock Bay.

antelope island

antelope island

antelope island

This time we didn’t do any hiking. We were looking for buffaloes.

antelope island

There were many of them, all far away from the road. It is very difficult to explain to a toddler that a black dot barely visible in the tall dry grass is a promised huge buffalo. ” I wanna see a Gruffalo!”

But it was our lucky day indeed – we met one at the side of the road.

antelope island

After that we went off to the shore.

antelope island

antelope island

antelope island

Great Salt Lake is a remnant of prehistoric Lake Bonneville which covered more than 20 000 square miles during the Ice Age.

Water flows into the lake from four rivers, but Great Salt Lake has no outlet: water leaves only through evaporation. Concentration of minerals is very high and no fish or any other creature can live in this water except for brine shrimp and brine flies, and some algae.

Oolitic sand is a unique feature of Great Salt Lake. Round grains of sand are formed  similar to how pearls are formed, with the pellets of brine shrimp faces in the middle.

antelope island

A 15 minute walk to the shore in some 100F was a mistake: the lake smells 😦  The sand was crawling with the tiny flies, and I suspect, their larvae… Probably it is a seasonal thing.

antelope island

Nevertheless, it is a place I highly recommend to visit, especially during the Annual events like Moonlight Bike Ride, and celestial events  – for night photography. I am in love with the island and hope to come here again in Spring.

Thank you for taking this short tour with me! 🙂

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great weekend!

 

Saltee Islands – treasure bigger than money -part 1

Saltee_Islands

“All people young and old, are welcome to come, see and enjoy the islands, and leave them as they found them for the unborn generations to come see and enjoy.”      –  Michael the First

Even after I shared two posts on my Saltee experiences I still have a lot to say. I love this place.

When we arrived to Kilmore Quay to catch our motor boat, the sea looked rough. In the days of sail, the area around the Islands was known as “the graveyard of a thousand ships”.  I cannot tell that I have a brilliant memory, but this sort of information somehow always gets stuck in my head.

We boarded our boats – twelve in each – and off we went.  Not wanting to get soaked in salty wate, I went inside the boat, and it was a grave mistake. The waves were rolling over the boat; a few times the wave hit the bottom of the boat so hard that I though it would break up in pieces. Half way to the island, fighting sea sickness I had to get out, and there I stood another 15 minutes all soaked but unable even to move to make myself comfortable.  I barely remember the short trip on the inflatable boat; I was focused on staying conscious. It took me some six hours to completely recover – right before our trip back.

We walked up the steps, passed by the owners’ house and headed to the Puffin place. The island was wrapped in fog.

Saltee_Islands

The cliffs surrounding the first bay  near the cave known as the Wherry Hole are the nesting place for Atlantic Puffins.

I am very glad to tell you that there were remarkably more puffins this year than the year before.  Knowing that the birds return to their old burrows, I went to check out my buddy who made such a great model for me last year, and there he was – with some more neighbours, possibly his own grown up chicks from the previous years.

Saltee_Islands

Puffins start breeding when they are five years old.  They use their pre-breeding years to learn about feeding places, choosing a mate and nest sites.

I went around for some more shots. The fun will start in the afternoon when the puffins go fishing and return with the bunches of the Sand eels in their beaks.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

During winter, the beaks and feet of puffins fade in color, and every spring they turn  bright orange again in preparation for the breeding season.  The beak increases in size as the bird matures.

Here you can listen to a puffin  –  you will love it 🙂  Puffins usually make noises when sitting in their burrows, and the acoustics are very impressive.  I will post the link separately to give a credit to ProjectPuffin : http://projectpuffin.audubon.org/sites/default/files/audio/atpu.wav

In this photograph you can see two cameras set up by the Ornithologists to watch the puffins.

Saltee_Islands

We came a couple of weeks too early: most of the puffins young haven’t hatched yet,  but still we got lucky to see some feeding birds that afternoon.

