Into The Crack Of Dawn [21June2013]

A series of photos showing the progress of dawn, not over one day, but at the same time each day from winter to midsummer, as I walk through the fields to work

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In the summer of 2012, I found a long deserted pathway through the fields at Laughanstown in south county Dublin, near to a place where I was working at the time.  My discovery and first lunchtime amble along the pathway is illustrated in my short story The Melting.

The pathway runs through open fields alongside the LUAS tram line, and I soon got into the habit of taking a daily walk along the pathway, getting off the tram a couple of stops before walk, and happily walking in solitude through fields alive with fresh morning air, only the occasional whirr of a passing tram to disturb the birdsong. A lovely way to start the day, drifting happily in thought and body. Were I a lamb, you might even say that gambolled happily across the meadow each morn.

When winter came, I was loath to give up this pleasure, even when darkness made it more difficult, and started bringing a torch so I could pick my way along the path towards the lights of civilisation – and work – in the far distance. It was cold, dark, and sometimes hard going, but the sense of solitude and the fresh air more than made up for it.

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Far from any houses, the blackness was absolute, and one morning (Jan 2nd this year) at 0724 I took a photo to illustrate the darkness of the walk, zooming in on the lights of Tullyvale and Cherrywood in the distance.

The next morning, the blackness was not quite complete – a tiniest sliver of a crack of dawn was visible over distant mountains, and I took another photo to show the difference a day (and two minutes later) had made.

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This gave me an idea. As I walked the route at least three days a week, always at the same time (taking the same outbound tram departure) why not take a series of pictures, to catalog how the dark of winter slowly gave way to the dawn of spring, and the daylight of summer as I took my morning walks.

Those first two pictures were taken randomly, and not at exactly the same point, and possibly not covering exactly the same span, but for this project I would need some way of locking my physical location, so that the field of view would be as close as possible to exactly the same in each picture.

So I used a line of electricity pylons to determine the photograph point – they would not be in shot themselves, but when I reached a point on the path where the crosstree of one pylon aligned exactly with the southern edge of another, I would stand in the righthand rut of the track, thus controlling my physical location. I would then line up the second closest overhead wire carrier on the tramway to the rifghthand edge of the photo, and this would ensure I was covering the same area in each shot. Only the vertical plane had no real means of control.

And so, here are some of the results, as we journey from winter to spring, at the same time each morning, give or take a couple of minutes.

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A week after my first photos, the 11th of January 2013 at 0724. The difference in the amount of dawn is quite visible, it is still pre-dawn lightening of the sky, but the clear day makes it much more visible. The field and pathway are still in absolute blackness at this time.

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January 15th at 0724, another clear morning, apart from a low lying bank of cloud over the distant hills.

crack-0206-0722Just a couple of week later, the 6th of February, at 0722. Quite a difference in two weeks – another clear day, but this time the sky is blue, the shapes of things are more visible, and I can see the puddle ahead of me.

crack-0207-0724The next day, February 7th at 0724, shows the difference the cloud makes – dawn is at the same point, but no chance of seeing anything on the ground.

crack-0221-0723Now this is amazing – it is only two week later, the 21st of February, at 0723, and yet the difference in light, even with a totally overcast day, is amazing. Now everything is visible. To the right is the tram line, heading towards Cherrywood in the far distance. The buildings in the centre of the picture are the apartments of Tullyvale. To the left of them a sliver of the Irish Sea is visible, and then Killiney Hill rises on the left edge of the photo.

crack-0225-0723Four days later, the 25th of February, again at 0723, and a different type of cloud cover darkens the scene, but leaves room for a lovely yellow and pink line above lower lying clouds concealing the rising sun.

crack-0226-0723The following day, Feb 26th, at 0723, the clouds are different again.

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A couple of weeks later again, 7th March at 0723, and it is now pretty much daylight. It’s been raining for days, and the distant hills are lost in soft Irish mist.

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The 29th of March at 0728, the sun is fully risen, and hidden behind the clouds, sending lovely shafts of light down onto the sea. The foreground looks darker to the camera due to shooting into the sun, but was bright enough to the human eye.

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April 17th at 0724 – no fear of sunlight affecting the camera here, as the weather has turned “Irish” again!

crack-0501-0725May 1st at 0725, the dun is shining brightly now.

crack-0502-0725The following day, May 2nd at 0725, shows a more dreamy, cloudy skyscape.

And then . .

And then I moved away from that location

but . . .I knew I must come back for midsummer photos.

crack-0620-0722The day before mid summer – June 20th at 0722

and finally

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Midsummers day itself, though hot and sunny later, was wet and misty early on – June 21st 2013 at 0726.

