• Andy’s E-BOOK — Photography Travel Guides

  • PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS!!

    All Images and writing on this blog are copyrighted by Andy Richards. All rights are reserved. You may not, without my express, written permission, download, right click, or otherwise copy my images for any reason. Copying an image and putting it on your blog, website, or even as a screensaver on your computer is a breach of copyright, EVEN IF YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE! Please do not do so.
  • On This Blog:

  • Categories

  • Andy’s Photography Galleries

    Click Here To See My Gallery of Photographic Images

    LightCentric Photography

  • Andy's Flickr Photos

    Key West, FL Southernmost Beach Resort 01102017000003

    More Photos
  • Prior Posts

  • Posts By Date

    May 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Apr    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  

Color

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Hey there.  I have been “MIA” lately.  A series of “life events,” together with the general malaise I usually feel during the winter months, have conspired against my writing.  Where I live, we get snow, but it is “dirty” snow that melts.  There is no “snowy landscape” shooting around here.  I was able to get some Florida shots in the early part of the winter.  We still don’t have anything shoot-worthy here right now.  It is cold and mostly wet.  But there is hope.  We do have early leaves on the trees, and green plants and dandelions.  Now we just need some warm sun to produce some flowers.  So here we are.

Residence; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Color.  I think it is pretty well-accepted that color attracts.  I know it does for me.  I see color and I tend to gravitate toward it with my lens.  I have shot and presented in color for the better part of 35 years.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I have shot B&W.  I shot it as a “reporter-photographer” for my college newspaper and yearbook.  I shot a whole roll of of the beautiful cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. once — accidentally.  But that’s another story  🙂 .  And I tell myself I will spend some time one day seriously looking at B&W as a photographic art.  I am truly impressed by the successful B&W shooters out there.  It is hard.  Especially for the nature and outdoor topics that I like to shoot.  But that’s another topic on another day.

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

So, color.  I was recently doing some “maintenance” on my LightCentric Website, and noticed a couple images that–after I worked them up to post to the site–I had not really ever paid attention to.  And I wondered why?  Why did I even make these images.  Yes, they are often typical to the culture where I made them.  And I was there.  Those are pretty good reasons.

Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

But what made me shoot them?  As I looked at them and thought about it, the answer came almost immediately clear:  color.  Color attracted me to them.  And, more often than not, it was some particular colored object within the frame that drew my attention.  And as I considered it more, I realized that is a theme of much of my travel and “place” photography.  I look for color.  Subconsciously.  I see color and I am drawn to it.  And I guess it it no coincidence that color attracts us all.  When you look at the markets, many of the displays are a wash of color.  I saw that in Turkey.  I saw it in Venice.  I saw it all over the Caribbean.  I even see it in places like Milbrae, California, Saginaw, Michigan and Dunedin, Florida.

Shop; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Color is everywhere.  Color attracts.  I like color and I shoot color.  Pretty simple.

The 7-Year Itch?

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

There is an old thought about relationships known as the “seven-year-itch” (something about getting an itch to try something new in the 7th year, which ultimately in most cases, terminates the former relationship). Before anyone gets alarmed, I have been happily married for 30 plus years now – that 7-year thing is well behind us. 🙂

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

But, just trying to come up with a clever title for this blog, it came to mind. Next month, I will have been writing this blog for 7 years. So this coming year could be the year I decide it’s over and move on. Given my history, I probably won’t. Besides, I really enjoy writing this thing (the opening image is my very first posted image here).

Stone House; Manassas Virginia Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Stone House; Manassas Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I really enjoy writing this thing

In the winter of 2008, I began a series of “tutorial” e-mails to one of my sisters who had taken up DSLR photography. I was trying to explain the technical aspects of exposure, depth of field, etc. to her in steps. About the same time, a friend from Vermont began to ask questions about her point and shoot camera, and shortly, she acquired her own DSLR.

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Between the two of them, and some others, I spent a fair amount of time writing and editing and responding to questions and clarifying, and it dawned on me that maybe I should save these “writings” (mainly so I wouldn’t have to re-create them later). About that same time, I hired a company to create a photography website for me to showcase my own images. The idea of a blog seemed a natural follow-up and since everybody was doing it, and there was no cost to set it up, I decided to give it a whirl.

