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Ireland Journal

Rise and Shine

In spite of the fact that I’m not an early riser, I was really pleased when Peter suggested that the Burren would be a great place to photograph at sunrise. Jim and I have visited the Burren plateau in northwest County Clare before, having spent almost a week at nearby Doolin, a center for traditional Irish music. The Burren’s fascinating landscape is the finest example of a karstic terrain in Ireland; it comprises curious landforms and subterranean drainage systems that are characteristic of formations that occur where limestone passes beneath younger rocks composed of shale and sandstone. As the largest karst landscape in Europe, the Burren is famous internationally, not just because of its beautiful limestone characteristics, but also because of the remarkable flora of the region and its rich archaeological heritage. The term “Burren”(“Boireann” in Irish) is derived from the Gaelic for “stony place” or “great rock.”

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!



Learning To See Through A Wider Eye

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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.

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Here’s the final color image captured at a slow shutter speed to show the movement of the water:



Ten Magic Days in Ireland

Last month I traveled to Ireland for business and for pleasure—this time without Jim—and for the first time driving on the left side of the road all by myself. You can see the tiny blue car they gave me in this photo of Beechfield House, the lovely bed and breakfast where I stayed in the charming village of Castleconnell in County Limerick, which fortunately was an easy drive from the Shannon Airport. I had no time to blog in Ireland, and from the moment I got back I’ve been on the move. So I’m catching up now, as I don’t want to forget anything about this wonderfully memorable visit during what turned out to be fabulous fun for me and some historic days for Ireland.

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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.

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Peter generously agreed to two-days of training, and I’ve been excited about the prospect ever since. You can view his fantastic work at this link: www.TheWiderEye.com as well as learn about Peter’s classes and educational resources at this link. I wisely decided to spend one day getting acclimated to the five-hour time zone difference by visiting the village and the area around it.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Memories of Reasons to Stay

In August, 2003, Jim and I made our first trip to Ireland. My family heritage is Scots-Irish and English, but it wasn’t family history that compelled me to nag Jim relentlessly to find time away from the business to spend a week in Ireland: It was the music. I grew up with folk music, and so much of it is rooted in the Celtic tradition. I wanted to go where I could hear live music with Celtic instrumentation (traditional and contemporary) and to visit some of the places I’ve heard about in simple, tuneful, unforgettable Irish songs.

On our second visit we returned to the breathtaking Dingle Peninsula, which captivated us on our short, two-day stay in 2003. I stopped by the Dingle Record Shop to pick up some CDs and asked about any live pub sessions that evening, and I was delighted to learn that a well-respected Irish singer-songwriter, one Kieran Goss, would be playing an informal session in a church building undergoing renovation. Kieran was looking for audience feedback on songs he was considering for an upcoming CD that would be recorded in the U.S.

So at dusk we found our way to St. James Church, and I got my first listen to Kieran’s wonderful songs. I’m writing about this now because while surfing for some Celtic songs this evening, I came across a YouTube video posted in late September. It shows Kieran in a 2008 performance singing my favorite of his many compositions, “Reasons to Leave,” the song that made me an instant fan that memorable night in Dingle Town.

I play “Reasons to Leave” again and again, and I still find it remarkable that the song’s opening four-line stanza so perfectly sums up why I feel the way I do about Ireland:

Ireland's a dream
Of hope for what the day will bring.
The land and the sea
Is what I've come to trust.

And yet the context in which Kieran wrote this poetic gem is so different from mine: I am drawn to Ireland as a visitor; I come to this rejuvenating land and sea to slow down the pace of my world, to visit with wonderful Irish friends, and to bring myself back to the pure love of photography. But Kieran writes about the soul-wrenching dilemma that so many generations of Irish citizens have faced in deciding whether to eek out a living in their beguiling country during impossible economic times or to leave their home and family in search of a better future.

Loving Ireland the way I do, it’s enormously sad to contemplate having to face such a devastating decision. When I’m searching online for videos of Irish musicians, I read the comments of Irish expatriates in Australia, the UK, Canada, America, and elsewhere, who plainly express their longing for home; many say they are not quite sure where they belong, and the music is a healing bridge to their past.

In discussing the genesis of the song, Kieran explained that some of his 15 siblings made the hard decision to immigrate, and he writes about the emotional conflict of their urging him to do the same, in the face of his compulsion to remain in Ireland:

All that I am
Is telling me I should not go.
And all that I know
Is they're telling me I must.

At the heart of this soulful song, Kieran quantifies his dilemma in terms of reasons to leave and reasons to stay:

Reasons to leave
Are money and finding better work.
Reasons to stay
Are music and love.

Reasons to leave
Are fortune and fame for what it's worth.
The reason to stay
Is heaven on earth.

Kieran’s decision to stay in Ireland has led to a solid career, with devoted fans like me around the world. I visit his website often in hopes that I can catch a concert, either in Ireland or at home. You can sample some of Kieran’s music at this website link or on iTunes. If you love James Taylor, I bet you will love Kieran Goss. But first, watch his “Reasons to Leave” video below. To me it is a treasured reminder of a magical evening that truly was heaven on earth.


The Ireland Journal Derailed . . . Temporarily

There are no posts that I enjoy making more than those in the “Ireland Journal” category. I love sharing our annual adventures in Ireland, the old friends we visit, and the new friends we make. Posting the images also forces me to do the not-so-easy job of editing. It’s one thin, when you are working on a client order; it’s another when they are your own images and you have over 8,000 to view.

I had to put aside the editing because of work and politics in that order. Some important last-minute jobs started hitting me in October; and things haven’t let up since. Just when I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, I discovered it was a train moving toward me at 90 mph.

I’m also finding the political climate that is so blatantly anti-business to be more than a distraction as well. I’ve spent a lot of late-night hours reading legislation and doing the kind of basic research I haven’t don’t since my journalism days. What I’m seeing is scary in the extreme for businesses . . . especially small ones like photography. I’m torn between getting back into politics like I did in the Eighties, or just keeping my head down and my eye on the photography industry in the hope that Washington will realize that they are dismantling the engine that drives our economy. I’d rather do the latter, but as my students know, my business philosophy is that “Management by Hope” is a fool’s errand. So we’ll see.

In the meantime, my goal is to get back to editing and posting in the Ireland Journal during the holidays. I’ll post a direct link as I do so for anyone who is interested. Can’t think of a better way to enjoy my Christmas holiday!

What a Difference a Year Makes

Before we headed to Dublin, we made two stops to see friends we visited last year: Maria Dunphy in Kilkenny, and the Deasy family in Kildare.

This time last year, Maria was just getting started on remaking the business from which her father, Oliver, had retired. At the time it seemed like an almost insurmountable task to restructure and restyle the business, which included renovating most of the building . . . liquidating the camera shop, and transforming it into a gallery-type boutique that is more appropriate for Maria’s brand of contemporary portraiture. Here’s how it looked last year . . .

And here’s Maria with the newly painted storefront. What a transformation! And that’s just the start . . .

Although the renovations are not 100% completed, the former reception/camera shop is completely transformed, creating the perfect environment for viewing Maria’s work and for receiving clients.

The back camera room is ready for business, so Maria now has a fully functioning high-key camera room on the second floor, and a low-key camera room for more traditional portraits behind the gallery/reception area. The pass-through that connects the two rooms will house a second gallery and comfortable seating.

The second-floor sales room is still a work in progress, but you can already see that it will be a real “wow-factor” environment when images are hung and final touches applied. I’m hoping to visit Maria’s studio again next year to see the full effect. In the meantime, I’m astounded at how much progress Maria has made in a year, as I know just how hard it is to remake and rebrand a business. You can see more of Maria’s rebranding efforts by visiting her new blog. Just click here.

Our next stop was at the Newbridge home of Deasy Photography. It was great to see Padraic again and review the impressive refinements he has made in solidifying his brand and to hear the actions he’s taken to blunt any negative affects of the current recession. This time last year Sonia was pregnant, but today she was at home cooking another of her famous Indian dishes, so we wasted no time in heading for the Deasy’s home.

This year we were greeted by four Deasy children, from left: Big sister Sofia; Lucy, who has become quite a single-minded character; new baby Ross (big for his age, and fortunately friendly); and Matthew, who loves having a little brother to even up the team.

Aside from the arrival of Ross, not too much has changed in the Deasy household: Sofia is still gorgeous . . .

Padraic is still a great hand’s-on dad . . .

And Sonia is a genius in keeping four kids organized while she cooks the best dinner ever!

Thanks again to the Deasys for a memorable evening, including their valiant effort to medicate Jim’s cold with good Irish whiskey. At least he felt better temporarily!

The Intriguing World of Ballydoyle

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Touring The Rock of Cashel & Holy Cross Abbey

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A Visit with Sinéad in Thurles, Tipperary

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The Beguiling Aran Islands

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More Ireland Adventures

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Heading Home

After the workshop concluded, Lorcan and Joan Brereton were kind enough to deliver Judy and me back to our hotel in Dublin for the first leg of our trip home, and were delighted for the opportunity to stop by their spacious studio that is specifically designed to handle large family group portraits. Lorcan’s mother set out a lovely tea for us, which was especially cheering because of the dreary weather through which we had traveled that day.

When I say the weather was dreary, I mean it. Lorcan took this photo of Judy and me withstanding the blustery winds at a scenic overlook on the way to the hotel.

Judy and I stayed at the charming and historic Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in the leafy suburb of Killiney, only a stone’s throw from the South Dublin coast. By the next morning the weather had brightened considerably, and I grabbed this shot of Judy before she headed to the airport for an early flight.

Before I left, I was able to link up with Barry and Margaret Moore to visit their Photogenic Studio, which is a landmark in the picturesque town of Dalkey, only a short drive from the hotel.

Here are Barry and Margaret in the studio . . .

. . . and taking in the sun at nearby Sorrento Park.

Barry grabbed this shot showing Dalkey Island behind me.

We then adjourned to a neighborhood pub where we enjoyed lunch . . .

. . . conversation . . .

. . . and a pleasant round or two.

What a perfect way to end a memorable visit to Ireland!

Hail The Irish Guerrillas!

On the last full day of the Guerrilla Management Workshop in Athlone, we got together for the most unusual class photo I’ve ever appeared in . . . and the most fun! I love it because it is the perfect reminder that although everyone who attended was seriously committed to enhancing their business management skills, this was a wonderfully fun group of photographers! Though not as energetic an image, here’s a better view of the workshop participants.

Thanks to Maria Dunphy for capturing both group photos and also to Lorcan Brereton for providing some of the photos below.

Like most of our workshops, we had photographers with differing lengths of time and experience in the industry. Years ago this would have complicated a hand’s-on class, but not today, as every photographer is either starting or relearning how to reach today’s consumers in an ever-changing economy. The entire group stayed on task, and I’m expecting to hear some outstanding progress reports.

After dinner one evening, we had a brainstorming session about reaching new markets, and I was especially pleased with the participation.

The conversation continued when Mary O’Driscoll arrived, and the group decided to meet again with Mary as a facilitator to keep the ideas coming. It was great to see photographers being so willing to contribute ideas and to explore them as a group so that everyone can benefit. The group has promised to keep me informed about their progress, so I expect that I might have more to report in the future.

On our last evening in Athlone, the class had a lovely meal together, and I was pleased that Maria Dunphy and her aunt, Sister Nina, were able to join us. I wrote about Maria, Nina, and Maria’s dad, Oliver, in an October 10, 2007 blog post when I visited their studio in Kilkenny.

After dinner, Judy and I were surprised and touched to receive gifts from the class: “Thank-you Teacher” notepads and beautiful crystal candle holders. Mine is now proudly displayed in my living room along side the candle stick set that my son machined for me when he was in college; they look great together, and I treasure them both. Judy and I will never forget the wonderful teaching experience and the fine friends we made in Ireland!


The Oldest Pub in Ireland?

By the time Judy and I got back to Athlone from Galway, it was getting dark and the weather was threatening.

So we ducked into a mall to pick up a few necessities and discovered a crowd of fans biding their time by enjoying a televised football match.

