Well the GPS Says Go This Way.

By Mark

Driving on the left side of the road wasn’t too bad; driving a stick shift was pretty painless as well, but navigating in the cities was stressful.  For the most part we had been out in the countryside and the Hertz provided GPS worked fine.  There were warning signs as we traveled down tall tree-lined lanes that there were challenges ahead.  After leaving Killarney, we wanted to visit Cork on our way to Waterford.  You will probably not believe me, but fresh Irish butter is absolutely amazing.  Seeing dairy cows everywhere eating very green grass one can understand why.  In one of our travel guides we found that Cork was the center of the Irish butter trade and there was even an Irish Butter Museum. 

The GPS started cutting out inside the narrow and fairly hilly streets. It didn’t help that many streets were blocked off for some sort of arts festival.  We knew the museum was “over that way” and finally the GPS said turn into a street.  

We followed instructions and for the first 100 feet things looked great.  Then the road appeared to get a little narrower.  I foolishly said, “Well, the road does go there, so it must be wide enough.”  The car has automatically controlled folding side mirrors and we could see that it was going to be very close.  Well the hamster mobile-a Kia Soul also has protruding front fenders and sure enough the alley was too narrow.

We scraped the side and were having trouble getting out.  Fortunately a nice young man who was renovating the building came around and extracted us. We found that a “Smart Car” was about the only thing which would actually get through as the U bend on the other side was even worse.  Thanks to everyone who recommended the full insurance coverage, I knew we would be fine, but it still was aggravating.  Oh, by the way, your Visa and MasterCard which normally cover rental insurance have specific exemptions for Ireland.  

Architecturally it was one of the prettiest we saw.  At least it was from the outside.  They were holding auditions for a new organist and were not letting anyone in.  The front door carvings were magnificent. 

Our last stop for the trip was a visit to Waterford.  The Waterford Crystal factory and showroom was very interesting.  I’ve always been fascinated by the skill needed to create works of glass. 

Their carvers apprentice for five years and then if they pass; study for another three before they are allowed to work on their own.   All of their cutting is done by hand.  This master craftsman has hundreds of patterns and cuts memorized. 

He was very brave and handed me this vase.  If they drop or ruin one it just goes back into the foundry and starts again.  They do a lot of commemorative work for sports trophies and big corporate events and art pieces as well.

Our last night in Ireland was spent with a few of the friends we had made during our travels.  It was a great vacation. 

Next week is Photoshop World in Vegas—Roger and I will be learning more things we rarely have the chance to practice.   But it is so worth the experience.     

The Ring of Kerry

By Mark

Every guide book for Ireland says you must visit the Ring of Kerry.  They are right.  A rugged peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean holds much of the history of settlements from the earliest footholds and still shows many of the scars from the Potato Famine.  

The clouds meet the sea and the land

The clouds meet the sea and the land

We knew that the roads were narrow and wound their way around the coastline.   I really wanted to be able to enjoy the sights and take photos without the stress of driving and navigating narrow roads on the wrong side.

We engaged a driver and car for the day and it was a smart choice.  Our driver Tom was a great guide and a lot of fun. 

Our first stop was another Heritage village, showcasing village life around the time of the famine. 

One of the most poignant signs was this eviction notice to a Widow to clear out of her cottage. 

Wreckers would come in and tear out the roof and doors leaving the residents without shelter or support.  Houses like this, are still evident everywhere.  

The town of Cahirsiveen was the turning off point for Ballycarbery Castle and some stone forts.

Unlike the U.S. where everything would have had safety rails and warning signs, you could climb up as far into the ruins as you dared. 

Cahergall and Leacanabuile stone forts were built by hand with thick walls to shelter a farm and their livestock from raiders by land and by sea.

These two were pretty well visited by tourists. Tom took us down a sheep trail, where it was obvious very few visitors went to see Caherdaniel fort.  

The state mowing crew had just finished and the smell of the grass, the sea air and the incredible variety of the shades of green really made us feel we were back in time. 

Old walls and houses and new sheep

Old walls and houses and new sheep

We stopped for lunch in the colorful village of Sneem.

These rocks and the river also seem to appear in every advertisement for the area.  I wouldn’t want to go kayaking or tubing here. 

As we drove back towards the Gap of Dunloe, every time we stopped we had the chance to watch the play of clouds and light on the hills. 

Every few seconds rays of sunshine would break through and illuminate little segments of the valleys and rocks.

Finally we stopped at Torc Waterfall.  A nice hike up the trail with a few hundred folks takes you to lookout points where you can’t tell that another person was in a hundred miles

It was a long day, but one that neither of us will forget.   Of course we had some Guinness and Cider to enjoy as we looked back on the day.   Well only one more adventure to go—Cork and Waterford.    

