Happy new year everyone! , I hope you all have a great time celebrating the New year and I hope 2018 is a great year for all of you 🙂
We have just returned from a moonlight walk in our locale woodlands and this New years eve we have had a clear sky and a full moon, what a great way to bring in the new year …..
Happy Christmas to everyone including all fellow bloggers, friends on Facebook along with anyone looking at this post.
I hope you have a great Christmas day and wonderful Holiday period, all the best !
Today the 24th Christmas eve marks the first day since the 21st that the Sun can be recorded as having moved its position when it setting, on the Horizon. The word Solstice itself means “standing still” and it is an amazing fact of nature that for the three days that follow the shortest day of the year in the North, the Sun does not change the position that it falls below the horizon at in the evenings.
Here are some more details about the Solstice on the web site Space.com : The Sun Stands Still
To mark this event here are some of my sunset images posted here on my blog over the last two years ….
Galley of sunsets
Today I just want to share this You tube link !
For the first time tomorrow morning the website “Ireland ancient east” are sharing the great events that have been taking place at Newgrange for over 5000 year. This is usually a private by invention only event but now the world can share the moment that the sun light travels down the passage tomb opening and falls on the wall at the back of the tomb,
If you can please log on it would be great if as many people as possible can share this Ancient event …..
Every year, the Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Ireland, attracts crowds to witness the solstice sun illuminate the ancient tomb’s passage and chamber. At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.
This week we will all experience the Winter Solstice, the moment that the amount of available Sun light has reached its lowest amount each day. From the 21st of December on the amount of day-light will start to slowly increase again, you could say that this moment marks the tree new year in the solar calendar !
The solstice may have been a special moment of the annual cycle for some cultures even during neolithic times. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland.
I want to mark this week by sharing some of the great Pagan monuments and sites I have visited both in the UK and here in Ireland, To the Pagan people of the past this week was a very special one, it marked the moment of new birth. It is for moments like these that Pagan people assembled their standing stones and stone circles.
Today I have posted and image of (Castlerigg stone circle,Keswick in Cumbria, North West England), this stone circle is one of the best preserved in Europe and located just north of the lake district, you can seen many of Cumbria’s great mountains in the background.
This stone circle would not only have been used to record the moments of the Winter Solstice but likely all the the events both in the (Sun’s the Moon’s and the stars) calendar of movements.
Here are some great facts about the Castlerigg stone circle :
The stones are of a local metamorphic slate, set in a flattened circle, measuring 32.6 m (107 ft) at its widest and 29.5 m (97 ft) at its narrowest. The heaviest stone has been estimated to weigh around 16 tons and the tallest stone measures approximately 2.3m high. There is a 3.3m wide gap in its northern edge, which may have been an entrance. Within the circle, abutting its eastern quadrant, is a roughly rectangular setting of a further 10 stones. The circle was probably constructed around 3200 BC (Late Neolithic/Early Bronze-Age), making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain and possibly in Europe. It is important to archaeoastronomers who have noted that the sunrise during the Autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill 3.5 km to the east. Some stones in the circle have been aligned with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions.
There is a tradition that it is impossible to count the number of stones within Castlerigg; every attempt will result in a different answer. This tradition, however, may not be far from the truth. Due to erosion of the soil around the stones, caused by the large number of visitors to the monument, several smaller stones have ‘appeared’ next to some of the larger stones. Because these stones are so small, they are likely to have been packing stones used to support the larger stones when the circle was constructed and would originally have been buried. Differences in opinion as to the exact number of stones within Castlerigg are usually down to whether the observer counts these small packing stones, or not; some count 38 and others, 42. The ‘official’ number of stones, as represented on the National Trust information board at the monument, is 40.
In the early 20th century, a single outlying stone was erected by a farmer approximately 90m to the south west of Castlerigg. This stone has many linear ‘scars’ along its side from being repeatedly struck by a plough, suggesting that it was once buried below the surface and also why the farmer dug it up. It is not possible to say whether this stone was originally part of the circle, or just a naturally deposited boulder.
December , the month of great sunrises and sunset …….