We asked some shop clerks to recommend a local pub, and they pointed us to Sean’s Pub, which claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Well, it was old and full of Guinness to be sure, but after checking online, I determined that the “oldest pub” claim is in considerable dispute. I found one entry that purports to be written by Sean himself, and his admission about the origins of the claim is pretty funny. Click here to read it. Here Judy and I are in Sean’s, posing with a local policeman (known in Ireland as a “garda”). Judy and I made a early night of it, as we wanted to be in good form for the first day of our first “international” Guerrilla Management Workshop.


Out and About in Ireland

A week ago Friday, with only a few hours of sleep on an evening flight from Newark, I arrived in Dublin at 7:00 A.M. to get set for the first Guerrilla Management Workshop outside of the U.S. I met up with my teaching partner Judy Grann an hour later, and shortly thereafter Mary O’Driscoll arrived to whisk us off to Athlone, where the workshop would take place under the auspices of the Irish PPA and Skillsnet, a government-funded learning network for which Mary is a project manager. Since this was Judy’s first trip to Ireland, and she was determined to see a castle while in the country, Mary obligingly drove us to one: Here they are in front of Malahide Castle, which dates back to 1185.

After Mary got us settled at the Hodson Bay Resort, located on the shore of Lough Ree, Judy and I headed to Athlone Town to see the sights.

Athlone, County Westmeath, is located in the geographical center of Ireland, set on the banks of the Shannon River, which bisects the town.

Situated next to the bridge that spans the River Shannon is Athlone Castle, an imposing military fortress, which resides on the ground where the original wooden castle was built in 1129 because of its strategic importance as the principal fording point of the middle Shannon. The castle touring season begins in May, so Judy and I had to be content with walking its perimeter and photographing it.

Since the workshop didn’t begin until Sunday, Judy and I got a good night’s sleep then headed to the Athlone bus station on Saturday morning to take a quick sight-seeing trip to Galway. Arriving at the Galway bus terminal after a pleasant 90-minute bus ride, we took a leisurely shopping stroll from Eyre Square through the charming Shop Street and Saturday Market, and finally to Quay Street.

Next, we visited the famous Spanish Arch, a remnant of the town’s walls that protected Spanish merchant ships from looting. The arch stands on the left bank of the Corrib River, where the river meets the sea.

Then we explored The Long Walk along Galway Bay . . .

. . . made friends with a handsome heron . . .

. . . then stopped in for a late lunch at this charming restaurant just inside the Spanish Arch.

Judy and I feasted on a to-die-for seafood chowder . . .

. . . then made a few final purchases, and headed back to Athlone.


Guerrilla Management Goes Abroad!


Epilogue: About All Those Sheep

Jim and I are now back home from Ireland, and we had to wait to get here to post the rest of the blog articles I wrote while we were in the western part of the country, as well as proof everything which is hard for me to do on a laptop. At some of our stops, I couldn't find an Internet Cafe, and even cell phone service was spotty. But that wasn't a bad thing: no email to answer and no calls to return. Now that's a real vacation!

It was a spectacular trip, and I'm so thankful to all the photographers, B&B hosts, and pub friends who made us feel so welcome.

Now about the sheep: Somewhere along our journey, I became addicted to photographing sheep. I'm not totally sure when it happened, but I have to admit I'm hooked.

Maybe it occurred when I was out there in the rain with all those perpetually wet sheep in Donegal. I really admire the way they never seemed to fret about the rain.

Perhaps it had something to do with seeing how loyal they are to their friends from other species.

Maybe I was impressed with how giving sheep are because of all that wool I saw at the Leenane Sheep Museum . . .

. . . or how patient they were at the Ram Fair.

Or perhaps it was just a matter of learning that some sheep really like to pose for the camera. Honestly they do. Granted that most sheep will run off when you approach them.

And some who are munching away on grass may not move, but they won't look into the camera even if you set off a firecracker to get their attention.

But some sheep REALLY like to pose.

Some, in fact, look positively blissful when they pose.

Some like to look directly into the lens . . .

. . . while others prefer to show off their distinguished profiles.

Many are most comfortable while posing in their natural environment.

And in case you are wondering about the different colors sprayed on the sheep . . . this is a branding technique. When it come times to round up the sheep, their ownership can be sorted out by their colors. Some sheep are sprayed with a single color, others with two, and some truly border on the psychedelic.

Whatever their colors, some sheep like to pose all by themselves . . .

. . . while others prefer group portraits.

But occasionally, one is so shy that he will do anything to avoid the camera.

Posers usually have a way of making themselves known; just look for the one sheep in the group who pays attention to what you are doing. I find they like to hear you talk to them.

Some will be so happy to have human companionship that they'll come right to you . . . and bring their friends with them.

So as you can see, I've become pretty invested in this sheep thing, and I'm really looking forward to hitting the road again next year in Ireland in search of posing sheep. Of course I couldn't have found so many without Jim's expert driving ability and willingness to sit by the side of the road while I was sheep hunting. From the photo below, I'm not certain whether he's laughing at me or at the sheep. Either way, I'm grateful for his help.

I'm also grateful to everyone who has written to me about enjoying my blog posts on this year's adventures in Ireland. I'll be taking some time off from the blog to get caught up on the vacation backlog. But I'll be baaaa . . .ck!

A Taste of the Connemara

If you want to do some serious landscape photography, it can't get much better than the Connemara, which comprises the entire area northwest of Galway city, Lough Corrib and Lough Mask. Nothing could have prepared me for the dramatic beauty of the hypnotic environment that we traveled through as we drove from Westport along the Atlantic coast through Louisburgh to Leenane. I'm not much of a landscape photographer; I typically prefer to photograph outdoor environments that include people, animals or architecture, but I was thrilled with a chance to do even a little photography of the unspoiled Connemara. I had heard that it takes at least a week to visit all the most scenic areas of the region, and that is definitely true. But even in the small area where I was photographing, the terrain is so diverse—ranging from lush to austere—with the ever-changing light adding to the drama. I shot over 3,000 images, so it will take a while to sort them out, but here are just a few that show the range of scenery I found in the Delphi Valley area, starting in southwest County Mayo between the Mweelrea Mountains, the Sheffrey Hills and Ben Gorm Mountain, and our Leenane, County Galway, destination. Along the way we passed two lakes: Finlough (Bright Lake) and Doolough (Dark Lake), with Bundorragh River connecting the two before entering the sea at Killary. The village of Leenane lies nestled between the Mwelrea, Devil's Mother and Maamturk Mountains and overlooks Killary Harbor, Ireland's only fjord.

May and June are the months that have the least amount of rain in the Connemara, but to be there in October, when there were virtually no tourists, was an unmatched experience. Stretches of time as long as ten minutes would go by when there were absolutely NO cars on the road except ours. All you could hear were sounds of nature—mainly the rush of streams, the whistle of wind, and the occasional bleating of sheep.

As we drew closer to the village of Leenane, the landscape became more lush . . .

. . . there were more sheep . . .

. . . and an occasional sheepdog on duty.

We also passed some kayakers navigating the rapids on Bundorragha River. Adventure sports facilities are now bringing more tourism to the area, which has to be a help to the local economy.

Jim figures that fishing the Bundorragha will be a day well spent, and he is already making plans.

So if you love nature—participating in it or photographing it—then put Connemara on your list. Here are two websites that will help you start making plans: www.connemara.ie has an excellent video on its home page, and www.goconnemara.com provides directions for navigating "The Connemara Loop," with information about all of the villages along the way. We're already planning our return to the area next year, and I'm determined to visit each of these villages and the land in between. Connemara has truly cast its spell on me.

The Day the Rams Came to Town

Given my attraction to photographing sheep in Ireland—Jim says I won't be satisfied until I've photographed EVERY sheep in Ireland—it was pretty amusing to learn that the annual Blackface Ram Fair would be hosted right in the road in front of our B&B, starting at 5:00 A.M. today. The purpose of the fair is to allow farmers to purchase rams from different blood lines to keep their herds from becoming inbred. In addition to the commerce that takes place, the event is a huge social occasion, and I had a ball photographing the action and learning about Blackface Rams.

This gentleman asked me to photograph his rams and to put it on the Internet and tell everyone that these are fine examples of Blackface Rams. So I did. i hope he had a great day at the Fair. I certainly did!


Leenane, Sheep, and the Magnificent Kylemore Abby

The last stop on our journey was the small fishing harbor of Leenane, which would be our base for three days of exploring the Connemara. I immediately fell in love with Leenane, in spite of a day-and-a half of the worst weather I've experienced in Ireland. But even that was interesting; I've never been awakened by a sea-blown gale with 80 mph gusts that rattled the windows. We were quite cosy at Portfinn Lodge (shown below), our B&B accommodation that overlooks the harbor and hosts one of the best restaurants in the Connemara. I truly enjoyed a day of editing images and watching the waves. Leenane has an excellent website where you can learn more about this picturesque community.

Once the wind finally died down, we ventured out to Leenane's fascinating Sheep & Wool Museum, Cafe and Gift Shop.

No . . . the Gift Shop was not the main attraction, although it was great; we found a wealth of information about the rich history of sheep commerce in the Connemara . . .

. . . the many and varied breeds of sheep (who knew?) . . .

. . . and the traditional means of spinning the wool . . .

. . . and weaving different kinds of cloth.

From there, we moved on to nearby Kylemore Abbey, which is one of those not-to-miss places in the Connemara. Kylemore Castle was built in 1867-1871 by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy surgeon, as the centerpiece of his 13,000 acre estate. As a landloard, Mitchell was well thought of by the local farmers. Upon the untimely death of his wife in 1874, he built a neo-Gothic Church in her memory. In 1920 the castle and 10,000 acres were purchased by the Benedictine Nuns for 45,000 pounds. Today Kylemore Abbey is the monastic home of the nuns and includes their international school for girls, with about 70 boarders and 100 local students. The nuns run a small farm, but most of the lands have been deeded to the tenants of the estate.

Photographers seem to be obsessed with photographing Kylemore, and I can see why. There are many vantages from which to view the castle, and the scene changes dramatically as the light moves in and out of the clouds. Here are my two favorites from today.

Here's the view from the front of Kylemore Abbey . . .

. . . and here's Jim enjoying the view. Looks like he owns the places doesn't he?

Photography is permitted inside the public rooms of the Abbey, so here's a look at some of the fabulous interiors of this magnificent building.

Both of us just loved the dining room, and Jim has come to the conclusion that the Benedictine Nuns are excellent investors and business managers. I wouldn't be surprised, because their Craft & Retail Shop and Restaurant at the Visitor Centre is the best I've seen. And they were having a 20% off sale today. Even Jim couldn't resist that! We had to buy an extra suitcase to get home. It is truly worth a trip to Ireland just to visit Kylemore Abbey.

The Beauty of Achill Island

I a so grateful to Eamonn McCarthy for suggesting the trip to Achill Island, and the route he sent us on was perfect. It took us through the lovely town of Newport, which we'll certainly want to explore more thoroughly on another visit.

Along the way, we stopped to photograph some interesting "animal buddies" . . .

. . . and we even encountered some sheep who were standing watch over their home.

Then we came to the town of Mulranny, where a bridge connects the mainland with Achill, Ireland's largest island.

Almost immediately the landscape became more rugged, starting with the windswept beaches.

I was not surprised that all day we experienced typical coastal weather: rainy one minute and sunny the next. Unless it is blowing sideways, the rain isn't a problem when you are photographing in Ireland; you just need to be dressed appropriately. Luckily, by the time we reached land's end at Keem Beach, the sun was out, so we spent some time soaking in the magnificent environment, deciding that this would be the perfect place to come for a picnic.

I really love Ireland in October, because you miss the usual crowds. We were almost alone at the beach . . .

. . . except for a few surf fishermen . . .

. . . and a young couple enjoying each other's company.

Finally we were ready to tackle the narrow mountain road that brought us down to the beach. Fortunately the trip up the mountain is much more comfortable, since your car is against the mountain, not hanging out over the cliffs, as you are going down because of the left-hand driving arrangement in Ireland.

As we headed back to Westport, the clouds began to gather, but they made a wonderful picture out over the Atlantic.