Bernard Maine copyright  Andy Richards 2009

Bernard Maine
copyright Andy Richards 2009

I started the blog as a Google Blogger site, but migrated to WordPress a few months later, as WordPress seemed to offer both a more pleasing theme and more versatility for photographic blogging. Since moving to WordPress, the blog has had more than 50,000 views, and currently has 50 followers – not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening.

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening

Over time, the blog has gradually evolved from my “tutorial” writings (there is only so much of that, and mine were specifically “conversational,” and certainly not intended to compete with the myriad of books and website offerings by the professionals out there), to more of a combination of a travel images blog and the occasional philosophical or political musing, with the stray tutorial thrown it. I have also spent some time reviewing equipment – primarily that which I have owned or used.

Ketchikan, Alaska Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Ketchikan, Alaska
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Perusing my “offerings” from the beginning, I was amazed to see the territory covered. Since the first writing, I have traveled and photographed fairly extensively in the United States, including (in addition to my home state of Michigan – upper and lower peninsulas and my new “home” away from home state of Florida) Texas, Alaska, San Francisco and Northern California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks from Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Virginia, West Virginia; New Mexico; Minnesota; Acadia National Park and surrounds in Maine and Vermont.

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

It has gotten harder to do this

I have Traveled out of the country to Canada, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Greece, as well as 3 trips to the Caribbean. In 2015, we will travel to Japan, the Mediterranean again; and I will go to Vermont again in the fall. So hopefully, there are many more images to come. In some of the places that I have visited multiple times, the challenge will be doing something unique.

Chili Ristra, New Mexico   copyright 2008  Andy Richards

Chili Ristra, New Mexico copyright 2008 Andy Richards

There have been some milestones over the 7 years. In March of 2010, I bid a bittersweet goodbye to my best buddy and fellow shooter and traveler, Rich, whose career took a sharp left turn, as he moved away from Michigan. While we knew we would try to stay in touch, it was not certain that we would. Over the following year, we did. Then, to my great delight, his career took yet another turn and he moved back here to Michigan. We will live to shoot another day!

San Francisco Night Skyline  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

San Francisco Night Skyline copyright 2011 Andy Richards

As I looked for images that seemed to make an impression on me from the places I visited, it ocurrs to me that 2010 was a huge travel and photography year for me in the U.S.

Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

the challenge will be doing something unique

I cannot even count how many times I have mentioned the word “Nikon” in my blog. I have been a loyal Nikon user for thirty plus years. As my more recent blogs have noted, I have completely moved to another name and system in the past few months. I still think Nikon makes top quality DSLR bodies and lenses. But they haven’t moved toward the mirrorless system in a way that fits my thinking.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

On a couple occasions, I mentioned New Year’s resolutions in my late December posts. In one case, in 2011, I noted that I don’t make them (because I don’t keep them). In 2012 I made one (and didn’t keep it).

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

It has gotten harder to do this. I still enjoy it, but inspiration for subjects or topics are tougher to come by.  For those who have read, followed and commented over the past 7 years, I am very grateful. I will be traveling again in the next couple weeks, and so may not be consistent with my weekly input. I guess it is one of the nice things about the nature of a personal blog. I can post when I want to.  🙂

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Until next time ……….

It Was a Very Good Year

Alamo Square Row Houses Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Alamo Square Row Houses
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

A good friend and mentor likes to borrow from song lyrics for blog titles and sometimes to caption his images. They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so I am taking a page from his book for the title of this blog. I am not sure whether he is a Kingston Trio Fan, but I’ll bet he likes Sinatra. Who doesn’t? 🙂 But as is so often the case, I digress ……….

2014 has been a good year for us. I have said that our home in Michigan can be a tough place to live during the months of Jan – April. Lots of cold, not enough sun, and often lots of snow. I am not a snowbird (got that out of my system in my youth), so I don’t miss it when its gone. 2014 was the first year we were able to take advantage or our second home in the Tampa Bay area. It was nice to be warm in the Winter months, even if only for a few days at time. And, as we have gotten the “drill” down, I have now established a “home office” in Florida and am able to visit for longer periods and work from there. I am looking forward to finding photographic venues there.

Shortly after Christmas, I ordered my first “mirrorless” “full frame” interchangeable lens camera, the Sony a7r. While I didn’t completely fall in love with this camera, it certainly gave me lots of “fodder” for this blog. :-). I did learn to “respect” it, however. It has taken my photographic thought process in a new direction. I think I have finally settled in with a “keeper” version of this camera (the a7 – sans r) and look forward to actually giving it a good workout in 2015. Along with it have become new lenses, tripods, etc. Lots to do and think about. But now its time to get back to making actual images!

