I returned home from Ireland in June with 742 new pictures. Some of them will become part of future blog posts, some will end up on Facebook or in my online gallery. Most of them will never leave my computer. One of the challenges I have after each trip is to decide what photo to edit first. This was especially difficult this time as there weren’t any once-in-a-lifetime-photos, nothing that will probably ever grace the pages of a magazine. But, as a complete unit, the pictures tell the story of my trip. Altogether, they capture Ireland. Here is a sample of some of the photos I’ve managed to edit so far. There are still many more to come. Enjoy!
Happy New Year!
Good-bye 2016. We had some great adventures!
Return to Venice
Okay, I’m not actually in Venice, Italy right now (physically, anyway). But, with falling temperatures and snow in the Pacific Northwest forecast, it’s tempting to look back on warmer days.
I snapped these pictures last year from the balcony of a cruise ship. My friend Julia and I had just returned from a week on the Mediterranean, exploring places like Croatia, Greece, and Montenegro. Places where the sun always seems to shine. They are more forgotten treasures I’m finding as I sit inside on these cold, dark nights, searching for things to do that don’t involve Netflix.
Near the village of Glenbeigh on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland
I have never counted all the pictures I took while living in Ireland. There are probably thousands. I keep them in folders labeled by County and by month, and whenever I need to visit Ireland, I just open Kerry or Clare or Galway and rediscover what made my summer there so special. This shot of Rossbeigh Beach caught my eye the other day. With all of my thousands of photos of Ireland, I’d missed it and never edited it. I hope that keeps happening – that some previously undiscovered image will randomly capture my attention on a day when I need it the most.
Ireland: Land of Rainbows
American Refugee: 5 Reasons to Visit Inishturk, Ireland
Last summer I read an article about a tiny Irish island that would welcome American refugees if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States. It was a joke, of course, probably meant to drum up some tourism.
During every election season stretching as far back as I can remember, Americans threaten to leave the country if their candidate loses. And on the Wednesday morning following every election night, those same people get ready for work and carry on as usual. However, this being an especially contentious election, I thought some voters might finally make good on those threats. Would that tiny Irish island be a good place for American “refugees”? I thought it might be prudent to check it out and report back. (Or, more truthfully, I was just looking for another excuse to return to Ireland…)
Anyway, two weeks after reading the article I was standing on Roonagh Pier, waiting to catch a passenger-only ferry to Inishturk, an island 14 km off the coast of County Mayo. The wind whipped my hair as I listened to stories about a storm that had blown through two days earlier. The ferry operators warned that the waters were still a little choppy, so we should all be careful and hold on. I have never been seasick but worried about the hour-long journey nonetheless.
A dozen passengers and a few crew members boarded the ferry. Some stayed inside the cabin. I chose to stand on deck and keep my eyes on the horizon. The waves were a little rough at first, but by the time we arrived on Inishturk, the waters were much smoother.
And you know what? I’m glad (kind of, not really) Donald Trump ran for President because if not, I’d have never heard of Inishturk! I don’t know that I’d ever live there (it’s very remote), but I’d definitely go back for a week just to disconnect from all the daily noise that can make life so exhausting sometimes.
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, whether to escape politics or just for fun, there are several great reasons to choose Inishturk island.
Reason 1: Peace and Quiet
Approximately 58 residents live on Inishturk. You could probably meet each one in an afternoon on your 5 km walk around the island. And forget theaters, fancy eateries, and shopping centers. There is a beautiful community center that functions as a restaurant, pub, and library and there are only a few B&B’s from which to choose. It’s the simple life at its best. Writers, photographers, and artists will love a visit.
Reason 2: The People
I stayed at Tranaun Beach House, strategically located next to the community center/restaurant/pub. It’s a bit of a hike from the pier, so my host, Phylomena Heaney, drove down to pick me up.
The aroma of freshly baked bread greeted me at the front door of the B&B. Phylomena ushered me into the dining room, serving me tea and scones as I enjoyed a view of the Ireland’s west coast. She was so hospitable and kind – like everyone else I met during my stay. Islanders and other tourists simply wanted to stop and chat, and even though I’d traveled there alone, I never once felt lonely.
Reason 3: Sheep!
I met Farmer Heaney (Phylomena’s brother-in-law, I believe) on my walk around the island. He’d herded his sheep into a pen because some of them needed a fresh coat of paint. Farmers spray paint sheep with their mark as a means of identification. I’d never seen this done before, so he let me observe and take some pictures.