To-night the west o’er-brims with warmest dyes;
Its chalice overflows
With pools of purple colouring the skies,
Aflood with gold and rose;
And some hot soul seems throbbing close to mine,
As sinks the sun within that world of wine.
Some two weeks ago I took a part here on my blog in a seven day Black and White photography challenge, I loved these seven days with my camera with only light to work with, very much. However ever since I just wanted to get out and find as much of natures winter colours as I could find. At first this task looked a little harder than I thought it would be, so much of nature has died back as we slip into the early winter weeks, yet the more you look the more you find.
Like these strong reds of slowly rotting berries I found just sitting on a fallen Oak leaf.
Red has to be on of the strongest colours of autumn and early winter, it feels like the colour of the last signs of life as much vegetation turn red just days before its finally returns to the ground, the very place it took its first energy of life from.
I truly loved do the black and white photography challenge of the last week or so, however I am now looking forward to getting back to posting lots of images that show just how much colour there is in our world.
For my next photography project I want to find as much colour as I can in a Irish winter landscape, its not as easy find as in the summer months but its going to be great to look as hard as I can 🙂
Finding Colour in the Landscape:
James Hoban Born 1755 – Died December 8, 1831, was an Irish architect, best known for designing the White House in Washington, D.C. Some years back a team of architecture students from American both designed and built the Hoben monument featured here in this post. From the moment it became clear how this monument would look, I have been fascinated by its design and construction, it stands out locally for just how unique it feels surrounded by farm land and remote country lanes.
The Feature I love most about it is the way that at sunrise and sunset the light passes through the glass, the words written in the glass cast both shadows and reflections on the stone work and grass all around them, even to simple look through the glass panels and into the sun is a great experience, it has for myself succeeded to be a great example of modern public art and architecture.
This was the last post for the Seven day – one week, black and white Challenge, Thank you to Sharon Walters Knight for tagging me on Facebook to take part, I have really enjoyed the hunt for black and white subjects, its taken me back to the basics of what photography is all about 🙂
I own a big thank you to great friend and fellow photo blogger Sharon Walters Knight for tagging me last week on my facebook page, to take part in a Seven day Black and White photo challenge, I am really enjoying taking this on as its making me truly explore subject just for black and white images once again 🙂
This image of Dunhill castle, county Waterford, was taken during the last hour of bright sun light, this time of year the sun is very low in the sky so there is some great light to be captured, even more so later in the afternoon. Here I just loved the way the sun reflected on the old stone work of this great old building just moment before it set some distance away over the coast to the south.
The day after Hurricane Ophelia
The below images taken during on a walk up in the Grange hills between south county Kilkenny and Tipperary are from lunch time today, looking at them its hard to believe that only yesterday, Ireland for the first time ever in its history was hit by a full Hurricane force storm. Yesterday between the hours of 9am for county’s Kerry and Cork and then around 2pm for ourselves locally we had storm force winds of between 150kph and 130kph.
In the Morning the Irish met office via the media had informed everyone to stay inside and had issued a RED weather alert for the complete country, again for the first time in Irish history. In a very impressive way, almost everyone pulled a chair close to the fire and waited for Ophelia to arrive. When she finally did get to county Kilkenny, she did not come calling slowly or with any manners, she just came at us with full force gusts and left some three hours later. We have had two such storms locally since 2014 with storm Darwin back in February 2014, which I posted on back then, Darwin being however just a very strong Atlantic storm. During both these storms you can do little but sit and wait, however listening and looking out of the window is just shocking and basically very hard to do.
In 2014 when Darwin left she left with many of our local forests lying on the floor, as such I think Ophelia had little left to get her teeth into, as its only just over two years in the forests themselves since, the areas Darwin cleared are still empty of trees.
Yesterday evening we had many roads blocked with roadside trees, along with trees down on the river banks and in public parks .
The main effects this time nationally has been the loss of power with some 360,000 homes left without any electric supply, Ireland’s water systems also works mainly from electric water pumps so this supply for many has also been cut off.
This morning the weather had returned to normal , in fact it was a great and clear and sunny day, walking around at lunchtime for me the most noticeable thing is that the trees have all been stripped of any leaves, they have gone from the start of autumn colors to winter nakedness in only 3 hours, it’s really noticeable that instead of yellow and brown leaves sitting by the road sides, having naturally fallen, we have roadsides covered in green.