Another "Ireland is a Small World" Moment

One of my only disappointments about this trip was that our timing was off in visiting Westport, as we would be unable to meet Alan Hastings in his home town. We have known Alan for many years, having first met when he was working for a New York photographer who sent him to a class that we taught in our Annville studio. Alan and his wife Caroline eventually returned to Ireland to raise their family, settling in Westport where Alan opened his own studio. We renewed our acquaintance last year at the Athlone IPPA meeting, and Alan also attended my class in Galway last Monday. But we knew we were going to miss each other in Westport, because Alan was shooting an out-of-town job on Friday, and he and Caroline, whom we have never met, had a wedding on Saturday. Here I am with Alan at last year's IPPA meeting:

So what about that "Small World" issue? I had slowed down our progress to Achill Island by spending more time that I expected at Croagh Patrich, and Jim just rolled his eyes when I said I wanted to photograph the Famine Memorial and the border collies. Well . . . just as I was getting in the car to leave for Achill, I heard horns honking and a line of cars pulling into the beach right next to us. I said to Jim: "I bet it's a wedding. Wouldn't it be a riot if it turned out to be Alan's wedding?" Another eye roll from Jim. But I persuaded him to follow the wedding party, and—you guessed it—it was Alan and Caroline and the wedding party. We waited until the photography was underway, then we introduced ourselves to the limo driver to tell him what was up.

For the next 15 minutes or so, we watched as Alan and Caroline, selected and tidied up locations . . .

. . . gave directions for group pictures . . .

. . . and did a highly professional job with the photography.

We didn't want to interrupt Alan, but eventually he spotted us, the Caroline came over and introduced herself. What an unexpected treat!

Now that we were busted, I followed Alan, Caroline, and the happy couple for a few images. Nothing like old Celtic ruins for a spectacular portrait setting!

Finally, I got this quick photo of Alan, Caroline, and the bride and groom. We wished them a happy life together, and we were off to Achill Island. So our visit to Westport was now a complete success. A small world indeed!


The Tidy Town of Westport

All roads, it seems, lead to Westport. This County Mayo town is located on the west coast at the south-east corner of beautiful Clew Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. One of the few planned towns in the country, it was designed by James Wyatt in 1780. Among its picturesque features are its tree-lined and flower-decorated promenande and several stone bridges over the river Carrow Beg.

Westport is designated as a "Heritage Town" and recently won the prestigious National Tidy Towns title. We could see why yesterday when we took a walking tour of the town, where we were attracted to its delightfully decorated squares, shops and cafes.

Westport's visual charisma, breathtaking landscapes and continental flavor have made it one of the country's most popular holiday destinations, and it has a great selection of hotels, restaurants and pubs. Speaking of pubs . . . we got quite a surprise when we dropped in at one of the older pubs in town: The surprise was named Rebel, and he's a full-grown old English sheep dog, who is a frequent visitor with his owner, a transplanted American from Atlanta. Dogs are allowed in Irish pubs if no food is served.

Another delightful surprise was an impromptu visit with talented landscape photographer Eamonn McCarthy. During our visit to Cong, I had purchased a set of notecards featuring Eamonn's wonderful photography, so I wanted to look him up while we were in Westport. Turns out his gallery was only a few doors down from our hotel, so we stopped in to purchase an original. Happily, Eamonn was there, not out shooting the vast County Mayo landscape. I was very impressed with how much Eamonn has accomplished with his business, which, like many of us, began as a hobby. I'm certain you will enjoy seeing Eamonn's outstanding work when you visit his website. Eamonn also teaches classes on digital photography, and I know I certainly could benefit from studying with him. Maybe next time!

One of the reasons we had come to Westport was that it is the perfect gateway for the beautiful Connemara region of Ireland. I wanted to spend some time photographing there, and Eamonn was kind enough to make some suggestions about where to visit. He told us not to miss Achill Island, so we decided to set out for Achill the next day.

Today, before heading for Achill Island, we decided to stop at one of Westport's most beloved attractions, Croagh Patrich, known as Ireland's pilgrimage mountain, along the south shore of Clew Bay. According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland. Each year as many as one million pilgrims and visitors make the trek to the top of the 2,510 foot tall mountain to pray at the stations of the cross, participate in Mass, or just enjoy the spectacular view. I made it only as far as the statue of St. Patrick, but I was rewarded by a lovely view of the Clew Bay.

I wanted to get one more photograph before we left for Achill: Just across the road is the national Famine Ship Memorial, a magnificently haunting sculpture along Clew Baby. The country's largest bronze sculpture, it recalls the horror of the Great Hunger that decimated Ireland in the 1840s. Metal skeletons are intertwined to form the ship, which overlooks the bay from which thousands sailed for America, Australia and Canada.

We were about to leave when I spotted these fellows who were waiting for their master to return from the beach where he was harvesting mussels. Their "crate" was attached to the back end of a tractor and could be raised and lowered. I suspect they were either coming from or going to sheep-herding duty. It's a good thing that I got sidetracked with making the photo of the dogs, as we were about to experience another "Ireland is a Small World" moment. Read on . . .


A Lovely Day at Lissadell

On our last day in Sligo, we toured one of the most compelling stately homes I have ever visited: Lissadell House and Gardens, which only recently was saved from ruin by two lawyers from Dublin who are restoring it from the ground up, including purchasing many of the fabulous furnishings that had been sold off when the house was in decline. It is now the family home of Edward Walsh and his wife Constance Cassidy and their seven children. What they have accomplished in three year's time is remarkable. Although you can tour the public rooms of the mansion, photographs are not permitted because it is a private home. However, you can see excellent photographs of the marvelous restoration on the very interesting Lissadell website.

Lissadell was built in 1833 by Sir Robert Gore Booth, and it served as the Gore-Booth family home until 2003. The house fronts the Atlantic Ocean and is set among the Knocknarea mountains and majestic Ben Belben. Designed by Francis Goodwin, it is a magnificent country house built in the Greek revival style. Lissadell is famous as the childhood home of Constance Markievicz, her sister Eva Gore Booth, and her brother Josslyn Gore Booth. Constance was one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, and eventually became the first woman to be elected to the Dail Eirean, the Irish legislature, and to the House of Commons in Westminster, where she declined to take her seat in protest against British policies toward Ireland. Eva was a poet of distinction and an active suffragist. Josslyn created at Lissadell one of the premiere horticultural estates in Europe, and that enterprise is now being recreated by the new owners. The home also served as an inspirational retreat for poet William Butler Yeats, who stayed at Lissadell in 1893 and 1894, and who immortalized Lissadell and the Gore Booth sisters in his poetry.

After our tour of the home, we headed for the newly restored Coach House, which is now home to the Heritage and Garden Shop.

We were met in the courtyard by "Honey," the family's Irish wolf hound.

Honey, quite clearly, is NOT a watch dog!

The Gift Shop not only features very appealing merchandise, it also is a wonderful resource for fresh vegetables grown in the restored gardens of the estate. We did our part in stimulating the local economy at this wonderful gift shop!

The adjacent Tea Rooms have seating for 80, including comfortable tables and banquettes that are cleverly fitted into Coach House box stalls.

In the Heritage Center's Markievecz Exhibition Hall, you can view a celebration of the fascinating life of Constance Gore Booth (Countess Markievecz), who was once sentenced to death for her part in the 1916 Easter Rising, but who went on to become the first women member of a legislature in a European democracy. I'm in the midst of reading the biography of this fascinating woman, and I am convinced that the story of her life and times would make a great Hollywood production.

Like her sister, Eva, Constance was an accomplished artist, and many of her paintings and drawings are on display at the Heritage Center. Other family artworks and those of local artists, including the outstanding work of Jack Yeats, brother of W.B. and that of their father, are lovingly preserved in the restored basement rooms of Lissadell House.

The house is surrounded by over 400 acres of land including picnic areas, a beach, and woodlands. As we were leaving the estate, we spied these two miniature horses, who came over to be petted. I suspect they must be part of the petting zoo that is being planned for children.

I expect to return to Lissadell House and Gardens again, as it was too rainy to visit the restored Alpine Garden and Kitchen Gardens. It will be a pleasure to see how much more the Walsh-Cassidy family have accomplished in their quest to restore this magnificent gem of history, architecture, horticulture and art. I enjoy every place I visit in Ireland, but there is something very special about Lissadell House and Yates Country. They are not to be missed!

In Yeats Country

This is Yeats Lodge, the B&B establishment that we booked for our stay in Sligo. We have found Irish B&Bs to be wonderful accommodations, and this one was no exception. The public rooms were spacious, and our bedroom with ensuite bath was extremely comfortable. Our host, Geraldine, is a fisherman, so she filled Jim in on the trout and salmon fishing options in the area, as he is seriously considering a fishing trip next year. And her breakfasts were outstanding! Irish breakfasts start the day out right, and most of the time you don't need to eat again until supper time . . . perhaps just a scone at tea time to hold you over. Part of the fun of a trip to Ireland is searching the Internet for B&Bs to see what the area has to offer.

I gravitate toward establishments with personality, many of which are slightly off the beaten path. In this case, however, I was delighted that Yeats Lodge was just off the main north-south motorway, because Yeats's grave was just a mile a way. In addition the sea coast, my attraction to this part of Sligo was its fame as "Yeats Country," as the poet is closely identified with the area around Drumcliff.

As an English major in college, William Butler Yates became one of my three favorite poets, and I completed many papers on his poetry. He wrote with such precision, and his poetic illusions have always painted word pictures for me. So I knew that seeing at least some of the places from which he gained inspiration would be a special treat.

We began our trip through Yates Country at the nearby church where he is buried: Drumcliff Church. (St. Columba's Parish Church, Church of Ireland), where his great-grandfather had served as Rector. Yates spent much of his childhood with his mother's family in Sligo, where he explored the land and learned folk tales. The Celtic cross, shown below, greets you at the churchyard. It was part of the original monastery and is presumed to be from the 11th century.

The country church and graveyard is lovely and tranquil, surrounded by the visually stunning mountains that Yeats so often reference in his work. It was a beautiful Indian summer day, so we lingered for a time just soaking up the beauty of this quiet setting.

Back at the Yates Lodge we stayed in the "Ben Bulben Room," aptly named because it had a view of the massive "Table Mountain," one of Ireland's most beautiful mountains. Its distinctive outline results from different responses to erosion of the limestone and shale of which the mountain is formed.

Ben Bulben simply dominates the landscape from all directions, and it is fascinating to watch the mountain face change as the light comes and goes with the movement of cloud formations.

You can even see Ben Bulben in the mist of this image that we took as we explored the coastal area around Drumcliff.

Next, we turned inland to head east where we could explore the road that lies at the base of Ben Bulben. There we saw picturesque cottages . . .

. . . and grand country homes.

All along the way, we saw beautiful vistas that helped to explain how this rich visual environment informed the imagery of Yeats's poetry.

Finally we arrived at Glencar Lake, one of Yates's favorite locales.

As we were driving along the edge of the lake, I caught sight of a swan.

Fortunately I had some crackers, so I quickly attracted him and eventually his mate.

As we were heading back to the lodge, a rain shower blew in. But it did not spoil our day. In fact, it just made it better, as you can see below.

I never felt so lucky to be a photographer after this unforgettably perfect day in Yates County.

An Evening by the Sea in Sligo

From Galway, we headed to County Sligo, where we would stay at The Yates Lodge in the town of Drumcliff, where the famed poet William Butler Yates once lived and where he is buried. More about Yates Country later. But first, I must recall Mary McCollough's prediction that I would have more than one "Ireland is a Small World" experience during our trip. The second one came when I mentioned to Frances Muldoon, a member of the "Irish Six," that I hoped her home would be close enough so that we could have a visit when Jim and I got to Sligo. Turns out her town of Rosses Point is just a few minutes drive from Yates Lodge. A small world indeed!

Frances took us an wonderful sunset tour of her unforgettably beautiful village, which lies hard against Sligo Bay. Every picture I made in Rosses Point speaks to the beauty of the sea and the town's connection with it, but nothing is more poignant than the exquisite sculpture of a woman with her arms outstretched to the sea. It commemorates the loved ones of seafarers who watched and waited for them to return safely to their home ports.

