Telling the Tale and Creating Art

I promised you more on Ireland and I wasn’t kidding. But now nearly a month and a half has passed without a post and I’m not sure anyone is paying attention. But here it is none the less for I have not been idle!

In sifting through my images for what to share and what to delete and what to save for another look down the line I got to thinking about the difference between telling the tale and creating art. Travel photography, after all, is really about telling the tale. But my primary focus is on creating art. That is, the reason I travel is to find things that I can photograph and turn into art. But what I have recognized in going through the images is that there is a kind of distillation process going on throughout.

So the first cut if you’ve been following the blog is to find images that tell the tale of the day to post on the blog. I have only a few hours in the evening to come up with the few images that best illustrate what I saw that day. I may not always chose the most artistic ones or have time processes them to their best advantage.

GlendaloughHere is an example of an image from Glendalough that didn’t make the first cut even though it is a great composition. I passed over it because of the flat white sky in the upper right corner. But later I realized I could get around that by using a tinted texture to give the sky more interest.

In the second cut after I got home, I was looking to create a slide show that tells the tale of the trip. This you will find at:

Many of the images that made it into the blog are also in the slideshow because they were good compositions that I liked, some did not because there was a limit to what I could put on one slide. Just for grins I went back and counted and each blog had from three to 10 images. It gets rather cumbersome to work with more than five or six images on a powerpoint slide. And I didn’t want to go overboard with too many stained glass windows or floor tile pictures in the slideshow where all the images are seen in a space of ten minutes. In the blog there is a little more room for repetition as the images are ideally seen over a period of days and there is commentary Clock6to explain things in more detail.

So that brings us to the third cut in which I attempted to distill the images down to 20 to 30 for a virtually gallery show of what I felt were the most artistic images from the trip. I finally settled for 35. In some cases, such as this clock, I transformed images from how theyClock_TE were presented in the slideshow because I saw a way to make them more artistic.

In other cases, I found images that didn’t necessarily qualify for telling the tale but made good art. The first example is this barn in Donegal on the Inishowen peninsula. I had other pictures of barns in that Donegal_Barn_Watercolorarea that made both the blog and the slideshow but this one was kind of dull and unassuming until I gave it a painterly treatment so I decided it deserved a place in the gallery show. (Which, by the way, can be seen at:

Another one that doesn’t really scream Ireland and was taken out the bus window on a rainy day with a flat sky was this one from the ring of Kerry. I liked the shapes of the rocks and trees though so I took it into Topaz Impression and gave it a painterly treatment in the manner of Georgia O’Keefe. Once again I was not happyKerry_GO_TE with the flat white sky so I took it into Topaz Texture Effects to give it a little more punch. I’m not sure I’m happy with the border though and I may yet go back and take another stab at it.

So, for the time being I am done editing Ireland and ready to move on to other things. But I will no doubt come back to look for more ways to make art from the remaining 1500 images.

I also want to keep this blog alive between trips so I have some ideas for posts of things that fell into themes in Ireland, clocks, doors, and signs. I’ve got a photo workshop coming up next week so that may get in here first but stay tuned. And of course Cuba is still coming up in December. At least I haven’t heard yet that we have been preempted by Hurricane Matthew.



Today’s field trip really put the icing on the cake for me.  I have been yearning to have a chance to wander around a cemetery and photograph old headstones and celtic crosses and today my wish came true. Glendalough is an ancient monastic site that was active from the 7th to 12th century. That’s 500 years folks.

St_KevinsHere is a picture of St. Kevin’s Church which was the main place of worship prior to the building of the Cathedral in the 12th century. And here is another view from closer in. The cemetery does not seem to be as old as the monastic buildings as many of the graves date from the 19th century and some further out are even from tSt_Kevins_withcrosshe 20th. One of the challenges today was the flat white sky.

Round_towerThe round tower was a bell tower and landmark to help visitors find the place. Occasionally when marauding Vikings struck it was also used to protect supplies but not, as was earlier thought, the people of the community.

A word about the Celtic cross. We had an archaeologist talk to us early on and express the opinion that the term was a misnomer as the Celtic period in Ireland dated from about 500 BC to 400 AD and the Celts were pagan so had nothing to do with the crosses which generally date from the 8th to 12th century. However, it has also been indicated that the whole idea of the Celtic Cross was to make Christianity less threatening to the pagans by adding a Crosscircle representing the sun to the Christian cross.

In any case, I have a fascination with Celtic crosses and Celtic inspired design and the notion of a brand of Christianity that is closer to nature and less dominated by imperialism. Some of the older “High” crosses date to the 8th century and may have been used by the monastics to mark their boundaries. But just because they were not cast in stone until then does not mean they did not exist until then. There apparently was a renaissance in the 19th and 20th century as the cross was embraced anew and became popular for grave markers.

