Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Dawn Raid

In my last post I talked about how I got up at ridiculous o' clock in the morning to take pictures in UL for the photography competition, and how I was pretty disappointed at the results. I was expecting some kind of magic light that instantly produced classic photographs, just by the virtue of me being there. Well it didn't quite work out like that, although I did take a few that I was reasonably happy with.

Last Sunday, I made a second attempt. Not out in the University, but rather in Galway. The plan was to get up at about 4.00am, drive to the Burren, and take photos there at dawn and watch the sunrise. An ambitious plan, to say the least. Well, to put it this way, getting me and my better half up at that time of the morning was the equivalent of placing a bet on a drunk elephant to walk across a tightrope while singing the Mongolian national anthem... We didn't do too bad, however. We managed to struggle out of bed and leave Galway city at about 5.30. An achievement in itself.

However, it was looking increasingly unlikely, as we sped down the road, that we would make it to the Burren before the sun began to come up. The best light is supposedly just before sunrise, and the absolute worst case scenario was sitting in the car watching what was looking like an amazing sunrise. The sky was completely clear, just what we were looking for. We quickly made an improvised plan: we decided to basically turn west, and headed for the nearest bit of coast we could find. After some initial worry, we at last got to a dirty, muddy patch of the coast that didn't look in the least bit conducive to taking beautiful photos. I was secretly pretty disappointed at this stage - I felt like the early morning effort we had gone to my have been in vain. I was to be sorely mistaken, however.

Although the landscape didn't look awe-inspiring, it didn't turn out to matter at all, because the light was a wonder all to itself. I've never seen hues like that before, and looking back on my photos they have a slightly false look about them. The light took on a presence of its own, bathing the bare scene in just about every colour imaginable - with perfect tones; nothing was over exposed or too dark.

The other incredible (and difficult) thing about the early pre-dawn light is its dynamism; it changes virtually from second to second, and literally from minute to minute. Without moving the camera I was getting pictures that looked completely different as the time went by. It's exhilerating; it's hard to describe. You have such a short time to take photos, and the light changes so often I found my adrenaline pumping within minutes of setting up the tripod and camera - despite the early morning grogginess. The fear of ruining what is probably a once-or-twice a year opportunity is pretty immense. Anyway, here are the results: These are by far my best single crop of photos from such a short time.

Smooth Water

Beach at Sunrise

Hello sun!

If you ever drag me out here at 5.30 in the morning again...

And that was that. All the grumpy bleary-eyed early morning mood, the panic, the fear, and the exhilaration, culminating in these four, and maybe another two or three shots that I am happy with.

"A bit... pointless", some might say.

I say there's not much in the world I'd rather do.

As a side-note; we spent the rest of the day at our intended destination; the Burren. I was happy enough to largely forget about taking photos - I couldn't ask for much more that the morning, and besides, one gigabyte memory card will only hold so many pictures! I did get one I was pretty happy with, however. The photography gods must have been smiling on me that day.

Burren in Black & White

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Getting up at Dawn does not a good photographer make...

In my last post I mentioned that I was contemplating giving in to the mentally ill side of my psyche and getting up at half four in the morning to take pictures for a photography competition being held by the University. Well, I did it...

...and it was quite a disappointment. It was one of those moments when you realise that the mountain you've been climbing with expectation of reaching the top sooner rather than later is actually Mount Everest and you are on an elevator going the wrong way and trying to beat, wait - you're the mountain. You're the elevator, and the mountain is knowledge, and the camera is your Sherpa. No, no, no - the Sherpa is an elevator - going the wrong way up the digital camera. Yes. That's it.

Sorry. I have to indulge myself sometimes. Since nobody is reading this anyway I might as well have a bit of a rant now and again. Very cleansing. Indeed.

Anyway, I found my little photography excursion much more difficult than I reckoned it would be. The photos I took all lack 'pop'; I thing was expecting wonderful, almost magical qualities from the light, but it failed to materialise for me at least. Another thing I never thought of was the fact that at six O' Clock in the morning in UL, the place is absolutely covered in nasty Sodium vapour street lamps, which ruin any shot they are in, and are almost impossible to avoid...

Do I care? Yes, sort of, but mainly no. For one thing there was a certain thrill in lugging around a tripod and camera in a deserted University before dawn. I think I have the enthusiasm at least, and that must count for something. The mere act of going to UL at ridiculous o' clock in the morning was enough for me.

Still, it wasn't all bad, and I did take a couple of shots that while certainly wouldn't win any competitions, will probably be sent in anyway as I can submit ten for each category. I would be happy with getting one printed, if nothing else.

Iron Man

UL at Dawn again

Glucksman Library

From the Front of the Schumann Building

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ok, I've had enough now...

Please rain, you have had your fun now. It's been raining for at least six years non-stop now, and I should know because I've counted. Dripfollowsdropfollowsdripfollowsdrop: yes we know it's all fun and games to you, but constant pelting us with The Wet has started to become just a tiny bit irksome. Especially when you're in the place W.B. Yeats walked for many years, living off the kindness of Lady Gregory (that poor woman what was she thinking?), getting inspiration to write some of the most hackneyed (but undoubtedly beautiful) poetry ever written about Ireland. When you're somewhere like this and all you can muster up is some crappy photos taken from under a shelter messing around with long-exposures and the zoom ring...

So rain, if you are still there in the morning when I finally want to get up of my arse and take some photos at dawn of the lovely University Of Limerick, I will be most aggreived and possibly have to take the matter further with your immediate supervisor. So there...