Cathedrals and HDR

By Mark

Have I mentioned how much I love my 14-24mm wide angle lens Sarah got me for Christmas?  One of the things I knew I would find on our Ireland was lots of beautiful old churches and cathedrals.

Killarney Cathedral

Killarney Cathedral

These massive structures pose some distinctive photographic challenges.  There is a huge range of light as these were mostly built before the introduction of electricity.  The huge stained glass windows provide color but their reach can be limited.  Next, you have the sheer scale of the buildings.  Cathedrals were intended to be imposing and impressive reminders of the power of the church.  Soaring roofs and columns with intricate carvings add lots of dark shadows to try and capture. Finally, there are side rooms and art pieces everywhere which are intended to catch the eye and inspire the viewer.  Taken all together these are exactly the kinds of circumstances for which HDR was designed. 

I very purposely shot a lot of 7 shot bracketed grouping planning to convert them when I processed them.

One of the more useful, but underused features in LR are the Stacking commands.  Instead of cluttering up your screen space you can just make a pile and only see the top shot.  

Once I have created my final results, I just put that on top and the originals are hidden, however they remain accessible if I change my mind.  

7 Shot stacks in LR

7 Shot stacks in LR

Since you can create HDR directly from LR these days, I played around with the number of different processing tools I had and was interested to observe that the results varied widely.  You can use LR, Photoshop, Nik’s HDR Efx, or OnOne Perfect Effects HDR Panel.  I found that there really isn’t a common vocabulary among the tools.  Which version I liked seemed to have more to do with the subject than in the software I used.  I processed Ashford Castle’s grand hallway in Photoshop. 

I used OnOne for Killarney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, but liked the baptistery much better directly from LR.   

Finally, I used Nik for this single image HDR toning to bring out the details of the peat pile, while not overdoing the rest of the cottage.  

As with most things in the Photoshop world, there are multiple ways of doing anything and you as the “artist” need to use the tools that bring the image to life as you want the viewer to see it. 

Dingle and the Gap of Dunloe

By Mark

Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve come to the realization that the Ireland trip will take more than 4 blogs to share.  I planned our trip to give us 3 days in Killarney, so we wouldn’t have to keep packing and driving every morning.   To get there, we planned to spend the day driving around the scenic Dingle peninsula.  It turned into our only day of “typical” Irish weather. 

It rained pretty much the whole day.   The trail starts in the town of Dingle itself, where they have a statue to the dolphin “Fungi”. The dolphin makes in home in the towns harbor and very friendly to tourists.  Unfortunately, we did not get to see him.  

All around there are reminders of just how long people have been living along this rugged coastline. 

One of the most famous structures is the Gallarus Oratory.  This boat shaped church was built in the 7th or 8th century and is completely constructed from dry stack stones.  It is built next to the foundations of an even earlier stone church.

Just a little further down the road was the ruins of another famous site, the Kilmalkedar church.

It had everything you wanted in a scenic Irish view.  Ancient Om stones hold the first attempts at creating a written version of Gaelic; the carved lines provide a simple alphabet.  

Weathered Celtic crosses and sundials set in an ancient cemetery provide a suitable location for banshees to haunt.  

The church itself was built in the 12th century and was another marvel of dry stack architecture.  They created Romanesque columns for the walls adding some amazing details.  

The next morning was one of the adventures I had really been looking forward to, a day trip through the Gap of Dunloe. 

A bus takes you up to the trail head and you have a choice on how to proceed from there.  You can hike for 7.5 miles or you can take a pony cart.

Meet Frankie, our pony and John, his driver

Let’s just say that Frankie has seen better days and we were very concerned that he was going to make it all the way.  If ponies could get embarrassed then this one might have been as every other cart passed him by; in multiple places, our driver had to get out and help pull the cart and the pony.  Oh, and those other carts were carrying 4 adults, while it was just the two of us in ours.  

Like much of the country, there is still evidence of the famine depopulation.  The sturdiness of the construction keeps a lot of shells standing.

The views heading up the gap are breathtaking, as you pass by lake after lake. 

At the end you find yourself at a little inn where you wait for the small boats to take you down the river to the return point. 

You cruise through two large lakes and through some pretty narrow passages.  The water levels were pretty low as it has been unusually dry and at one point we had to get out and hike around a small section, while the guide carefully navigated his boat through.

You land at Ross Castle where the buses pick you up and return you Killarney.  

As you wait you can see native soulless ginger children sitting by the water and enjoy looking back at the Gap.  It was a really lovely day.