Pastoral

The Road to Connemara

The Road to Connemara

An Irish country road leading toward Connemara National Park

I’ve talked before about how some shots happen just because you stumble onto them. This is one of those shots. Pamela and I were driving toward Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park. We had no real set agenda and we were just taking the roads that looked most promising in terms of scenery and views. While driving the light began to change as the sun danced in and out of the clouds overhead. At the same time we were approaching this row of trees lining the road we were driving on. We both immediately commented that this tree line looked like a poor mans version of the Dark Hedges we had visited earlier in our trip.

We drove through the alley of trees once and I immediately had that feeling that you may know as a photographer. A little voice in my head kept saying “Go back, go back..” Usually, when I refuse that voice I live with the regret of the picture that might have been. I drive on or walk away and have a mental image of the perfect image that could have been. Then there are the times when I actually stop and go back and the ‘perfect’ image that I had envisioned is flawed somehow. But, in this case the image was what I hoped it would be. So, I set my tripod in the middle of the road – while dodging speeding cars heading both ways – and got the shot.

I really like how the image captures the mood of the place. The road leads my eye into the image. The trees have just enough shape to create a moody vibe. And through the trees you can see the fog shrouded landscape beyond. It makes me think of that day and drive even now as I type. I hope you enjoy it as well.

The Burren

The Burren

The otherworldly landscape of the Burren in County Clare, Ireland

Ireland is largely a lush patchwork of beautiful green fields, crashing ocean, and deep blue skies with cottony clouds floating by overhead. But, she is also dark and bereft of color in places. The Burren is such a place. The Burren is a 250 square kilometer area composed largely of limestone with sparse vegetation growing throughout. Compared to the beautiful green fields that surround it, the Burren stands in stark contrast. Relatively few trees grow through the limestone grid that composes much of its surface. There are a few scrub trees and shrubs that grow in the cracked limestone. But, the landscape is largely gray and lifeless.

This shot is taken from a road that winds toward Gregans East. On the steep descent there are some amazing views of the Burren in the distance. The green trees in the foreground, the blue sky, and the white clouds show how very different the Burren is from the surrounding countryside. Enjoy.

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Loop Road follows the coast of Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula

While staying in Dingle, our favorite pastime was to circle the peninsula on the Slea Head Drive. Of all the places we visited, the Dingle Peninsula was the most like the Ireland that I had envisioned. It was full of low rocky walls, small verdant pastures, picturesque houses, and views to the sea from around every corner. As a photographer I found myself stopping every 500 yards – or feet! – to compose another picture.

This shot is from near the westernmost point of the peninsula, Slea Head. I had to park our car several hundred yards up the road and walk back to this spot. As we drove around the corner I wanted to stop in this location but that would have been impractical and a bit suicidal. The roads in Ireland are very narrow and in this spot don’t even have a centerline. When two cars meet head to head it’s basically every driver for himself. So, I parked the car in a relatively wide spot in the road and dodged cars on the way back to this location.

I love the way that the low rock barrier wall leads my eye into the scene toward the lush green hills in the distance. The contrast of the blue seal with the green hills and blue-white sky makes for some great pops of color. It’s also apparent from this angle how steep the hills are and how precipitous the drop to the ocean below is. It’s a great visual representation of the beauty of this part of Ireland. Enjoy.

The Dingle Races

The Dingle Races

The race track at Ballintaggart hosts the Dingle Races each August

As we drove deeper onto the Dingle peninsula, the scenery became more and more mesmerizing. There were snatches of ocean views, rolling hills, and an ongoing cascade of green in every direction we looked. Adding to the beauty of the scene was a constantly evolving partly cloudy sky that covered the landscape in a parade of shadows from the giant cumulus clouds passing by majestically overhead.

It was one of those road trips where only discipline would allow us to arrive at our destination on time. We literally could have stopped every half mile to take in yet another remarkable view. Instead we pushed on satisfying ourselves with the view through our windshield and windows. That is until we came to this scene. I literally jammed on the brakes to take in the view that you see here.