D.H. Day Barn Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore; Glen Haven, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

D.H. Day Barn
Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore; Glen Haven, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In February, we joined a group of our Michigan friends on a Caribbean Cruise. This mid-winter, warm weather cruise has become a tradition for my wife and me. We try to visit new venues with each cruise, but it is not difficult to overlap stops and we have now been to several of the stops multiple times. St. Maarten continues to top my list. One of the things that will become increasingly difficult will be finding new and unique photo ops. It seems to me that the more time I spend in the Caribbean, the more it seems that there is a “sameness” to these little islands. I don’t mean any disrespect to the people or cultures of these islands. They are undoubtedly each unique and very proud of that. Indeed, we try to take some kind of tour in most of the places where we learn about some of those cultures. I meant photographically. The flora, fauna and “hand of man” seem to be pretty ubiquitous. First, in all of these places, there are the commercial tourist traps built around the cruise lines (unfortunately in my opinion). The one exception to that seemed to be St. Croix. There was no real “cruise line mall” at the port their. Unfortunately for us, we arrived there on a Sunday. Not much was going on in the little portside community, but it looked like it was pretty genuine. There have been many colorful photographic subjects on these cruises, and I will look forward to finding new ones as we head South again in mid-winter 2015.

Celebrity Summit St. Croix; USVI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Celebrity Summit
St. Croix; USVI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In April, we were privileged to joint Bart and Barb O’Brien, proprietors of The O’Brien Estate Vineyard in Napa, California, on a rather unique trip to Ireland. Readers here have been inundated with my Ireland photos and know that we had a great time. If I were arranging my own trip to Ireland (a likely occurrence some day), I probably would not have done it the way we did. But this was a rather unique historical and cultural voyage, centering on the life of Ireland’s perhaps most famous of Kings; Brian Boru. History tells us that all of the O’briens, worldwide, descended from him. Not surprisingly, a fair number of the O’brien surname find their way to The O’Brien Estate – and become regular customers. While I do not have any Irish DNA that I am aware of, I could not have felt more welcomed by the people of Ireland. And I can also say that I have very much enjoyed my new found friendships with the several O’Briens who joined us on the trip — A friendly bunch!

Somewhere In Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Somewhere In Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In early October, we made our third of hopefully many trips, to the San Francisco Bay area. There are (so far) 2 cities I have been to that seem to have endless subjects for photographers. One is San Francisco and the other is Venice, Italy. I know there are others, but these two have impressed me in a way no others have. I am an (relatively – it seems to get harder as I get older) early riser. The 3 hour time change makes it even easier, and my wife indulges my early solo walks around the downtown. The early and late light is magnificent and there are so many things to capture. So I rise each morning and spend a couple hours discovering.

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

This trip, we also did some driving, visiting the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse (which might be photogenic – I don’t have any idea – we couldn’t see it through the heavy fog) and the Pt. Bonita Light, which is difficult to find a really good spot to shoot from. The 2 magnificent bridges, the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge seem to be always somewhere in view. San Francisco is a peninsula and a very steep hill, so views are easy to find.

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Almost every fall, I make an extended trip somewhere to photograph fall foliage. With the travel schedule such as it was, that didn’t happen this year. There is this pesky little thing called a “job” and my clients do expect me to be there. 🙂 This year, I decided to try to make a couple short trips and that limited my venues to places reachable by day trip or weekend overnight.

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I did a day trip with my buddy Rich, and then, the following weekend, went “home,” to the town I grew up in, in Northern Lower Michigan, Traverse City.

Round Bales in Foliage Harrison, MI Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Round Bales in Foliage
Harrison, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Between of Lake Michigan and two deep bays extending south from the lake, the climate there is more moderate in the Fall (they pay for it in the winter, with significant snowfall – though some probably think that is a blessing). So I was able to take advantage of very late October and “discover” some shooting venues I had never before done (my love affair with photography began after I had moved away from there). All in all, my fall shooting was more rewarding than I expected.

