We found Sligo Abbey to be fascinating, but challenging to photograph. A ruin dating to the 13th century in the northwest Irish city of Sligo, it was full of interesting scenes and details. We could frame any of them with little trouble. But it was hard to create a sense of the whole in our lenses. You can’t back up enough to get it all in frame, as Sligo encroaches upon it from all sides. So here’s hoping that as I just dump a bunch of photos of the place here, you’ll get a feel for it all.
Despite being called an abbey (a community of monks or nuns living a cloistered life), this was actually a friary (a community of men who go out and preach), of the Dominican order. The Dominicans have always loved to go out and preach.
I did take a panoramic shot with my iPhone. It’s as close as I came to capturing Sligo Abbey’s scale, obvious distortion in the image notwithstanding. This is the cloister garth at the center of the abbey. This yard (and some of the corridors and rooms) were used as a cemetery, I think at some point after the site became a ruin.
The place just begged to be shot in black and white, but I did get a few solid color shots.
With your help and advice, I elected to take my Nikon N2000 along to Ireland. And it worked out fine.
It would have been very nice, even preferable in some ways, to take a film camera I could slip into my pocket. But several of you convinced me that I would appreciate the precise control that an SLR would give me. And you were right.
However, and unsurprisingly, its size and weight sometimes made carrying it a drag. We hiked for miles at the Giant’s Causeway, and the farther we went, the more the N2000 weighed me down. By the end, I was more than ready to strip it off my shoulder. I would have been less fatigued if I had just left it in the car. Which I did on subsequent hikes, and thereby missed a few photographs that cried out to be shot on black-and-white film.
The ease and control of shooting a 35mm SLR made up for it though. And the N2000 handled flawlessly the whole trip.
I chose the N2000 instead of one of my greater SLRs, such as my Nikon F3, in part because I would not cry if the N2000 were lost, stolen, or damaged. Sure enough, it ended up damaged. We explored the North Atlantic Ocean beach at Rosses Point, which is near Sligo in northeastern Ireland. As we moved off the sand into a rocky area, I suddenly fell hard. There wasn’t even a moment of trying to catch my balance — bam! I was down. I’m lucky I didn’t smack my head. But the N2000 and my digital Canon S95 both crashed into the rock. Both cameras were dented, but thankfully still fully functional. The dents are a souvenir of the trip.
The N2000, along with the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens and the T-Max 400 film, were great choices to photograph city and town scenes. I got good contrast and detail in every shot.
The 35mm lens was a smashing choice. It gave me a wide enough view to take everything in.
But it wasn’t so wide that I couldn’t credibly move in close when I wanted to.
I relied doggedly on the N2000’s meter, even at times when I should have metered more thoughtfully and adjusted exposure manually. I don’t own any camera that can successfully meter a scene of sharp contrast as the one below. I knew Photoshop would help me bring out detail. I would have liked to dim the highlights further on this shot, but this was as far as I could go without it looking unnatural.
Perhaps if I had shot forgiving Tri-X instead I might not have lost so much highlight detail. T-Max 400 has a reputation for blown-out highlights in uneven lighting situations. I wavered until nearly the last minute on which of these two films to shoot on this trip. But I experienced even lighting most of the time, and in it the T-Max’s faint grain let fine details shine through.
Over and over, I got photographs from this camera, film, and lens that had such depth and detail that I wanted to touch them on the screen, expecting to feel textures it as though they were in bas-relief.
While I didn’t focus on street photography in Ireland, from time to time I did make use of random people to add interest to my work. They were always moving, which made me glad for fast film.
It wasn’t always enough to freeze them, however. And in the case below, the fellow in the foreground ended up in front of the in-focus patch. Yet he make the photo so much more interesting.
Every camera, lens, and film represents a set of compromises. In the end, this set of compromises served me very well.
St. James’ Gate Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor Kodak T-Max 400 2016
We went to the Guinness Storehouse while we were in Dublin. Meh.