Horse Trap on Inishmore

Travel at its best

Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
View from Horse Drawn Trap on Cottage Road headed into Kilronan

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Galway Bay View from Dún Aonghasa

a season of wildflowers across a karsk landscape

Another aspect of the gradual 1/2 mile inclined path to the central ring of the prehistoric Dun Aonghasa ruins of County Galway, Ireland.

The view north, northwest from this way to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus).  In early June, looking across wildflowers, karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. 

Note the doorway (with long lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.

Click the photograph for a larger view.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Click me for the first post of this series, “Horse Trap on Inishmore.”

References: search wikipedia “Dún Aonghasa.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Black Skimmers Feeding

An early morning revelation

I published six fine art prints from this photo session. Click this link for any photograph to visit my new Florida Gallery.

One early morning, just after dawn, Cocoa Beach, Florida, I had a revelation.  My wife and I walk the beach four or more miles each day we are lucky enough to be in Florida for the winter.  Yes, we are “snow birds” who flee the snows of New York for a few weeks, now and then.
Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

We love to catch the sunrise together, have breakfast, pull together a lunch for a long walk.  We catch the passing beach scenery, find a place to enjoy our meal, and return late afternoon.

The Black Skimmer (Scientific Name: Rynchops niger) literally stands out from the gulls.  The individuals gather together in a large group.  If there is a wind, most group members face into it.  They are aloof and dignified, unlike the gulls who grift for food, obnoxious and bothersome if you make the mistake of throwing a gull a morsel.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

Black Skimmers are just as large a gulls.  Slender, tern-like, black and white bodies.  Recognize a Black Skimmer from the colorful red of the base of the bill.  If you view my Fine Art versions, notice the lower mandible is much longer.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

My early morning revelation was how the Black Skimmer feeds, flying just above the surf, the lower mandible extended to fish by feel.  Unless you beach walk early mornings, you will be most familiar with the habit of grouping together, facing into the wind. I captured this individual, a member of a larger group, just after sunrise, on Cocoa Beach. It was just me and the Skimmers.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

Their feeding is successful enough to allow them to longue on the beach most of the day.  I have only seen them feed early mornings.  Here is another part of their feeding behavior.  They feed as a group in long sweeping lengths.  At the end, they turn as a group and head the other way.  Here are three Black Skimmers in a turn.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

One morning, after our sunrise view, I pulled together my photography kit for this successful photo shoot.  Enjoy!!

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Newlyweds and the Cruise Ship

Images of Newlyweds on the beach

With grandchildren in the Miami Area and a sister in Daytona Beach, Florida was on my mind this morning and memories of this beautiful experience on Cocoa Beach came to mind. After an eventful day touring the NASA launch control center, Pam and I took an evening walk during the golden hour, me with camera in hand.
Full in expectation of catching the passing scene with lots of shot I set to full size jpeg mode using a Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens. The light was exceptional, so I did not expect much post production work.

My first impression was of the line of cruise ships heading south from Port Canaveral, the starboard side lit perfectly behind human denizens of the Cocoa Beach shore, in full enjoyment mode. A synergy of the images struck me. I took a few experimental shots then, as we progressed down the beach front this unusual tableau came into view.

Wedding Immersion
Newlyweds on Cocoa Beach give rapt attention to a distant cruise ship, it looks like an elegant child’s toy.
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Pulling back the focal length a bit the reason for the bride and groom on the beach is clear.

Newlyweds and Photographer
Photographer approaches from left.
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The session proceeded smoothly and professionally, it was a pleasure to watch. I felt no compunction for capturing these private moments on a public beach, the transcendence of the images reflect well on all participants.

Newlywed Photoshoot
Bride and groom pose while photographer composes the shot, her assistant behind.
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Pull back to capture the entire environment.
Enjoy!!!

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Endless Searching

discerning a fascinating species

Gulls, an omnipresent element of any beach stroll. Pestiferous, abounding and incessant the gull is simple to deal with. Keep any and all foodstuffs under wraps.

Click for “Florida” in my Fine Art Galleries.

For those who adore a crowd of gulls

Conversely, for those who adore a crowd of raucous opportunists simply pull out the food and offer it to the air. There is more about this photograph at this post, “Lady Feeding Gulls, Cocoa Beach Dawn.”

Click any photograph for a larger view.

Beach Walking

Pam and I developed a habit of hanging out in Florida during Finger Lakes Winters when the gorges are closed for safety and even walking the streets is perilous, stray black ice encounters abound. We trade icy falls for beach walks.

It is natural to become inured to the flight of gulls along the shore. For all my carting along the Sony Alpha 700 with a variable lens ( 18 – 200 mm) there is not a single photograph of a gull in flight. Yet, I have my eye on them until my blindness was lifted by a peculiar individual. It seemed to be a white gull, yet it had a watchful eye.

