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Rincon Peak Summit

Experience the Sky Island view from Rincon Peak

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The Rincons are one of 42 Sky Mountain islands isolated from each other by the gradual warming and drying climate changes since the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. While this marvelous environment of oak and pine forests only accessible with much effort on foot, it is literally visible from every point of the Tucson valley and million human inhabitants.

Rincon is Spanish for corner, the mountains are called that from their shape enclosing a space on the west, northwest until recently used for ranching and is now falling into use for tract housing. The mountains themselves are reserved as wilderness, parts in the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest.

In the past 44 years I was lucky enough to visit the Rincon Wilderness interior three times, shouldering different style backpacks onto the mountain, walking different boots. The first, during college the 1970’s, a party of six left from the end of Speedway, up the Douglas Springs trail. The climb was an exercise in desert survival that several friendships did not survive, replace by new friends met on Mica Mountain. I have no photographs from that experience, only memories and the backpack.

Reconnecting with Arizona in 2004, thirty one years after that first experience, I took no chances. My first attempt on Rincon Peak was a success. Risk and effort were reduced, not eliminated by hiring a guide for the four day trip. We made it to Rincon Peak via the Turkey Creek Trail out of Happy Valley, climbing a mountain buttress, views ever widening and lengthening.

These are some photographs from that experience and a landscape photograph of the peak at sunset, taken the following year.

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Sego Lilies bloom among a stricken oak and drying grasses on the Turkey Creek trail. This is an overview of the environment, it is the winter rains that trigger the bloom.

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

We paused while I unpacked my gear to capture Sego Lilies growing along the Turkey Creek Trail.

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

Deer Head Spring, at the top of Turkey Creek Trail was a moist spot with no accessible water when we reached it April 27, 2004. With the remains of a gallon of water each we needed to press ahead to Heartbreak Ridge and climb into Happy Valley Saddle were, thankfully, the creek was low and full of algae but usable. Here are my first views of Rincon Peak, looking across the aptly named Heartbreak Ridge and Happy Valley Saddle.

Distant View of Rincon Peak-- CLICK ME!!!!

Telephoto view of Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

The view to south from Rincon Peak. The white rocks at lower right forms a Valley of the Moon wall. San Pedro River valley at the root, Mae West Peaks at left margin, Dragoon Mountains with Cochise Stronghold center. Taken around 12:30 on April 28, 2004 as a thunderstorm approached.

View from Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

The Rincon Peak view looking south, southwest over the Valley of the Moon to the eastern Tucson Valley and the Sky Islands the Whetstone Mountains (Apache Peak), behind are the Santa Ritas. The works of man are overpowered by sky, rock, distance.

We made a hasty departure in front of the thunderstorm. It was a touch and go decision to attempt the peak that day, we made it with moments to spare.

View from Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

April 29, 2004 the morning after reaching Rincon Peak I set up the tripod near our Happy Valley Saddle camp to capture Rincon Peak in early morning sunlight.

Rincon Peak from Happy Valley Saddle, dawn -- CLICK ME!!!!

The day we descended to the X9 Ranch via the Rincon Creek trail. My guide’s grandfather had a homestead at the X9 and his access to the trailhead through private lands opened this route for us. This is a photograph of sunset on Rincon Peak from the X9 ranch. I am looking east from the Rincon (Spanish for corner) made by the massifs Rincon Peak, Mica Mountain and Tanque Verde ridge.

Rincon Peak from the X9 Ranch-- CLICK ME!!!!

The evening of November 2, 2006 I climbed the Saguaro National Park, East, Tanque Verde trail for about 30 minutes to reach this view of Rincon Peak and waited until just before the sun set behind the Tucson Mountains for this shot. Then hiked back to the car in twilight. In my hurry, I tripped on a stepped turn and dove headfirst into a large prickly pear. It was a very painful experience and I regretted damaging the cactus and the loss of and good hiking shirt. There were large spines in my face and tiny, pesky spines covered my chest and back. The large spines are not barbed and come right out. I needed to visit a physician to remove them.

Rincon Peak from the X9 Ranch-- CLICK ME!!!!

Peter’s Mesa Sunset

Can You Find the Eye of the Needle?

