Kells Priory (Irish: Prióireacht Cheanannais) is one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland.
The Augustine priory at Kells, county Kilkenny is situated alongside King’s River beside the village of Kells, about 15 km south of the medieval city of Kilkenny. The priory is a National Monument and is in the guardianship of the (OPW)Office of Public Works. One of its most striking feature is a collection of medieval tower houses spaced at intervals along and within walls which enclose a site of just over 3 acres (12,000 m2). These give the priory the appearance more of a fortress than of a place of worship and from them comes its local name of “Seven Castles”.
4 km southeast of the priory on the R697 regional road is Kilree round tower and 9th century High Cross, said to be the burial place of Niall Caille Niall mac Áeda (died 917) who was a High King of Ireland.
The Priory has been undergoing a ten year long renovation project that is approaching its completion, the priory is looking amazing and has been secured for many years to come.
Here I post some new images taken during a very enjoyable visit last Sunday afternoon.
A History of Kells Priory
Kells Priory, Gallery
A Seven image study of a Heron as it rests and hunts for Fish, standing on a stone at the river bank ……
Tarmon SP 500mm F8 Mirror Lens, Real world review
When you make a start in the world of Photography, Sooner or later you will want to own a dedicated Long Telephoto lens. These lenses offer the ability to get some great images in the world of (Landscape, Wildlife, Portrait and Sports) Photography.
Fixed focus (None Zoom) Telephoto lenses come in many focus lengths, but the most usable are 200mm to 600mm, depending on how much magnification of distant subjects and objects you need. The cost of these lenses my surprise many starting photography and to be honest even many long term photographers, they can start in price range from around €800 and end up way into the many €1000’s.
There is however an alternative option with this type of lens, this being to look at what are called Reflex or Mirror Lenses. These kind of lenses replace some of the glass elements within their construction with two Mirrors both used to fold the light entering the front glass element in much the same way as a reflex telescope does.
i.e. NASA uses this method in the Hubble space telescope that has produced some amazing ground braking images of the cosmos.
Third party and OEM Camera manufactures started making these lenses in the 1970’s and continued through to the 1990’s, today mostly only third party lenses are available. The quality of these Early OEM/Third party – mirror lenses was very high, even second hand some of these lenses can set you back some €300 to €800 on ebay, even today in 2017.
I purchased a Reflex lens made by Tamron (500mm SP F8) way back in 1988 and in this post I just wanted to share my thoughts on some of its upsides and some of its downsides.
To be honest, I have not used this lens very much, for two main reasons.
Firstly : at 500mm and with an lens aperture of F8 it needs to be Tripod or at the very least mono pod mounted in order to create very sharp images. This maybe a little unfair as this is true for most long lenses but Nikon VR lenses are so good at helping go handheld!
Secondly : these lenses have one very different down side to that of refactor (Glass only) lenses, they produce a doughnut ring effect on bright out of focus objects or even just areas in the image that have a bright, lighting than the darker areas around them. I have included some examples at the bottom of the posts images below.
With the first point above, today in 2017 with the high ISO abilities of SLR cameras such as the Nikon D7200 and D750, this issue has been made redundant to a great extent! When this Tamron lens was produced, 35mm film could only produce clean images at a rating of no more than ISO 400.
Today the Nikon D7200 can work very well between ISO 3200 and 6400 with very little help from good noise cleaning software in post processing, this up-rates the usable shutter speeds for hand held work for even a lens of 500mm at f8, letting you work handheld more than ever before !
Remembering that even on a DX sensor slr, you need for some 750mm (X 1.5 DX factor!) to keep a shutter speed of 1/800th to 1/1000th to create fully stable images, If you have a steady hand. Even on a cloudy day ISO 1600 gives a shutter speed of around 1/1600th and ISO 1600 on a D7200 is little to worry about! noise wise. It is for this reason that I am starting thinking of trying using this lens again.
For the rest of this post and review of the lens, I will let the following images do the talking, with a small amount of comments made in each of the related image types.
Tarmon SP 500mm F8 Mirror Lens – sharpness and quality
To test for the image sharpness and quality I placed the camera on a tripod, I don’t use a remote release, so there could be some small effects but all in all these are sharp images.