We had arrived in Ireland in the midst of race season. Although we didn’t watch much television while we were there, the local coverage was fixated on the horse races as they moved from one town or county to another over the course of the summer. We had great fun viewing the spectacle of the races at Limerick Racecourse while we were in the west of Ireland. It very much reminded me of the Kentucky Derby where the people watching is every bit as much of a spectacle as is the great race itself. Ladies in their fancy hats, gentlemen in their suits, and jockeys in their colorful silks made for an hour or so of fascinating television.

Unfortunately we were a week early to see the Dingle races in person. It would have been great fun to watch beautiful Irish horses thunder around the rolling grass track at Ballintaggart under a splendid sky with colorful banners flying and the cheer of the crowd resounding across the valley. But, I’ll have to be satisfied with my imagination coupled with the memories of the race course on a brilliant summers day. Hopefully we will be able to enjoy the Dingle Races in person someday soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this image.

Ireland the Beautiful

Ireland the Beautiful

Clouds and lush green fields as viewed entering Ireland’s incomparable Dingle Peninsula

With apologies to my beloved national song, America the Beautiful, I’ve titled this post Ireland the Beautiful. This is perhaps my favorite image from our trip to the Emerald Isle.

As we left the Ring of Kerry, we began the short journey to the next peninsula on Ireland’s western shore, the Dingle Peninsula. Although I had enjoyed our short circuit around the Ring of Kerry and our ferry ride across the Shannon River, I was truly looking forward to spending time in and around Dingle. I had read extensively about western Ireland and the consensus among those I respected most was that the Dingle Peninsula was and is the most beautiful part of Ireland.

As we worked our way westward toward the southern coast of the Dingle Peninsula we climbed a low pass just past Annascaul on the N86. There was a small pullout that was located toward the top of the pass from which I could view the valley from which we had just traveled. I could tell before I ever stopped the car that there was an epic shot to be had from this vantage point. I only hoped that the view would not be ruined by power lines, an industrial plant, or some other modern feature.

To my delight, the view was everything that I had been looking for and more. Not only did I have the forty shades of green that I had been looking for, but I also had picturesque fields, cattle, wonderful cumulus clouds, a blue sky above them, and a wonderful soft afternoon sun side lighting the entire scene. I quickly grabbed my tripod and camera and began to capture the scene.

For me, this image captures the essence of rural Ireland. There are rolling hills, a patchwork of lush green, a small village in the distance, and even the threat of rain as the oncoming clouds touch the mountains in the distance bringing darker skies. That is Ireland – a rural country dotted with quaint villages, ancient architecture, all covered in a tapestry of lush greens and blessed with abundant sunshine and rain. I’m already looking forward to my next visit. Enjoy.

Foggy Morning at Sleepy Hollow Farm

Foggy Morning at Sleepy Hollow Farm

Morning fog lifts as sunlight streams in over Sleepy Hollow Farm in Woodstock, Vermont

On the morning that I shot Jenne Farm I decided to stay in the Woodstock area for a while to see what else I could find. From my previous travels and my research I knew that I wanted to wander up and down Cloudland Road, Galaxy Hill Road, and explore the nearby communities of Pomfret and Barnard.

I began by driving back up to Woodstock and arrived before any of the businesses had opened. In the peak of fall foliage season it was a bit odd to have the town virtually to myself. But, I wasn’t interested in buying antiques or visiting galleries. I continues out-of-town to explore along Cloudland and Galaxy Hill Roads.

One unusual weather condition that occurs in the fall is patch fog. At Jenne Farm I had a virtually cloud-free sky. But, on my short drive back up to Woodstock fog was still lifting from the fields and clinging to the ridges. That was the case on Cloudland Road. The conditions were pretty awesome. Fog was lifting from the deep ravines and valleys revealing barns, houses, and rocky creeks.

At one of these spots where the fog was lifting, I noticed a particularly handsome old barn just emerging from the fog. I quickly pulled my car over to the side of the road, got my gear from the backseat, and rushed back down the road to capture the scene. In my haste, I had completely ignored some other photographers who were also pulled over at this spot taking advantage of the show evolving in front of us. As the fog lifted from the valley, the sun was streaming through the trees higher on the hillside and illuminating the fog beautifully. I quickly snapped this image and a few others. Only after the fact did I realize that I had stumbled back onto another classic Vermont icon, Sleepy Hollow Farm.