Peter’s mesa is at the center of Superstition Wilderness treasure legends. I was a member of an expedition to the top of the Mesa March 2008. This is a sunset view, looking south, southwest. Light raking across the desolation and an approaching storm behind Miner’s Needle create a fascinating spectacle. Ancient volcanism, apparent throughout the Superstition Wilderness, is here seen in the texture, form and type of rock as well as the mineral deposits. Miner’s Needle, like Weaver’s Needle (no seen in this view), are eroded volcanic summits. Look closely for the “eye” of Miner’s Needle, backlit by the storm cloud itself lit by the setting sun. To this day, hopeful prospectors search for gold nuggets around the Needle. There is one form of volcanism present today as an eerie rumble or hiss, similar to an enormous distant jet engine. We heard now and then during our two days on the mesa, louder and closer than a overhead plane could produce. The view includes many notable Sonoran desert plants. Many young Saguaro cactus are in the form of green poles and, on the rim of the ravine running left to right below the closer ridge, an excellent specimen with multiple arms. Catching the dramatic light, on the ridge is a tall single flower of an Agave, known as the “Century Plant” it flowers once in a long life and dies.

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Peter's Mesa -- CLICK ME!!!!

Peters Mesa is named after “Old Pete” Gottfried Petrasch, father of Hermann and Rhiney Petrasch. Old Pete worked for Jim Bark for awhile in the 1890s doing odd jobs. Irregular employment gave Pete and Sons time to s searched for the Lost Dutchman Mine in the years following the death of the source of the legend, the “Dutchman” Jacob Waltz. The Petrasches were one of the first groups to search for the mine, and gold in general. They covered almost the entire Superstition range in their combined searches.

On our first day on the Mesa we came across the remains of one of these camp, on the top of Squaw Canyon. This was only deplorable junk a presumably disappointed bunch of searchers were too lazy to cart out. That March, we were lucky to find the remants of winter rains in the form of a meager trickle at the bottom of a shallow draw off Peter’s Mesa trail up from La Barge canyon. We had a good time of it until the trip was cut short by a storm front and torrential rains. We were back in Apache Junction before they hit.
This panorama is from our last evening on the Mesa. As the sun set I put the Kodak DSLR with a 50 MM lens on a Manfrotto tripod and hiked a mile higher onto the mesa for a view of Miner’s Needle. I quit only after the last light was extinguished by the approaching front. My reward for persistence was this dramatic light ennobling a craggy desolation. This is a composite of several images, combined using Photoshop. I have since invested in a Canon 24 mm wide angle lens.

Here is another Superstition Wilderness Episode

Back To School, Uruguay

A late summer Friday evening

Since 1877 primary education in Uruguay is universal, compulsory and free. These days students receive free education through university, literacy is the highest in South America at 95%, equally for males and females.

These photographs are from a cruise around South American my wife, Pam, and I enjoyed February / March 2016 on the Oceania ship Regatta. This was the evening of February 26, 2016, a Friday, in the city Montevideo, Uruguay.

This image is the theme of this blog, “back to school”. On Avenue Gral Eugenio Garzon of the Colon neighborhood of Montevideo a mother and four daughters discuss a shop window featuring “back to school” clothing and necessaries. The children range in age from pre-school to teen. This is evidently a serious discussion about preparing for the school year which starts in March for Uruguay.

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Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

A government program launched in 2007 expands Information and Communication technologies in primary schools with these goals:
— To distribute technology,
— To promote knowledge,
— To generate social equity.

Called Ceibal, after a tree native to Uruguay, the program was a success. From 2009 – 2012 450,000 laptops, popularly named “”ceibalitas”, were delivered to children coordinate with teacher training and a monitoring and evaluation model for assessing the impact nationally. Ceibal is the acronym for “Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea” (Educational Connectivity/Basic Computing for Online Learning in English).

These photographs build on the theme of the positive influence education has on the lives of Uruguayans, many of whom live in poverty.

A family gathering in their yard on Avenue Gral Eugenio Garzon, enjoying a cool late summer evening.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Traffic and a gas station. People were out and about, walking and conversing. There is a makeshift trailer attached to the motorcycle, behind is a large truck.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Storefront with customer and man loitering on wall. A mini-Honda all terrain vehicle is on display.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Mate is a beverage enjoyed throughout South America. Here companions enjoy a warm summer evening with a thermos of hot water and mate gourd behind a restaurant, their view across the train tracks and the Colon rail station is of a playground and playing fields.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

A family of very young soccer players coming from practice with teammates. The sponsors of lucky number 7 are the bank Banrisul and Tramontina, a kitchenware manufacturer.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

We waited to board an historic train and shared the station with Montevideans waiting for a passenger train. Here are two families: a mother and pre-teen daughter colorfully dressed, a grandmother and grandson. Behind them are the playing fields and playground.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

A passenger train heading north passed while we waited for our ride to begin. Curiosity shines from this child’s eyes.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Happy families greeted us with waves and smiles during our trip to downtown Montevideo.

Some of the homes along the rail line. Pools such as that are popular in cities. We saw a great many on the streets in Lima, Peru.