You can see from the below image that this lens can produce some very sharp images under the correct conditions, its just as good as some much more expensive glass only lenses from Nikon.
I have no worries here and would be very happy in trusting this lens to produce sharp images from corner to corner of the frame.
Above : Nikon D7200 with Tamron SP 500mm Mirror lens, Tripod Mounted
As image sharpness has been tested above, what about color fringing and other detects, color fringing is visible in an image at bright edges in the frame, so I used the wires and other equipment on the telegraph post in this image, I see no fringing Green, blue or otherwise in this image.
So again I would trust this lens to produce sharp and clean images that need little or no post processing to clean them up later.
Using the lens – in the Landscape
The following images speak for themselves, just general landscapes and animal images from medium focus distance subject to long distance landscapes, the town and wind farm in the last landscape is some 8km away from the location of taking the image, crazy!. Again its sharp enough taking into account the haze of the atmosphere, no color fringing problems in the wind turbines.
With the main set of images here, I am less happy with the out of focus effects as the bokeh of this lens is not great!, anything bright and a little out of focus (i.e. The grass!) takes on a distracted look, feeling tangled and distracting with the image smoothness, Most noticeable in the two images of the sheep sitting down.
Those Doughnuts !! OMG!
As you can see from the photo of this lens sitting in my camera bag at the top of the post, a mirror lens is constructed very much like a reflecting telescope, like this diagram :
You can see that the center of the front glass element is used to hold the housing for the smaller secondary mirror in the construction, that folds the image light back down the lens and into the camera.
This system works amazingly well but for one problem!
For in-focus areas of an image the central lens obstruction is never visible, however for brighter areas of an image that are out of focus this central obstruction created by the secondary mirror housing, created a bright doughnut effect.
In the below images this is very clear!
The light gaps in the trees below turn into bright cycles, the rain on the table in the background focus also does the same.
In some images you can work around this effect and even use it as an interesting advantage?, you just have to get to know when this kind of lens is and is not usable !!!
For the most when you have a subject that has the potential to create this circle effect ! it just distracting and not likeable. This is the point at which the little price you paid to get a budget Telephoto lens €300 not €2000 starts to gets you back !!!
Getting Arty , MayBe?
Like any camera lens, Mirror lenses have their down sides (Slow, bright Cirles, Manual focus, etc …), you just have to get to know these features and ether use them to your advantage or don’t !!!
Some people love the bright rings and make good use of them 🙂 , one use could be nighttime street photography ?
So then ?
So if your looking for a cheep way to get a telephoto lens into your camera bag, a Mirror lens is well worth looking at in my own opinion. Don’t expect to work quickly with them or be lazy in your approach, however – but then most telephoto lenses need hard work to get good images, with a mirror lens you just have to add a little on top!
In the end, just like with all of your image making, you get out what you put in !!!!
Will I take this lens out more than I have? Maybe ! most likely not !! Watch this space ?
If I was starting again with few lenses and wanted a low budget long lens, would I get a Mirror lens , Hell YES !!! , With Great high ISO SLR’s even more so !!!
Sometimes the harder you have to work to get good images , the more you learn !!!!
Also see : Mirror Lenses – how good? Tamron 500/8 SP vs Canon 500/4.5L, a older review, ISO has moved a long way since this article but its a great comparison test (€300 Tamron v €2000+ Canon).
In those early moment as I awake
Visions of warm and gentle golden seas
a cool morning breeze.
Fading images of a island I do not know
Draining images of islands on which I want mind to stand.
An island that constantly haunts my dreams
particularly when reality falls apart at the seams.
An island in the spinning – turning sun.
An Island I long to understand
yet in the morning how far away its realty seems.
Can we only grasp life in our dreams
it slips through our fingers at the light of dawn.
you fade away and now are gone.
I walk along this beach
hot melted glass and cool flowing gasses meet.
Come tonight when I watch the setting of the sun
and wonder if on my Island of dreams, again a clear vision will come?
The Hills above Grange in County Killkenny, offer some of the most stunning landscape views in the county, here you are looking across the boarder into county Tipperary.