The classic view of Sleepy Hollow Farm is from just down the road from where I stood. There is a lovely curving road or driveway that drops down from Cloudland Road and makes a great foreground leading your eye right to the farm buildings. At the right time of the fall, a tree at the head of the driveway and all the surrounding trees can turn vibrant colors making for a beautiful shot. But, the shot I had found – quite by accident – was another intriguing view of the classic farm. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunrise at Jenne Farm

Sunrise at Jenne Farm

Often photographed but still beautiful Jenne Farm in scenic Reading, Vermont

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to mix in some of the classic Vermont landscape locations on my fall trip. Perhaps *the* most iconic subject in Vermont is Jenne Farm. I’ve photographed it before, but I wanted to capture a current image with a high-resolution digital camera. So, I woke up two hours before sunrise hoping that the weather conditions would give me a bit of sunlight at dawn.

I’ve shot at Jenne Farm at least two times before. On both prior occasions the light was dismal and the colors around the farm were either before or after their peak color. This day dawned mostly clear and there was good, if not great, color on the trees. I really couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

One thing hadn’t changed from previous visits. There were at least a dozen other photographers lined up waiting for the first rays of sunlight to fall on Jenne Farm below. Photographers from all over the country make their pilgrimage to this spot each fall to capture this Vermont landscape icon.

Once the sun rose over the horizon and light spilled onto the scene, each photographer composed and captured furiously. At least those of us who had been there before did. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the scene is at sunrise, the light can quickly become harsh and contain too much contrast making beautiful images almost impossible to capture. That was the case this morning. By thirty minutes after sunrise the light had become much too direct and it was time to pack up and move on.

Even though it’s been shot thousands of times before, I still love the location. I hope you enjoy it too.

Late Afternoon at Hillside Acres Farm

Late Afternoon at Hillside Acres Farm

Late afternoon light softly bathes Hillside Acres Farm and the surrounding hills covered with peak color fall foliage

Although not as iconic as the Peacham shot I posted last time, Hillside Acres is hardly a new discovery on my part. Although at one point I thought it was…

About twenty years ago I had my first visit to New England in the fall. At that point I was just learning about the craft of photography and developing an eye for composition. I had the same tendency which many fall into regarding composition. I wanted to capture everything my eye could see in one image rather than focusing on individual elements of the scene.

Nonetheless, it was a blast traipsing through New England at the peak of fall color just soaking it all in. On one of my trips I came across this scene. I have the almost identical scene captured on Fuji Velvia shot with a Minolta Maxxum, my first “real” camera. At the time I thought I had discovered a farm that most people had never seen. Now I now that Arnold Kaplan had identified this shot in his classic Vermont guidebook. Oh well, at least I had good taste…

I intentionally drove to this site to recapture the image with my current gear. As much as I loved Velvia, the detail I capture with my Nikon D800 is just superior to what I captured on film. And the adjustments I can make are superior now. So, here’s a new version of a classic Vermont scene, Hillside Acres Farm in beautiful late afternoon light. Enjoy.

Peacham, Vermont

Peacham, Vermont

A classic Vermont pastoral scene of Peacham, Vermont surrounded by fall color

I love to create new, fresh images. But, I must admit, I also am attracted to classic locations that have been captured hundreds and thousands of times. Today’s image is in the latter category.

I didn’t just stumble onto this scene. In fact, if you search for Peacham and Photograph on the internet, you can find dozens of shots very similar to this one. I’ve even shot it before on at least two different occasions. But, that doesn’t diminish the fact that this is a classic New England scenic that captures a once typical quaint New England town.

The image contains all the elements of a classic New England village. White steepled church? Check. Red barn? Check? Fall foliage surrounding village? Check. Rolling rugged hills? Check? If you look closely, you can see that there are also a few cars parked at the church. That’s not classic New England village. Unfortunately, on the day I was in Peacham, there was a fall festival going on and people were parked all over the village. Fortunately for me, the view from the hillside didn’t include most of the activity going on that day.

I hope you enjoy the image. You definitely should visit Peacham if you find yourself in north central Vermont. It’s a lovely little town and a slice of rural New England that is quickly vanishing. Enjoy.