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula; Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula; Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

This is sounding a lot like one of those annual “Christmas Letters.” 🙂  I am looking forward to another eventful year in 2015. We will kick things off with another Caribbean Cruise, Tokyo in August, the Mediterranean in September, and with some luck, a whirlwind trip to Vermont to meet some old (photographer) friends and shoot New England Fall Foliage. There should be some photos coming away from these trips – especially later in the year. Mixed in with that I hope to find a chance to do some winter scenic shooting in Northern Michigan.

National Lakeshore Farmstead; Port Oneida; Leelanau County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

National Lakeshore Farmstead; Port Oneida; Leelanau County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

As I write this, my blog has had over 50,000 visits and almost 75,000 page views (average 30/day). When I started this, I had no idea whether anyone would ever read it. Thank you, thank you to all who have visited, and a special thanks to all of the “followers” out there. I also have a couple “regular” commenters. Thanks to you too, for your input and your support. I would love to seem some comments and discussion come out of this, so please comment in 2015.

Kilkenny Castle; Kilkenny, Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Kilkenny Castle; Kilkenny, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I want to wish all of the regular readers and anyone else who comes here a very happy and prosperous 2015. I hope you find all your photographic dreams.

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; The Final Day

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Photographically, this may be a bit anti-climax. We spent the day first with a “tour” by our bus driver of the city, including a drive up into Phoenix Park, which may be the largest park in Europe, replete with an obelisk monument, the Dublin Zoo, and the American Ambassador’s residence. There are also numerous deer and other wildlife around the park (we had driven through here on our first day in Dublin on their “hop on – hop off” bus). We drove down into the city center (much of which we had also already seen). We did learn some interesting Dublin history.

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The “Heineken” sign has a funny back-story. At one time this building belonged to Guinness. After it was sold, Heineken bought the rights (they do not own the building or have or have any other connection to it) to the wall, and the sign.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Cathedral,
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There are many “St. Patrick’s” cathedrals throughout the world. None are prettier than the Dublin version, particularly the grounds. This is a shot from our bus window and doesn’t really do it justice.

Pub Near Jameson Distillery, Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Pub Near Jameson Distillery, Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The River Liffey flows from west to east through the city, bisecting it roughly north and south. Much of what we saw, including Te Temple Bar area, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and St. Patrick’s cathedral, are south of the river. North of the river there is a significant amount of commerce, though, including the old complex of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery (which has long since moved its operations).

Sculpture, Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Sculpture, Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our first “stop” was after lunch at the famed “Book of Kells” at Trinity College in the center of the city. Trinity College is an impressive, beautiful campus. The “Book of Kells” exhibit, however, is a hopelessly tourist and commercial setup that was – to me underwhelming in a significant degree. Except for the final part, where we walked into the actual library stacks. That iss impressive!

Book of Kells; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Book of Kells; Trinity College;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our last stop for the day was, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. The Heuston Train Station is just caddy-corner from the complex and is where our bus from Dublin Airport dropped us for our first night’s stay about a block from there at the Ashling Hotel.

Heuston Train Station; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Heuston Train Station;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The Guinness tour is, of course, very commercial – but still a fascinating experience. One interesting fact that I don’t recall being given by the Guinness tour guide, was that (according to our bus driver – how much of his knowledge was “local wisdom” is not crystal clear) the Guinness “stout” beer was a mistake. The barley was burned during the roasting process. Mistake or not, somebody decided to finish up the batch and (although I don’t particularly care for it), the rest is – as they say – “history.”

Guinness Storehouse Headquarters;  Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse Headquarters;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There is not much interesting that you can photograph inside the commercial area of the storehouse, as it is full of hundreds of tourists, they move you through very fast, and the light is not great. I concentrated on a few small details.

Guinness Storehouse; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Guinness Storehouse;
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

We will remember this trip all of our lives. We made some great new friends, got to see some old friends, and made some memories of an amazing and fascinating part of the world. The Irish people are every bit as friendly fun as their reputation, and we will most certainly be going back there in the not too distant future!

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; Day 8

Clontarf Castle Gatehouse; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf Castle Gatehouse; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The afternoon of the previous day was time for me to re-charge a bit. A brief nap, and then we walked to the downtown suburban area of Clontarf, a port for Dublin. We joined a few of the many “O’briens” on the trip at a restaurant for a nice dinner and then walked back to the Hotel.

