Loughan an Lochan Ruin I

Romance of Ruins

Introduction

Here is a photograph from our day touring the Glens of Antrim.  While making our way up the coast to Torr Head a group of stone walls resolved into ruins. A cluster of cottages on grassy slopes above the Irish sea above Loughan Bay.  This is the townland of Loughan.  Along the road are wonderful signs providing in handsome carved letters the place name in english and gaelic.  Here a signed only provided a gaelic name: “Loughan an Lochan”…near enough to meaning “Loughan Bay” in English.  The bay is a shallow scallop shaped indentation of the coast, a margin of narrow sand strand.

Ruins are spread across the slope.  Immediately before the views are traces of a foundation above the grass.  Beyond the top of a gable, an entire gable to the left.  On the far ridge, just visible, is an entire structure with doorways, gables, walls.

Across the Irish Sea, 13 miles distant, is the Mull of Kintyre.  In faint outline, rising above the horizon, find the highlands of Islay more than 30 miles.  Both are tips of peninsulas jutting from Scotland.

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The ruins lead to curiosity over who live here?  What were their lives like?  Why did they leave?

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Secretive and Failed Zuma SpaceX Mission

Driving to Cocoa Beach from Ithaca, Pam and I missed a horrendous storm because we did a side trip to Louisville, Kentucky, avoiding I95 January 4th and 5th and a rare and treacherous ice storm.

We met people who were stranded overnight near Savannah, Georgia while, on the same days, we drove Kentucky Hill Country for an overnight at Macon, Georgia all in excellent, dry, cold weather.
The storm itself, was a stroke of luck.  The first Space X launch of 2018 was delayed by the weather until the evening of Sunday, January 7th.
I was in place, in the dark, on Cocoa Beach with my Canon DSLR on bulb mode, securely mounted on a travel tripod.  My choice of lens was the 24 mm “wide angle.”

Proximity to the Kennedy Space Center is a reason we return to Cocoa Beach.  A year ago, March 2007, we did the “Launch Director Tour” offered once a month (if at all) and had a fantastic day. I’ll need to blog about it.

For now, here is a shot from the former Space Shuttle launch room.

Launch Control Center

I planned camera placement well for this night launch.  The view held the entire parabola of the trail. Camera placement was based on researching the launch complex, finding it on Google Earth, using the line feature to determine the orientation of the complex from my location on Cocoa Beach.

Live, the start of the launch is like a dawn in the northern sky.  I broke off the exposure to somewhat capture the effect.

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

The human eye, only the Falcon 9 flame is visible, as a single point of bright light ever rising, lighting the beach and clouds in a soft glow.

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

The long exposure blends the flame into a bright parabola, at one point the rocket engines throttle back, eventually the color changed to reddish from bright white.  I held the exposure until the rocket flame, in the image, turned to blue and faded away.

We waited for six (6) or so minutes, the camera mount and orientation unchanged, and then the incredible returning booster briefly lit up to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I missed the beginning of the burn.  In retrospect, I should have timed the launch and opened the shuttle 5 minutes or so after “blast off.”

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

Followed by a TWO sonic boom finale. Kabooom….Kabooom.

We read in the news the secret military satellite, named “Zuma”, on top of the Falcon crashed into the Indian Ocean.  SpaceX claimed the launch was a success (??), that the protective fairing jettisoned successfully.  No mention was made of the secret payload. The failure was with the Northup Grumman built “Zuma” satellite?  Hmmmmm.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Bridging the Lethe

notes from November 2231 AD

Hook

Ancient legends speak of the River Lethe, crossed by departing souls.  The waters of the Lethe wash away memory, allowing for spiritual rebirth, reincarnation, a return to the world in new form.

SycamoreGrove20170404-10

This memory implant represents a bridge over the Lethe.

Footbridge over Enfield CreekFor those chosen to cross over to the new land in return for

Sycamore Grove

their treasure, lives and selves.

Sycamore Grove

Description

This virtual monoculture glade from the long time of forests,

Sycamore Grove

a place of happy gatherings, of families, plentiful food and water.

Sycamore Grove

These sycamores grew over centuries, through thousands of days, wider than 10 people,

Sycamores

white with age as the outer covering, called bark, falls away.

Sycamores

forked, trunks

Sycamore Trunk

climbing to the sky.

Sycamore Sky
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Dreams, Stories and Things from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

The Dreams

For 32 years dreams about work visited occasionally, then when retirement approached and overtook me these became an almost nightly visitation.

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Last week, a few months into retirement, the haunting stopped, replaced by adventures by and on the ocean.  