Reaction to the historic train from a group of young men.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Curious playmates gather at the end of the road.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

A well attended playground.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Spillway Falls with Hemlock

hemlock grace and water

The Dry Creek dam is across the upper, eastern, end of Fillmore Glen. Historical records of the dam construction must exist someplace. My opinion is, somewhere in the federal bureaucracy there is a record proving this dam was constructed by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. That is when the gorge trails were dramatically improved and it is logical a dam was necessary to control water flow during times of heavy rainfall and the spring thaw, to allow a full appreciation of the gorge beauty. It is a substantial concrete structure with cast iron controls, two spillways: one never, the second always flowing. This day the reservoir is full, frequented by beavers, stocked trout, herons, blue jays, crows, hermit thrush. The reservoir banks are thick with wildflowers of the season. This afternoon I noticed purple flowering raspberries: a past prime bloom or two, ripe fruit growing in the late afternoon shade on the south side of the dam.

Unlike its name, Dry Creek is perennial, fed by a broad drainage of pastures, cornfields and forests. Year round the spillway runs, feeding into the gorge a constant, reliable supply of water for the many waterfalls for which Fillmore Glen State Park is known. The very first waterfall is on the rocks supporting the north side of the dam, formed where water from the spillway flows over these rocks into a deep, east west gorge overhung on the south side by mature hemlock trees.

I first encountered Fillmore Glen in the 1980’s with my young son, Sean. On Sundays he and I walked as far as he tolerated, about half way to the dam site, where the gorge makes a turn to the south, the trail on an unstable clay bank against a crumbling shale cliff. Rediscovering the park in the early 2000’s, along with my interest in photography, I noticed the waterfall just below the dam many times and admired it for how the water caught late afternoon light over the many grace points created by rock crags like a wedding cake. The angle from the dam path is wrong for capturing this effect. Today was a first for me to leave the safety of the dam path to climb into the gorge, on the south gorge wall, for a shot.

Here is a view of the spillway fall on a mid-August afternoon, 2017. My photography kit for this walk with my wife, Pam, was minimal: a Sony Alpha 700 with a variable lens, the flash and a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod. For this version of the spillway I climbed into the gorge on the south wall, about 40 feet above the creek. A hemlock tree branch fell across the view, incorporated into the composition. These hemlocks are not a biological relative of the Socratic, poisonous, hemlock. The relationship is a similar aroma when the leaves are crushed. The f stop is cranked to 36, ISO set to 100 so slow exposure time to 1.6 second. Post shot processing via Photoshop.

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Spillway Falls and Hemlock Branch -- CLICK ME!!!!

Saguaro Sky

dramatic skies from Saguaro National Park

November is a special time for the ranges and basins of southern Arizona deserts.  Climb a bajada of foothills, face west and wait for the sunset.  That is what I did this day, November 3, 2005.  East of Tucson the Saguaro National Monument at the foot of the Rincon Mountain Wilderness is where I parked, unpacked the photo gear and climbed the side of the Tanque Verde Ridge for a favorable view.  Weather was pushing high level moisture from the west, clouds were developing.

You see here a shot from that session.  In the distance, looking across Tanque Verde, are the Santa Catalina mountains.  Months since the last rainfall, the giant Saguaros are using internal moisture reserves drawn up from a shallow root system, the flesh is less plump, the supporting structure of the ribs, always evident, are more pronounced.  The last light catches these ribs in relief against a dramatic sky.

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Saguaro Sunset -- CLICK ME!!!!

Hag’s Chair or Mass Rock?

Ancient Tradition

Part of our day in County Meath, Ireland  
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Known as the Hag’s Chair in some contexts, K29 or the Mass Rock, in others, set as a Cairn T, Loughcrew kerbstone thousands of years ago the carved symbols on front, rear and seat are very worn. There is no surviving record to inform us of the stone’s purpose. The upper side appears carved to enhance the form as chair.   Set to the north of Cairn T, not in front of the entrance as with Newgrange, even this is a mystery.  It is the third largest curbstone.

Hag's Chair– CLICK ME!!!!

The popular name refers to the hill itself, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí).   In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel to ours.

Tradition holds that, during times of the Penal Laws, Catholics gathers on for Mass using this curbstone as the altar.   By this it is known as the Mass Rock.

Click for another Ireland posting

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Seed Berries

a forest secret

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The many names for this plant are reflective of how wide spread it is. Called Arisaema triphyllum (scientific name), jack-in-the-pulpit, bog onion, brown dragon, Indian turnip, American wake robin, or wild turnip this secretive plant flourishes in moist soils across eastern North America, everywhere north to south. I say “secretive” because the varieties I am familiar with hide the flower under the leaves, three of them growing from a stalk.