From there, Frances took us to her favorite restaurant and pub, The Waterfront, and I can see why it is. The seafood was as good as it gets!

The evening was especially enjoyable because we had the pleasure of dining with the darling Muldoon twins, Rosisin and Joyce. Dad Sean, whom we met at the Kilkenny IPPA meeting, was at soccer practice with older brother Jordan.

After dinner we took a quick trip to the Muldoon's lovely home where Frances has her studio. I was delighted to get a firsthand look Sean's fine carpentry and Frances's beautifully designed wedding albums . . .

. . . and to meet handsome Jordan—quite a footballer I hear—who was back from practice with Dad . . .

. . . who took over bedtime duty with his girls.

Jim and I hope to return to Rosses Point on a future trip . . . to catch up with the Muldoons and to spend some more time exploring Rosses Point and Sligo Bay.

Before we left, I took one final photo of a beautiful harvest moon on the headland of Rosses Point.


Cong, County Mayo: Movie Magic and High Society

You would probably say I was exaggerating if I said that Jim stopped going to movies after John Wayne died. Well, he did actually go to two, but he slept through one and fidgeted through the other, so that was the end of my asking him to go with me. To say the very least, Jim is still a John Wayne fan thanks to endless TV reruns. We both agree that The Quiet Man was one of his best, so we decided to stay at Cong, where much of the movie's location scenes were shot.

It doesn't take long to see the village, just a short walk and you can take in some wonderful scenery, ranging from the trout-stocked river that flows next to the ruins of Cong Abbey, built in the 12th century by Augustinian monks . . .

. . . to charming country cottages . . .

. . . colorful village businesses . . .

. . . and the famous Market Cross.

Everywhere there are reminders of The Quiet Man, which has helped to support town enterprises since its filming in 1951, but fortunately for visitors and townspeople alike, tourism hasn't spoiled the village's magical atmosphere.

At the Quiet Man Heritage Center we viewed some of the props used in the film and recreations of several key set designs.

Then we took an enjoyable walking tour with an extremely knowledgeable guide who had members of our tour group act out several key scenes from the movie to demonstrate how the action unfolded. She chose Jim to play the part of "the dying man," who rose from his deathbed and runs down the street when he heard that the fight was on between Sean (John Wayne) and antagonist Red Will Danaher. That's the fastest I've seen Jim move in many years :-).

Next, she chose a couple from Califonia to reenact the famous "kiss scene" between Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara) and Sean by the gate to Ashford Church.

I think they turned in the most enthusiastic performance of the day!

I'd recommend the tour to anyone who loves the film. Buy the DVD before you come, because you'll want to see it again to review the settings where you've walked in the steps of The Quiet Man cast.

We'll come back to Cong again, to visit some of the other film locations in Counties Galway and Mayo, and we'll spend several nights at the simply astonishing Ashford Castle, the gates of which literally back up to the village and where some of
The Quiet Man scenes were filmed. As you enter the gates, you are flanked on each side by forest lands that darken your passage . . .

. . . until you emerge onto the rolling hills that now constitute the golf course that fronts the spectacular castle with a 700-year history that in 1985 was transformed by a group of Irish-American investors into one of the "Top 50 Resort Properties in Europe. You can see why, when you walk the grounds of this magnificent property, which is set on the northern shores of Lough Corrib.

Back in 1951, many of the The Quiet Man stars stayed at Ashford Castle, which had become an hotel operation in 1935. So . . . today you can live even more luxuriously than the stars by staying at Ashford Castle. Check out the wesite by clicking here.

Time Out for Teaching

I was absolutely delighted when I was invited to teach a day-long program to members of the Irish PPA through an affiliation with a government-sponsored Skillsnet program, which is designed to advance professional training opportunities.

I recognized quite a few photographers whom I met last year at the Athlone conference, but there were many few new faces in the group of 45, which I am told is a good turnout for the Skillsnet programs. What I know for sure is that I got great questions from the obviously serious group, which was especially interested in management issues because of the "new economy" that photographers everywhere are facing because of the worldwide banking crisis.

The official photographer for the event was Dublin photographer Robert Allen, who did a wonderful job capturing Jim.

And I was also amazed when he sent a series of of photos of me on the job. Talk about talking with your hands . . .

Here I am with Robert after our official duties we done for the day. Thanks to him for sharing these great images, and thanks also to the members of the Irish PPA for their continued interest and friendship, and to Mary O'Driscoll and Padraic Deasy for helping me with arrangements.


A Glorious Galway Sunday

On each of our visits to Ireland, we have run out of time to visit Galway, the capital of the West of Ireland. It is a thriving modern city that dates back to the 13th century, when the medieval city grew up inside a great encircling wall. Since we only had a day to see the city, we decided to take a leisurely walking tour, beginning on Kirwin's Lane, which is full of shops and pubs. We were assured that this is where the action is on Sunday.

Action indeed! With no automotive traffic allowed, the lane was filled with people enjoying the mild fall weather . . .

. . . visiting the quaint shops . . .

. . . and enjoying entertainment for all ages . . .

. . . and just hanging out together.

Our next stop was the Spanish Arch area. The arch, built in 1519 at the south section of the town hall, was named for the frequent visits from Spanish ships that traded with Galway.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Long Walk, from which we could see the famed Galway Bay, as well as photographing in other nearby streets and alleyways in the oldest section of the city.

The bay was a magnet to young people enjoying a day off . . .

. . . and I even caught a cat napping in the warm Sunday sun.

Finally, we stopped a while at the Fish Market, where women once peddled fish to the townspeople of Galway. Today it is a gathering place for those who want to enjoy the sights and sounds of a bustling city. Here's one of the most interesting encounters we spotted: dog vs. man on springing stilts. Both managed to survive.

Late in the day we had a special treat courtesy of Galway photographer Neil Warner, whom I met last year at the Athlone Irish PPA Convention, where he presented an excellent program on marketing. Neil and his wife, Mary, had kindly offered to take Jim and me on a walking trip, then treat us to a pint at one of the city's oldest pubs. Recently Neil was elected president of the European Federation of Professional Photography, and he holds a boatload of titles and awards, including European Commercial Photographer of the year in 2006 and Fellowships in the British Institute of Professional Photography, the Irish PPA, and the British Master Photographers Association. So we enjoyed discussing association issues, but mostly we loved hearing fascinating stories about Galway and enjoying Neil's witty observations.

Here are Mary, Neil and Jim walking along the Corrib River, where Neil explained how power was generated for the city's early linen mills through the ingenious use of a series of canals that were dug along side the river.

Through a system of locks on the canals, the water could be raised and lowered and made to increase the current of the river to drive power to the plants.

One of the most interesting stops on our walking trip (besides the pub), was at St. Nicholas's Church, which was completed around 1324 and is the oldest parish church still in use in the west of Ireland.

Among many of the fascinating facts about the church that Neil revealed is that one of the most famous visitors to the church was Christopher Columbus, who prayed there before journeying on to the New World. According to Neil, the first individual to set foot on the Americas was actually a dog that belonged to the ship's carpenter. Furthermore, the ship's carpenter hailed from Galway. Who knew?

Here Neil points to our location on a medieval map of the city.

One thing for sure . . . a day in Galway is not long enough, so we'll be back again next year to learn more about this fascinating city. And thanks to Neil and Mary for helping to bring history to life!

On the Road Again

Our next destination was Cong, in County Mayo. We plan to take in the sights of rural County Mayo and to visit the picturesque village where the movie classic, "The Quiet Man," was filmed. Cong, we reckoned, was close enough to Galway, where we wanted to spend a full day touring before I presented a Monday program in that city to the members of the Irish PPA. Then we would spend a final day in Cong seeing the sights before we moved on.

Since we didn't have time to stop and photograph the scenery on our trip from Kilkenny to Donegal, we decided to make it a leisurely day of travel and picture-taking as we retraced our steps on the way to Galway. Fortunately the weather was on our side, so we had a really wonderful day of travel.

Our first stop was in the Donegal village of Bruckles, where I photographed this picturesque church, tower, and graveyard.

Then we paused to take one last look at the Donegal coastline before we headed inland.

On a whim, we decided to take a brief detour into the village of Ballyshannon, just because it had such a pretty name. We were rewarded when we found Ballyshannon to be set on a hill with a main street that wound through the town.

And on the outskirts of town, I was able to capture this photo of the town taken from a bridge over the river the bisects it.

When we reached County Roscommon on the main north-south motorway, we spotted the unusual sculpture of a man on a horse, which stood on a hill by the side of the road. We had wondered about it when we passed it on our way to Donegal, so we decided to pull into the lay by where the sculpture is located.

Turns out that this exquisite life-size metal sculpture was called "The Gaelic Chieftain," and it was inspired by the Battle of Curlews, fought in 1599.

Just as we were leaving the car park, I grabbed this shot of stone cottage with the mountains in the background.

On our long drive to Donegal, we passed through the County Roscommon town of Boyle, but we didn't have time to stop for photos. So on this trip we took time to look around this very appealing town, which I was sure would be full of lots of interesting pictures.

We decided to have lunch at the King House Shop and Tearoom, even though the house itself was not open to visitors after September. After viewing the grounds of the house and reading about this fully restored Georgian mansion and museum, I know we'll come again to tour the interior and visit the interpretive galleries.

After lunch we spent an hour or so just walking the streets of this wonderfully colorful town, catching pictures along the way.

Before we left, we took a walk around the Boyle Cistercian Abbey, which was founded by Maurice O'Dufy in 1161. These magnificent ruins are still undergoing restoration, and we got a good look at the process of literally relaying stone-by-numbered stone. I look forward to visiting this great structure again, as its atmosphere is extremely compelling.

As we drove into County Mayo, we could see the landscape becoming more pastoral. And everywhere there were sheep. Jim says this was the beginning of my desire to photograph every sheep in Ireland. Possibly so!

As we neared our destination of Cong, we were losing sun, but not more opportunities to photograph ruins . . . right along side of the road. Thank goodness for ASA 1600!


Rain's OK in Donegal!

We were thrilled that our B&B establishment, Shannonbrae, was located on a cliff that dropped off sharply to the sea, so we couldn't be much closer to the ocean than that.

The wild ocean views from the front yard were simply spectacular!

We could even see sheep grazing in their pens from the front door of our host Jillian's lovely home.

The day started well with only a few fluffy clouds in the sky, but by the time we were ready to make our way west around around the peninsula, a soft rain had begun to fall. What I soon discovered is that while it does spoil those fluffy cloud formations that look so good in landscapes, the rain –- unless is it blowing sideways into your face -- merely serves to freshen the landscape and bring out all those many shades of Irish green that you hear about in song and story. So for several hours, we drove west from ShannonBrae House through the towns of Kilcar and Carrick, photographing sheep, catttle, cottages, flowers, graveyards, and a most extraordinary football pitch (scoccer field) set directly on the doorstep of the Atlantic Ocean. What I learned during my several hours of shooting is that rain in Donegal is a gift to photographers. It simply freshens the beauty of this extraordinary stretch of County Donegal.

There's so much more of Donegal's fabulous sea coast to explore: I can't wait to come again to Killybegs!

Kicking Back in Killybegs

During our visit in Donegal, I wanted to stay as close to the water as we could get, and when I looked at the map the name "Killybegs" really caught my attention. Killybegs, I read, is a busy fishing port in an inlet of Donegal Bay, so this seemed perfect: A town with a great name, and an opportunity to see what life is like in an Irish seaport.

Turns out that we couldn't have made a better choice. There was lots of activity at the Killybegs Harbor, and lots of boats to see from small ocean-going craft to huge commercial fishing vessels.

From the pub/dining room of the Bay View Hotel, we could kick back and witness life in Killybegs unfold before us.

We weren't the only people kicking back in Killeybegs: This group of old friends spent hours just watching the comings and goings of the harbor. I felt that I was watching a Norman Rockwell painting coming to life!