An old castle, the Clontarf has been made into a magnificent looking hotel. But being a castle, there were limitations to work with. In Europe, we conspicuous consumption type Americans are often surprised by the small size of hotel accommodations. However, in our Ireland experience, all but one – this last one (which was ironically – I am sure – the most expensive of them all) were really quite spacious and comfortable. This one worked, but was by far the “tightest” we had. Still, a pretty cool experience to stay there.

Clontarf, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Clontarf appears to be a relatively affluent suburban area, and in the mornings, I walked the streets, looking for something of interest to shoot. One of the things we noticed (and it is a matter of common interest – note, for example, the cover of Rick Steves’ Ireland 2014 travel book) – particularly around Dublin, was the brightly colored doors in many of the row house buildings. Much of it is, of course, folklore and what they like to boast about, but Ireland seems to have a pretty strong cultural focus on drinking. We were told that the primary purpose of the different colored doors was so that you could get back to where you live after a lively night in the pubs. Good story – true or not. And even better, they make for wonderful photographic subjects. We found, for the most part, all of Ireland to be proud of the looks of their towns and buildings were well kept and well landscaped.

Colored Doors; Clontarf, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Colored Doors; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Today would be our last bus ride, and our only excursion into Northern Ireland. Again, we had a smaller group, with several electing to stay behind and see what Dublin had to offer. We had been in Dublin for a full day prior to the tour and had stayed near the City Center. We wanted to stay with the tour and especially, to go to Northern Ireland, so we boarded the bus for our final group trip.

Our destination that morning was Armagh, a small town in Northern Ireland just to the southwest of Belfast. Interestingly, as we crossed the border into Northern Ireland, the speed limit signs when from Kilometers to miles, and the currency (we found when we stopped for refreshment) to British pounds. There was also a subtle, but noticeable difference in architecture, particularly of the dwellings, to a less colorful and ornate look (more like U.S. suburban homes might look) – interesting. Most interesting was our driver and week-long guide’s description of trips up there just a few short years back (less than 10) when there was so much violent unrest in Northern Ireland. There were still heavily fortified police stations, and the few policemen we saw still resembled military more than what we are accustomed to seeing for civilian police.

St. Patrick's Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The primary purpose for the trip up, however, was to visit the 2 St. Patrick’s Cathedrals: One built before and the other after, The Reformation. The churches were impressive and the differences both remarkable and fascinating. The post reformation church is a huge, ornate and probably very expensive monument. I will leave the reader to his or her own thoughts as to what it was a monument to.

St. Patrick's Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The older, Anglican Cathedral was much less ornate and “in-your-face,” but nonetheless a marvel of architecture and art, particularly for the time it was built. From a photographic standpoint, I definitely liked the older church.

St. Patrick's Anglican Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

St. Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral; Armagh, Northern Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Our ride back to Dublin was along the coast, along the Irish Sea between Ireland and England, and through the Portmarnock Golf Course, back to Clontarf Road and the Clontarf Castle. There were some beautiful roads and we even stopped at a cemetery where one of our members, a fan of the Dublin rock band, Thin Lizzy, searched and found the grave of one of the band founders, I believe, Phil Lynott. Of course the music on the bus, as we entered Clontarf, had to be “The Boys Are Back in Town.”

Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

We arrived back at the motel in time for our one “formal” evening (jackets required) banquet celebrating the O’Brien Clan Society (of which, of course, our gracious host, Bart, is a board member) and the Battle of Clontarf. We had some laughs and some good food that night and then got ready for our final day – all in Dublin, which was to culminate in a visit to – where else? Yup – the Guinness Storehouse. Next: “The O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland – 2014; The Final Day.”

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; Day 7

View of Countryside from Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

View of Countryside from Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Once again this morning, we had to have our bags on the bus, so I did not go shooting, but had breakfast and boarded the bus with the group, headed (eventually) for Dublin, with a couple of scheduled stops along the way. The first scheduled stop was the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. But before we headed for Bunratty (ironically, back in the opposite direction from Dublin), we stopped at another Castle which was reputed to have a connection to Brian Boru’, but is now a svelt, private hotel and golf course – Dromoland Castle. Since it was private, and the owners would most likely not take kindly to a tour bus driving in and dumping 40 tourists around, our stop was quick. There was a photo of all of the O’Briens on the trip taken, and we then re-boarded, headed for Bunratty. I did manage an image or two.