I now have over 1800 images in my Ireland file so if you have been following along you know that you have seen only the tip of the iceberg so far. Not that they are all worthy of further consideration but there certainly will be more to come once I have time to sit down and work with the images. So look for at least one more posting on Ireland but not before the middle of next week as I have to travel home, recover from jet lag, and celebrate my birthday before I can finish editing my pictures.

Bru na Boinne and Causey Farm

Mounds_KnowthAnother fun and full day. We headed out to Bru Na Boinne this morning. This is a megalithic burial complex which includes New Grange, Knowth and Dowth. The tombs here date to 3300 BC. Our group went to Knowth where there was one large mound surroundekerbstone_Knowth1d with numerous smaller ones. This picture shows two of the smaller ones. Around the large tomb are kerbstones with megalithic art inscribed on them. Each one is different and no one knows what they mean okerbstone_Knowth3r whether they are, in fact, just art. Here are a couple of examples.


After our tour of the megalithic site we traveled on to Causey Farm where we were served a very fresh farm to table lunch that included some of the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted, some hard boiled eggs, lettuce, ham, fresh backed soda bread, and of course a potato salad. I think they might call it cold champ. And for desert strawberry jam and clotted cream on a fresh backed scone. Yum.

PoniesNext up we went out to visit the Connemara Ponies who really just wanted to be fed but let us pet them anyway.

Some of our group learned to dance and everyone got to plaJackie_Susany the bodhran, a sort of Irish drum. Here are my friends Jackie and Susan showing off their new skills.


Next we mpiget a friendly pig. One of our group chose to kiss it on the nose. Yuck.




And last but certainly not least we got to see a sheepdog stsheepdogrut his stuff. Hard to believe we have only one more day in Ireland but it should be another good one.


Waterford_BearToday was mostly spent of the bus but we did have a stop in Waterford. First we visited the Waterford Crystal factory and showroom where many glittery things caught oBlowerur eyes.


Including this bear which it turns out is made in four  pieces (head, torso, legs) and glued together.

We got to see the process of shaping the glass by blowing though molds
are also used for special shapes such as the bear parts and things like footballs for troCutterphies.

Here is a master cutter concentrating on his precision work to put the pattern into
the glass.

I also had some fun with my closeup lens photographing the detail in some of the patterns on display in the showrooPineapplem.

Then, just to keep us humble, we had lunch at Flowersa community center that does many good works for many different groups, from Downs Syndrome to COPD. If I understood correctly they are somehow affiliated with the Christian Brothers. I couldn’t help but wonder about our priorities in the United States. We can be hyper-critical of the British for turning a blind eye to the potato famine in Ireland but are we really any different as we turn away refugees and ignore the apparently growing numbers of people in our own country living on the streets? At least I didn’t have to feel guilty about spending my money on crystal since I didn’t buy any.

Ultimately we proceeded on our journey to Dublin, the last stop on the tour but with three days full of exciting adventures still ahead.

Cork and Cobh

ButcherI have over 300 new images today and it has been hard to narrow it down to just a few representative shots. We started the day with some free time in Cork and I headed directly to the English Market which is a photographer’s (and foodie’s) paradise. I finally settled on this imagMusiciane of a real life butcher  but there are lots of other wonderful things I could have shown you. Fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese, fish, chicken, chocolates… and on and on.

Roaming around the streets of central Cork there was much to see as well. Colorful shops, murals, great signs and street musicians. This fellow with the concertina actually followed us from Galway. The challenge with him was getting the entire feather into the frame and still being able to see his face and the instrument.

In the afternoon we travelled to nearby Cobh (pronounced Cove). Cobh hasTitanic three claims to historical fame. It was one of the principal points of embarkation during the potato famine. It was the final port of call of the Titanic and it was also a destination of the Lusitania which was sunk just offshore.

After seeing the heritage museum and having a guided walking tour of the town we were experts on these events and their connection to Cobh. But what got me excited was strolling around town and finding some colorful fishing boats to photograph. I realized recently that I haven’t been doing anything very artistic with the Ireland images so I gave this one a Boatsgrungy textured treatment just to prove I still can.

There will be lots more good images to come out of today but it’s been a long day and I am very tired and I still have to pack my bags for our move to Dublin tomorrow. We ended the day by having dinner with a real Irish family. Fun to see how the people live and have a chance to sit and talk with them.  But I have to say, I’m still having trouble with the accent.

Killarney and Blarney Castle

StMarysIt was another lovely day to be in Ireland today. We had free time in the town of Killarney this morning so I set out to see St. Mary’s Cathedral. It is very impressive with lotsDawn2Dusk of stained glass and ornate mosaics. I was particularly impressed, though, by this modern stained glass
window entitled Dawn to Dusk. At the bottom it says “Why is there anything, instead of nothing?” I’m a little surprised the Catholic hierarchy let that one slip by.

