Photography, Travel

Strolling through St. Stephen’s Green

We had not been having a great experience in Dublin so far. And then we came upon St. Stephen’s Green. It changed everything.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Expensive tourist-trappy attractions, criminally slow restaurant service, large crowds and lots of noise everywhere — Dublin had been everything the rest of Ireland had not been. After a disappointing experience trying to see the Book of Kells, we knew we needed a break, a quiet place to walk and talk and hold hands. We were still on our honeymoon, after all! Google Maps told us this park was just a few blocks away, so we walked over.

Contemplating a pigeon

What a quiet respite it was! Like everyplace else in Dublin, it was loaded with people. But unlike everyplace else in Dublin, it was clear we were all there for a little peace. We found quiet, even a little solitude, in St Stephen’s Green.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

This 22-acre park has existed in some form since around 1664, but was private until the Guinness family led an initiative to convert it for public use. Sir Arthur Guinness paid to have the park redesigned to its current layout, which opened in 1880.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

As Margaret and I strolled through, the tree-rimmed area around the pond seemed the most remote. We forgot for a moment that this was in the heart of Dublin. All we could hear was the rustling breeze and the chirping of birds.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

I think this part of the park did more to restore our spirits than any other.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Upon reading the little plaque describing this statue of the Three Fates, I was deeply moved. In German, Gaelic, and English, it expresses gratitude to the Irish people for help they gave to German children after World War II. The Irish provided foster homes for hundreds of German children whose families had died and whose homes had been destroyed during the war. While most of the children later returned to Germany, some remained, and were even adopted by their Irish families.

From the Germans

When we came upon this cute little house in the park’s southwest corner, Margaret declared, “There it is, our dream house!” Except that our morning commute to our jobs in Indiana would be challenging. Apparently at one time the park’s caretaker lived here.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

We lingered for a couple hours, walking and talking and taking photographs. Soon our stomachs grew insistent that we seek sustenance, and so reluctantly we left.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

But St. Stephen’s Green was a turning point of our time in Dublin. Reset and refreshed, we enjoyed our experience from here on out.

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As we drove back to our B&B from Kylemore Abbey, we found ourselves on a minor highway in remote Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. Highway R344, to be exact. And the scenery was lovely. We pulled over to take it in.

Irish road
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway
Along an Irish highway

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Photography, Travel

Stopping along a Connemara highway

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Photography

Twelve exposures: Starkey Nature Park, Zionsville

Margaret had a great idea, which is to go out on a photo walk but limit ourselves to just twelve exposures. Not twelve resulting photos, but twelve presses of the shutter button. She thought it might make us think more carefully about what is a worthy subject and help us pause to carefully make an interesting composition — but also result in an instant photo series about the place we walked.

We made our first Twelve Exposures walk at Starkey Nature Park in Zionsville. This heavily wooded park has a small system of trails for hiking and running. Eagle Creek borders it, and an old railroad bridge lurks along Trail 1.

Kodak EasyShare Z730

I decided to get out my old Kodak EasyShare Z730 for this maiden Twelve Exposures walk. It was a very good consumer point-and-shoot digital camera when it was new more than ten years ago, and I’ve always liked the cheerful color it returns.

And then we got to the park, and I saw that we’d passed peak autumn color. Most things in view were some shade of brown or gray. The Z730 doesn’t get on well with such dull colors. It tends to tinge them with green. I wished I’d chosen a different camera. But then I thought perhaps I could turn this into a positive, and seek out scenes that played to this camera’s strengths, or at least didn’t play to its weaknesses. We headed in.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I’ve grown used to “working a scene” with my digital camera, just taking a bunch of throwaway photos of it to get a feel. But limiting myself to twelve exposures took that right out. I felt like a kid again, having just put a costly 12-exposure roll of Kodacolor II into my Brownie Starmite II. Every shot had to count.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Film and processing were expensive, which kept me from experimenting freely. Chalk one up to the digital era: you can waste all the pixels you want. A photographer learning to make good photographs can readily take all the bad ones he or she needs to, because they don’t cost extra.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I knew that my first two shots involved  too much dull brown and gray, but I shot them anyway. I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t find scenes this camera would like, and decided to just shoot anyway. I wasn’t looking hard enough. When I saw this bright yellow sign, I started to get my head wrapped around this assignment.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