Gliding shoreline parallel with head down, how could I have mistaken it for a gull?

Osprey occupy an environmental niche along 700,000+ shoreline miles worldwide as a single species Pandion haliaetus. A unique bird with its own family, Pandionidae, and genus, Pandion, some experts recognize sub-species in geographic regions. Ours is the Western Osprey.

The following photograph is of a wing shape very different from the gull.

Osprey Stalking Behavior

IPhone 8 always in my pocket, I captured this clip of an Osprey stalking fish in the Atlantic Ocean surf. You will have a better viewing experience by clicking on the title of the embedded YouTube, then click on the Full Screen icon at the lower right.

Copyright 2021, Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Attack on the Lusitania

Rescue operations and memorials

Our day of touring Kinsale and environs, the last day of May 2014, continues with our morning visit to the “Old Head of Kinsale.” Head is short for headland, a narrow strip of land projecting into the sea.

On May 7th, 1915 the Cunard liner Lusitania was torpedoed 16 km (10 miles) off the Old Head of Kinsale, 40 km (25 miles) west of Queenstown. Of the 1,959 people on board, 1,198 died. Those who survived were brought to Queenstown and Kinsale by rescue vessels and cared for in local hotels and hospitals. Many of those who died were buried at Old Church cemetery, 3 km (2 miles) north of Queenstown. The first class Queen’s Hotel cared for some of the survivors. The elegant Edwardian atmosphere of the hotel was shattered by the horrific news of the loss of the ship. This is the setting for the story of Queenstown’s role in the Lusitania disaster. –text from Cobh Heritage Center poster, see image below.

The Old Head is notable, in the contest of the Lusitania attack, for being the land closest to the incident. Cobh, then named “Queenstown”, was the focus of rescue operations. See text below, from a display of the Cobh Heritage Museum.

The Kinsale tower is just over nine meters high, with walls up to 80 cm thick. Records show a signal crew was in place in 1804 and the tower finished the following year, though severely affected by dampness. When Napoleon was defeated by Wellingtons forces at Waterloo, 1815. With the diminished threat these expensive installations were neglected. The 1899 Ordnance Survey map lists the site as being in ruins. During our 2014 visit the local community was renovating the tower and the work appears complete sometime before 2021.

I did not see and/or recall much emphasis in the museum for pillorying Germany, after all a German U-boat was responsible. Curious, I did a Wikipedia search and found this text. The topic of Ireland, Germany and World War I is complicated.

On the afternoon of 7 May, a German U-boat torpedoed Lusitania 11 miles (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland inside the declared war zone. A second internal explosion sank her in 18 minutes, killing 1,198 passengers and crew. The German government justified treating Lusitania as a naval vessel because she was carrying 173 tons of war munitions and ammunition, making her a legitimate military target, and they argued that British merchant ships had violated the cruiser rules from the very beginning of the war. The internationally recognized cruiser rules were obsolete by 1915; it had become more dangerous for submarines to surface and give warning with the introduction of Q-ships in 1915 by the Royal Navy, which were armed with concealed deck guns. The Germans argued that Lusitania was regularly transporting “war munitions”; she operated under the control of the Admiralty; she could be converted into an armed auxiliary cruiser to join the war; her identity had been disguised; and she flew no flags. They claimed that she was a non-neutral vessel in a declared war zone, with orders to evade capture and ram challenging submarines.
However, the ship was not armed for battle and was carrying thousands of civilian passengers, and the British government accused the Germans of breaching the cruiser rules. The sinking caused a storm of protest in the United States because 128 American citizens were among the dead. The sinking shifted public opinion in the United States against Germany and was one of the factors in the declaration of war nearly two years later. After the First World War, successive British governments maintained that there were no munitions on board Lusitania, and the Germans were not justified in treating the ship as a naval vessel. In 1982, the head of the Foreign Office’s American department finally admitted that, although no weapons were shipped, there is a large amount of ammunition in the wreck, some of which is highly dangerous and poses a safety risk to salvage teams.

The original memorial to the Lusitania was unveiled on the 80th anniversary of the May 7th, 1915 sinking (May 7, 1995), Old Head of Kinsale, County Cork Ireland. The imemorial nscription reads “In memory of the 1198 civilian lives lost on the Lusitania 7th May 1915 off the Old Head of Kinsale.”

The inscription of the commemoration plaque accompanying the memorial reads, “This memorial was unveiled by Hugh Coveney D Minister of Defense and The Marine on 7 May 1995.” Around the edge of the medallion reads, “Brian Little Sculptor” “This (cannot read) donated by Lan and Mary Buckley”

Reference
Wikipedia, “RMS Lusitania.”
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Napoleonic Era Signal Tower

19th Century Technology

Our day of touring Kinsale and environs, the last day of May 2014, began with this elegant breakfast by Marantha House near Blarney, our base for County Cork.