And now I’m working on the other side of the city, and I don’t get to walk through the fields each morning any more. But thanks to a whim and a sudden inspiration back in the dark days of winter, I have a whole selection of photos of my beloved few moments of morning commune with nature, to go with a whole set of cherished memories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip as much as I have!

Steve


Inside Out or Outside In?

 

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Pictures of Empty Sea

to view the wholly perfect horizon around you in full 360 degrees, nothing but water as far as you can see, with your own self at the perfect centre of it

Just sea, and sky, and horizon - the beauty of an empty sea

Just sea, and sky, and horizon – the beauty of an empty sea

This set of photos comes to you by request – your request.

Every week, sometimes as often as every day, a particular phrase pop up in my search referrer logs (the bit in my stats which tells me what people were searching for on Google or other search engines which led them to click through to this site).

“pictures of empty sea” or sometimes just “empty sea”

Several people a week, over the last three years, a steady stream from around the world, adds up to quite a few views over the years, and all looking for empty sea.

This blog is actually the first result presented on Google for “images of empty sea” and the second for the text phrase “empty sea”.

This all stems from a post I wrote almost five years ago, talking about a particular scene in a book I had just completed writing, then known as “Somewhere Down The Crazy River” but since published as “Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline”.

The post contained a shot of the view from the Caroline ship – nothing but the horizon and empty sea. And it’s that picture which has brought people here. But since so many people come to look for it, and the sea is, and always has been, my lover, I’ve decided to share a few more of the intimate pictures taken during our many trysts.

It's not all sunshine - a classic grey sky, grey sea, so often the view.

It’s not all sunshine – a classic grey sky, grey sea, so often the view.

As always, you can click on any picture for a bigger version. All pictures taken of the North Sea (or its daughter the Waddenzzee ) off the English and Dutch coasts, unless otherwise specified, during my stints on Radio Caroline and Radio Seagull.

Let's look through . .the round window. Whatt do we see . . the empty sea.

Let’s look through . .the round window. What do we see?  . . the empty sea.

When I went to work on the offshore radio ships, people kept asking if life was boring. After all, the sea was the sea, and was always the same they reasoned.

Boring? When the view through the porthole is never the same two days in a row? The sea is a mistress of infinite moods.

Blue sky, blue sea, an unlimited horizon on the Atlantic.

Blue sky, blue sea, an unlimited horizon on the Atlantic.

Evening falls on the Waddenzee

Evening falls on the Waddenzee

A cold wind, and a lumpy sea - slight to moderate in nautical terms.

A cold wind, and a lumpy sea – slight to moderate in nautical terms.

The almost dreamlike quality of the sea pounded and smoothed by a torrential downpour - photographed through a porthole at eye-level to my bunk - what a gorgeous way to wake up!

The almost dreamlike quality of the sea pounded and smoothed by a torrential downpour – photographed through a porthole at eye-level to my bunk – what a gorgeous way to wake up!

The sun is about to rise over an empty sea

The sun is about to rise over an empty sea

Sunrise 2

Sunrise 2

Sunrise complete - 5.26AM in early June.

Sunrise complete – 5.26AM in early June.

The pink tinge of sunrise on the waters of the Waddenzee

The pink tinge of sunrise on the waters of the Waddenzee

So, those are the “empty sea photos.

Below I include a couple more, where the sea is not quite empty, but which I feel are similarly beautiful.

For some reason this photo brings back the most intense memories of the "feel" of being at sea - grey skies, moderate sea, and a fishing boat just glimpsed through a spray-streaked porthole. I can almost hear the wind moaning in the superstructure . .

For some reason this photo brings back the most intense memories of the “feel” of being at sea – grey skies, moderate sea, and a fishing boat just glimpsed through a spray-streaked porthole. I can almost hear the wind moaning in the superstructure . .

4.55AM, I've been on watch overnight, and am just about to make another round of the ship and check anchor chain in the pre-dawn light.

4.55AM, I’ve been on watch overnight, and am just about to make another round of the ship and check anchor chain in the pre-dawn light.

A little later, and the sun is risen.

A little later, and the sun is risen.

Wonderful experiences and a great life. The radio was exciting, but the sea was always breathtaking.

Always my lover, I’m not sure if I possess her soul, or she mine.

A beautiful and lonely place to live and work

A beautiful and lonely place to live and work

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did.

Steve

 


More on Fairy Tree & Forbidden Ground

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Amongst the response to my post on things seen in 2012, the Fairy Tree and the Forbidden Ground sign have elicited the following query from a UK-based reader, the always inspiring Christopher England (whose own blog can be found here).

