Sunday, February 5, 2012

Photography Workshop

 On arrival in Portmagee I rang Michael to tell him I had arrived. He arranged to meet me in The Bridge Inn in a short while as I wanted to check into the B&B first.I was given a warm welcome and was just dropping my bags when I heard male voices below. It was Michael and the other "student" come to collect me.

We headed for the pub. What else do you do in Ireland? My fellow student was also called Michael and  he too was German. He had flown in from Germany that morning especially for the workshop. And I thought I was mad, driving 5 hours from one side of the country to the other!  He was so tall I'm sure he was experiencing a different climate up there. I tentatively asked if he was taking photographs for long. The answer.....since he was 15! So not a beginner then. Tutor Michael  informed me that yes, he was advanced . He had been here last year to do another workshop with him. No pressure Mary!! Why do I do these things to myself????

In fact ,the next morning, Tall Michael  tells me he likes to do his own thing. Tutor Michael drives him around and he just asks for advice now and then. What do you know? One to one tuition, there's going to be no hiding in the back row for me.
At least it was not raining yet, though it is windy and cold. Means I've got to wear that old waterproof jacket that has a mean and nasty habit of not wanting to zip up on me. I've expanded somewhat in recent years! I have a nice comfy jacket on the back seat but it won't keep the rain out so it's suck in and off we go.
Well, that was the end of my nervousness. Once Tutor Michael had established that I really was a novice when it came to my cameras settings, he set to work. The first thing he had me change was to shoot in RAW. And then it was the tripod!! Dear God, it took me longer to figure out how to use that, than the camera. Who knew that a tripod could move in so many different ways. If I could move in the same way, I'd be a whizz on the dance floor.
My first photo of the day

And this was behind me.

Anyway, the lessons began. I learned to set the camera. Aperture and shutter settings slowly began to make sense. The West of Ireland is truly beautiful, the changing light meant I needed to keep shooting. I'm a little trigger happy, I know.

We visited many different locations, among them Cill Rialaig. This is an artists village, created from restored pre famine houses on Bolus Head. Artists, in many disciplines, apply for residency here. It gives them an opportunity to escape from everyday pressures to focus on their art. How they could not be inspired here, is unimaginable.
One of the restored cottages at Cill Rialaig.

One of the artists in residence.

Looking out to sea at Cill Rialaig.

Early morning at the beach......where's my tour guide now when I've forgotten the name of it?

And behind us......

Into the sun....

The waves come rolling in

.....and go out again

The rock pools.

A small stream

Moving on...
The Skelligs

 We also paid a short visit to Ballinskelligs beach where I had a chat with one of the locals in Irish once he discovered I was a múinteoir (teacher) I think it would have been easier for me to talk in Turkish as it is the first thing to comes to the tip of my tongue when not speaking English.
Ballinskelligs Beach

Lunch was in a small cafe in Waterville, a place that Charlie Chaplin visited regularly on learn something new everyday. Tutor Michael complains that many tourist stop to take photos of the statue of Charlie and don't see the wonderful natural beauty in front of them.

Waterville beach

The sun breaks through...

........and continues to move like a spotlight.

There followed an afternoon of taking more photographs. The changing light was truly amazing and no two photographs taken within seconds of each other were the same. I looked forward to seeing them on the computer. It is hard to judge from the small screen on camera.

The light breaks through the cloud.

Beam me up Scotty!!

We went to visit Staigue Fort,  the ruins of a stone ring fort, probably dating from the 1st century B.C.  Inside the fort are seven healing stones, each related to a different part of the body. If you stand on each stone for a certain number of minutes, and repeat this over a number of days it is reputed to bring healing.  Tutor Michael, though German, knows more about the locality than many of the natives. If he  ever gives up photography he would make an excellent tour guide.
What caught his eye was a small stream and waterfall. So we headed off over the slippery grass to take  photos. We clambered down a slippy bank and scrambled through a thorny thicket. Tall Michael got down into the stream, well his tripod was in the stream while Tutor Michael set up the tripod for me. I declared myself a wimp and told him I would watch from my position of safety. Given my penchant for falling they would be pulling me out of the stream so I can't claim these photos to be mine......but I do know how to take them now. In spite of my carefulness, I managed to fall up the bank on the way back to the car. It wasn't too embarrassing, just two very muddy knees.

The whorl here just appeared as little eddies to the naked eye. Slowing down the shutter speed the magic appeared.

Our final assignment of the day was taking photos during the blue hour. I was asked did I know what this was. I thought it had something to do with late evening. I wasn't far off. It is the time just after the sun drops below the horizon.  So it was back to Waterville beach. The rocky part. So I'm carrying the tripod, camera bag on my back and camera around my neck and we are scrambling over rocks to the shore. There was only one problem ....seaweed!! It was wet and very slippy, you guessed it. Down I went, like a ton of bricks. It took the  two Michael's to haul me back up again. I'm glad it was the blue hour, it counterbalanced the red of my face. Once they checked I could stand, their immediate concern was for my camera. I would mend but the camera might not. I gave it a shake, luckily there was no nasty rattle. I regained my equilibrium and thanks to the tripod there was no noticeable shake when I took the following photos.