OrganThen I swung back around to the Anglican Church which was nearer our hotel but not yet open when I set out. It was smaller but beautifully decorated inside. I had never before seen a painted pipe organ and this stained glass window was more to my taste than some of the more biblical ones.Window

After checking out a few shops and buying a few souvenirs I was all walked out but still had an hour before the bus was due to leave so I indulged in a horse cart ride through the National Park parts of which were donated to KillarneyNP2the country on stipulation that only foot, bicycle or horse traffic would be allowed. I got one last look at the McGuillycuddy’s reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland at around 3500 feet.

On the road again we proceeded through county Tipperary, seeing more Blarneyhorses and dairy cattle than sheep now, to County Cork and on to Cork City with a stop at Blarney Castle. Even if the cruise ship had not just dumped thousands of people on the place I would not have stood in line to bend over backward and kiss a rock. It’s a little too late for the gift of gab to do me any good anyway.

The Ring of Kerry

It was another interesting day but not a very good day for photography. We started with a talk from a retired farmer about what it was like growing up in rural Ireland in the 1950s and 60s.  Hard to imagine they did not even have electricity until 1967. And farming was still done with a draft horse and plow.

Next we went to the Muckross house for a guided tour. This is a former manor house much on the same scale as Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs inside and were so rushed to be on schedule that there was no time to compose a picture outside. The owners of the house could not keep up the lifestyle and ended up donating their 11,000 acre estate to the Republic of Ireland for a National Park.

Dingle_BayWe set out on the ring of Kerry which is a scenic drive in and around the Killarney National Park and Iveragh Peninsula. Our guide was intent on getting us to lunch on time so there wasn’t much time to photograph the beautiful scenery. We finally had a photo stop along the Dingle Bay. I’d never seen a rainbow quite like this one projected onto the water. And no, I didn’t find the pot of gold.

We had lunch in a cute little town but again, between time constraints and rain the photography wasn’t much good. We finally had another photo stop at the top of a hill with a wonderful view bKerryut just as we got there the ceiling dropped and the clouds opened up and all we could see was fog and

I tried a few grab shots from the bus but he was going so fast it was hard to get a good shot. if these sheep look blurry its because they were going by at 100kph. Finally, we had oKillarneyNPne last stop at an overlook with a magnificent view of a glacier carved valley.

The town of Killarney is not unlike American cities located near National Parks (or, ahem,a certain theater town some of us know and love), full of touristy shops, cafes, and hotels. I’ll have more free tiHorse_Cartme in town tomorrow but I did get a quick shot of one of the horse drawn carts. It is also possible to walk into the Park which is adjacent to the town. One  thing for sure, if I don’t like the outcome of the upcoming election I’m moving to Killarney.

The Burren and the Cliffs of Mohr

Today marked the midpoint in our tour of Ireland. With seven days behind us and seven days ahead we had perhaps our best weather day so far. I think it is the first day it has not rained even a little bit.  We loaded up the coach this morning for our transfer from Galway to Killarney.

Burren1Along the way we picked up guide, Shane Connolly, who had quite the accent and quite the sense of humor. Some of us thought he might make it as a stand-up comedian in the U.S. One thing about the Irish is they are very savvy about American politics and like to poke fun at both sides in the current election.  But Shane was also very knowledgeable about archeology, natural history and geology and gave us an expert walk through the Burren, a rocky, desolate landscape. He insisted though, that it is of the best land in Ireland for raising cattle because the grass stays fresh in the winter and farmers bring their cattle up here where the limestone covered hills absorb heat from tTombhe sun so stay warmer than the valleys below.

While still in the Burren we stopped (along with 5 other busloads of
people) to see a megalithic tomb called Poulnabrone Dolmen. This site dates to around 3000 B.C. and marks the burial of 33 people. We had lunch at a pub called Vaughn’s where we were served Irish stew with a side of, you guessed it, mashed potatoes. Tea or coffee is served after every meal but I find myself longing for a nice glass of iced tea with lemon.

CliffsAfter lunch we headed out to the Cliffs of Mohr which Patrick tells us is the second most visited site in all of Ireland. The first being the Guinness storehouse in Cork. The crowds are well managed but it does put one in mind of such over loved national parks as Grand Canyon and Yellwostone. I have to say it was quite different from my last visit to the cliffs when it was so foggy you could barely see your hand if front of your face, let alone the cliffs.

And that was the end of our visit to County Clare. The rest of the day was on the road to Killarney where we are now ensconced in the nicest hotel to date with another full day of touristing on the agenda for tomorrow.