Later in the day . . . just around tea time . . . we were happily ensconced in the Bay View Hotel pub, when everything started happening at once: A Humvee stretch limo pulled up in the street, and it was immediately surrounded by kids of all ages and their families. Obviously, we wondered what was going on. Pub patrons informed us that this was the annual "Debs Dance" night, which is similar to our high school junior and senior proms. The major difference was the air of expectation as the girls and their dates, or girls in groups and guys in groups arrived . . . often with family members. I fully expected to see someone roll out a red carpet, because the scene truly did have the atmosphere of a Hollywood happening.

The crowd disbursed when it was time to head for the dance venue, but we still had enough daylight to photograph some more tranquil scenes along the harbor.

I took this one last shot as we headed back to our B&B to call it an evening. No dobut that Debs Dance was just warming up!


Destination Donegal

Kilkenny is located in the south east of Ireland, and when we told some of the photographers at the IPPA Conference in Kilkenny that we were leaving the next morning for County Donegal, the northernmost county on the west cost, several expressed concern about two issues: the fact that it rains a lot in Donegal, and a concern that we were undertaking such a lengthy trip. The later issue was somewhat amusing to us, as a five-hour journey is nothing much for U.S. travelers. We made good time on the road, and the only thing that was frustrating to me was having to miss out on photographing a lot of beautiful scenery along the way. But we wanted to get to our destination as early as possible so that we could have a good look around.

By the time we got to Donegal, sure enough it was raining. But that didn't stop our enjoyment of the town. Near the carpark (parking lot), only a block from the town square, we observed an immense anchor that honors the town's seafaring heritage.

One of the nicest aspects of traveling in Ireland is the availability of tourist information posted in cities, towns, and villages. Like many seats of county government in Ireland, Donegal Town is a small town, and we could see from this sign board that it would be easy to see most of it on foot.

Irish churches are always interesting so we visited a few. This is St. Patrick's Church, which sits on a hill overlooking the upper main street. It was constructed from granite quarried from nearby mountains and is the main place of worship for the Catholic population of Donegal.

The Donegal town square is especially picturesque, and it was quite busy in spite of the rain.

We were pleased to learn that Donegal has a wonderful castle that is undergoing restoration. Visiting castles is a delightful rainy-day activity: You learn some history, and you get some great photo ops. Donegal Castle did not disappoint!

After our castle tour, we did some shopping on the town square, where I captured my favorite picture of the day: I noticed three American ladies who were quite animated in setting up a photograph, and the lady in the blue jacket was posing in a rather unusual body attitude. It took me a second to figure out what was going on. If you look closely above her head, there is a sign that reads "Magee." She is pointing to it with her right hand. Her left hand is pointing to another sign on the door that reads the same. Turns out she is an Irish-American named Magee, so she was literally pointing to her Irish heritage. Not a bad way to spend a rainy day in Donegal.


Touring A Garden County

Before we headed north to County Donegal, we took advantage of our last day in Kilkenny to visit the nearby County of Carlow, which is considered to be a garden center. Only a few miles out of Kilkenny, we stopped to photograph this picturesque Irish pub. We wondered if the onwer of Paddy's Pub was actually named Paddy.

A bit further down the road we encounted this old castle wall . . .

. . . and this lovely country church.

At a crossroads, we decided to investigate Leighlinbridge.

Leighlinbridge calls itself "The Garden Village," and throughout the town, flowers decorated landscapes and homes.

An ancient castle that once protected the town sits along side the river that runs through it.

The rest of the day we drove through scenic farmlands, and I stopped to capture this picturesque farmhouse.

On the way back to Kilkenny, we decided to stop in at Paddy's to sample the Guiness.

Turns out that Paddy IS the name of the pub owner, and it was as attractive on the inside as it was on the outside.


Enjoying A Medieval Tour

Kilkenny aptly lays claim to being Ireland's most Medieval city. Throughout the city you see signs of antiquity.

From the busy city center . . .

. . . to narrow alleyways.

On our last trip we spent half a day touring the spectacular Kilkenny Castle, but we didn't have time to visit Rothe House, so we headed there.

This impressive property, still undergoing restoration, was the home of a wealthy Kilkenny merchant, John Rothe and his wife, Rose Archer, and their 12 children.

The property comprises three houses; the first one faces the street and most likely housed Rothe's bususiness on the ground floor, whle the upper floor were living and entertaining quarters.

Within the last year, the Rothe Family Garden was restored to represent an early 17th century Irish merchant's urban garden.

We decided to have dinner at the lovely old Hibernian Hotel, whicn Maria Dunphy had introduced us to last year. We've discovered that this particularly street corner is a great place for people watching, as there is something going on there at all times.

You see all means of transportation going by.

It is also a busy dog-walking corner . . .

. . . or in this case, a dog-resting corner.

Just a moment later, we witnessed what easily could have turned into a close encounter of the canine kind.

And just across the street, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this head pop out of a Land Rover.

I crossed the street to get a better view . . .

. . . and what I got was a big ruckus from a protective pal, so it was definitely time for me to move on!

A Conference In Kilkenny

Last October I had the pleasure of presenting two programs at the Irish PPA annual meeting in Athlone. Jim and I enjoyed Ireland in October so much that we decided to return at the same time in 2008. This would also allow me to catch up with "The Irish Six," who had visited with me in Illinois last April. I was eager to hear about their progress, and Jim would finally get to meet the four he did not know. And when we learned that our good friends Beverly and Tim Walden would be the featured speakers, we were delighted with the notion of getting together with them in Kilkenny. On the evening before the convention, here are Jim and me with the Waldens, at left, along with Mary McCollough, Maria Dunphy, and Robert Allen. Maria, who lives in Kilkenny, and Bobby, who is from Dublin, helped to organize the conference this year, and their hard work paid off in doubling the number who attended last year's meeting.

The Conference took place at the exquisite Lyrath Estate, which once belonged to an English nobleman.

The estate, which sits on substantial acreage that includes manicured gardens, pasture land, and even a helicopter landing area, has been modernized to allow it to serve as an elegant hotel, convention center and spa.

Here I am with "The Irish Six" in a quick take by Tim Walden.

The group treated Jim and me to a wonderful Thai food dinner in the hotel, during which we got updates on everyone's progress, had quite a few laughs sharing pictures we made during last April's trip to Illinois, and took a look at new marketing materials. Beverly got a real kick out of seeing Suzanne's new fold-out business card that was created and printed at Marathon from a template that she designed for the Walden's Bellagrafica line. In the photo below, Bev and Suzanne compare their cards. What a fun reminder that Bellagrafica is international!

Jim felt right at home at the Lyrath Hotel, which offered a very comfortable area for smokers: The three-sided room was nicely furnished, and the open wall was a great ventilation system.

During the conference, Maria and I met at her studio to review the progress she had made in updating her business since formally taking it over from her father. Eventually the studio building will read "Maria of Kilkenny." I was delighted to see the front window filled with pet portraits Maria had created during a very successful "Dog Days of Summer" promotion. Pet photography will be a major focus of Maria's brand. You can read more about Maria and her dad in the blog entry I made on October 10, 2007, when I first visited the studio.

Maria is in the midst of a huge redesign of the studio space on both floors of the building. The newly covered couch and chair in the viewing area are a good indicator of the boutique feel the space will have when it is finished. I promised Maria I will return to see the new look.

As we were leaving the studio, I noticed that the pet portrait exhibit in the studio window has been a hit with more than just human viewers!


A Day With the Deasys

I was really looking forward to visiting Deasy Photographic, in Newbridge, only a short drive from Kildare. We were warmly greeted by Padraic and his wife, Sonia, about whom I had heard so much during Padraic's time in Illinois. Back in April the Deasy's youngest child was only three-months old, but Sonia, Padraic assured me, was busy at work at the studio while he was gone. The fact that Sonia will give birth to their fourth child in just six weeks from our visit wasn't slowing her down a bit.

From observing Padraic's work ethic during his visit to Illinois last April, I knew he had a business that was under good control. But I was amazed at how many of the concepts he embraced during our studio visits that he had managed to implement in such a short time. As the studio website says, Deasy Photographic truly is one of Ireland's leading boutique portrait studios. What makes this so are the key elements that distinguish any well-managed boutique studio:
  • A simple, easy-to-recognize business concept: specializing in top-quality family portraiture.
  • A clear understanding of the target market: sophisticated families who appreciate an artistic approach to decorative photography.
  • A client-education effort and selling plan: providing clients with a memorable experience and intelligently selected images.
  • A well-defined style and well-developed product focus: Offering three distinctive styles:
Signature Style - highly styled color fine-art facial studies.
Classic Style - fine-art black and white relationship-style portraits.
Contemporary Style - energetic photojournalistic-style portraits.

I'm certain that you'll enjoy seeing the photography of Padraic and his associate, Richard, when you visit the
studio website.

Because Deasy Photographic is doing so many things right, I want to take you on a tour of the studio. The attractive storefront is located in downtown Newbridge, in an area that enjoys a lot of foot traffic. The two-story building is much larger than it appears from the street.

The stylish gallery, just to the left of the entrance, is made even more impressive by the clever use of a mirror wall that appears to double its length.

The use of contemporary white furnishings against white studio walls creates a perfect backdrop to showcase portraiture.

The reception area is just as stylish.

As you walk into the camera room, a seating area to your right is the perfect place to relax and get acquainted before the session.

The camera room itself, not surprisingly, is extremely well organized so that equipment is secondary to working with subjects.

The viewing area, which is Sonia's domain, is located on the second floor and features comfortable furniture and all the tools needed to use ProSelect efficiently.

Padraic is in the process of converting the glass on his Signature Style portraits to museum glass. I asked him to demonstrate the quality of this very pricey glass, and as you can see below, the difference is very much worth the expense.

I was also impressed by the studio's stylish packaging. The smallest package contains the studio's gift certificate, called a "voucher" here in Ireland.

In case you hadn't noticed the finishing touch of the studio's decor, it's the black clothing worn by the staff! Here's Padraic with staff members Richard and Anita.

Sonia left early so that she could finish making an incredible Indian curry meal at the Deasy home, where we were met by the rest of the family: Sofia, Matthew, and Lucy, who are featured in a collection of family portraits in the foyer. Fortunately there is plenty of room left for more portraits of the growing family. In the photo below, Sofia and Matthew proudly point to their portraits.

Here's a better view of Sofia . . .

. . . and Matthew as well.

And as you can see, Lucy even managed to charm Jim!

Finally, here's the multi-talented Sonia. It was well worth the trip over just to enjoy her fabulous meal and the great day we spent with the Deasys!


In the Heart of Irish Horse Country

In making our plans to attend the Irish PPA meeting in Kilkenny, where we would have a reunion with "The Irish Six," who visited the U.S. last April, we realized that on the way from County Tipperary we could easily visit Padraic Deasy's studio in Newbridge, County Kildare. The county is a center for thoroughbred horse breeding, and at Padraic's suggestion, we stopped to visit The Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens located on 1,000 acres just outside of Kildare Town.

The Stud, as it is known, was established in 1900 by a wealthy Scotsman of a famous brewery family Colonel William Hall-Walker. It was signed over to the British Crown in 1915 and upon independence became the Irish National Stud, and it is where some of Ireland's best horses are conceived and cared for. You don't see many horses, however, as they are too valuable to risk being easily accessible to the public.

In addition to an interesting museum . . .

We toured the pristine box stalls, which are cleaner that some people's homes.

And after a short walk, we came upon one of the famous residents in a secluded paddock.

The adjoining Japanese Gardens we devised by Col. Hall-Walker and laid out by Japanese craftsman Tassa Eida and his son Minoru between the years 1906-1910. Planned to symbolize "The Life of Man," the gardens are now regarded as the finest Japanese Gardens in Europe.

The gardens were, in fact, so beautiful that I made far too many pictures that will require a serious editing job. One of my favorites is this photograph of Jim in one of the garden's rock structures.

Several ponds and tributaries are filled with ducks and swans. As colorful as these surroundings are, my favorite swan photo is the monochromatic image below.