The puffin’s beak can hold up to 60 fish.  The raspy tongue holds fish against spines on the palate allowing the puffin to open his  beak to catch more fish.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

We were lucky with the weather also. It was a dry day,  a little bit overcast. It is difficult to take photographs of puffins in the sun because of their black and white plumage.

A few more puffins. The couples stay together all their life. Males are usually slightly larger than females, otherwise there is no difference.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

This family is still working on their nest.  Puffins lay one egg per year.

Saltee_Islands

Puffins are very clumsy on the ground and in the flight. They are rather falling than landing, with a thud. In this photograph you can see some spots around the puffin. You might think it is some dirt on my lens, but it is the sand in the air. When a puffin is taking off he beats his wings and lifts up all the dust and sand.

A puffin can fly 48 to 55 mph (77 to 88 km/hr) though.  The wings can move so fast that they become a blur.

Saltee_Islands

Great Saltee Island is some 2-3 km long.  I am leaving the Puffins’ place and start hiking to the Southern part of the island along the well-trodden path.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

The islands  were used as a base for pirates and smugglers for centuries. The gain of these folks could very well be hidden in the many caves, like the one in the image above, but there are treasures bigger than money, and they are not hidden anywhere.

More from the Saltees in the end of the week. Hope you loved the puffins.

IneseMjPhotographyHave a peaceful week!

Mountain Grove

Ireland

One of my first WordPress posts was the one about Jenkinstown Woods. Now, after a year, I am visiting another bluebell forest, Mountain Grove – a loop trail just outside Piltown, Co Kilkenny.

Mountain Grove is an old woodland part of Piltown forest that is located in South West Kilkenny, covering an area of 1,823 hectares. The forest stretches to the Tipperary border on the west and to the Waterford border on the south, along  the river Suir. The main tree species growing in the forest include Sitka spruce, larch, Douglas fir, beech, ash and oak, with the broadleaves dominating in Mountain Grove – as you can see in the images.

Starting off from the tiny parking spot, I meet two dog walkers and from this moment I am there alone for a whole two hours.

Ireland

The quietness is almost surreal. The birds are nesting and prefer not to expose themselves, and I don’t see any presence of the mammals either – dogs have scared them away from the grove.

Ireland

The bluebells are scarce but nevertheless their fragrance is intense, sweet and alluring. I walk off the trail and feel like I disappear from the world and become a part of the wild woodland.

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

The early purple orchid was once a common plant, but now it is a rare guest in the woodlands. Many wild orchids are legally protected, but this fact does not stop people picking them… A friend went to the Mountain Grove just three days later and didn’t find a single flower – all gone. People don’t realize that it takes years for the orchids to germinate.

The early purple orchid is the “long purple” of Ophelia’s garland, as referred to by Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, that liberal shepherds give a grosser name”

Ireland

Different species of Ferns started unrolling their young fronds. In the image below – Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium).

Ireland

And of course there is a beautiful yet nameless stream.

Ireland

Ireland

I will be back!

Ireland

Hope you enjoyed the woodlands.

inesemjphotographyHave a happy week!

If you are feeling lonely

moon 62res

If you are feeling lonely like the Moon – make yourself comfortable and enjoy the space. Loneliness is not an isolation – you have never been closer to the core of all things. Loneliness is the time of your growth and evolution.

2015-02-21 vera miro session 519res

If you are feeling lost – look around. Introspect on where you stand.

2015-02-21 vera miro session 539res

Take a path and keep going. You have already done it many times in your life. You are an expert.

a2015-03-17 patrick parade waterford 097res

Just believe in yourself. And keep going.

a2015-04-18 cc cork trip res386

Some things are bigger than us, so we yield to them.  It is not always fair, but it is just.

A good song comes in handy when you are feeling lonely.

Til The Ocean Takes Us All – The Cat Empire

inesemjphotographyHave a good day!

A little bit of melancholy

Once in a while there are these days when you feel like the last leaf on the tree…. and the wind is shaking you around… and then you just stop fighting and let the wind blow you away… and you just land wherever it puts you…

autumn

This image was taken in Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris. There are many good sad songs reflecting my present mood, and most  of them are French.