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It brings to mind, a few years ago Pam and I took lessons at Cornell’s Merrill Family Sailing Center followed by several seasons of memberships.  We’d take out sailboats the size on the one enjoyed by the fellow above in Northport Harbor.

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We’d spend entire days on the water, looking up at the people driving the hill up and down route 13.  “How lucky we are here and not there”, I’d say.

The Stories

Willy Vanderbilt named his Centerport estate “Eagle’s Nest” after his first yacht, “Eagle” that was anchored in Northport harbor along the estate shoreline.  In 1932 the German Krupp Germaniawerft company build a new yacht named Alva, after his mother.

 

Willy had a “thing” about the infant Baccus.  My first Vanderbilt Museum posting “A Taste of Gatsby: details from the Vanderbilt Museum”included the following depictions of the infant Baccus.  the name preferred by the Romans.

To the Greeks he was Dionysus.  Also known as the “twice born” from the myth of his being carried in his father Zeus’ thigh after Hera, the jealous wife, plotted the death of his mother, the mortal Semele.  

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The infancy of Dionysus was perilous, with Hera plotting revenge Zeus found safe haven for the child at a place of earth called Mount Nysa, with beings named Rain Nymphs.  The fascination of Vanderbilt with the story continued with the acquisition and display of a statue of the infant Dionysus with a protective nymph.

The Things

The statue and plinth are at the stairs into the garden.

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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Dionysus” and “Willy Vanderbilt”

More Details from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

The Planetarium

Thirty five years after completing his Eagles Nest estate and twenty seven after his death, this planetarium became an addition to the museums left by William K. Vanderbilt II (“Willie K”).
Located next to the Rose Garden, where my last blog “A Taste of Gatsby – details from the Vanderbilt Museum” left off, this planetarium is on the site for the estate tennis courts. The Planetarium reopened March 2013 with a complete equipment upgrade.

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Planetarium Dome
The star of the planetarium is a Konica Minolta GeminiStar III projector; a machine that will put this museum on the map for having one of the finer planetarium projectors in the United States.

There are several museums on the grounds, joined by graciously appointed walkways.
This is a corner urn along the walk to the mansion.

Wall Planter
This planter graces a wall corner along the path from the Planetarium to the Corinthian Colonnade

Courtyard Entrance

The Spanish Revival style mansion gathers around a central, cobblestone courtyard entered through this elaborate sandstone gate flanked by two carved sandstone urns, each at least six feet tall with pedestal.

Archway Courtyard Entrance
A gated arch serves as the mansion courtyard entrance.

The gated entrance is the base of a bell tower. Willie brought from Russia a church bell that is older than the Liberty bell. He used to have great fun ringing the bell on Sunday mornings to disturb the sleep of his partying son and friends. That stopped when the neighbors arrived as an angry, spontaneous group to complain.

Urn at Mansion Courtyard Arch
The mansion courtyard is entered through a gated archway. This cast urn graces the right side.

The cobblestone road leads up to the mansion, over a bridge and into the courtyard.
Here is a detail of the walk way, formed from glacially rounded pebbles very common on beaches of Long Island’s North Shore.

Pebble Designs in Walkway
A walkway decorated with black and white pebbles leads into the mansion courtyard. This is a portion just inside the arch.

A Ghost in the Garden

Across the courtyard from the bell tower is this arched entrance to the gardens along the east mansion walls. As we approached the figure to the right seemed to be a ghost, she was so still, enthralled by the view of Northport Harbor.

Archway from Courtyard
Archway with view toward Northport Bay and Asharoken

There were many cast stone planters in an Aztec motif such as that to the left of the archway and, in a detail shot, below.

Wall Urn and Northport Harbor
A cast wall urn from the Mansion Garden of the Vanderbilt Museum.

We continued through the archway into the gardens. With plenty of time before the Mansion tour (highly recommended) we wandered at length and had an interesting conversation with the figure of the archway, a retired lady from Smithtown (and not a ghost).

Pam in Mansion Garden
Pam struck up a conversation with another visitor who was very knowledgeable about the museum history and grounds.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Taste of Gatsby: details from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

Fountain FigureA Taste of Gatsby

The first weekend of May 2013 my wife, Pam, and I attended a New York City Ballet performance on Saturday. Sunday we visited the Vanderbilt Museum of Centerport, Long Island.

This is the former “Eagles Nest” estate of William (“Willie”) Kissam Vanderbilt II.

Museum visitors are first drawn to a grand Corinthian colonnade and view of this boathouse on Northport Harbor.

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Boat House

Vanderbilt and Gatsby

Willie K chose Centerport in 1910 for an anchorage on the well protected Northport Harbor, deep enough to his yacht the size of a destroyer class ship named for his mother, Alva.
The estate grounds are high above the harbor, the mansion and gardens designed to enhance the view.