A Visit With Mary In Clare And Tipparary

Before leaving for Ireland, we arranged to meet Mary McCollough just after we landed in Shannon in the nearby town of Ennis, which has become our usual breakfast stop, since a 7:00 P.M. flight out of Newark arrives in Shannon at 7:00 A.M. I absolutely love the atmosphere of this wonderful market town in County Clare. With its narrow streets and quaint shops throughout, I was not surprised to learn that Ennis was named by the International Project for Public Spaces as one of the World's Top 60 Great Places to Visit.

Although Mary lives in the County Tipperary town of Nenagh, where she operates Source Photography as an on-location business, she is considering the possibility of opening a storefront studio in Ennis, which is not a long drive from her home. After breakfast at the Old Ground Hotel, which is the site of Jim's favorite Ennis pub, we visited several possible locations for Mary's business, including the one shown below, where I photographed Mary and Jim.

Later, when we arrived in County Tipperary, Mary showed us the lovely little country village, Ballycommon, where she was born. When I say Ballycommon is little, I mean it: Driving on the road to the village, we came upon this beautiful house, which happens to be where Mary's sister lives. It is located at the beginning of the town. After passing three or more houses, we were out of Ballycommon!

Just before closing time, we stopped at the delightfully colorful John Hanly & Co., a woolen mill near Ballycommon that has been in operation since 1893.

From the mill, we drove on to the darling town of Garrykennedy, which dates back to the Norman era, and where there were lots of picturesque scenes to photograph . . .

. . . including the tiny harbor on the lovely Lough Derg, which was a stone's throw from the cozy pub where we had dinner.

Larkins is owned by a friend of Mary's, and it was the perfect place to dine on our first night in Ireland.

I love to eat at pubs or to just sit for a while and enjoy the congenial atmosphere . . . as well as the occasional pint.

The next day we met Mary in her home town of Nenagh, which is one of two county seats in County Tipperary.

Here she is in front of a display of her photography above the coffee bar in a large local bookstore owned by a friend. I've found that Irish photographers do a much better job of networking with their friends and neighbors than American photographers do. It seems to come naturally in Ireland.

We had particularly nice accommodations for our two-day stay in County Tipperary. By sheer happenstance, Jim booked a room at Otway Lodge in the small country village of Dromineer, also on the shore of Lough Derg. When Mary found out where we we staying, she said this would be our first experience that proves what a small world Ireland is. Turns out the Lodge, shown below, is owned by her sister-in-law Ann, and her husband Frank!

Here's a view of the lake, which is only a few steps from Otway Lodge.

A charming thatched-roof cottage adjoins the Lodge grounds . . .

. . . and only a few yards away, you'll find the ruins of a castle that dates back to the 13th century.

Leaving Dromineer, we started on our way east to County Kildare. At Mary's suggestion, we stoped in the small town of Roscrea, to visit the studio of Brian Redmond. Mary's first job in photography was with Brian, whom she was eager for us to meet. Here's a view of Roscrea.

Brian has a beautiful store-front studio on a main street.

We were fortunate to find him in, and he very kindly offered us a tour of his beautifully organized studio. We learned that Brian has been in the business of photography as long as we have, and we really enjoyed seeing his outstanding blend of classic and contemporary photography. Take a minute to visit his website, because I'll bet that you'll particularly enjoy taking a peek at some charming Irish weddings through Brian's lens.


Off To Ireland!

If you have read this blog for more than a year, you'll know that Jim's and my favorite place to visit is Ireland, and this year I was able to convince him to spend three weeks there. I am amazed at how many people have told me that they enjoyed reading my entries from our visit to Ireland last year, so I'm going to try to keep the journal going.

Of special interest this year is that we will be visiting with the great group of friends who came to be known as the "Irish 6." They are the six Irish photographers who met me in Chicago last April to do some marketing and management studies and to visit several boutique studios in Illinois. Most of my April 2008 blog entries tell the story of their visit. We'll be reuniting at the Irish PPA Conference in Kilkenny, where the headline speakers will be Beverly and Tim Walden. How fun it will be to meet up with my teaching buddies in Ireland!

Here are the "Irish 6" together last April, along with Jed and Vicki Taufer (first row left) in a camera room at V Gallery, which the Taufers so kindly let us use for our classroom time. Seated next to me is Padraic Deasy, and from left to right standing are: Susan Toal, Maria Dunphy, Mary McCoullough, Donal O'Connell, and Frances Muldoon. Although we had way more than our share of laughs during their visit, each member of The Six was serious about accomplishing a lot, and they left with some very impressive plans. Happily, Jim's and my itinerary will take us to four of the group's home towns, so I'll be able to see for myself. I'm hopeful that I will have Internet connections along the way, so that I can keep up. And this year, since Jim and I will be covering more ground and visiting more photographers, I hope you'll come along for the ride!

Irish Friends - A Wrapup

Today I heard from several of "The Irish Six," who are back at work in Ireland. Donal sent me these two photos of the group on a shopping outing and of them just generally enjoying Chicago on their last night in America:

These pictures will always remind me of the magical time we shared together. I know we have forged lasting friendships, and I will follow their personal and professional exploits with the utmost interest. With a little bit of luck and planning, I'll get to see each of them again when Jim and I visit Ireland in the fall. I can't wait!

Irish Friends - Day 7

On the last day of their "downstate" visit to Illinois, the crew from Ireland packed up and traveled to the Chicago suburb of Mokena, where we were graciously received by Bert and Cindy Behnke at their spectacular residential studio. I feel like I've know one Behnke or another for all of my photographic life. One of the very first professional programs I attended was presented by Bert's Mom, Connie, who is known throughout the industry for her business acumen. I learned so much from her that day, and I am enormously proud to be associated with her as a recipient of the Charles H. "Bud" Haynes Award for promoting business awareness in the professional industry. So it was a special treat when Connie arrived to visit with us, and it was great to see her husband, Dom, as well. It was my extreme pleasure to serve on the PPA Board of Directors with Bert, who distinguished himself as PPA president in so many ways, most especially as the force behind the creation of PPA Charities, which today Bert serves as Development Director. I first met Cindy shortly before her marriage to Bert, and it's been a delight to serve with her on print judging panels, including last year's International Competition in Florida. I've always wanted to visit the Behnke's studio, so this was a very special opportunity.

Behnke Photographers was founded in 1956 in Cicero, Illinois by Bert's parent's Al and Connie, and Bert purchased the studio from them in 1985, when they moved to Clearwater, Florida, and opened another studio. Bert and Cindy relocated the business to a beautiful two-acre wooded site in Mokena six years ago, creating a home with a dedicated studio wing, making it one of the most accommodating residential studios I've ever seen, not to mention the most beautifully decorated. We all marveled at Bert's contracting skills and Cindy's taste in creating a such a stylish, yet welcoming, environment that highlights photography as decorative art.

I was enchanted by the antique camera, which welcomes you at the studio entrance.

As you walk into the studio you are treated to this beautiful focal point, which showcases the decorative power of family portraiture.

Throughout the studio portraiture continues to take center stage among other beautiful home furnishings.

Here Bert, who was on a break from jury duty, answers questions for the Irish visitors, after which we enjoyed a delightful luncheon prepared by Cindy and Connie.

Bert and Cindy, at left, join the visitors, and Mom Connie, on the exquisite staircase of the home's elegant foyer.

Eventually we found our way to the airport, where I bid a reluctant goodbye to my Irish friends, who headed into Chicago for a final night's fling. Here I am in a last-minute photo with Donal. The trip back to Pennsylvania was uneventful, but it was a bit of a letdown to leave such delightful friends behind. Tomorrow it will be back to the real world.


Irish Friends - Day 6

After a final morning of working on marketing plans, Jed treated all of us to a Photoshop class that, unlike most you attend, had to do with profitability. Jed's message is simple: Time is Money! if you save time on routine Photoshop matters, your business will be less confusing, less chaotic, and more profitable. AMEN. Here he is explaining how essential a Wacom tablet and stylus are to saving time and improving artistry. I learned this from my dear friend Helen Yancy, who routinely informs her Photoshop/Painter classes that "You can't retouch with a rock," and "You can't paint with a rock," referring of course to the mouse that way too many photographers want to use.

I was awed by Jed's instructional style, as well as the incredible actions and templates he has created. I was quick to purchase the "V Gallery eVolution" package, which includes these items that will save me countless hours. You can learn about everything contained in this helpful resource by
clicking here.

At the end of the day we packed up our belongings and and captured a few fun images at Haven.

Tomorrow my "Illinois Odyssey" will be over when I deliver "The Irish 6" back to Chicago and head for home. We'll have one more stop on the way: Behnke Photography in Mokena, a suburb of Chicago. I'm certain that we will never forget the wondeful days we spent learning together at Haven, and we can't thank Jed and Vicki Taufer enough for this opportunity!

Irish Friends - Day 5

After a morning of marketing, we took a lunch break with Jed, who is holding down the fort and preparing for an in-studio class while Vicki is on a visit to Guatemala.

Getting back to class, everyone checked out
BellaGrafica marketing products.

Ever the gracious host, Jed prepares prepares dinner at the Taufer homestead . . .

. . . where we discovered a virtual Fun Zone of electronic toys! So after a delicious dinner, the gang settled down for a room-rocking viewing of the high-decibel movie

Here Jed spends some face time with Vicki who iChatted with him from Guatemala and waved to the rest of the group, which included Jed's brother, Kip, and other friends who came by for dinner and to watch the Final Four basketball semi-finals. So the Irish delegation got a great look at what goes on on a Saturday night in middle America . . .

. . . including a truly unforgetable Irish/American romping, stomping high-tech rock-and-roll karaoke session. That's Kip Taufer on drums.

By the end of the evening everyone was suffering from laughing pains. Trust me, you had to be there.

Irish Friends - Day 4

What's the best reward you can give to a group of Irish photographers who've spent two days in the classroom working on financial and marketing plans? That's easy: take them on a studio tour! So mid-afternoon yesterday we packed up and drove a short way to the uber-chic studio of Jeff and Julia Woods in the nearby town of Washington, Illinois. There we received a tour of the urban-style studio that is a perfect reflection of the Woods' personalities. As was the case with our previous studio visits, Jeff and Julia's hospitality, friendship, and willingness to share with the us was spectacular and very much appreciated.

Julia presented her sales philosophy, which is central to the studio's business concept . . .

. . . while Jeff provided insight into his approach to creating cutting-edge products.

It's been a while since I've had some time to visit with Julia, so this was a special treat for me.

There was plenty of time for Q&A with the Woods . . .

. . . as well as just soaking in the studio's fabulous ambience.

And there was time for laughs as well.

With hardly any prompting, the fearless Donal O'Connell took the driver's seat for this group photo before we moved on to a wonderful dinner at a nearby Italian/Irish restaurant: Basta O'Neils.

What a great adventure with Jeff and Julia! Tomorrow it will be back to work on marketing plans. Thanks to the Woods for their warmth, wit, and wisdom!

By the way, the Woods have just posted a May 19-20 date for another session of their always-sold-out in-studio workshops . . . a fantastic educational opportunity. To learn more, click

Irish Friends - Day 3

Today it was strictly down to work, as the Irish 6 used SuccessWare to analyze their businesses. Tomorrow, they'll take their findings and develop new profit-building strategies. Of special interest to me was the burdensome and confusing Irish VAT tax that thank heavens U.S. photographers don't have to contend with!


Irish Friends - Day 2

Our first day of instruction started with a warm welcome to V Gallery and Haven from Vicki and Jed Taufer.

Vicki delighted everyone with fast-paced insights as to how V Gallery approaches marketing and management, including a live sales demonstration of ProSelect.

Those who have visited V Gallery and Haven marvel at how Jed and Vicki have created such unique and appealing spaces within a building that once was a bowling alley. After taking a late-afternoon tour of Jed's parents' home, we gained special insight into at least one source of their creative inspiration: Jed's wondrously talented father, Dana Taufer. We were thrilled to be invited to visit the mind-boggling house that Dana hand-built himself, over 8 years, with help from his sons. With no plans to guide him, other than the remarkable vision in his head, and using recycled materials, Dana created what Jed described as "kind of a 'hobbit house for adults,' " which, as you can see from the photo below, is a delightfully apt description.

Here Suzanne and Padraic enjoy the wit of the architect himself, Dana Taufer.

