You are currently browsing the archives for July, 2010.
…well lough really.
As Ive mentioned before Ive recently bought a boat. Ive always wanted a boat, primarily to go sea fishing in so this year I got the opportunity and went for it. The boat itself is almost as old as me but with a bit of elbow grease, some rewiring and tinkering about with the engine Ive a quite usable speedboat….
…well if it didnt bloody rain all the time I might have, so next week its going in to get a custom all over cover fitted. Maybe then I’ll get to take it out more than 4 times in 6 weeks.
The last good opportunity to take the boat out was on the 12th July when my fellow countrymen made a liar out of me with my last posts. Good to see that recreational rioting is getting full media recognition and maybe it will be Northern Irelands gold medal sport in the 2012 olympics.
Having bought the boat and spent a couple of weeks redoing wiring, replacing all the safety gear, polishing and cleaning the boat up Ive been taking a pragmatic approach to taking the boat out on the water. My nephews enthusiasm to see its maiden voyage cross one of the most dangerous stretches of water on this island to Rathlin Island has had to be tempered though. A couple of hours out on Lough Neagh will suffice. Having said that though the first day I took it out I did enough miles to go to Scotland and back and realised that Lough Neagh is more like an inland sea than a peaceful lough. Its the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles and that doesnt say much when you are reading it but out in the middle when the wind picks up you realise what that actually means.
The Lough was said to be formed when Irish Giant Finn McCool took a dislike to his Scottish Giant neighbour and scooped out a large load of soil and stones and threw it at the theiving git as he made off home. Finn missed by a large margin and the large lump of soil landed in the Irish sea and became the Isle of Man. Always a better story than the actual geological history of the lough.
Its hard to get tourist information about the lough itself and Ive recently found out that is because it is owned by the Shaftesbury family. Apparently back in the dim and distant past some English King gave it to another English lord and it has been passed down through their family. Most of the people here thought it was owned by the State including northern Ireland water who take about 40% of the countries freshwater supply from the lough and thats thrown a spanner in the works for privatisation. Hence all the islands are private as Shaftesbury estates own the lake bed and some of the surrounds. One of the islands, Coney Island was purchased and then donated to the National Trust and now Craigavon Council.
So you can get loads of information on the bike circuit of the lough, the canoe trail but very little else about the inside of the lough.
The Lough itself has a lot of interesting features including Coney Island and Rams island with its round tower. Theres also an old World War 2 torpedo testing station which is now crumbling and a nature reserve full of nesting terns and other birds. Seemed a reasonable enough place to test torpedos from the nearby factory in antrim. Just load them up and let them fly across the lough!
Theres a couple of marinas as well, mainly Ballyronan and Kinnego marina and the Shaftesbury connection is probably the reason why a body of water that large is so under utilised compared to other lakes in other countries, certainly the Fermanagh Lakelands have more tourist facilities and information in a much smaller area.
More photo trips will follow now that Ive started to get the handle on this powerboating lark and will start to risk more than a floating compact in an underwater housing
I have to say though that although the idea for the boat was to go sea fishing and to give different photographic perspectives to local landmarks from the sea/water, the idea of just going out into the lough and sitting when the sun shines is definitely appealing.
more Belfast photos here
more Ireland photos here
more transport photos here
more Lough Neagh related photos here
…Orange? Red, Blue and Yellow?
Who knows Ive always liked Dutch football and to be honest the Spanish tippy tappy football is ok to watch but boring 1-0s doesnt make great World Cup football.
Still, fair play to both teams, both massive underachievers in the past and generally teams who implode due to various factions in their squads long before the final stages. Both camps in the past have been rife with national tensions (spain and catalonia, holland and their players from colonial backgrounds) which leads nicely into Northern Ireland in July.
The 12th of July is known as Orangemans Day. There are very few more divisive days in the Northern Ireland calendar than 12th of July.
For some its a day when they have the opportunity to put on show their religious and political history and affiliations, for others is a mass display of triumphalism. For some its a colourful religious ceremony, for others its just a lot of drunks getting drenched/sunburnt (usually both).
In most other areas of the world any historical parades or festivals are scenes of celebrations and huge draws for tourists. You might not know the significance or indeed what goes on but everyone is heading into town for a party so you go along.
Its probably too early in our movement away from recent history for this to be the case here at home. Despite the local tourist board trying to fund the events and rebrand them ‘Orangefest’. It still doesnt stop the majority of the minority population getting on boats, planes or getting in the car and not stopping until they are 10 feet across the border.
And thats a great shame.
Along with St Patricks Day its one of the unique bank holidays we have here and everyone knows how much we like a holiday (and a chance to get a drink). I think the Orangefest is still on the right lines and hopefully for future generations and future tourists it will become a festival and with time the riots/disturbances/sectarianism will all be lost in time and people will just go and watch old men wearing bowler hats and as much orange as you would normally see at a Dutch international match.