Lovers Lane Observation Platform– CLICK ME!!!!

Those of you who know Georgia O’Keefe may be familiar with the form and coloring of Jack-in-the-pulpit from the series of six oil canvasses from 1930, her time in the east living near a spring. There is a spathe, the pulpit, strongly colored in dramatic vertical, flowing stripes, wrapped around a spandix, the “jack”, being a stem covered with male and female flowers.

Around the time my photography habit started in 2002 I was surprised by the jacks growing from the walls of Fillmore Glen, spying the distinctive forms flowing a bit above eye level under the three large leaves. Seeing them was like recognizing a friend in Halloween disguise, the exotic O’Keefe shapes in a known place.

From this gift, an awareness of the possibility lead me to recognize “jacks” in many other places. I have yet to exhaust the possibilities.

Last year I acquired a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM lens for our cruise around South American. It proved very useful for an unending combination of situations. Here, it allowed me to frame this specimen, the former covering of three leaves now sere brown and collapsed, the berries revealed in startling clarity among evergreen ferns, Christmas red and green. The strangely named Dry Creek, the driving force of Fillmore Glen, flowing below this humus layered shelf moist with a constant flow from the gorge walls.

The park trails make for a pleasant choice at the start of each excursion. This day, Pam and I visited Cowshed Falls at the foot of the glen, climbed the north rim trail to walk among the hemlocks, listening the leisurely calls of Hermit Thrust like breaking crystal. The time of mushrooms was past in late September, instead we enjoyed the Indian Summer sun and breeze safe in knowing it will not last.

“Jacks” are part of the known lore of the Native American woodland tribes. These berries are poisonous, so beware of handing them. Wikipedia tells me a ploy was to mix the berry juice with meat to leave for enemies. Hidden by the meat flavor, the heartily enjoyed poison lead to death. The plant grows from a thick root, a corm. Correctly dried and prepared, the corm is food. I can imaging these plants an entities haunting the forest, choosing to reveal themselves, or not, to knowing souls. Maybe this is was drew O’Keefe to these woodland shapes growing around the springs of her summer homes. Leisure and an open, wandering glance are important, anyway, for noticing them. Most strangers wander by, engrossed in conversations, memories, evanescent distractions.

Here are other “shots” from the same day.

Here is another posting about the Finger Lakes of New York State.

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park

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In the nature of fame, today Watkins Glen is the best known of the Finger Lakes State Parks. The International Speedway of that name enhanced and amplified name recognition during the post war years. Founded in 1948, the course used public roads of the town until the inevitable happened, an accident and the death of a seven year old child in a group of sidewalk spectators when a racer lost control.

The glen predates the race by 12,000+ years formed at that time from glaciation using materials from distant eons . Watkins Glen was known as a tourist attraction from the 19th century for the resort hotel on the south gorge rim, acquired and developed by New York State in the first years of the 20th century.

From a gate off “Lovers Lane” a sturdy flight of concrete steps with custom made handrails lead to an observation platform over the gorge. This feature will be known to many future generations……

Lovers Lane Observation Platform– CLICK ME!!!!

…….the fine grained concrete is worthy of a Roman wall, the heavy iron handrails were built to specification as flowing curves unlike what is done today: built as modules and accommodated on site.

Lovers Lane Observation Platform– CLICK ME!!!!

In the 20th century the fame of Watkins Glen attracted the road race, the popularity of racing enhanced park attendance. Today, the gorge trail of crowded summer weekends. On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 Pam packed a picnic lunch and we made a late start for a weekday visit. The upper entrance is enhanced by mature trees, oak, elm, hemlocks. We had our picnic under these on a moldy smelling picnic table enhanced with a green striped table cloth and fresh coffee.

Pam is my personal photographer. Here is an example of her work.

Michael Wills in Watkins Glen– CLICK ME!!!!

To give me my due, I did the driving and carried the 30+ pound pack into the gorge.

Pam captured me in position downstream from Rainbow Falls with a Manfrotto tripod with hydrostatic ball head on which is mounted a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Canon EF 24mm f1.4 II USM lens, Tiffen nd 0.9 filter.

It was coming up to 4 pm eastern daylight savings time, the sun still high overhead. I needed to carefully choose a position for a frame in the wide angle lens without hot spots. Here are two results.

The sun was just of the gorge rim, to the right. Rainbow Falls forms from the tributary to Glen Creek cascading over the gorge walls.

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen– CLICK ME!!!!

Visitors walk under the falls where falling water eroded the soft, underlying stone to form an overhang.