On the way to the Old Head of Kinsale. Located in Knocknacurra on the Kinsale side of Bridge Kinsale on R600. Looking toward the peninsula of Castle Park Village and James Fort. Coordinates 51°41’40.1″N 8°31’42.0″W

This tower, at the apex of the Old Head ring route, has extensive views. The next station at Seven Heads, to the southwest, is visible against the skyline on a clear day. These are two of the 81 stations planned for this signaling system implemented in the first years of the 19th century when a French naval invasion was a possibility.

The Kinsale tower is just over nine meters high, with walls up to 80 cm thick. Records show a signal crew was in place in 1804 and the tower finished the following year, though severely affected by dampness. When Napoleon was defeated by Wellingtons forces at Waterloo, 1815. With the diminished threat these expensive installations were neglected. The 1899 Ordnance Survey map lists the site as being in ruins. During our 2014 visit the local community was renovating the tower and the work appears complete sometime before 2021.


References
Click me for Irish Times 2013, “Ireland’s Napoleonic-era signal towers.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Skellig Peek

A Trinity of Skellig Images

Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.

Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.

Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.

Click any photograph for my Online gallery.
Skelligs from Valentia Island
I was here perched on a cliff of Valentia Island across from Portmagee looking southwest across Valentia Sound.

The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.

We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.

In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.

Click any photograph for my Online gallery.
Skellig Steps
Climbing the side of Skellig Michael, approach to the peak and monastery.

There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery.  I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds.  There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.

From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea).  Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights.  Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean.  Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other.  Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.

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Monk Cell
Monk Cell, Grave and Cross

This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting.  The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter.  Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry.  The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.

My closing advice is to plan your time wisely.  The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore.  There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves.  There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely.  People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do.  Make your personal safety a priority.

Click for another Ireland Posting, “On the River Cong.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserves

Inisheer Welcomes the 2014 Gaeltacht Irish Football champions

Inisheer Welcomes Their Champions

After we passed the Killeany bouy on our ferry trip, on the Queen of Aran, (click the link to see this posting) from the harbor of Inis Mor to Doolin, the ship made four, yes four, dockings.

GaeltachtIrishFootbalChampionship-1

A few days prior the Gaeltacht held the annual Irish football championship the weekend of May 21 through June 1 in Moycullen, County Galway. It was the Three Aran Islands (Oileaín Árann) team who won the 2014 championship. Sunday, June 1, the weekend of their victory, the cup was presented to Inis Mór, the largest Aran island and the one furthest into Galway Bay.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
GaeltachtIrishFootbalChampionship-2

The team on Monday, June 2, the day of our trip, was on Inis Meáin, in celebration mode.  Some of them were waiting for the ferry when we pulled into the Inis Meáin, the second largest Aran island between the other two, dock.  

GaeltachtIrishFootbalChampionship-3

The first of the previous three photographs is of the waiting team members who boarded and we left for Inisheer Island, the smallest of the three and the closest to Galway City.  The Queen of Aran was well out of the harbor when I imagine the radio in the pilot house said, “Come back, there are more team members on the dock.”  So we turned around, docked and several more came on board.

In way once again, well away from the harbor, the ferry turned around for a second time for a third landing at the  Inis Meáin dock.  With the full compliment of champions on board the ferry turned out of the harbor a third and final time for the last leg of with Silver Cup’s tour of the islands.

The population of Inisheer is about 250 souls.  It seemed all were waiting to greet the team.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Welcoming Family Group at End Of Dock

A large bon fire blazed as the Queen of Aran approached.

Islanders Welcome Champions

People lined the dock from beginning to end.

Islanders Welcome Champions

Calling out, waving their arms.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Islanders Welcome Champions

Standing and smiling.  Here is a flock of fans, from Galway apparently, very pleased at the sight.

Boat Welcomes Champions

The team was on the upper ferry deck.  I turned around and was lucky enough to capture the team captain (Not sure, but who else would it be?) holding the silver cup for all to admire.  Theirs for a year.

Showing the Cup

The crowd welcomed their own back home.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Islanders Welcome Champions

Surrounded the team and walked them grandly to town.

Islanders Welcome Champions

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Creeping up on 900 Readers….

….and a photographic gallery.

As of June 9, 881 is the count of subscribers to this blog, an interesting number. The individual numerals sum to a prime number, 17. I appreciate each and every “1” added together, you readers. Thank You.

Today, June 20, 5:44 pm Eastern Daylight Time, is the Summer Solstice for our Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year.

Here is a selection of images from past posts.

Click any photograph for a slide show. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page.

Click Me for my Shutterstock Gallery

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills