Photography, Travel

Always meet a fellow blogger when you get the chance

Our day along Northern Ireland’s Atlantic coast brought us near the home of fellow film photography blogger Michael McNeill. He writes the North East Liberties blog, which is named for the area of Northern Ireland that Michael calls home. When he read here that we were coming to Ireland, he wrote to offer a meetup. We made it happen.

jimmichael

Here we are, me with my Nikon N2000 slung over my shoulder and Michael with his pristine Nikon FE2 (I think it was) slung over his.

We met in Portrush, a holiday town just east of The Giant’s Causeway, from where we had just come. We met at the beach and walked to a little shop for tea. I announced my American-ness straightaway by taking mine black. Michael and Margaret poured on the milk.

Tea consumed, the getting-to-know-you conversation was going well so Michael suggested a stroll along the beach and up the little peninsula that comprises most of the town. I photographed this scene which I’m sure Michael has contemplated through his viewfinder many dozens of times.

Portrush

A little harbor rests about halfway up the peninsula and provides obvious photographic opportunity. But I didn’t take very many photos on our walk, actually. I’m sharing everything I shot in this post. The conversation was good and it seemed a shame to pause for too many photographs.

Portrush

We walked a trail up to the peninsula’s tip. Michael says that he often drives up here with his dog for walks.

View at Portrush

“If anyone knew I had friends in and didn’t take them to the Harbour Bar, I’d never hear the end of it,” Michael said, and with that, we popped in. A restaurant takes up the back, but up front is the kind of Irish bar you’d expect to see in a movie: crowded and spare, full of dim nooks and rough wooden tables. It’s an old bar, the oldest in all of Ireland. My stomach was out of sorts, so to my dismay and disappointment I had to decline the half-pint of Guinness Michael offered. But Margaret and Michael both enjoyed one, and our great conversation continued.

The Harbour Bar, Portrush

Margaret and I figured we’d meet Michael for a quick cup of tea and be on our way, but we had such a lovely time that we stayed in Portrush for a good three hours. We parted where we met, at the beach.

The beach at Portrush

Do follow Michael’s blog (here). He is dedicated not only to black-and-white film, but also to the art of darkroom work and printing. I believe most, if not all, of the photos on his blog are scans of his prints.

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Photography, Travel

The Giant’s Causeway

When lava cools rapidly, it creates a dark gray rock called basalt. In some places around the world, ancient volcanic activity led to basalt in perfect hexagonal columns. One of those places is on the North Atlantic coast of Northern Ireland, a place called The Giant’s Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway

It’s thought that volcanic activity here more than 50 million years ago formed this basalt. But ancient Irish legend holds that a giant named Fionn MacCool, when challenged to a fight with a Scottish giant, built this causeway so that the two giants could meet and battle.

The Giant's Causeway

The Causeway became known to the world in the late 1600s, and became a tourist destination during the 19th century. On the unusually sunny and warm September day on which we visited, hundreds of others climbed the columns with us. I hear it’s pretty much always busy, as one of the leading tourist destinations in Northern Ireland.

The Giant's Causeway

Oh, let’s switch to color, shall we? Because the ocean is startlingly blue here.

Giant's Causeway

Really, the views are all breathtaking, starting with the long trail back toward the columns.

Giant's Causeway

Margaret and I were prepared for a long hike, but not for a 75-degree day. We were dressed for the typical overcast and chilly September weather in Ireland. We got pretty sticky.

Giant's Causeway

A warning, if you visit: you can go all the way up to the top of the cliffs, but to get there involves a lot of walking and some heavy stairs. My iPhone tells me I walked 19,039 steps and climbed 42 flights of stairs on this day (but to be fair, this was also the day we visited Carrick-a-Rede Island).

Giant's Causeway

But the views from up there are worth it! You can see for miles from up there — all the way to Scotland.

Giant's Causeway

But even if you stay at ground level, the scenery never disappoints.

Giant's Causeway

The views almost edge out the basalt columns as the star of the show. Almost.

Giant's Causeway

Canon PowerShot S95 and Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400.

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Zionsville house

The house at Maple and Poplar
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max 400
2016

Just a snap from a stroll through Zionsville.

Film Photography
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Decorative bicycle

Decorative bicycle
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max 400
2016

This iron fence and bicycle are on a side street in the Garfield Park neighborhood in Indianapolis.

Film Photography
Image

The view from my front door

The view from my front door
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max 400
2016

This is what I see when I step out my front door. Except that I see it in color.

Film Photography
Image
Film Photography

Vacation camera audition: Nikon N2000 with 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens

I think I was made to shoot 35mm SLRs. I am happiest using them, and consistently get my best results from them. So despite wishing for a pocketable compact camera for my upcoming trip to Ireland, I also decided to audition an SLR.

My ideal SLR for this trip would be small and light — and one over which I would not cry if it were damaged, lost, or stolen. As much as I love my pro Nikons, the F2 and F3, they are none of these things.

Nikon N2000
Not pictured: the 35mm f/2.8 lens

But my N2000 checks most of those boxes. My Pentax ME and Olympus OM-1 are noticeably smaller, but are no lighter thanks to the N2000’s polycarbonate body. And should I need to replace it, N2000 bodies can be had on eBay every day for under $30.

The N2000 has many useful features, first among them being programmed autoexposure for times I want to just point, focus, and shoot. It also offers aperture-priority autoexposure and manual exposure for when I want more control. It also winds the film automatically, and is powered by four common-as-pennies AAA batteries.

Because I wanted to shoot a 35mm lens on this trip, I bought one: the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor. And then I dropped in some Kodak T-Max 400, clipped a shoulder strap to the lugs, and went out. Except for the jarringly loud motorized winder, this camera handled beautifully.

Sunlight over the gazebo

I got beautiful tones everywhere I turned with this 35mm lens and the T-Max.

Trail

The film and lens did have a little trouble with Margaret’s white hair here, though.

Margaret

I was impressed with how this camera, lens, and film managed scenes with both bright and dark areas. I did, however, tweak a few scans (including this one) in Photoshop to lighten the shadow areas a little.

Garfield Park north

Moving up close with this 35mm lens I was able to get a reasonable blurred-background effect. I shot this whole roll in program mode, and I like very much how the N2000 biases toward shallow depth of field at close range.

Bucket o' flowers

I almost always shoot 50mm lenses on my SLRs with their relatively narrow field of view. This 35mm lens let me see so much more of my surroundings.

Village Yarn Shop

I’ve tried to capture this ice-cream shop with my 50mm lenses before, and I can’t back up far enough on this street to get it all in without first bumping into another building. The 35mm lens opened the view up wide, and the house fit right in.

The Scoop

I fell in love with this 35mm lens. Now I want one for my Pentax K-mount SLRs, too. This is just a wonderful focal length for walking around in the world.

This 35mm Nikkor is also plenty small and light. On this light N2000 body, I barely felt this camera when it was slung over my shoulder. It’s bigger, of course, than the Olympus Stylus I reviewed on Friday, and the Olympus XA that I’m auditioning as I write this. But given how much I enjoyed using this camera and how much control it gave me over my images, this N2000 and this 35mm lens stand at least an even chance of going to Ireland with me.

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