There are superficial parallels between Willie K’s life and “The Great Gatsby.” The first suburban commuter, Willie K was an auto enthusiast. A theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” is travel back and forth from New York City to the great estates on Long Island’s North Shore. In Gatsby, while the vehicles are grand, the travel is pointless or worse. In comparison, Willie K as a pioneering automobile racer, achieved a land speed record and founded a major race, “The Vanderbilt Cup.” Gatsby, above and beyond his fictional status, is a tenuous, transient figure. Vanderbilt established this estate, grounds and museums we still enjoy today.

Rose Garden

A short walk from the colonnade is a rose garden surrounding a pool and fountain. These Corinthian columns sized to a human scale flank a dedication bench on the northern side overlooking the boathouse through a hillside forest.

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Rose Garden Bench

Spirit of the Mediterranean

This figure of a flourishing infant is atop the rose garden fountain. Pam and I first noticed this character of the Eagles Nest estate here, with his abundant grape cluster, and came to know him as an expression of Willie’s outlook.

To the northeast / east is a dramatic view of Northport harbor and the Long Island Sound.

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Rose Garden Fountain

The mansion and surrounding grounds were imagined by Willie and implemented by the architects Warren, Wetmore and Pearce, over a twenty five year building campaign, from his feeling for the Mediterranean.

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Museum Garden Statue

We were gifted with weather that evoked the full expression of the Mediterranean spirit.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Man of War Beach Walk

Beauties and Dangers Encountered During a Walk on the Beach

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Setting off from the International Palms Resort Pam and I turned left, walking toward the pier, about 2.5 miles away. On the left is Lori Wilson (public) Park. One benefit of this location is the lifeguard station and “protected” swimming. We have reservations about ocean swimming: Sharks? Man ‘O War?

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That hotel with the dark windows, on the north side of Lori Wilson Park is the Hilton. This sandcastle, washed out by high tide, caught in the dawn light, was in front of the Hilton. It brings to mind the interaction of nature and people.

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There were strong on-shore winds that day. Dune grass driven by the wind made this pattern.

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Wind Driven Pattern – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

The wind and tide washed ashore all sorts of man-mad junk.

These small pieces of plastic washes off distant islands by hurricanes, the plastic ground up into bits.

The branded drink holder, the “corn huskers” of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, does not speak well for the alumni as these are sold locally. Community-minded people walk the beach with bags, picking up the bigger stuff.

When the wind changed the small plastic washed out with the next high tide and the beach was cleared.

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Corpse of a gull with ground up plastic bits.

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The gull beak has the same cruel beauty in death as it does in life.

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The wind drove ashore living creatures, left them on the beach to dry out or as food for crabs and gulls. After a Man Of War washes up on a beach it is still dangerous. Long tentacles extend from the body and can deliver painful stings.

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The person walking around these tentacles is wisely wearing shoes, as I can tell from the footprint shape.

Each such tentacle is threaded with stinging, venom-filled structures coiled, like a spring, ready to pump venom into the victim for the purpose of feeding, catching larval and small fishes and squids.

These structures, called nematocysts fire on contact and do not differentiate targets be it a human foot or a squid.

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The crest of the Portuguese Man of War is very visible in the water, the sac can be inflated/deflated to catch the wind or even sink the organism to escape surface feeders. The fanciful resemblance of the floating crest to a sailing ship is the origin of the organism’s popular name. The scientific name is Physalia physalis. While it appears to be a single creature, it is actually several working together for common benefit.

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In Australia they call these baddies “blue bottles.” So descriptive.

We talked with life guards about first aid procedure, for the stings, and were not comforted by their ignorance. We had done the research ourselves. Be informed before you step onto the beach. Do not expect well informed assistance in the case of a sting, pre-arm yourself with knowledge.

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Life guards were not knowledgeable – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

This is an especially dangerous configuration of a beached Man O’ War (also known at Floating Terror): a blue balloon with strings trailing from it. Young children will see the balloon and want to grab or play with it. If we see tourist families with young children, when these are around, we will go out of our way to warn them.

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These disconcerting findings on the beach do not diminish our enjoyment of the environment, instead we are left with a greater appreciation and respect for the ocean.

Dunes welcome us home after a successful sunrise photo shoot.

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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Saint Patrick’s Return to Ireland

Thoughts on the Fifth Century return of Saint Patrick to Ireland

In follow-up to my last post my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara was accepted and is available for viewing (click the link to go there).