“Autumn Leaves” is a popular song that was originally written by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prevert. It has been performed in countless arrangements, but Yves Montand was the one who introduced the song in 1946 in the French film Gates Of The Night.

I am sad for no particular reason,  but if there is anybody who feels lonely, you can listen this song with me.

These images were taken in Hyde Park, London.

autumn

autumn

In the light of the recent events I want to share a sad song by a Scottish alternative rock band Del Amitri, in which the notorious British weather is mentioned…  😉  All of those who are sad because no one loves you, welcome to listen this song 🙂

I think it is all  because of the Summer slipping away.  The songbirds  fly South…  Even this crow didn’t want to stay with me…

autumn

…and took off leaving his shadow.

autumn

Another sad song from a rock band Counting Crows.

Soon, so very soon  all the creatures will hide…

autumn

… and even the spiders will freeze to death…

autumn

Ah, enough of that sad mood! Stop it:)

autumn

Tomorrow will be another day, I will do something useful and cross out another item in my long-as-a-life to-do list. To cheer myself up I will listen to the Gypsi Swing band from Waterford, and share their music with you all.

Photography tip of the day: Autumn is the time of clouds. If you are shooting black&white, use orange filter. Your sky will stand out.

www.inesemjphotography.comHave a great weekend!

September 2004-2014

foliage

A Calendar of Sonnets: September

By Helen Hunt Jackson

The golden-rod is yellow; 
The corn is turning brown; 
The trees in apple orchards 
With fruit are bending down. 
The gentian’s bluest fringes 
Are curling in the sun; 
In dusty pods the milkweed 
Its hidden silk has spun. 
The sedges flaunt their harvest, 
In every meadow nook; 
And asters by the brook-side 
Make asters in the brook. 
From dewy lanes at morning 
the grapes’ sweet odors rise; 
At noon the roads all flutter 
With yellow butterflies. 
By all these lovely tokens 
September days are here, 
With summer’s best of weather, 
And autumn’s best of cheer. 
But none of all this beauty 
Which floods the earth and air 
Is unto me the secret 
Which makes September fair. 
‘T is a thing which I remember; 
To name it thrills me yet: 
One day of one September 
I never can forget.

I think that this colourful poem and my picture go together quite nicely.

In May I posted a Photography: May 2003-2014 set of images. I am doing it again,  “one day of one September”. Isn’t photography all about memories? 🙂

2004

september2004

This is the house I grew up in. It is the back yard, these windows face the lake; the front yard used to merge with a large ancient forest.  The building is about 200 years old.  In 2004 we traveled around visiting all the places that are dear to us, and I took this photograph. In 2010 the new owner cut the forest down.

2005

september2005

I love trees. This Monkey Puzzle ( Araucaria) alley is almost gone due to the old age.  Last year I visited the place again, and it doesn’t look like in this picture anymore.

2006

september2006

St Canice’s Cathedral grounds, Kilkenny.  I call this image Dwellings: Past, Present, Future.

2007

september2007

Galtee Mountains.  That green patch down there is a forest. We are half way to a beautiful mountain lake, icy cold and transparent like a crystal. I came there again two years ago, solo. Walked through the forest, took some pictures. I didn’t plan to walk to the lake, of course, but it was nice to know that it is there, just a couple of hours away.

2008

september2008

This picture was taken in the park in Limerick.  I think it was my most uneventful, and overall miserable trip ever.  Never been to Limerick again.

2009

september2009

There is a tiny road in Clonmel going up the mountain. People walk or drive it to climb to the Holy Cross and get a bird’s eye view. This old man is walking down  that road with his cows. He and his brother live ( lived?) right around the corner, so his flock doesn’t interrupt traffic too much. I stood in the street watching them and tears came up to my eyes. God bless old people.

2010 

september2010

This isn’t a result of photo editing: all the colors are natural.  Antelope Island State Park, Great Salt Lake. Abundant wildlife, beautiful scenery, solitude and tranquillity.

2011

september2011

A friend invited me to take a trip to Connemara. We had two fun days in spite of the weather.