One section of a trail was littered with bright green leaves. I wonder why they fell before turning color. But they made a decent subject, providing good color and contrast against a background of crushed, dead leaves.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Before long we came upon the old bridge, a 1919 concrete arch affair that once carried the New York Central Railroad’s James Whitcomb Riley line between Chicago and Cincinnati. Today this bridge and much of the railbed in this county are part of the Zionsville Rail Trail.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Eagle Creek was still enough this day to provide a good reflection. This is my favorite shot from the day. I love the shade of blue in the sky as it reflects in the water. I could have photographed this bridge all day, but I didn’t want this photo essay (of sorts) to be bridge-heavy.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I did get one more bridge shot, of some of the graffiti painted onto it. Zionsville has some talented graffiti artists. Someone took considerable time to paint this scene from Adventure Time, a show on Cartoon Network. Someone else spent considerably less time adding his spray-painted condemnation of the show.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I knew the Z730 wouldn’t capture the light on this tree as well as I wanted. It tends to wash out anything sunlight directly touches. I hoped in vain that it would behave differently just this once. I kind of wished I was shooting Tri-X, perhaps in one of my fine compact 35mm rangefinders. That combo would have crushed this scene.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I saw all sorts of good black and white opportunities, actually. I shot them anyway. So much for seeking only scenes that showed the Z730’s strengths.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

Like so many older digital cameras, the Z730’s screen suffers from total washout in bright light. Fortunately, the Z730 has an optical viewfinder. And, shockingly, it has a diopter dial. I gather it adjusts only from -2 to 0, but that it does it at all is pretty remarkable.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I shot this one with the sun directly behind me. It created strong contrast, but it works for this shot. The Z730 really does its best outdoors work when the sun is directly overhead.

Twelve exposures: Starkey Park

I made some quick corrections in Photoshop on all twelve of these — which cut haze in this photo and brought out definition. Unfortunately, it’s not all that interesting of a scene. It looked better in real life.

This was a useful exercise in being more thoughtful about choosing my subjects and in learning to work within my camera’s limitations. We’ll do more Twelve Exposures walks.

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Photography, Travel

Irish flowers

Flowers are everywhere in Ireland — cultivated in gardens, hanging in pots, growing wild by the roadside. I saw plenty of flowers I’d never seen before, and some flowers that I had seen before were in colors you don’t find in Indiana! Here’s a solid sampling of the flowers I photographed. I have no idea what most of these are, so if you can help me in the comments I’d be grateful!

Irish roadside flowers
Irish roadside flowers
Irish roadside flowers
Irish flowers
Irish flowers
Irish flowers
Irish flowers
IMG_3146 rawproc.jpg
Irish flowers
Irish flowers
Irish flowers
Victorian Walled Garden at Kylemore Abbey

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Photography, Travel

The bridges of Central Park

Margaret took me and her two youngest to New York City this month. She bought a tour package, which took us on a cruise down the Hudson River and to a showing of Les Misérables on Broadway. Such outstanding experiences! But what I think I enjoyed a little more was Central Park, just two blocks away from our hotel.

Ahem. Why has nobody ever told me there are so many wonderful bridges there?!?!!!?!?

Our first visit was on the cold, gray day we arrived. This is Driprock Arch, built 1862 and moved to this location during the 1930s from elsewhere in the park. I wonder how you move a bridge made of bricks and concrete? Brick by brick?

In Central Park

This is Playmates Bridge and was built in 1861. I love how the red-cream stripes continue within the arch!

In Central Park

We returned for a longer stroll a couple days later, by which time the weather had greatly improved. This is the Bow Bridge, a cast-iron pedestrian bridge built 1859-62.

Central Park overlook

This is Bankrock Bridge, built 1860. A wooden bridge with I believe a cast-iron railing, it was restored in 2009. Check out all the people leaning against the railing and facing in. They’re all having their portraits taken — behind them is a stunning view of a lake and some of the city skyline. Margaret and I had someone take our portrait here, as well (with her camera, and I haven’t seen it yet!).

Central Park overlook

Here’s the view from the deck, without us.

Central Park overlook

I believe this is the Winterdale bridge, built 1860-61.

Central Park bridge

And this is the Reservoir Bridge Southwest, built 1864 of cast iron.

Central Park bridge

We didn’t see all of the bridges in the park, and in researching to write this post I think we missed a couple of the most beautiful bridges! That just gives us something to look forward to on a return trip someday.

Canon PowerShot S95, shot RAW, processed in Photoshop.

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Hosta flowers

Hosta flowers
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax
Kodak T-Max 400
2013

Film Photography
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