So Goodbye Ophelia and welcome to a peaceful sunny Tuesday in the Irish landscape, even if we are still in shock and only just starting to recover ……
Gallery from 17th Oct 2017 – the day after Ophelia
The old church yard at Killamery county Kilkenny is most famous for its highcross pictured here at the bottom of the post. The old church and grave yard however are just as interesting, the history of the area includes it being the location of a very large monastic site covering what would have been many large building now completely lost in time.
My sketch here I hope helps capture a sense of this wonderful place located on the boarder between county kilkenny and county Tipperary.
One of the location that I love to take both my camera and sketch book is Kells Priory, county Kilkenny. Its an amazing location to capture in many forms and I am very lucky to live only a few miles away. I have posted here on my blog about it many time, you can used the search box to find these post if you wish.
The above is a Pencil on Paper drawing I worked on from about two weeks ago and below is a photo taken earlier in the summer when there was many more visitors around the site.
The last few one hour sketches I have worked on, I worked in pencil and ink but yesterday I went back to pencil only, using a B, 2B and 5B pencil. The location was a great little church and graveyard in the towns lands of Whitechurch on the south Kilkenny boarder.
I really loved working with ink but wanted to get back to pencil, although the direction I feel that my drawing is going in I am working with mainly line and shapes so there is little difference as yet. With pencil however I like the fact that I can get more tone using different grades of graphite.
I feel the main things I learn during this drawing were, how much to actually include in the drawing from the view in front of me, how I feel I want to represent different organic items such a ivy and trees along with grass and weeds! I feel I got the size of the two grave stone over very well…
I feel happy with the finished sketch, feeling that overall I got across well using the medium the view that was in front of myself. The worked flowed very well with no need to stop during working yet I got a good sense of when to finally stop working and be happy that the drawing told the full story!
Last week here the weather in Ireland took a wet and showery turn, its starting to feel very close to the Autumn now. As such it was a little harder to finish each of the outdoor sketches that I started, If I have to stop a drawing I intend to return to the same location the next time I have a chance. However the sketch above is one that I did manage to finish, even this one was interrupted for some 15mins while I put everything back into my waterproof pack and waited for the rain to stop.
The location of this sketch is on the hillside just south of Clonmel and the river Suir, with a great view of the woods and its trees, looking towards the mountain of Slievenamon above, about a 10 min walk from the car park.
In the last two weeks or so I have started adding in some graphics pens to my work, I am finding that using these pens helps me keep freely flowing and moving as I work, I will return to just pencils at some point but am really enjoying the look and feel of the lines that these pens are adding. With Pencil I feel I end up with more stopping and starting during working as I think about tone and depth. light and dark, while this is great just for the moment I want to think about form and shape alone.
I am happy with this finished drawing, looking at it I wonder if I have overworked it just a little but I think for the moment I am happy. These are sketches and not final works, I am very happy , more happy if something is to be found in them that I can learn from and progress with.
Over the last few weeks I have been doing my best to find time each day to get outside and draw, Today I stopped at a local public Gardens that has some amazing paths, winding their way between some old trees. Its a great location that I hope to draw many times over the winter months.
Today as an exercise, I gave myself one hour to complete a sketch, using pencil and an ink pen on paper, in order to capture as best as I am able a sense of the path as it gets deeper into the trees along side it, as it does so the light falls dramatically.
I enjoy very much these one hour exercises, working quickly as possible yet as best as I can, I feel it is helping to build my ability to see whats in front of me and then how to use basic drawing tools represent this view on paper.
Loop Head Lighthouse, county Clare, Ireland
I have just spent a few days visiting County Clare, west Ireland, finishing with a visit to the great Loophead lighhouse. As you can see the day was very typical for a Septembers day here in Ireland, wet and windy.
It was still possible to visit the top of the lighthouse however which was great fun in the strong breeze.
I have very much enjoyed visiting some of Ireland’s lighthouses over the years from the north coast down to Hookhead, on the south coast, these remote location with their lighthouse keepers buildings that would have been both a place of work and a home, all year around and in all weather conditions, are a great reminder of the past.