2012

september2012

These clouds are something to remember.

2013

september2013

A big sister.

2014

september2014

This picture is here because I am  saying good bye to the river.

Thank you for reading about my Septembers.  What about yours?  I would love to hear 🙂

Photography tip of the day: More DIY  🙂 Take pictures through plastic bag, stained glass, plastic bottles, magnifying glass,  etc. Cover your “filters” with colored vaseline.  You will get interesting effects depending on your lenses.

www.inesemjphotography.comHave a great week!

Good old-fashioned sunset

“Nobody of any real culture, for instance, ever talks nowadays about the beauty of sunset. Sunsets are quite old fashioned. To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism of temperament. Upon the other hand they go on.”

Oscar Wilde

sunset

I am a fan of Oscar Wilde since age of 12, so I cannot tell for sure is it his hidden influence or my personal whim that I  have never had a picture of a classic sunset on my wall.  Nevertheless, the images I am going to share today prove that nothing human is alien to me, which is another quote 🙂 . Sunsets and quotes, hope you enjoy them.

“When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?”
Shakespeare

sunset

“Clouds come floating into my life no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
Robindranath Tagore

sunset

“Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

sunset

“To leave out beautiful sunsets is the secret of good taste.”  🙂
Dejan Stojanovic 

sunset

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
 Chief Crowfoot

sunset

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset, or a  beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. “
Mahatma Gandhi

sunset

“You know – one loves the sunset when one is very very sad…”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
sunset
 “If your eyes are blinded with your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset.”
 Jiddu Krishnamurti 

sunset

“Don ‘t forget : beautiful sunsets need cloudy skies.”
Paulo Coelho

sunset

All the photographs are taken in different countries over the years.

Tip of the day:  Just sit still and watch. You will know when to take out your camera.

www.inesemjphotography.comHave a good week!

 

Irish summer

A newcomer to Ireland arrives on a rainy day. He gets up the next day and it is raining. It also rains the day after that, and the day after that.

He goes out to lunch and sees a young kid and asks out of despair, “Hey kid, does it ever stop raining around here?”
The kid says: How do I know? I’m only six!

This year we have got a proper summer, no jokes! 🙂 County Tipperary has been bathing in sun since June.

Irish summer

It was one of the hottest days when I went to Kilsheelan,  and I thought I would walk a little bit by the river.  The cows on the opposite bank enjoyed the shade of a giant Oak tree and drank from the river till they were full.

Irish summer

Then they laid down for a nap, black islands in the sea of grass.

Irish summer

What a pleasure to walk along a path lined with lush grasses and delicate wild flowers. My summer favorite is poppy flower.

Irish summer

Irish summer

Irish summer

Another favorite is crop field. I love to take pictures of them in any weather, morning or night, and at any stage of their growth and harvest.  What a fascinating sight they make, waving in the wind!

Irish summer

Abundance of sunlight this summer makes the greenery richer and  foliage ticker.

Irish summer

Sometimes it is nice to hide from the burning sun in the woods…

Irish summer

…or under the thick canopy of linden trees in the churchyard.

clonmel_marlfield_church

What the summer looks like where you live?

Photography tip of the day: When the sun is high  shoot your portraits in the open shade.

www.inesemjphotography.comHave a great weekend!

A trip up North : Dark Hedges

I guess that the Giant’s Causeway will always be there even if the wind and water change the surface of the rocks in the next million years. The rope bridge is also unlikely to disappear. But there is a place that won’t last long, and it fills my heart with sadness… The Dark Hedges, one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland.

dark hedges

Both beautiful and somewhat eerie stretch of the road was known only to the locals until the 1990s! The ancient Beech trees were planted by Stuart family in 1750. Since that time they reached up and across to each other and their entwined branches created a natural arched tunnel. There are about 150 trees left. The people who planted the trees never got to see them in their glory: Beech trees reach maturity at 150 to 200 years. The beautiful Dark Hedges  trees are past maturity. They are dying.