Yesterday was a long full day so I apologize that I did not get the blog posted last night. We got on the bus at 8:30am and did not return to the hotel until 8:30pm. Fortunately, I did get the photos processed and we have a little free time this morning so I can catch up.

ConnemaraOur destination yesterday was Connemara. A beautiful, rugged and somewhat desolate peninsula on the west coast bounded by Killary Harbour on the north and Galway Bay on the south. We only had one photo stop in the morning so I tried to take a few shots out the bus windoKillaryw to give you a sense of the terrain. Along Killary Harbour, which is actually a fjord we saw boats out tending mussel farming operations.

And this sheep gave us a nice demonstration of his (or her?) thick wool cwooloat. Our guide, Patrick, talked some about sheep farming. He said that it is
no longer economic to raise sheep for the wool. Though they do shear the sheep and sell the wool to textile manufacturers in China and India, it is not very profitable. On the other hand, Ireland is a major exporter of mutton and lamb to the tune of $230,000,000 Euros. The primary buyers being Great Britain and France.

Kylemore abbey, our primary destination, is a manor house built in 1866Kylemore which was later purchase by the Benedictine order and used as a girls school. The school is now closed but the Benedictines seem to be doing a good business in tourism. I had visited Kylemore back in the 1990s on my first brief visit to Ireland but the gardens had not been restored at that time so it was a delight to get to see them now. We had a voucher for lunch at the cafeteria where I chose quiche and a salad, at least slightly Gardensless rich than the usual fare and possibly my first meal in Ireland without potatoes! By the time I had seen the gardens, had lunch, toured the mansion, and explored the gift shop our allotted three hours was well aIrish_Coffeend truly spent.

Next we proceeded to the Logh Inagh Lodge for a taste of Irish coffee, a
magic elixir which makes both coffee and whiskey more palatable than either in their native form, at least in my humble opinion. The scenLough_Inaghery at the Lodge was amazing and I could see getting lost in Connemara for a few weeks, or
months, or years.

CottageNext we proceeded to a heritage center called Cnoc Suain. Not at all the commercial enterprise I had envisioned, here a couple has taken it upon themselves to preserve what they can of Irish culture. They have restored some old cottages out in the middle of the bog lands. We had a demonstration of Gaelic speaking and singing, the making of Irish soda bread (along with a taste, yum), there was a peat fire and we had an opportunity to taste some seaweed. Hoping I never have to rely on that for Firea food source. Next we went to another building for a fascinating talk and demonstration on the peat bogs and how peat is harvested and dried. The sphagnum moss which makes up most of the bog vegetation is actually a great carbon dioxide sink so the burning of peat for fuel is now being discouraged. In the third cottage we met a musician who demonstrated the Irish version of an accordion and a variety of tin whistles. Then some of our group learned an Irish dance.  All in all, a fun and interesting stop.

Finally, we headed to the town of Spiddal on Galway Bay where we were served fish and chips (at least the potatoes were fried for a change). We were all quite satisfied and then they proceeded to bring out a huge slice of apple cake with ice cream. Somehow I am still managing to get into my smaller pants, I suppose it is all the walking, but I’m afraid I am going to have to start saying no to the sugar, the cream and the ubiquitous heaps of mashed potatoes. I may also have to buy new shoes as the ones I bought just before leaving are already starting to come apart.

Derry to Galway via Drumcliffe

I really don’t have a lot to show you today as we spent most of the day on the bus making our way from Derry in Northern Ireland to Galway on the west coast. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the art installation at the border. It is called the five giants or “Let the Dance Begin” There are five oversized figures playing musical instruments in a roundabout where the checkpoint crossing from Northern Ireland used to be. The figures were built from the scrap metal that resulted when the checkpoints were dismantled. Yet another celebration of the peace now prevailing on the island.

YeatsWe traveled through countryside that gives meaning to the word bucolic with cattle, sheep, cottages, stone fences and even the odd potato field. We did have a brief stop in Drumcliffe to visit the graHigh_Crossve of William Butler Yeats. I found myself more interested in the Celtic crosses in the cemetery including this high cross dating to the 9th century.

We had a guided tour through some of Yeat’s favorite landscapes, including a short hike to a waterfall near this lake. Though he was born in Dublin his grandparents lived in County Sligo which is considered to be his spiritual home. After hearing some of his poems read and recited I would like to hear more and will be looking for Lake_Glencara book of his poems to bring home as a souvenir.

We proceeded to the town of Sligo for a hearty lunch of Sea Bass with the requisite mashed potatoes. Vegetables were served family style and we nearly had to fight for the broccoli and cauliflower sprinkled in amongst the carrots and parsnips. We are now ensconced in our new hotel in Galway and tomorrow promises to be a big day exploring the Connemara Peninsula.