Chris says:

“I’ve never seen fairy trees before. I guess it’s an Irish thing. It reminded me of the Tibetan wind-prayer flags that are placed alone and forever, right up in the remote parts of the mountains. Although they do wear and come to pieces in the wind, many remain there long after the person originating the prayer has died. That always makes them something special, imho”

The fairy tree, while not exclusive to this island, does seem to have a long connection with Irish superstition and folklore.

Although I was unaware of them myself before coming across this example in a Dublin park, according to this site they can be found at many locations around the country.  There is certainly a lot of fairy folklore in Ireland, and I remember my father pointing out to me the fairy rings and fairy forts in rural Cork and Tipperary when I was very young, and noting how farmers would avoid ploughing or disturbing the ground at these locations.

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Perhaps more common in Ireland is the Holy Well or Holy Bush – these can be found in many rural locations, and to this day you will still find strips of ribbon and clothing tied to trees at a “holy” location on a roadside.

The only time I ever saw anything similar in the UK was at Barnes Common, where the tree that killed Marc Bolan is still visited and decorated regularly by his fans, despite the passage of four decades.

A path in a park in Co. Kerry is blocked after a bridge is washed away in a storm. The choice of wording on the warning sign makes it seem far more interesting . .

A path in a park in Co. Kerry is blocked after a bridge is washed away in a storm. The choice of wording on the warning sign makes it seem far more interesting . .

Chris goes on to comment on the “Forbidden Ground” sign I photographed in Co. Kerry.

“Also, possibly an Irish thing, is the phrase ‘Forbidden Ground’. An interesting choice of words I’ve not seen before, being more used to ‘Restricted Area’ or the like”.

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This one is certainly not Irish, and I am as baffled as Chris by its usage to cordon off a closed pathway in Reenagross Park, Kenmare.  I have never seen the phrase “Forbidden Ground” used in a civilian context, and the crime-scene style tape makes it look even more curious. That forbidden zone is just begging to be penetrated if you ask me!

Chris goes on to comment:

“with regard to the many ‘Do Not’ signs in the Dublin Dockland, and mindful of it being an area with an ‘Explosive Atmosphere’, they do seem to have missed out a pretty obvious one of ‘Do Not Smoke’”

Just down the road from the original sign here:

On the subject of warning notices, this one in Dublin Docklands is pretty comprehensive. Is there anything you ARE allowed to do?

On the subject of warning notices, this one in Dublin Docklands is pretty comprehensive. Is there anything you ARE allowed to do?

there is another one, on a presumably similarly explosive compound, which does caution against smoking, as well as “spark ignition vehicles” (petrol engines to you and me)  – the first time I’ve seen that warning., although apparently if you make a prior arrangement, they are not dangerous . .

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As for what is hidden behind the fence, well that also has some interesting signage:

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The “Stripping Pumphouse” eh?

Now THAT’S what I call “forbidden ground” in goold old catholic Ireland!

Steve


Dreamy Seagull Pics

On board the Radio Seagull / Waddenzee ship, our weather has gone from this breezy Sunday . .

 

Click on any picture for a bigger version.

. . to this gorgeous balmy Tuesday

with smooth sea and windless sky, the view to the horizon has a dreamlike quality.

I'm in the top bunk in "Cabin A" and I have my own porthole right behind my pillow.

How about this view first thing in the morning?

But we're here for the radio too. This is a shot where I tried to see if I could get our radio tower to fill the maximum amout of space in the frame, without cutting any off.

Hey, these are just some guys I was close to. Pretty supportive too.

If you’re wondering where the studio, tx and people shots are . . . they’re coming later in the week.

Steve

 


I didn’t know you could buy them . .

Sign in window of health-shop, Galway, Ireland.

I came across the above a few months ago while in Galway for a book reading, and decided it was too good not to share! I then promptly forgot about it until this morning, while searching for a different picture (which I didn’t find).

What kind of problems do women get for €40 anyway?

One totally unintended effect is the reflection, which puts my face as the background image for “Women’s Problems”.

Art imitating life? Makes pretty unbeatable watermarking for the picture anyway 🙂

Steve


Ferries In The Mist

I was down at my favorite location in Dublin docklands, the Great South Wall, walking my friends Oran and Sarah and their three dogs on Friday evening.

It had been an exceptionally sunny day, and within seconds of our arrival a wall of sea mist came rolling in towards us, blanketing the bottom of the Pigeon House towers, blotting our view of the bay, and muffling and distorting the sounds of nearby shipping.

The Pigeon House surrounded by sea mist

The almost invisible Ulysses creeps through the fog, outbound from Dublin Port.

We watched the Irish Ferries Ulysses creep out of the port at quarter speed, a grey mass almost impossible to perceive against a swirling grey background, sounding its foghorn every minute as it shared the narrow channel with a cargo ferry creeping in the other direction.

A new twist on one of my most loved places.

Steve