The day I took the following images I had been walking for a little while when I took a rest at a gate, there is that moment in the county when you see some cows resting on a sunny morning and they spot you from a distance. It only take a little time before they all stand and walk over to the gate, I think they are wondering if your the farmer and it time for their feed. Sadly for them I was not and all I could do for them was take some pictures of them to share on WordPress 🙂 🙂
We have many old forgotten farms around county Kilkenny, its hard to know just how old they could be?
There are so many memories lost in these places, so many working days following by family evenings resting out in the fields and the yards ……
Evening Poem : By Alice Oswald
Old scrap-iron foxgloves
rusty rods of the broken woods
what a faded knocked-out stiffness
as if you’d sprung from the horsehair
of a whole Victorian sofa buried in the mud down there
or at any rate something dropped from a great height
straight through flesh and out the other side
has left your casing pale and loose and finally
just a heap of shoes
they say the gods being so uplifted
can’t really walk on feet but take tottering steps
and lean like this closer and closer to the ground
it is the hours on bird-thin legs
the same old choirs of hours
returning their summer clothes to the earth
with the night now
as if dropped from a great height
I am always watching
the single heron at its place
alone at water, its open eye,
one leg lifted
or wading without seeming to move.
It is a mystery seen
but never touched
until this morning
when I lift it from its side
where it lays breathing.
I know the beak that could attack,
that unwavering golden eye
seeing me, my own saying I am harmless,
but if I had that eye, nothing would be safe.
The claws hold tight my hand,
its dun-brown feathers, and the gray
so perfectly laid down.
The bird is more beautiful
than my hand, skin more graceful
than my foot, my own dark eye
so much more vulnerable,
the heart beating quickly,
its own language speaking,
You could kill me or help me.
I know you and I have no choice
but to give myself up
and in whatever supremacy of this moment,
hold your human hand
with my bent claws.
I Saw From the Beach
by Thomas Moore
I saw from the beach, when the morning was shining,
A bark o’er the waters move gloriously on;
I came when the sun o’er that beach was declining,
The bark was still there, but the waters were gone.
And such is the fate of our life’s early promise,
So passing the spring-tide of joy we have known;
Each wave that we danced on at morning ebbs from us,
And leaves us, at eve, on the bleak shore alone.
Oh, who would not welcome that moment’s returning
When passion first waked a new life through his frame,
And his soul, like the wood that grows precious in burning,
Gave out all its sweets to love’s exquisite flame.
Round Tower and Church
Located in county Kilkenny, Aghaviller Round Tower and Church are together one of the most interesting of Irish Historic sites. Based on the presence of the round tower, it is believed that the Agherviller monastic settlement was once a relatively high-status ecclesiastical foundation dating back to Early Christian times. The church and a holy well not far from the site have been dedicated to St Brennain. We don’t know who founded the monastery but it could have been St Brennain. The round tower is built on top of a square stone plinth, an unusual feature which is only found in one other place in Ireland –at nearby Kilree. Sadly, only the lower 9.6 metres of the round tower survived.
The original NE facing round-arched doorway is in its customary location about 4 metres above ground level, although a ground-level lintelled doorway has been added in more recent times. The sandstone tower was unfortunately in deep shade from the nearby dense woods on our late afternoon visit, but it is worth a return trip in morning light to photograph the stonework which is beautifully dressed to the curve inside and out. There is a southwest facing square-headed window at the second storey level.
The church dates to the 12th Century but was significantly modified in the 15th by the addition of a massive tower over the chancel that served as a residence. Only the foundation of the nave remains. An archaeological excavation revealed a gully filled with kiln material and a sizeable ditch/boundary running north–south with stone revetting on its eastern side. This ditch is believed to have surrounded a second or outer enclosure, a common feature of high-status monastic sites.
Its easy to think that the best lens to spend a full day of Photography with would be a zoom lens, however my favorite and most respected lenses are all prime lenses(fixed focus lenght lenses).
One of my most respected and trusted lens is my Nikon 50mm f1.4, its fast , can work very well in low light and even at 75mm on my DX D7200 body (50mm on an FX) it makes me think in a very creative way. You have to frame you shots well before you click the shutter button, I find this much more creative that just walking around and zooming in and out at everything 🙂 although this can be a very fun experience.
While you need a zoom lens in order to make sure you can capture some subjects, Prime lenses make you think about the subject you want to capture!
So what kind of images can you produce if you only take one lens with you , A 50mm Prime?