Reason 4: The Scenery
Fresh air and a decent view. I couldn’t ask for much more…
Reason 5: Hiking
As I’ve mentioned, it’s a 5 km walk around the island. The first part is all uphill from the pier, and it’s a great workout after spending so much time in airplanes, rental cars, and ferries to get there.
During my hike, I witnessed the islanders setting up for a festival that would expand their population from 58 to 150 over the weekend. I was tempted to stay on for that, but, as you can imagine, all of the B&B’s were booked and tents filled.
BONUS Reason: On my way back to the mainland the next morning, several dolphins swam towards the ferry! They stayed alongside us for a few moments before diving below the surface and disappearing. Even the seasoned ferry captain was excited to see them!
Some tips before you go:
- Ask your hosts if they need anything from the mainland. It’s expensive and time-consuming to go off-island. They’ll appreciate the offer.
- Bring your Wellies! This goes for Ireland in general, but it’s especially helpful here. Your hike around the island will take you off road and through some soggy hillsides. Totally worth it for the view, though!
Slainte! And don’t forget to vote!!
The Moment You’re Given
Arches National Park, Utah
I hit Moab, Utah after an exhausting day on the road. Torrential downpours followed by blinding sunlight, back aches, and eye fatigue were among the things that made the drive from Buena Vista, Colorado difficult. What kept me going was the hope of seeing Utah’s Delicate Arch for the first time at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, I arrived too late in the evening. I parked in the designated lot for the iconic rock and began walking, but soon found out I’d be hiking for 30 minutes over rocky terrain to see it. Perhaps if I’d been with someone or had eaten recently or had better shoes, I’d have gone on anyway in the dark. But I was tired, hungry, and all alone – so it wasn’t meant to be. I turned around and faced west to watch the sunset instead. It wasn’t the moment I had been hoping for, but it was the moment I was given.
Delicate Arch will always be there. I’ll capture it next time.
Light My Way
Capturing the Dark Hedges
Long before Game of Thrones filmed in The Dark Hedges, I wanted to experience the ephemeral awe of walking beneath the imposing boughs. I also wanted to capture them like so many other photographers, hoping for that once in a lifetime shot. In October, I finally got my chance!
The sad thing about photographing The Dark Hedges, though, was that so many other people had already done it. I’d seen images of them at dusk and dawn, in the fog, and covered in snow; there was no way to top them without settling in Ballymoney for a season and waiting for the perfect shot. But it’s not a competition, is it? If it were, I might win for being the only photographer to post a tractor cruising through the famous canopy of beech trees.
The Stuart family planted the trees in the 18th century to delight visitors as they approached their mansion, Gracehill House. After nearly 300 years of growth, The Dark Hedges are far more impressive than they ever would have been in the Stuart’s lifetime. Their massive, interlocking branches have attracted photographers and film producers worldwide, and that attention has boosted their popularity among tourists. As I made my way back to the car, more and more of them were discovering the hedges and parking wherever they could find space instead of the designated parking area.
The Hedges Hotel provides free parking for visitors, and the walk to The Dark Hedges is short. Please do NOT park along the side of the road! I saw so many tourists ignoring the signs and tearing up the verge. Not only were they destroying the view and mood for everyone, they were – more importantly – slowly destroying the very thing they came to see.
Go in the off season if you can. Like everything else worth seeing in Ireland and Northern Ireland, it’s best enjoyed when the crowds have thinned. The quiet gives you the time and space to suspend reality for a few minutes, to give yourself over to another of Ireland’s enchantments without distraction. Whether you carry a point-and-shoot or DSLR, it doesn’t matter – you can still capture a little magic of your own.
Along the Royal Mile
The Dogs of Ireland
On an island famous for its ubiquitous sheep, man’s best friend needs a little photo love too!
Dingle Photo Walk
The Dingle Peninsula is one of several peninsulas in South West Ireland. Each one is memorable for different reasons – Beara for its winding passes and clusters of standing stones, the Ring of Kerry for its long stretches of sandy beaches and all the tour buses coming into Killarney, and Dingle for Slea Head and, of course, Dingle town itself.
What I love about Dingle town is all the colorful buildings. My friend Anna, who visited in July, was looking to capture a door of every color while in Ireland, so we went on a little photo walk. She completed her project, and I got a few shots for my own portfolio.