Dromoland Castle; County Clare, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Dromoland Castle; County Clare, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park looked (and was) like a “commercial tourist” park.  But it was still fun and pretty interesting. I have said before, that if I were planning my own trip to Ireland, I would not have used the travel company used here, and I would have opted for some less touristy and more picturesque places, and/or more time in some of the Irish cities (Limerick is a place I would have spent more time). But as photographer that is how my “travel” mind works. For others, this may have been just perfect – and we were fortunate to be with this group, with everything planned and done for us – so not complaining; just “observing.” 🙂  In the same light, however, we also were scheduled to stop for a couple hours at an outlet mall on the way to Dublin. Really? (Just saying). After a threatened mutiny, our poor bus driver drove us straight to Dublin, dropped the “shoppers” off in City Center, and took the rest of us on to our hotel, The Clontarf Castle, for some much needed downtime.

Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The current Bunratty castle, built around 1425, is actually the 4th castle in Bunratty, and was eventually overtaken by the O’Brien clan. The interior of this 15th century stone structure was fascinating, and after a short introduction by a tour guide, we were pretty much given the run of the castle. Climbing the spiral staircases was interesting. The castles all have narrow, counter-clockwise spiral staircases, with the walls tight to the right. As the guide noted, the vast majority of Europeans are right-handed and this made it virtually impossible to draw, or swing a sword. On the other hand, if you were defending, you had a relatively clear shot, and if you were first up the stairs you were probably left handed, and probably beheaded. According to our guide, it is where the saying “heads will roll” (as they did, down the spiral stairs) came from.

Tapestry; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Tapestry; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There was also a tapestry that was over 800 years old, hanging in the great room. It looked like it might have been 20 years old. It is pretty amazing that some of the things in the castle have lasted as long as they have. Of course, today, they are temperature controlled, and shielded as much as possible from light (and human contact). I was also amazed at the detail in the wood work. Art was obviously a huge part of the life of at least the noble men living in the castle living quarters.

Table; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Table; Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Detail, Table, Buratty Castle Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Detail, Table, Buratty Castle
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The view from the top was also impressive. As a photographer, I always enjoy the ability to get up high and get the “birds-eye” view of a place. Here, I shot the river, as it might have looked to a castle lookout, defending from a Viking invasion.

Ralty River from Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Ralty River from Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

A walk around the grounds of this place was equally interesting. It is supposed to reflect living in Ireland in the early 19th century. There were peasant huts and a small village street with a post-office, apothecary, some nicer “homes” and some more rural, as well. It is difficult to know how much of it is real from years past and how much is “Disney.” There was clearly an old farmhouse (Hazelbrook House) that was once a real feature of the village—but was actually reconstructed there in 2001. And in the village, there were also a number of “tourist” souvenier stores mixed in with the mock-ups. Still, I would recommend this site as a worthwhile visit. The Hazelbrook brothers were apparently famous for ice cream making and there was some very interesting looking machinery in the barns area of the house near a nice walled garden.

Machinery; Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Machinery; Bunratty Castle; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Due to time constraints, and lack of pre-planning, I missed the real shot of this castle, which is from across the stone bridge which crosses the small Ralty Rive, a tributary of the River Shannon, with the bridge leading into the castle scene. Maybe next trip? Of course, the views of the countryside were spectacular – and Green! I probably took away one of my 5 favorite images of the trip from the folk park—a shot of the ancient Ardcroney Church. This church was actually moved, stone by stone, from County Tipperary, to be a feature of the folk park. But it is beautiful; both in setting and in architecture.

Church, Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Church, Bunratty Folk Park; Bunratty, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Next, we were off to Dublin, for the final “leg” of the trip, with a 3 night stay in the Clontarf Castle, in the Dublin suburb of Clontarf.

Clontarf Castle Hotel; Dublin, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf Castle Hotel; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

 

O’Brien Wine Club Tour of Ireland; Day 6

The River Shannon; Limerick, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

The River Shannon; Limerick, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

New town; new morning; new photo subjects. Limerick is a town which appeared slightly larger, and slightly more traditional “city” than Galway. It was less designed for the tourist/college student and more of a “working” city. Nonetheless there is a lot to do there and it seems to me to be a city worth visiting and planning to spend a couple days. Of course, given the nature of our trip, I only had mornings and evenings there, so the idea was to make the best of it, for what I could find within walking distance of the Strand.