A past that has almost gone but can in places like these still be felt very strongly.
Sometime back I found this video and have shared it before with other lighthouse posts, its still very much worth sharing again however as it reflects on the family life’s of Ireland’s lighthouse keepers …..
Here is a little history of the Loophead lighthouse
The first lighthouse on Loophead was one of four known Irish stone vaulted cottage type lights built about 1670. These cottages accommodated the lightkeeper and his family in two or three rooms and had an internal stone stairway between two of the rooms leading up to a platform on the roof where a coal burning brazier or chauffer was positioned. Part of the old cottage with its battered outside wall can still be seen near the lightkeepers’ dwellings.
The light must have fallen into disuse towards the end of the 17th century because it was re-established in 1720 after aldermen and merchants of Limerick petitioned the Irish Parliament in 1717 for a light on the Head.
The cottage-lighthouse with its coal fire was replaced in 1802 by a more conventional lighthouse, built by Thomas Rogers, who was also the contractor. The tower was about the same height as the present tower with four rooms and a lantern. The ground floor room was an oil store and access to the first floor or entrance room by an outside staircase of 19 steps. An internal spiral staircase connected the other two rooms and lantern. The twelve-foot diameter lantern contained twelve oil lamps, each with its own concave parabolic reflector. The reflected light shone through a 22″ diameter convex lens of solid glass, not unlike the ‘bottle glass’ or “bulls-eye” fitted into windows of modern psuedo-Georgian houses.
By 1811 the keeper was living in an adjoining cottage, rather than in the tower.
Loop Head Lighthouse, county Clare, Ireland , Gallery
The village of Cullahill, county Laois is located just over the boarder from county Kilkenny. It is home to some great old castle tower home and village chapel remains. Cullahill Castle was the principal stronghold of the MacGillapatricks of Upper Ossory built around 1425 and destroyed around 1650.
There are many places like this in the Irish republic, that have retained the remains of long lost times, this small village located on the R369 just north of Johnstown county kilkenny, is a perfect example of the way most small Irish villages would have been in the 1400’s. this small place is well worth a visit just to get a sense of old Ireland.
Classic lens review : Tamron Adaptall-2 135mm f2.5
I have a few classic Nikon and Tamron lenses in my kit of photography equipment as I find that there is something truly enjoyable about using an older manual focus lens.
One of the lenses I love using the most is my Tamron Adaptall-2 135mm f2.5 lens, it dates from the late 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s, as it was in production during this period. On both an FX and DX camera this lens offers a great field of view in your images. It is also a very fast lens at f2.5 however as with many fast lenses when wind open they are not at their sharpest, yet by using a still very fast F2.8 this lens produces very acceptable images.
These images are an attempt to show the sharpness that can be obtained, these images are taken outside and handheld …..
These images are just a very quick sample of this lens at different apertures, outside in the real world and without the use of a tripod. I feel that this is a very good way of showing just how usable this lens is in a real world environment and on a day to day basis.
Depth of field
One of the great features of a lens with this focus length (135mm) with a fast aperture is that you can isolate subjects that are at some distance from the camera, this is a powerful tool when used in your images and can help to create some interesting effects.
Here I post some very basic examples of using a different depth of field for the same subject.
Build Quality and Verdict
I feel that another great feature of this lens is its build quality, the copy I have is many years old yet still feels like new, its a great lens to use and a pleasure to work with. The focus and aperture rings are both wonderful to operate. Manual focus lenses from this era are built to last, constructed using all metal and built to operate with precision and smoothness. The colour and contrast produced are also among the best I have seen, even when put against my modern Nikon lenses.
All in all this is a lovely lens to use. Its very important to me that I like the equipment I use and this great little lens is right up there with my most loved in this respect.
If you can find one I would highly recommend this lens to anyone!, however as for my copy its not for sale! as I look forward to using it for many more years to come 🙂
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).
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 🙂 🙂
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
These June time Mornings and evenings can offer some wonderful light for landscape images, this week I am going to use black and white only to try to pull the best images from our local area ……