Photographs of this intriguing house simply cannot convey the brilliant creativity that is revealed when you see it in person. With a ceiling height of 37 feet and 70 different exterior wall angles, this one-of-a-kind home literally defies description. It's the type of dwelling you would expect to see on an HGTV program about spectacularly unique homes. What an totally unexpected and absolutely delightful experience . . . a rare reward after a busy classroom day!


Irish Friends - Day 1

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love Ireland, the Irish people, and especially Irish photographers. So this week is a much-anticipated opportunity for me to pay back some of the wonderful hospitality I've received in Ireland by hosting six Irish photographers on a learning and studio-visiting odyssey in Illinois. Several of my terrific photographer buddies are sharing their hospitality as well. Our ultimate destination is V Gallery, Vicki and Jed Taufer's extraordinary boutique studio and their education center, called "Haven," in Morton IL.

Our first stop on the way was Springfield, IL, where Sarah Petty hosted the group at her fabulous home, which is beautifully decorated with her portraiture. Our group is shown below with Sarah, outside her home. They are, from left: Padraic Deasy, of Newbridge, County Kildare (
deasyphotographic.com); Donal O'Connell, of Douglas, County Cork (imagesphotography.ie); Frances Muldoon, of Rosses Point, County Sligo; Mary McCoullough of Nenagh, County Tipperary, (sourcephotography.ie); Suzanne Toal, of Monaghan, County Monaghan (zanni.ie); Maria Dunphy, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny (oliverofkilkenny.com).

Once inside, Sarah explained her philosophy of interior design using portraits . . . in the same manner that she provides this information to clients. Her home literally is the perfect showcase for portraiture as decorative home furnishings. Joining us was daughter Grace Petty, one of Sarah's favorite subjects.

Grace was proud to show off her room . . .

. . . as was son John.

We enjoyed a great meal together in the retail plaza where Sarah Petty Photography is located. Joining us was Sarah's associate Andria Crawford, and graphic designer extraordinaire Beth Camplain of
Hotdog Design.

During our visit to Sarah's studio, I FINALLY got to meet Sarah's husband, who I've been referring to as "Virtual Joe." It was wonderful to finally meet the real Joe Petty! What a handsome couple!

After an explanation of how she works in the camera room . . .

. . . Sarah moved on to a discussion of her favorite subject: marketing and branding.

From the enthusiastic conversation in the van as we journeyed on to Morton, the feeling of our Irish friends was that it would have been worth the trip to America, just for this experience with Sarah. But we're just getting started. Stay tuned for more adventures of "The Irish Six."

Music On My Mind

The last stop on each of our three trips to Ireland has been the western seacoast town of Dingle. The instant I laid eyes on Dingle in 2003, I was hooked. I can't imagine a trip to Ireland without a stay in this magical town on the wildly beautiful Dingle Penninsula in County Kerry.

The last time Jim and I were in Dingle, we stopped in at The Music House, shown below with proprietor David Moul in the doorway. I inquired about the CD that was being played, and David introduced me to the music of singer-songwriter
Kieran Goss. By wonderful happenstance Kieran was playing an intimate concert in an old church under reconstruction that very night. Of course we went. The venue was wonderful and the music and conversation with Kieran even better, so I've been a Kieran Goss fan ever since. PPA board member Ronnie Norton, from Dublin, has kindly supplied me with Kieran's CDs since the first one I bought at The Music House.

So we stopped by The Music House yesterday and picked up the latest Goss release, along with collections by several other artists David was kind enough to recommend. And once again, as luck would have it, one of those musicians, a local Dingle singer, was performing in nearby pub that evening. At the Marina Inn we were entranced by the vibrant, yet soulful voice of Pauline Scanlon, whose album "Red Colour Sun," I had purchased earlier that day. She is as beautiful as her voice, and I look forward enjoying more of her music. Thanks, David, for expanding my musical horizons.

There's nothing I enjoy more than live music in the friendly atmosphere of an Irish pub. It was music, in fact, that focused my desire to travel to Ireland in the first place. In recent years I've come to love Celtic music of all kinds. I've noticed that there are so many beautiful Celtic songs written about Irish places — from specific towns to regions — that I decided to visit as many of those locations as I could. It's quite a long list, so I'll just have to keep coming back!

I can't imagine a better place in the world to write music about or listen to music in than Dingle. David Moul agrees. He is a transplanted Englishman who says that moving to Dingle is the smartest thing he ever did. So if you are lucky enough to visit Dingle, stop in and meet David at The Music House, 6 Orchard Lane, Main Street. He'll be happy to tell you what's going on in the Dingle music scene. Tell him hello from Jim and Ann in America!

How Cool to Spend the Night in a Castle!

I swore I would stick to photographing today, as we are about to leave for our last stop, the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, before heading home. But I just had to post some pictures of the incredible placed we have stayed for the past two nights: The Castle, at Castletownshend, County Cork. Jim found it on the Internet, and I'm so glad he did.

The Castle is the ancestral home of the proprietors, Anne and Malcolm Cochrane Townshend. The massive stone edifice has been the seat of the Townshend family in Ireland for many generations. The center part was built around 1650. The origintal castle towers were destroyed in the 17th and 18th centuries, but they have been restored, using stones from the ruins. The Castle contains much of the original furniture, portraits of Townshend family members, and gorgeous oak panelling.

A place like this can make your imagination work overtime. At breakfast before we left, we compared notes with two English couples, who also swore they heard steps on the ancient staircases below our rooms, but none of us saw anyone arrive on the second or third floor landings.

Speaking of breakfast, check out the dining room: It was big enough for eight tables, and it was full of family portraits. Wouldn't the Townshends be good clients to have!

The portrait below hangs in the drawing room. Its subjects are the current owner's great-grandfather and his two sisters. As you can see, it is huge! These folks are definitely not into 8x10s. Isn't the posing wonderful! A great reminder that classics never go out of style.

Here's The Castle exterior . . . well guarded by the Townshend family watchdog.

And can you believe that I actually drafted and emailed a blog post while sitting in front of a 17th century building? Amazing.

The Castle overlooks Castletownshend Harbor. I took the shot below, just after sunrise, from our bedroom window on the third floor . . . no doubt where household servants used to stay. The room was spacious, but homey, and quite comfortable.

Jim also was right at home in The Castle. It was really fun to turn back the clock . . . way back!


Giles Norman: A Study in Black-and-White Success

The plan for today was to visit the southern seacoast town of Kinsale, which in recent years has become known as a center for creative cuisine. I had also heard that it was the home to a first-rate landscape photographer who works strictly in black and white. So when I asked at a local craft shop where I might find the gallery of Giles Norman, the proprietor knew exactly where to send Jim and me. I expected we would find a small storefront that is typical of most retail photographic galleries I have visited. Was I in for a surprise!

The light-and-airy gallery was at least twice the size I was expecting, and it it skillfully organized to exhibit Giles' work at its best and also to make it easy for shoppers (like us) to make their image selections. I quickly settled on a richly detailed study of a ram guarding the path to a county cottage with the air of a defiant watch dog. You can see the image on Norman's website, which will give you an idea of the breadth, depth and excellence of his portfolios.

I loved the simplicity of the single-choice black framing, which is both artistic and practical, and I was particularly taken by the simple, yet powerful statements of Giles' floral close-ups. The artist wasn't in today, but his assistant told me that Giles has operated the gallery in this building for more than 10 years, and he also has a gallery in Dublin.

I would suggest that any photographer who is considering the feasibility of opening a retail gallery for any type of fine art photography to look at the model Giles Norman has created by visiting his Kinsale gallery. With three brilliant reasons to come to Kinsale . . . the gallery, the cuisine, and the fabulous images around every corner (I made over 300 exposures there today) . . . Kinsale should indeed be on top of the itinerary for any photographer's visit to Ireland.

Getting it Right: A Visit to Gerry O'Carroll's Studio

This morning I realized that if we did a little backtracking before our next stop along the eastern sea coast, we might be able to drop in on Jerry O’Carroll’s studio in Waterford, a city of 40,000 and the home of world-famous Waterford Crystal. We were in luck, as Jerry had a lunchtime break in his busy Saturday schedule, and we could travel there in time. Shortly after we found the studio, Jerry’s wife Ann and daughter Ellen arrived, and I was able to catch a snapshot of them in front of the business.

I’ve heard so many good things about Jerry’s studio, and now I can certainly see why. He is doing so many things right, including excellent space planning . . .

. . . an eye-catching window display . . .

. . . great use of floor space, and an intelligent choice of portraits on display in the reception area . . .

. . . contemporary image styles and framing . . .

. . . a comfortable projection sales room . . .

. . . and efficient work spaces and camera room.

Top all this off with beautifully designed marketing pieces and a handsome
website, and everything works seamlessly to help clients recognize they are dealing with a professional organization and appreciate the fact they are about to purchase something of value.

Jerry gives credit to several influences that have helped his business to prosper. “Families in Waterford, he explained, “have a long-standing tradition of using the services of professional photographers to record their family histories. Today there are two storefront studios in Waterford, and we greatly benefit from this tradition, which goes back to around 1870.” One photographer for whom he had special praise is the late Annie Brophy, whom he credits with elevating portrait photography to the status of valuable heirlooms. Interestingly, Patricia Cantlon, our hostess at Cullintra House (see October 12 entry), had mentioned being photographed by Annie Brophy, whom she pronounced was “a legend,” a description that Gerry confirmed was an appropriate one. You can read about this fascinating lady by
clicking here.

Jerry’s entire approach to business compares favorably to the most progressive U.S. studios, because he has kept his business concept simple and highly focused. He credits this approach to what he learned at PPA’s Specialty Conferences, the first one of which he attended in 2003, the same year that he bought his studio building. Speaker after speaker at that conference, he recalls, stressed the benefits of specialization. When Jerry and Ann returned home, they began implementing what they had learned: First they priced weddings to assure profitability, which meant they lost those that weren’t, providing the studio with more time to emphasize family and children’s portraiture. These were watershed events in the bringing stability to the business.

As we went on our way, I couldn’t help but think that American photographers, who have such easy access to management information, would be well advised to put to work what Gerry had to travel across the ocean to learn! And learn it he has. Even better . . . he’s proving that it works!

Oh yes . . . he wins portrait awards as well. See below.

Very well done, Gerry!

Off the Beaten Path

If you've seen the film adaptation of Maeve Bench’s wonderful novel, "A Circle of Friends," you might remember its captivating countryside and charming village settings. The film was shot in and around the tiny village of Inistioge, which is only a few miles from Cullintra House. We spent part of yesterday driving the narrow roads to photograph the magnificent countryside, ending the day at in the village so that Jim could enjoy his pint of Guinness. I know it will take me a while to prepare a slideshow of these images, but in the meantime, here’s one of my favorites, right out of the camera: It was shot in the late afternoon from a narrow bridge across the River Nore, a few miles from Inistioge. It’s my favorite image of the trip so far. There are lots of cropping possibilities, but I’ll worry about that later.

Because the scenery in Ireland is so abundant, I decided to challenge myself to improve my digital skills, since I would have plenty of practice over the next few days. Moving from medium format to a 35mm body has not been easy for me, and like most digital shooters, I’ve been relying entirely too much on the “idiot box” and “P for professional.” I used to use a light meter for every photograph; but before I pointed it, I had to decide what I wanted to accomplish in the photograph. That meant using my brain. Well I've decided that its time to start thinking again, so I’ve issued three challeneges to myself: 1. Look for interesting lighting situations that involve dramatic highlights and shadows. 2. Work more in aperture priority mode. 3. Pay special attention to leading lines. Oh yes . . . nail those histograms, but make certain they make sense, given what I’m trying to create, which definitely means using the brain once again.

Here’s a late-afternoon shot from the side of a narrow road. I loved the low sun angle that gave depth to what otherwise would be an ordinary shot. Thanks to Jim for shading my lens to prevent the inevitable flare.

For most of the days that remain on our trip, we'll be off the beaten path, looking for the beautiful scenes and interesting adventures that so often in Ireland lie just around the bend.