Unfortunately I haven’t got to see all the lane, only its southern part. Even if I come another time, the place won’t be the same. There are some diseased trees that have to be felled, and also some dead branches have to be cut off for safety reasons.

dark hedges

There is a qualified tree surgeon appointed to preserve the archway and to meet the safety requirements, and the maintenance works will start in early September. The Bregagh road, home to the famous trees, will be closed for ten days, or for how long it takes. Also brown tourist signs are to be erected which is a great thing because at the moment there are no signs at all.

Their  branches are entwined, their roots are entangled. They cannot be separated. It is one body, and if one tree dies, or it is cut down, the others will know.

dark hedges

dark hedges

dark hedges

The Dark Hedges came under threat a few years ago when Roads Service proposed to fell many of the trees for safety reasons. The avenue was taken over by the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and they are probably doing a good job since the trees are still standing, but that infamous green fence they put up in 2011 has raised many critics. There are hundreds of critical comments and articles about the fence all  over the internet, and the words “monstrosity” and “nuts” tell you lots about the Trust and their creation.

I have read these comments, but when I walked the road no ugly fences existed for me, only the serene beauty and the timeless magic of the place, and muted sounds and colors.

dark hedges

It was one hour before the sunset, my favorite time,  and all the photographers were getting ready. Look at them in the picture below: they will be busy removing me from their pictures in Photoshop 🙂

dark hedges

Looking through Google images of Dark Hedges I noticed that it is in fashion to take a picture of one’s car or bike with the Dark Hedges in background, and we too witnessed such a photo session. It is all right, but something else really annoyed me. We took the trouble to park in the parking lot and walk down the lane with our gear and the baby. The other visitors parked right in the middle, in the most picturesque place. There was even a van!

Nevertheless  I got some beautiful evening light and took pictures I am happy with. The only thing I did in Photoshop was removing cars and excess of joggers 🙂

dark hedges

dark hedges

We had  been there about 40 minutes, and you can see the change in the light.

dark hedges

The iconic trees have been featured in a popular HBO’s Game Of Thrones series, Season 2, Episode 1, representing the King’s Road.

game of thrones

I so hope that new saplings will be planted and Dark Hedges will live. Otherwise where would the ghost of the Grey Lady go? I didn’t see the ghost. Too many photographers are hanging around at the dusk and dawn. It could be that the Grey Lady rescheduled her appearances to the worst time for photography – the midday.

This was the first picture I took when I turned around the bend…

dark hedges

…and these were taken when we were leaving.

dark hedges

dark hedges

To get to the Dark Hedges: From Belfast take the M2 north, toward the town of Antrim. Driving around Antrim, take A26 toward Ballymena. About 7 miles past Ballymena look for the A44 toward The Drones/ Armoy/ Ballycastle. After about another 7 miles you pass The Drones village  ( just a couple of miles before Armoy) and turn left onto the Bregagh Road. Keep going until you see a lay-by parking lot where you can park. Walk around the bend and there it is! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this virtual trip to Northern Ireland with me: crossed the bridge, climbed the basalt rocks and walked the avenue of beautiful ancient trees. Thank you for your company! 🙂

Click on the images to enlarge them : it will take a second, they are all resized.

yglenariff 31

Photography tip of the day: Manual settings for beginners  – something to start with.

Aperture: Midday, sun – f16; Any other time, sun – f11; Overcast -f8;  Shade – 5.6; Dark shade – 4.5;

The lowest ISO for your camera;

Shutter speed: set it 125 and then regulate up or down.

Move on with your settings after you are comfortable with this simple advice.

inese_mj_photographyHave a great day!

A trip up North : Giant’s causeway

giant's causeway

My friends have never been to the Northern Ireland before, so our trip was very touristy and brief. After leaving Carrick A Rede Rope bridge we took a 20 minutes drive to our second destination – the Giant’s Causeway Visitor center.