Ive photographed both sides of the events, you have to in this country.
To give a simplistic explanation Orangemans day celebrates the Orange Order which was an organisation formed after the Battle of the Diamond in 1795 in or near Dan Winters home in Loughgall. The Orange side came from Dutch King William of Orange after his defeat of the mainly Catholic armies of King James in Ireland primarily at the Battle of the Boyne. A battle commemorated today between a half French, half english catholic king (James) and a half dutch quarter english quarter french king (William) which had very little bearing on this island except for the fact the main decisive battles were here. The fact that William was also James’ nephew and son-in-law just adds creedence to idea that we shouldnt really get involved in domestic squabbles. Families eh?
The Orange Order is often portrayed as an anti-catholic organisation. Perhaps that might be a bit strong or maybe its not but you cannot be a member if you are Catholic and in the past the order has expelled members from attending Catholic church ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and the like. Which certainly hasnt helped Northern Irelands fractuous sectarian relationships.
Its close association with the previous one party state government in Northern Ireland led it to be seen as part of the state.
So until recently we have the diametrically opposed views of ‘walking the queens highway’ and a ‘show of triumphalism’. This has often been exacerbated by demographic changes where ‘traditional routes’ used for years by Orangemen during their annual parades are now along main thoroughfares through majority Catholic areas. The new politics here in Northern Ireland means that protests against this are now allowed by the state and so people do protest, the most noticeable being the Drumcree dispute which is still not solved and used to bring the country to a standstill, usually in flames and caused a boon for the car park at Dublin airport who regularly overspilled by a factor of almost 10 into nearby areas to accommodate the Northern refugees flying off to the sun.
The 11th night is one communities ‘bonfire night’ with wood being collected and stacked very high for months. In recent years the size of these bonfires have been curbed and the burning of rubbish, tyres and other things that produce toxic chemicals has been banned. In a lot of cases there are now street parties and its more of a family event. The irish tricolour is still burned at the top though, I doubt that will ever change. Oh and for balance the catholic bonfire night is the 9th of August to celebrate the introduction of Internment without trial. One side celebrates the family squabbles between the dutch/french/english and the other side celebrates a night of getting banged up in jail for months on end without trial. Come on guys!
Things have noticeable calmed in recent years but there are still a few flashpoints, but mainly well away from the city centre and in outlying areas of the city or other areas. Disputes that will only be solved by talking and by time.
Drumcree Church and the Garvaghy Road.
Part of the problem is the language used (as ever). The parades arent parades, they are demonstrations. That is a negative word. Its like when a good photographer friend of mine asked why we native English speakers say ‘take pictures’ instead of ‘make pictures’. He said as a non-native speaker the act of making pictures was better as take implied something negative. He has a very good point. The issue should be what we can do to make the parades more accessible to most and yet allow those who dont want to attend to go about their daily business. I remember as a kid being ‘sealed in’ by the Army on the 12th. Early in the am the army would set up cordons around our area and put up big screens, imprisoning us for the day. It will be a number of years yet before people my generation stop thinking like that, but it will come.
At some point maybe it will be a festival and before I sat down to write this I was going to extol the virtues of the opportunity we have for exploiting the tourism aspect…
…that was until I saw the weather and Monday (the twelfth) is the only good weather day to get my boat out and Ive no chance as most of the areas within driving (towing) distance all have parades and have traffic disruption. Thats the worst thing, the place just closes down, and that definitely has to change.
So come on the Orangemen (in the World Cup final of course).
Orangemans day photos here
more Belfast photos here
more Ireland photos here
..its been 4 weeks since my last blog post.
What can I say, I’ve been busy!
Firstly, the world cup has been on
. I’d love to say its been a classic but it hasnt. England overachieved (again). Honestly guys, you arent as good as you think you are.
The French self destructed and went out in the first round – sorry have to snigger at that one.
At the time of writing, we have just had the quarter finals and finally the tournament has sprung to life, teams actually trying to win games instead of not losing them. Argentina
were taught a lesson in football by Germany, Brazil outplayed, Paraguay only just beaten by a lacklustre Spanish side.
I remember standing on three countries corner in January (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) and thinking in the last couple of weeks that all three places would be going completely daft and surely at least one of those would make the final. Nope.
At the minute its very hard to see past Germany. No worries about dodgy offsides, ball going over the line cameras, vuvuzelas…
… nope scoring 4 goals a game will sort it out for you. (thats probably the kiss of death for them).
So what else have I been up to – oh yes, bought a boat, more on that in a later post (if I havent drowned).
Its been a busy time with ‘normal’ photo work as opposed to stock photography. Ive been involved in a number of dance photography projects as well as general tourism PR photography for one of the local tourist agencies – maybe more on that in a later post.
The Dance projects are interesting. One was to document all the work that a particular organisation does, from teaching to performances to providing working and conference facilities. It was a long project with a lot of quite interesting aspects but again more on this later as the photos are still embargoed until the new projects launch.
Once again I had the opportunity to work with local company Maiden Voyage. They are currently producing two portable dance productions to incorporate into various aspects of the community and the upcoming cultural life of the City.
The pieces are designed to be portable so that they can be performed anywhere and everywhere in limited space and on the fly as well as incorporated into larger productions and street or internal displays.
This provides a challenge both to the production teams and in terms of PR photography given the vagaries of the Northern Ireland weather. The crew just love it when the drizzle starts and I shout for them to continue as it puts a nice sheen on the roadway!
The first piece is entitled ‘Bubblegum’ and choreographed by Omar Gordon with dancers Ryan O’Neill and Fania Grigoriou. The piece is inspired by the idea of sharing our space and embracing the differences. As this was the first piece to be completed the venue choices for the photography had to really be something linked to the cultural aspects of the city.
The official description is ‘Set in an intricate self-made world of barriers and conceived with the idea of sharing a space and embracing our differences, BUBBLEGUM is an exploration of mania’s, idiosyncrasies and two comic characters attraction to each other.’ Thats pretty much the brief.
Maiden Voyage is based in the Cathedral Arts Quarter of the City so the first set of photos was to be in and around there coupled with a later set featuring the River Lagan which everyone from Belfast would recognise.
Sounds like a plan…
Of course to ensure clean backgrounds, quiet streets, good light and uninterrupted staging of a couple of run throughs of the piece, we would really need to be ready to go for about 8am on a Sunday morning. Sorry, we thought you said meet at 8am sunday. Yes I did, see you there.
As with everything tied up with deadlines, the weather was the key and we had an hour of good weather window to get the shots. As Id never seen the complete piece before we did a run through then I ran around like a maniac getting the angles for the PR photos. Even at this ungodly hour of a sunday morning there were some brave tourist souls who didnt realise that Belfast doesnt open to after midday on a Sunday! I hate staging Dance photos, I avoid it at all costs so for me its a case of running through the piece once, marking my spots then maybe one or two more runthroughs before isolating small sections for repeats. I let the dancers get on with it, they are the experts and minimal intervention from me except the odd stop and repeat that bit sort of thing. Its also important to get the choreographers input, listening to what they are trying to achieve and blending that with the options available in an essentially uncontrolled environment (that big yellow for sale sign wasnt there yesterday) and also producing images that can be used for PR purposes, that have impact, meaning and appeal visually to a range of audiences, not just those involved with Dance.
I can set a dozen images down and I know which ones the dancers, choreographers will like, the ones I like, the ones that are good for PR, the ones that will get published and the ones that will stick in peoples minds. Rarely do all of those intersect.
The final two shots selected try to accommodate all that, one in Hill Street and one on raised ground at the Lagan with the Harland and Wolff shipyards in the background.
The second piece ‘Dream a Little Dream’ choreographed by Suzannah McCreight with dancers Ryan O’Neill and Jen Thornton was a different prospect, both technically and aestetically. The official description of the piece ‘Tired of everyday life, a couple embark on a red carpet fantasy as they try out a celebrity existence invoking an era of old Hollywood glamour.’ For someone who also specialised in red carpet photos
, how hard could it be?
Well tell that to the Northern Ireland weather.
We initially wanted to contrast the first shots with the idea of the pieces being extremely portable so we came up with a few ideas for primarily big sky outdoor locations. Our first choice was McArts fort on the top of Cavehill with the city spread out below, another early morning shot and second choice as the likes of Stormont with a final idea of some truly red carpet shots at dusk some evening with the city lights twinkling in the background. We had a deadline for the photos so just had to wait for a weather window.
That left us with some more river dusk shots but the only weather window was at the same time as the local maritime festival so that was a no-goer as well.
Back to the drawing board and we decided for this set of PR pictures to focus in on the red carpet aspect of the piece and shoot it again in Cathedral Quarter but this time surrounded by the modern architecture and clean buildings and lines of the urban renewal section of the quarter. This contrasts with the old cobbled streets of Hill Street and the river which the city grew up around.
On reflection it suited the piece more to have this as the background given that the couple in the piece were trying to get away from everyday life and develop a new modern existence with a stylised view of an old era.
As a consequence of having to wait for weather windows we ended up putting on the first public performances of the piece. It was Sunday afternoon by the time the weather cleared for a Monday deadline. At first passers by asked if someone famous was coming along due to the red carpets and the photographer and videographers with multi light setups but everyone that passed by stopped to watch at least one of the run-throughs. Playing havoc with window reflections, but hey, how hard can this photography thing really be?
more Belfast photos here
more Ireland photos here