In order to reach the Burren in time for sunrise, we had to leave by 3:00 A.M. The only time I get up this early is when I have to catch an airplane. But this was different: I wanted to learn how to photograph a sunrise or what to do photographically if cloud cover obscured the sun, which often happens in Ireland. And to no one’s surprise, cloud cover is exactly what we got at sunrise. But not to worry: The Burren truly is magic, and in spite of an approaching storm, we still managed to compose a panorama that captured the mood of the lonely terrain.
The finished image was well worth the early wake-up call, and I learned so much!
In this picture of Peter you can see how nasty the weather was. The mud made it impossible for us to follow through with their plans to hike up to another venue on the hill in the distance. Besides, the rain was beginning to fall. However, one of the most important lessons I learned from Peter during our Burren excursion was that bad weather is no reason not to go out when you want to photograph landscapes!
Just before the rain really let loose, I grabbed this shot of the purple early-morning sky with my point-and-shoot camera.
On the drive back to Castleconnell, Peter stopped off at one of the most famous landmarks in the Burren. The Poulnabrone Dolmen (Poll na mBrón in Irish meaning “hole of sorrows”) is a portal tomb that dates back to the Neolithic period, probably between 4200 BC to 2900 BC. The angry sky painted a perfect backdrop for the mood of this ancient structure.
Back in the warm, dry studio, Peter walked me through the painstaking and precise process of finishing and printing the panorama from the Burren. I know I still have a great deal to learn, but I’m very much encouraged because of Peter's instruction. I can't wait to get back to Ireland in September!
The next day I received the image shown below in an email from Peter. Only then did I realize that he had photographed me while I was photographing the Dolmen. It was an incredibly wonderful surprise: Peter had created a hand-held panorama while I was engrossed in what I was doing. To me it represents a joyful portrait that I will always treasure. A bit later, I also received a video Peter made from our time together, which featured music from our pub outing. What a treat! Thank you, Peter, for your time, your talent, and your generosity!
My first day with Peter started at his studio, where he showed me how to determine and set the nodal point of the lens, which is vital when you are using a rotating panorama head. After the tripod, pano head, and camera were sorted out, we set out for the woodland we had visited the day before. There Peter helped me with the workings of the pano head and both the technical and artistic choices involved in creating a panorama composition
We started with a simple composition using the trees and pathway as primary subject matter. Next, we walked to a shelter made of sticks and branches and used it as the central element of the second panorama, designed to be printed as a black-and-white image. When we finished shooting for the day, we went back to Peter’s studio where he walked me through the steps for merging the sections of each panorama. I haven’t had so much fun since my first days in the darkroom when when watching an image develop was like magic! Here are the images from the first part of the day’s shoot:
For the second shooting location we drove to the nearby Clare Glens, where we would photograph the beautiful waterfall along the Clare River, which is sheltered by rocky wooded hills with paths that are approachable on either side. We walked the slightly steep trail to the falls that is well worth the climb. According to Peter, we were lucky not to find any swimmers in the river to have to work around. Here Peter is checking the adjustment of the camera, and in the image below it, he caught me while I was making exposures.
Here’s the final color image captured at a slow shutter speed to show the movement of the water:
I came to Castleconnell to study panorama photography with Peter O’Donnell, who I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing lecture at the Irish Professional Photographers Association conference last fall. I was so taken by his stunning landscapes, that Jim and I stopped by Peter’s Castleconnell gallery before we left for home. Here are some photos of Peter and the gallery that I took during our brief visit.
I stopped in at the gallery, and Peter was kind enough to take me on a tour of some of the beautiful settings that surround the village. We visited an incredible grove of trees where Peter said we would come the next day to photograph a simple panorama after reviewing the equipment we would be using at, all of which was new to me.
Castleconnell is a wonderful place for a photographer to live, as it is surrounded by so much beautiful scenery, including the Shannon River that forms one of its boundaries. Not surprisingly, Castleconnell is known for its fishing and rowing activities as well as for its many 19th-century buildings. I’m hoping that Jim will want to do some fishing here when we come for our annual September-October visit. That way I can get out and photograph some more of the great scenery, which should be spectacular in the colors of autumn.
During the afternoon I walked through the village and through another nearby town, where I saw firsthand the empty buildings that are the aftermath of the property bubble, which partially caused the meltdown of the Irish economy.
After dinner, just as the storm clouds were gathering, I met Peter and his wife, Michelle, at a wonderful pub in the village, which is filled with fishing memorabilia.
When Peter and Michelle asked if I was up to visiting another pub where traditional music was playing, I was thrilled. They didn’t know how much I love to listen to live music, and this was a particular treat, as the pub sponsored weekly music sessions for local music lovers to drop in with their instruments. Over a dozen musicians participated; it was totally informal, and the music was great! I would have stayed until the pub closed, but Peter and I had work to do the next morning.