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen– CLICK ME!!!!

Copyright 2017 MichaelStephenWills.com

Rose of Castlemaine

Beauty and History on the Maine River

A chapter of our day on the Dingle Peninsula. 
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The temperate oceanic climate of Ireland is perfect for roses. On R561 near Castlemaine we stopped to admire these dark red blooms growing on long stems. From the form and deep color I say these are a hybrid of the China Rose, a variety with color that deepens in sunlight.

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Castlemaine of County Kerry, is on the southeastern coast. Here prevailing winds from the North Atlantic current moderate temperatures; winters are warmer, summers cooler than elsewhere on the island. Just across the road is a yard aburst with blooms on this June day in 2013. Castlemain is named for a castle built on a bridge over the river Maine. The river flows into Dingle Bay.

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

This is a small, quiet town, yet due to the river crossing this is a strategic location.  During the Irish War of Independance, the IRA ambushed and killed security forces near Castlemaine.
Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

The ballad of defiance, “The Wild Colonial Boy”, tells the story of a Jack Duggan born and bred in Castlemaine. The tale is based on the life of Jack Donahue, an orphan of Dublin. In his short life Jack was convicted under English law, shipped to Australia where he escaped to the bush and a career as a bush ranger. He escaped a death sentence only to die in a shootout. Jack lived to be about 26.
Attempts to ban “The Wild Colonial Boy” in Australia failed. Generations of Australians have sung and will sing this tale, now a part of folk lore. Here are the lyrics:

There was a wild colonial boy,
Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and raised in Ireland,
in a place called Castlemaine
He was his father’s only son,
his mother’s pride and joy
And dearly did his parents love
the wild colonial boy
At the early age of sixteen years,
he left his native home
And to Australia’s sunny shore,
he was inclined to roam
He robbed the rich, he helped the poor,
he shot James MacEvoy
A terror to Australia was
the wild colonial boy

One morning on the prairie,
as Jack he rode along
A-listening to the mocking bird,
a-singing a cheerful song
Up stepped a band of troopers:
Kelly, Davis and Fitzroy
They all set out to capture him,
the wild colonial boy
Surrender now, Jack Duggan,
for you see we’re three to one.
Surrender in the Queen’s high name,
you are a plundering son
Jack drew two pistols from his belt,
he proudly waved them high.
“I’ll fight, but not surrender,”
said the wild colonial boy

He fired a shot at Kelly,
which brought him to the ground
And turning round to Davis,
he received a fatal wound
A bullet pierced his proud young heart,
from the pistol of Fitzroy
And that was how they captured him,
the wild colonial boy

Click this link for the previous chapter of our day on the Dingle Peninsula

Framed Convex Mirror, Killarney Royal Hotel

The morning of our day on the Dingle Peninsula I left the room early, my Sony Alpha 700 in hand, while Pam finished her preparations.  The elevator deposited me in the lobby and I proceeded to capture images of the Killarney Royal Hotel, our base for three nights.

This marvelous “antique” mirror caught my eye. We are used to seeing convex mirrors in the upper corners of elevators, strategically located at hallway junctions, automated teller machines and parking garages all with the intention of providing a wide, fisheye, view to detect unsavory, lurking types and danger.

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Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

This spotless, framed convex mirror is from a older, saner time.  Such objects came in use from the 1400’s (15th century). When all glass was blown, a convex surface was easier to produce than a flat and, since all glass was expensive to produce, a convex mirror was a popular luxury item, an expensively framed status symbol.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

As the mirrors were an element of elite surroundings, art came to include them as objects in the midground, the surface reflecting back to the viewer a different viewpoint. An opportunity for an artist to demonstrate virtuosity. Examples are Jan van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Portrait” and the left wing of the Werl Triptych by Robert Campin.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

Known as the “sorcerer’s eye” from the all encompassing view and, in keeping with our modern uses, even back then also called a”banker’s eye.”  Symbolically, the 15th century paintings used a pristine mirror to represent the Immaculate Conception.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

The five images here are the final result of trial and error, working out the details of using a flash in the relatively low light of the morning lobby, avoiding my reflection, maintaining a sharp focus throughout the field, capturing the unique details of the frame without distortion and the mirror’s wide angle view.  I gave up on the flash and, instead, did this series at f5.6 and the ISO incremented 800 to 3,200. As such, the exposure ranged from 1/5 to 1/25 of a second. All shots were handheld.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

I hope you enjoy the results. This was a promising start to our memorable day of exploration.

Here’s the next installment of our Dingle Exploration….

Here’s a previous Ireland posting…..

Copyright 2017 MichaelStephenWills.com