The Giant’s causeway is a magnificent natural rock formation declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. It was formed 50-60 million years ago as a result of seven consequent flows of lava. Tectonic plates were moving and magma from deep inside Earth spewed through cracks in the surface. Lava flowed and cooled in contact with air and water, hardening into basalt. Then it was covered with another layer of lava an so on. This process created deep horizontal cracks all along the surface that extended vertically forming honey-comb shaped columns.

giant's causeway

The formation consists of about 40,000 interlocking, mostly hexagonal basalt columns, but some columns have four, five, seven or eight sides. They say there is only one column with three sides.

giant's causeway

giant's causeway

This is what the geologists think. Yet, there is another story. A giant named Finn Mac Cumhaill lived with his wife Oonagh on the Antrim coast. He had a very annoying Scottish neighbor giant Benandonner. On one occasion Finn scooped a chunk of earth and hurled it across the sea at his enemy, missed, and thus created the Isle of Man.

One day Finn tore pieces of rocks from the cliff and made a causeway to walk across the sea and fight  Benandonne. When coming closer he realized that his giant neighbor was bigger that he expected! Frightened Finn turned back and ran home with Benandonne hot on his heals. To hide him loyal Oonagh disguised Finn as a baby. When Benandonne saw the size of the “sleeping baby” he fled in terror breaking up the causeway in case he might be followed. Funny giants.

I climbed the columns to get a better view. This is a bus stop down there, and the road to the Visitor center ( 1 km?)

giant's causeway

This is a part of the giant-made causeway.  The tide is coming in, so the end of the rocky road disappears in the water but you can see that it is quite long.

giant's causeway

This is the view on the other side from where I was perched. Another half an hour walk to the Organ pipes (across the little bay) , but I have never been there, always because of the lack of time.

giant's causeway

In the image  below, on the right side you can see a high and almost vertical column formation. It is where I was taking my causeway picture from. The other side is easy to climb – 5 year old can do it. This side is only for experienced climbers. In summer 2012 more than one  thousand people gathered here to cheer The Olympic Torch bearer, 10 times Iron Man Peter Jack from Coleraine.

giant's causeway

This  image was taken in December 2005. We had the place all for ourselves.

giant's causeway

These two images are taken in  August 2005. A little bit more people but still very quiet.

giant's causeway

giant's causeway

This time the place was very  busy.

giant's causeway

This is a curious rock formation you pass on the way to the Visitor center.  August 2005, bright sunny afternoon. Harsh shadows make the rocks look like petrified giants.

giant's causeway

The road to the Visitor center. We took a bus.

giant's causeway

Off we go to our last destination – Dark Hedges.

To be continued.

Photography tip of the day: If you often take pictures of the sky and around water get yourself a polarising filter. To know what size of the filter you need check your lens: it is the diameter.

inese_mj_photography Have a great weekend!

 

Golden faces, silver eyes and blue eyelids.

saltees

It started raining. Creeping from one rock to another I was finally done with photographing the puffins willing to pose.

I looked around and saw that my peeps took off and started to disappear one by one in the sea of ferns. So I hurried after them.

Saltee islands

Our next destination was Gannet Headland, a nesting ground for the Northern gannets. You cannot see the place before you climb up to the highest point of the island through the high ferns and then walk down to the rugged cliffs. Then you just stop there, speechless.

gannet colony

gannet colony

The gannet is Europe’s largest sea bird with a wingspan up to 2 metres. The adults are white and the young birds are very dark  brown. It takes 5 years for them to reach maturity and start breeding. They say there are two thousand couples nesting there on the island. The gannets make their nests from seaweeds, feathers and human made materials found in the water.

gannet

gannet

gannet

Gannet with a bunch of seaweed to furnish the nest.

gannet

Gannets hunt fish by plunge-diving from a remarkable height into the sea and then using their wings and feet to swim deeper. After returning from the sea they have this gentle ritual of affection with the other partner, preening and touching the bills.

gannet

The young chick reaches deep into its parent’s throat for its meal of partially digested fish.

gannet

The parent birds take turns warming the eggs and protecting the chicks.

gannet

The gannets are very vocal:)

gannet

As you can see, there are some couples with very young chicks, naked and helpless, and some with the older ones, covered with soft white down.

gannet

gannet

Gannets have very interesting features. For example, they have no external nostrils: they are located inside the mouth. Their eyes are positioned slightly up to the front which gives them a better view.