Nikon AF-d 50mm f1.4 Gallery
These images from yesterday include a morning walk and then an evening walking alone the strand at Tramore, County Waterford
The Workhouse Story
The Irish Workhouse – An Overview
What was the workhouse?
The workhouse has been described as “the most feared and hated institution ever established in Ireland.”
The workhouse was an institution which operated in Ireland for a period of some 80 years, from the early 1840s to the early 1920s. There were 163 workhouses in total. If people could not support themselves, they could come into the workhouse. Here they would do some work in return for food. People had to stay and live in the workhouse and so the system was known as indoor relief.
The whole family had to enter together. This was a way for the landlords to clear the land of tenants who could not pay rent. Life in the workhouse was meant to be harsh so as not to encourage people to stay. One of the cruellest aspects of the workhouse was that family members were split up into separate quarters. Children aged two or less could stay with their mothers. Sometimes, family members never saw each other again.
The workhouse was not a prison. People could leave if they liked. The high walls surrounding the workhouses were for keeping out, not for keeping people in.
How did workhouses come about?
In Ireland under Brehon Law, the native laws dating back to Celtic times, rulers had to take care of the sick and the poor. In the 5th Century, Christianity came to Ireland and with it monasteries began to develop. Over time, these monasteries took on the role of caring for the less fortunate. From the mid 1500s, Ireland was invaded by Protestant English settlers. The land was taken from the Irish, the religious were prosecuted and the whole care system broke down.
The situation was so bad that by the beginning of the 1800s, it is estimated that some 2.3 million people were at near starvation level. At the time Ireland’s population was nearing 8 million. By this time also, most of Ireland’s small farmers and landless labourers were dependent on the potato as their main food.
In England, Scotland and Wales there was poverty too. The workhouse was an English system. The first workhouses in England opened in 1836. Almost 700 workhouses were built in England and Wales. The main concern of the Poor Law Commissioners in England was to ensure that the system was not abused by lazy people. Scotland by contrast had a more humane system based on outdoor relief. One of the key differences between England and Ireland at the time was that work was available in England whereas in Ireland, whilst people were willing to work, there was no employment.
In 1800, under the Act of Union, Ireland became part of Britain. Numerous committees were set up to investigate the extreme poverty in Ireland, but nothing was done. However, as more and more Irish people flocked toBritain in search of employment, the British Government acted and sent over one of the English Poor Law Commissioners, George Nicholls, to find a solution. This was his first time i nIreland. He did a quick tour and reported back that Ireland needed a workhouse system similar to the English one. The Irish Poor Law Act became law in 1838.
What did this Poor Law actually mean in practice?
It divided the country into 130 unions. A further 33 were added after the “famine” years. Each union was to have a workhouse and the workhouses were to be financed by a tax on land. George Wilkinson was appointed as architect to the Irish Poor Law Commissioners, to design and supervise the building of the workhouses. The first workhouses opened in 1841.
Before the “famine years”, the number of people entering the workhouses was low. People were slow to leave their holdings. However, by the autumn of 1846, it became clear just how bad the situation was. The potato crop was diseased and inedible. It was emigration, starvation or the workhouse. People began to flood in.
The system, based as it was on indoor relief, could not cope with the overcrowding, the disease and the deaths. Corpses, without coffins, were carried on carts day after day to be thrown into mass burial pits in the workhouse grounds. (The years from 1846 to 1851 are known as the “famine” years. It should be noted however, that while the potato crop was largely wiped out through disease, there were plenty of other foodstuffs such as grain and livestock being exported toEngland.)
After the “famine” years, the numbers of people entering the workhouse decreased and over time it became a place for people that society did not want: unmarried mothers, children born outside of marriage, orphaned and abandoned children, “lunatics and idiots”, old and infirm people, tramps who travelled the roads.
Between 1838 and 1921, the principal features of the poor law and the workhouse system remained largely unchanged. The system was abolished in the early 1920s, when Ireland gained independence from Britain.
What was life in the workhouse like?
Life in the workhouse was harsh and frequently cruel. There were many rules. The food was poor. There was little to do. People were separated from their families, hungry, frustrated, badly treated, bored and mostly without hope. Often the inmates reacted against this, by breaking the rules and by fighting amongst themselves. Some preferred prison to the workhouse as the food was better and the regime not as strict.