Limerick, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Limerick, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Like many older cities, Limerick is divided by a river; in this case the River Shannon. The Strand Hotel was on the northwestern bank of the river, and just across the bridge to the south, was the main “downtown” part of the city. We walked down there the first night and found a nice pub on the city canal, which connects the River Shannon from loop to loop, as it circles north of the city and back down again to the east. This morning, I walked back down for a daytime view, and found this image of a white walking bridge, crossing the canal.LIMERICK IRELAND 04222014000009 There appear to be a series of drops on the River Shannon, which, though they do not amount to real waterfalls, look like they would create serious havoc on boats. Hence, there are also some locks on the river. One is near the canal and the main auto bridge that crosses the river from the Strand over to the downtown. I think water, and particularly rivers, always make for photographic interest in and around cities.

King John's Castle; Limerick, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

King John’s Castle; Limerick, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

From the distance (you can see it in the opening image off the river), you can see the tower of a castle. As I followed the river, I learned that what I was seeing was King John’s Castle. A number of our group remained in Limerick this day, and reported afterward that it is a very interesting and fun visit. I was there only during the early morning hours, and not much activity was happening (something I actually appreciate, when trying to find early light shots).

Limerick, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Limerick, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

You never know what unusual, but perhaps serendipitous subjects may await you around the next corner. As I walked toward the castle, I came upon this pink, childrens’ bicycle up against the green fence and it drew my eye.

Rock of Cashel; Tipperary, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Rock of Cashel; Tipperary, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The previous day took its toll on some of our number. I headed back to the Strand to make the deadline for our tour for the day. This morning, we had about ½ a group on the bus. A number of our folks, it appeared, were ready for a break from long bus rides and just wanted some “r&r” in Limerick. From their various accounts, it sounds like they thoroughly enjoyed what the city had to offer. But we were off for our planned trip to The Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny Castle.

Rock of Cashel; Tipperary, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Rock of Cashel; Tipperary, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The Rock of Cashel is a grouping of medieval buildings on a very high vantage point, in the renowned, Tipperary, Ireland. It is almost impossible for an American not to start humming and/or blurt out that hackneyed phrase, “it’s a long way to Tipperary.” Our driver and guide informed us that the “Tipperary” of song, is a bar/brothel in Piccadilly, London and the song was reputedly sung by soldiers longing for “a pint” and the “sweetest” girl they knew. Wikipedia has a slightly different version of the story, noting it was a music hall song and one of the writers may well have hailed from Tipperary. Whichever story you want to believe, it was undoubtedly became a popular marching song for British Soldiers during WWI. As far as the “long way,” what I can tell you is that this week, on the bus, it seemed like a long way to everywhere we went!

Rock of Cashel; Tipperary, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Rock of Cashel; Tipperary, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

But I digress….. The Rock of Cashel is where Brian Boru’ was crowned “High King” of Ireland – and apparently, where his descendants continued to rule for more than a century following his death at the Battle of Clontart. From a photographer’s perspective, the ruins are spectacular and photogenic, and the views of the Irish countryside, as far as the eye can see, are green and as illustrative of “Ireland” as I could imagine.

Kilkenny Castle; Kilkenny, Ireland Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Kilkenny Castle; Kilkenny, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Following our morning at The Rock of Cashel, we headed further east, to Kilkenny. Importantly to me, Kilkenny is the site of the Smithwick’s Brewery (my beer of choice in Ireland). So, for lunch, before our visit to the castle, we found it obligatory to salute Kilkenny and Smithwick’s with a pint.

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

After lunch, we all met in front of the castle, where entered for a tour. The tour was mildly interesting, as were the interior rooms of the castle. But our visit to Bunratty Castle, the next day, would prove a much more interesting interior castle tour. The exterior, however, was another story. In my pre-trip envisioning, I thought surely I would bring home a “wall-hanger” of Kylemore Abbey, or some similar castle we saw along the way. The image that actually found its way to my office wall is the above image, with the steps leading up. I like the one with the fountain, also, but haven’t printed it.

Kilkenny, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Kilkenny, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

And the shot from the castle roof, with the Smithwick’s brewery in the distance, just may be my favorite shot of the day.  After the Kilkenny Castle tour, we headed back for the Strand, and our last night in Limerick, where we re-joined some other group members, compared stories, and sampled several new Irish Whiskeys, before turning in for the night.