There is my reflection in the gannet’s eye:)

gannet

Clumsy on take-offs and landings the gannets are powerful fliers with an impressive wing span.

gannet

gannet

Now I want to share something sad. Please read this article…

Gold-faced, silver-eyed, gracious birds… Isn’t there anything else to eat in this century?

There are also other species of birds on the island. This is a Herring gull in its flight.

herring gull

This is a Fulmar.

Fulmar

These are the  Blackback gull chicks.

great blackback gull chick

great blackback gull chicks

This angry bird is a Shag. Shags breed colonially between the rocks and in sea caves.

shag

shag

This is the island owners’ house. We were heading to the shelter to hide from the rain and wait for our boat.

saltees

The ferrying boat could not come closer, so we had to  be carried over there by an inflatable boat.

saltees

Little and Great Saltee islands on the horizon.  It was one of the most memorable trips in my life.

saltees

saltees

I hope you enjoyed this trip with me. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger. They are all resized for the web with resolution 72, so you won’t have problems opening them. Same for the previous post about the Puffins.

Photography tip of the day: When you are going to take pictures of sea birds, not having a telephoto shouldn’t stop you – the birds let you come close enough.  These pictures were taken with a 70-200, but you can bring any lens you have.  The settings matter, as I wrote in the previous post, and your vision matters. I wanted to get dreamy, a little bit grainy pictures with blurred background. Also watch your white colors. It is important  to see the details on the white feathers,  otherwise they look like burnt-out spots.

inesemjphotographyHave a great week!

 

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s best

Cliffs of Moher

Towering 700 feet above the Atlantic the Cliffs of Moher is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring tourist attractions in Ireland. And a tourist friendly too. If you are fit and experienced you can take a two hour cliff walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center. The trail is remote and exposed. In some places there is very little space  between the path and abyss: it could be a challenge in bad weather. You can learn more about the trail and guided tours on http://www.seaview-doolin.ie/news/. You can take a shorter and easier walk from the Visitor Center to Hags Head, two hours return, yet it is not suitable for little children, especially in bad weather. If you are not fit, traveling with a baby or simply have no time, do what I did: just walk up to O’Brien’s tower from the Visitor center and enjoy the view on your way. All your questions about the Cliffs are answered here:  http://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

The view from O’Brien’s tower is magnificent, but you are getting a better sense of scale looking up rather than down. We took a boat trip from Doolin, one hour both ways, to get closer to the Cliffs and to see how high they really are.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

One of the caves was featured in Harry Potter movie:)

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Branaunmore sea stack, a nesting place to a variety of sea birds.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

If you have more than one lens it makes sense to take another camera with you on a boat trip. The scenery and lighting are changing rapidly while on a boat,  and you can miss good shots,  as I did…

Doolin is a spectacular village worth to visit. All the travel guides mention Gus O’Connor’s Pub, and it is a great and very atmospheric place well known for its traditional Irish music sessions (they say that Doolin is a capital of traditional music). If you only want to get some today’s catch fish and some chips and a quiet place to enjoy your lunch, go to Fitz’s Bar: it is as good as O’Connors, and their food is excellent!

Cliffs of Moher

I have been visiting the Cliffs of Moher more than once. There are a few pictures taken in 2004 and 2005. Not always the weather was as welcoming as this time…

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are 300 million years old, but they don’t look the same now as they did then. Coastal erosion undermines the base of the bluffs causing the upper parts of the cliff to collapse. In fact, people walking on the top of the Cliffs are risking their lives without realizing it. They can slip, they can get blown off by wind and they can go down with a collapsing piece of path, at any time. To stay safe, we have to be respectful to Nature, and never reckless or disruptive. This is the way that balances the world.

Photography tip of the day: To take pictures from a boat use a very fast shutter speed ( or “sport” setting), stand with your legs spread and your knees slightly bended.

inesemjphotographyHave a great day!