The Lady of the Manor

During our visit in and around Kilkenny, we stayed some distance out of town near the ever-so-tiny village of The Rower (which means "red clay"), at the family home of Patricia Cantlon, which she operates as a farm-holiday establishment.
Cullintra House is an elegant 18th century farmhouse set amongst 230 acres of fields and woodlands that are as romantic and picturesque a setting as I've ever seen. Billed as a "cat-lovers paradise," it is all that and more. We got to know all five cats from Patricia's "boss," an elegant Tom cat named Oswald, to the rest of the clan: Penelope-Jane, Melanie, Libby-Muffin, and Mitsy.

To say that Patricia has created a magical environment at Cullintra House is an understatement. Each room is furnished with creativity and flair. And Patricia's sumptuous candle-lit dinners, set in front of an open-log fire, are not to be missed. Her cuisine features fresh produce that is skillfully prepared and artfully presented.

The property has been in Patricia's family since the turn of the last century, and it is full of lush vegetation, winding paths, and enchanting gardens. Around midnight, Patricia feeds the day's dinner scraps to as many as seven local foxes who wait to hear her call. Each of our two nights there, we stood quietly and watched a fascinating scene unfold as the foxes barked out calls to one another that "dinner is served," then quietly stole into the back garden to carry off their gourmet morsels.

There is so much to tell about this magical kingdom, it's delightfully eccentric lady of the manor, and the cats who rule it. But what I'd prefer to do is to show you a selection of the images I made there. This will have to wait until I get home, where it's easier to work on such a project. Check back later to see some of the extraordinary views of Cullintra House. In the meantime I hope you'll enjoy this portrait of Patricia Cantlon, the lady of the manor.

Oliver and Daughter

In far too many small family-run studios, generational differences can jeopardize the future of the business. That’s why it is so refreshing to meet a father like Oliver Dunphy, who eagerly redesigned his store-front marquee to proudly proclaim that what once was simply “Oliver of Kilkenny” is today the province of “Oliver (& daughter) of Kilkenny.” And it is daughter Maria’s sparkling fantasy portraits that adorned the building's window when Jim and I visited after the Irish PPA October Conference in Athlone.

Oliver Dunphy founded what was to become a highly respected High Street studio in the heart of the medieval city of Kilkenny in 1966. Maria’s earliest memory of working with her father was at age four. By 1988 Maria was working there full time. Having learned classical posing and lighting from her father, Maria has developed her own distinctive style by attending classes and conferences through the IPPA and abroad through professional associations in the UK, Italy, and America.

According to Maria, her father was not always been convinced about contemporary portrait styles, but he most certainly has been supportive of her plans for it since she became the studio’s primary photographer and he has largely retired. In fact Oliver was quite eager to tell me about plans to convert space previously allocated to cameras and photo accessories to a gallery of Maria’s award-winning contemporary portraits of families and children. “Tell her to get those portraits ready and up there,” he said to me with a twinkle in his eye. I had a wonderful time viewing some of those images with Maria, and a few of them are shown below.

During our visit we had a lovely lunch with Maria and her Aunt, Sister Nina, a member of the Columban Sisters since 1964. Before recently moving in with Maria and Oliver, Sister Nina worked abroad practicing alternative medicine through her order. She now helps out at home (and even occasionally at the studio), while also providing social services for refugees and asylum-seekers in the Kilkenny area. Jim and I are convinced that Sister Nina could solve most of the world's problems if given a chance to take them on. She says, however, that the family's newest member, a rescued Cavalier King Charles spaniel, being held tightly by Maria below, is giving her fits. Fortunately his other two canine companions are much better behaved.

As far as the studio goes, Maria is preparing to make some significant changes that will build on the solid foundation her father has created. Of the new gallery she says: "Just watch this space." Sounds like another reason for me to come back to Ireland for a visit!

Old Friends and New: Irish PPA Fall Conference

There are only a few volunteers I know who are as passionate about the benefits of trade association membership as Ireland's
Gerry O'Leary, a highly acclaimed architectural photographer from Dublin. I first met Gerry at PPA's Imaging USA several years ago. A year ago this month I once again met Gerry at the UK Master Photographers Association Awards weekend in Coventry, England, where I was invited to give a business program and assist at the awards presentation in my capacity as PPA's Chairman of the Board. Gerry was busy keeping lots of balls in the air as president of the UK group. This year Gerry assumed duties as president of the Irish PPA, so it was no surprise to find him hard at work on Association business, as you can see in the photo above. He continues to be just as relentless about urging Irish photographers to take advantage of the educational opportunities that associations provide as he is to get them involved as volunteers.

Jerry is one of several Irish friends I have made in recent years. Also present at the
IPPA conference in Athlone was Jerry O'Carroll from Waterford, whom I have visited with in both the U.S. and in England, and Maria Dunphy, who has attended several PPA Women's Retreats, including this year's Chicks Who Click conference in the Bahamas. More about Maria and her business in a new post. To Jim's and my great delight, also on hand was Alan Hastings, a photographer who attended our week-long Art and Business of Photography class at our Annville studio back in 1993. In 1986 Alan had immigrated from Ireland to New York, where he had taught high school chemistry at Fordham Prep and later began working part time at the nearby studio of Rick Rustiano. By 1993 photography had become his passion, so Alan began working at it full time. Eventually he married, had children, and four years ago the family returned to Ireland and opened a studio in Westport, County Mayo. It was wonderful to talk about old times with Alan, who now enjoys both U.S. and Irish citizenship. Jim snapped this photo of Alan and me.

The audiences for my two programs couldn't have been more cordial. I sensed that their interest in management issues parallels that which of late has grown so strong in America. Not surprisingly, the Irish are experiencing all of the challenges of U.S. photographers — from technological changes to prosumers who produce digital images that are "good enough." Just like Americans, they are learning that clever marketing is no longer "good enough" . . . you must understand how to manage money, people and time in order to succeed in today's challenging marketplace, so they hung in there for every step of my "12-Step Program." Many commented that they found the benchmarks published by PPA's Studio Management Services to be very helpful. On day two I presented my "Boutique Studio Revolution" program. I believe the Irish audience got a kick out of hearing a presentation that won't be debuted in America until Imaging USA in January.

As Gerry O'Leary so passionately pointed out, anytime photographers get together what they learn is priceless. One of the aspects of the conference that I enjoyed most was a session that featured two of IPPA's "Bright Young Things" . . . younger members who have demonstrated their photographic competence by passing their IPPA "Associate" qualification. Young and old alike learned from portrait photographer
Emma Clarke, who works with her father Paddy, and who displays, among other skills, a mastery of lighting technique that is rarely achieved by young photographers in the U.S. Emma is shown below with architectural photographer Gareth Byrne, who demonstrated why veteran commercial photographers say he is giving them a run for their money.

Veteran photographers were ably represented as well: Wedding photographer
Tony Tang, provided insight into creating digital albums and treated everyone to a slideshow of a complete wedding and the resulting album; Suzanne Toal explained the recent changes she has made in her business (see previous post); and Neil Warner demonstrated that his business sense is as strong as his award-winning corporate photography. Suzanne and Neil are shown below during a Q&A session.

The conference also included two presentations of exceptional image collections.
Ger McCarthy showed a variety of his favorite award-winning images, but none was as stunning as his photojournalistic series taken at Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear plant disaster, at an institution for children born with profound birth defects. His message about the power of photography to illuminate the need to act in the face of human suffering was clear . . . something that in fact his images have been used to do.

The second program was by Vincent O'Byrne, one of Europe's most honored fine art photographers, who presented over 50 prints that had achieved the coveted IPPA Diamond Award. It was wonderful to hear this master of composition and creativity remind us of the simple precepts that govern fine artistic design — fundamental lessons that today often are eclipsed by interest in technology. Many of the Diamond award-winners were created by Vincent himself, so take a moment to view his exceptional work by logging on to

As in America, women are flocking to the business of studio photography, so "we girls" had a lot to talk about between programs. We're already plotting a way to get together again. So I thought I thought I would close this entry with this "Circle of Friends" photo. From left, we are: Maria Dunphy of Kilkenny, Suzanne Toal of Monaghan, myself, Neda Collins of Eden Derry, and Tanya Crosbie of Dublin.


What's in a Name? A Visit to Zanni Photography

Knowing that I would be speaking to Irish photographers on the subject of "Boutique Studios," I asked whether this new business model was gaining a foothold in Ireland as it is in America. Yes, I was told, some studios were moving in that direction, one of them being Zanni Photography, in Monaghan, a town of 8,000 northwest of Dublin, quite close to the border of Northern Ireland. The owner, Suzane Toal (she was called "Zanni" as a child), welcomed me for a visit the day before we were due to arrive in the midlands town of Athlone for the fall meeting of the Irish Professional Photographers Association.

A portrait/wedding photographer for 11 years, Suzanne has a host of photography awards and a vivacious personality to match. Having always traded under the name Suzanne Toal Photography, she decided to change the name of her business to Zanni Photography some eighteen months ago after having taken the even bolder step of purchasing and remodeling a wonderful bungalow to house her growing business. Doing so as a single woman took a great deal of courage, but the move made sense for Suzanne, as she has never operated her business at a loss, and she felt the time was right to plan for her future security by gaining property equity.

Suzanne's aesthetic goal was to create a contemporary environment that retained the warmth of the home's original architecture. She did just that by painting the walls and fireplaces a crisp white and replacing dated carpeting with warm random-plank hardwood floor boards. An eclectic mix of furnishings, including handsome metal stands for her wedding album display, complete the appealing interior, and a fresh coat of pink paint on the building's exterior assures that Zanni Photography is easily recognized from the street.

Suzanne was one of the speakers at the Athlone conference. I took lots of notes, and one of the most interesting comments she made dealt with the decision to change her well-established business name. "When I was trading as Suzanne Toal Photography," she said, "I felt that I was selling myself because everyone wanted me for every aspect of the work. With the new name, I'm feeling a lot less emotional pressure, and the door is now open to take the studio in any direction I wish." To give meaning to the new Zanni Photography brand, Suzanne has launched several new projects, including featuring the studio name on framed samples, window display prints, and on large fabric hangings; offering a cute kids contest in which every child photographed leaves with a balloon that proclaims "I've Got a Zanni Photography Smile;" and involving the business in a highly successful charitable calendar project.

Suzanne's next challenge is to construct a covered veranda at the rear of her building to use for outdoor shoots and to create a number of outdoor sets in her expansive back garden. I've promised that I'll come visit her when the projects are finished. You see . . . that's how this magic country and the wonderful people you meet here — people like Suzanne — affect me: Even though I'm only on the first week of my two-week stay in Ireland, I'm already planning to return!


A Day in Dublin

Although Jim and I have visited Ireland twice, this was our first trip to Dublin, so we were delighted to visit the studio of PPA board member Ronnie Norton, who, happily, I had gotten to know during my board service. It would have been fun to see Ronnie under any circumstances, but from my perspective as a portrait photographer, getting to see Ronnie's bustling commercial studio at work was a special treat. I made the photograph of Ronnie, below, in the studio's cheerful lunch room. I chose a spot in front of his portrait of super-star musician and humanitarian, Bono, as that image has particular meaning to me: At PPA's 2006 Imaging USA convention, Ronnie donated a print of this image to the PPA Charities' auction. It was purchased by Shannon Barry, of Marathon Press, whose office I have used for consultations during Marathon's Marketing Workshops. It can be rather disconcerting when talking to photographers to have them stare right past me into Bono's hypnotic gaze.

Because Ronnie's lovely wife, Pat, was in New York for a visit, we missed her at dinner at a wonderful old restaurant in a seaside community followed by a round of live music. Much of our dinner conversation centered around music, as Ronnie's has gained quite a following as a photographer of musicians, and he and I share an interest in folk music of many different kinds. In fact, Ronnie is quite an authority on blue grass music and even hosts a program that airs on CMRNASVILLE.net called Lonesome Highway. It plays on Friday afternoon from 4-6 and repeats on Sunday morning from 10-12. You can take a listen to Ronnie's show by clicking here. It's wonderful fun to hear an Irishman comment on a distinctly American music form. And it was wonderful fun to get to see a slice of Dublin through Ronnie's eyes!