The "blue hour" at Waterville Beach

The lights of Ballinskelligs in the distance.
It was with relief we reached terra firma again. I was tired but had had a wonderful day. Thanks to Tutor Michael's relaxed attitude, I hadn't felt under any pressure or stress and in addition, felt I had learned a lot. I'm more comfortable with my camera now. I had missed the simplicity of my compact ultra zoom, not the new camera's fault, simply user problem

Looking back at Waterille,. This is one of my favourite photos of the day. I love the way the light caught the edge of the rocks.
Given time to brush off the muck, Tutor Michael invited us to dinner at his home. Eva, his wife, had cooked a lovely meal for us. What a wonderful way to round off the day, a welcome as warm as the glowing fire, good food, good conversation and finally a look at our photos and some editing tips.
Tomorrow is another day. If you would like to see some of Michaels work this is a link to his photo blog.


  1. Can I save some as my screensaver! They look so peaceful and breathtaking!

    We missed you!

  2. These are simply breathtaking, Mary! Wow.

  3. Great photos Mary, I´m glad you got some great shots, the text is a gem, I was smiling the whole time I was reading. Best workshop review ever, made me thinking of future treatments too, thank you so much and I hope to see you in the summer if there ever is one in Ireland. kind wishes for recovery, cheers Michael

  4. Oh my goodness, Mary. These photos are BREATHTAKING! (I know we're supposed to control our use of exclamation points now but I would argue that this needs to be an exception.). So....!!!!!!!....BEAUTIFUL!!!!! The 'beam me up Scotty' is just amazing and so are all the photos of the stream. I have to say though that my favorites would have to be those of the cottages. They almost look 'fake', like they're paintings. Thank you for sharing this...and don't get me started on shutter settings and aperture. My brother in law tried to teach me all that but for some reason, I'm not retaining info. I need another shot at it. P.S. Please get better soon. I'm praying for your recovery. *hugs*

  5. Hello.
    WoW! These leave me speechless. Love the blue hour & the whirls & the "beam me up Scotty" fact...I love them all!
    Awesome photos!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hope you feel better soon.

    This Pink Rose

  6. Fantastic pictures. I felt like I was walking next to you! I especially like he "blue hour" ones. I have been to Dublin a few times but your post made me want to wander around more. Get better soon, and take care.

  7. I love the blue hour photos - very haunting - but I agree, I think my favourite photo is the last one.

    Very beautiful countryside!

  8. Absolutely stunning images! Honestly..I would love some of these framed! I loved the waves rolling in, the'm so glad I stopped by. It's my first time on your blog and I'll be sure to visit whenever I see a new post come in!

  9. Mary - I admire you for your thirst to keep learning. You make me long to visit Ireland more than ever. The beauty you've captured is truly enchanting. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    PS: Hope you're keeping better health now.

  10. Your photos are magnificent! Your sky shots are incredibly beautiful. Loved the cottages. Enjoyed your funny and witty account.

  11. Hallo Mary,
    it´s me, the "Tall" Michael from Germany.

    Great Photos !!

    Michael send me the Link to your Blog

    If you would like to see some some of my Photos have a Lokk at the Link:
    and search under the Name Maulwurfen (user = Benutzer Maulwurfen from Datteln )

    Have a good Year

    Kind regards from Germany
    "Tall" Michael

    I Think we had a lot of Fun this Weekend

  12. Hello everyone, thank you for your comments. They are appreciated.
    @hajra I'd be pleased to think my photos were part of your screensaver, imaine helping someone feel peaceful
    @Skelligphoto, well you know I had a good teacher when it came to the photographs but the text is definitely all mine:-)
    @ Muriel Dublin's great but you need to go west next time you visit.
    @Sweepyjean Joy, Andy, Janu Kara, Corinne Jessica and Penelope. Thank you for the encouragement and the good wishes. Before this class I was almost ready to put my camera down.
    @ "Tall" Michael. How lovely to hear from you again. Indeed we had a great weekend in spite of my ups and "downs":-) Hopefully we will meet again sometime. Maybe you will also have to come over to photograph the Saltee Islands and Hook head. The East coast also has lots to offer. I have enjoyed looking at your photos this evening. They are stunning. I love your squirrel and the colours in the marigolds are beautiful.

  13. Mary, your photos absolutely blew me away! I was mesmerized both by these and with your wonderful story of the day. And, yes, who could live here in this place and NOT be inspired?
    Favorites - Beam me up, Scotty, and the blue hour. Oh, and that last photo with the reflected lights? Words escape me . . .
    Blessings to you and thank you for making my day so much brighter!

  14. Mary you have a beautiful eye. Absolutely adore these.


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