Staff were often ex police men or army. There was a very high dismissal rate with many of staff being cruel, incompetent and dishonest.
The diet varied somewhat from workhouse to workhouse. Generally, it consisted of stirabout, which is like porridge, milk and potatoes. Children got bread. Adults received two meals a day and children three. Reports of the time show that the food was often of very poor quality. The workhouse diet remained very basic and it was not until the end of the 1800s that tea, bread for adults and a meat soup dinner were introduced.
Very little productive work was carried out. One of the rules was that the workhouse should not enter into competition with outside businesses. When numbers in the workhouse were large, it was difficult to find work for everybody. In the earlier years, the Capstan wheel was in operation in some workhouses. Women & children, maybe up to several hundred, went around in circles pushing a big wheel for grinding corn. Breaking stones for building roads was a common occupation for the men. The women did domestic jobs such as cleaning or helping in the kitchen or laundry and looking after the sick. Older inmates were put to work mending clothes and spinning wool. Girls were meant to be trained for domestic service. Oakum picking was carried out in many workhouses. This involved separating out the strands of old ship rope so that it could be reused.
There were large numbers of children in the workhouse. In 1850, there were up to 120,000 children. Conditions were terrible for them. An English Clergyman who was in Ireland at the time expressed his shock at the total failure to provide for these children. He described the children in Limerick workhouse as skeletons covered in soars and dressed in rags. Many of the children who survived the “famine” years grew up in the workhouse. They have been described as having “the same guttural voice, a blank expression and of having a strange similarity.” These children only knew the workhouse existence.
Children were supposed to go to school in the workhouse where they were meant to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and the principles of the Christian religion. The reality was quite different. School teachers were often incompetent and cruel, incapable of teaching enormous classes of hungry and dirty children. From the 1860s onwards, social reformers pressed for the boarding out of children to foster families but this was slow to happen, probably because the workhouse would have had to pay the foster families. From about the 1870s onwards, the religious orders began to get involved and started setting up industrial schools, where children were meant to receive training. By the early 1900s, the days of children in the workhouse were beginning to draw to a close.
Did people ever leave the workhouse?
One of the ways that workhouse numbers decreased was through emigration. The cost of emigration to landlords was less than that of keeping paupers in the workhouse. An Emigration Commission was set up. Its representatives visited every workhouse in Ireland. Those who wanted to emigrate were offered free passage, clothing and a little money. Between the years 1848-1850, 4,175 orphan girls aged 14-18 left Irish workhouses forAustralia under a scheme supported by the Australian government. In the 1850s, the Poor Law started to assist young female paupers to Canada where there was demand for domestic servants. Over 15,000 girls were sent there.
Was there anything good about the workhouse system?
Though separate, the workhouse was also paradoxically a part of the locality in which it was situated. It provided business to local suppliers, some employment and medical care to the general population. Originally, the workhouse infirmary or hospital was just for the sick inmates. No qualifications were required for nurses and the level of care was very poor. From the 1860s, qualified nursing sisters began to make their way into the workhouses. Care of the sick improved greatly and the workhouse hospital was opened to non inmates. These local hospitals were missed by many when the system was abolished in the early 1920s. Some of the workhouses became county hospitals or homes. However, for generations that followed, people had an awful fear of spending their final years in the County Home, being as it was part of the workhouse system.
Portumna Work House, A Gallery
Don Bouchard Jul 2015
These Farmers; These Fields
Who are these farmers,
And who, these fertile fields,
Verdant under native grass,
That stand un-plowed,
That shake beneath the plow,
That lie now fallow,
That bear the planted seed,
That wear the heavy grain,
That await the Harvest pain?
And who, these Harvesters,
And who, these close-shorn fields,
Desolate in short-cut stubble,
That stand, stiff in silence,
That wear the heavy tracks,
That have endured the harvest,
That yielded up their dead,
That bristle through the falling snow,
That whistle wind-song low?
And who, these merry Farmers,
And who these stubbled fields,
Glistening beneath the melting snow,
That warm beneath the glowing sun,
That host the migrants of the sky,
That tremble the biting plow,
That accept the falling seed,
That wait beneath the welcome rains,
That cycle through the seasons once again?