 

Narrow roads and pink mountains

Last week I visited a friend in Burncourt, Co Tipperary. I chose a narrow country road for fun and delightful drive. Didn’t know it would be that narrow… When I startled a pheasant sleeping in the middle of the road and he lazily walked away, I thought I got lost… I didn’t take any pictures, but this one ( shared on Facebook) gives you an idea:)

keep going

After the visit I thought I might better go up the mountains on my way home. My initial plan was to stop by the ruins of Shanbally castle barbarically demolished in 1960, but I changed this plan in favor of driving South towards my favorite Old Clonmel-Cork Road.

This area lies in the Galtee-Vee Valley (Golden Vale) with the Galtee Mountains to the north and the Knockmealdown Mountains to the south. I love the rolling hills and open pastures with the breathtaking hilltop views, and I love the gradual transition from the green sunlit Knockmealdowns to the dark and lonesome Comeraghs.

In Clogheen I turned to the Vee.

The Vee Pass in Knockmealdown mountains (refers to the V-shaped turn) is a beautiful place to visit all around the year because of its stunning panoramic views, but in June the wild rhododendrons bloom in the hills, and it is the view you will never forget.

the vee

In the picture above you can see the Galtees framing the valley from the North.

the vee

the vee

the vee

the vee

the vee

The blossoms are of the color of frothy foam on the top of boiling raspberry jam. I imagine a gigantic cauldron in the hills above the Bay Lough, and the jam overflowing the cauldron and making its way down through the woods, dripping from the rocks and making puddles in the hollows. A waterfall of pink. I am overwhelmed by this breathtaking beauty.

The Bay Lough lake.

the vee

Biological function of a flower is reproduction. Mother Nature made it beautiful.

the vee

On my way down the mountain I took a few shots to make this crooked panorama:). Didn’t bother to set a tripod: I was afraid to shy away that young couple. Love is beautiful!

Untitled_Panorama1dres

Photography tip of the day: to make a panorama take as many pictures as you need to have a 40-50% overlap. Use portrait format. And a tripod:)

inesemjphotographyHave a wonderful weekend!

Bluebell day in Jenkinstown woods

My Grand Canyon memory trip worked very well. In spite of the bad forecast I woke up early and boldly went off to Jenkinstown. To my surprise, the weather started getting better, and by the time I arrived, there was summer.

Jenkinstown Park is a gem. At any season. It is sad to see that so many trees are cut down, home for the owls, pine martens, stouts and squirrels… I didn’t see any animals, but crossing a tiny path I felt a strong odor of a small carnivore. Might be a weasel…

Today I came to Jenkinstown Park for a special purpose. Early May is a season for bluebells, and this is the place!

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

A breathtaking carpet of  blue overtakes the forest floor and glorious smell fills the air. Photographers of all kinds make their annual pilgrimage.  Like today. The sun is shining through the leaves ( the sun and the copper beech tree have special relationships); a little robin is singing his simple fluting song… I wish I had time to stay here all the day, walk all the trails, catch a glimpse of a badger, find a sleeping owl or watch baby foxes playing… I only have two hours: one hour for photography, the other hour for having a marvellous time while walking back to the car park…

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstownThis year the bluebell season started late. I could come here next week and get a brighter blue, but I think that this delicate hazy shade is lovely.

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstown

I met a good few photographers, and even took a picture of a couple  by request. Young and old, they came here because  people need beauty. It is so wonderful that there are places like this one where you can come and fill yourself with beauty and peace.

bluebells_jenkinstown

bluebells_jenkinstownHeraclitus said that no man ever steps in the same river twice. I got caught twice in the same rain today – does it count? First time it showered me after I left the woods, on the way to Freshford, and then it got me when I was leaving Clonmel. Fresh, aggressive, dedicated to wet you to the bone… My bluebell season is over for this year, but I will visit Jenkinstown later in summer again.

Photography tip of the day: When taking pictures of bluebells try to either get down low to the ground or position your camera as high as you can.

inesemj_photographyHave a great weekend!