Since July 2008 a sea generation tidal turban, “SeaGen”, produces electricity (1.2 MW) for between 18 and 20 hours a day while the tide is forced in and out of Strangeford Lough through the Narrows where the generator is installed. The first large scale commercial production of electricity from the tide, “SeaGen” is located between the Northern Ireland towns of Strangeford and Portaferry, the strength of the tides there were used by the earliest tidal mill known, the Nendrum Monastery mill dating 787 based on archeological excavation.

History records Patrick converted the island of Erin (Ireland) to Christianity in the Fifth Century AD as a return to his place of captivity and slavery.

Saint Patrick legend, Down Cathedral
An informational plaque mounted on granite next to the grave of Saint Patrick.

There is a connection between “SeaGen” and the return of Patrick to Ireland. The first sanctuary dedicated by Patrick was at Saul, County Down not far from River Quoile that drains into Strangeford Lough. Historians identify Patrick’s first landing site, upon return, as Wicklow where he was forced to leave by the locals. Heading north in the boats of the time, the strong tide of Strangeford Narrows pulled them into the Lough and, from there, headed up the River Quoile to encounter the local chieftain, Díchu mac Trichim. Patrick’s first Irish convert to Christianity, the feast of Saint Dichu is April 29.

On June 7, 2014 Pam and I visited this area. Here are some photographs of the traditional burial place of Saint Patrick.

View of Downpatrick
View of Downpatrick from the hill of the Cathedral Church of Holy Trinity (Down Cathedral)
Downpatrick High Cross
The High Cross of Downpatrick fronts Down Cathedral on a hill overlooking the town. The informational placard reads
“The granite head and shaft date to about 900 AD and were once re-used as part of a Market Cross at the bottom of English Street. The pieces were found in various places in town, reassembled and presented to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral in 1897.”
St Patrick's Grave
The placard text reads:
“A large memorial stone of Mourne granite was place here in 1900 to mark the traditional burial-place of St. Patrick. The stone was quarried at Slieve-na-largie near Castlewellan, and it took 12 men 14 days to cut from the quarry.”
Inscription, St Patrick Grave
Inscription on the upper surface of stone marking grave of Saint Patrick.

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Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Saint Patrick’s Return to the Hill of Tara

The year 2000 AD return of Saint Patrick to the Hill of Tara

To continue my posting “Climb Hill of Tara” my first submission of three Hill of Tara photographs to Getty Istock had two of the photographs returned for revision.

For the fenced statue of Saint Patrick the reviewed wrote:

Please provide a full description for the work of art featured in this image. Include the artist, date of creation, location, etc. Works of art created by someone other than yourself must be free of copyright protection to be considered. If this work of art is indeed under copyright protection, a property release signed by the copyright holder will need to be provided.

Hmmmm….What I do while capturing a photograph of a statue is take photos of any plaque, sign, whatever to acquire the name of the creator, how it came to be there, community connections. There was nothing around the statue nor the very informative Office of Public Works placards at the entrance.  I was proud to submit the statue photograph, as it turned out so well, and hoped for the best.

Last week, I put in a query to Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW), the agency responsible for the Hill of Tara, and did not receive a response when, for other queries, they were helpful.  This Saturday and Monday mornings, several hours of internet research revealed this history.

The original statue was placed on Tara sometime after the 1829 Catholic emancipation.  It was molded concrete, created by Thomas Curry of Navan at his own expense to honor the connection of Saint Patrick to Tara.

The OPW removed Curry’s statue 1992 for repair of a century of wear.  During the removal the statue was damaged beyond repair and, afterwards, was further damaged by vandals who decapitated and used it for target practice.

Initially, the OWP decided not to replace Saint Patrick citing the “pagan” nature of the place. After an angry meeting of local people at the Skryne Parish Hall.  In this meeting the local Rathfeigh Historical Society formed the “Committee to Restore St. Patrick to Tara.”  In turn, pressure was put on Michael D. Higgins, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (and the OPW). It was decided a new statue was to be created, based on a competition, and instead of it former place at the hill summit (called Rath na Rí), it was to be near the entrance, outside the Interpretative Center, to offer a Céad Míle Fáilte to visitors and be seen on departure.

The outcome was the competition winner was rejected by locals.  The winning entry, by sculptor Annette Hennessy, did not follow competition rules that specified the statue incorporate traditional features to include shamrocks, harp, miter, a crozier and, perhaps, fleeing snakes. Hennessy’s design was of a shaven headed teenage boy in a short (“mini-skirt”) kilt, a handbag-shaped bell in hand.  She agreed hers was “not a traditional style statue” saying it “acknowledges our Pagan Celtic history.”

The rejection included a statement from Dr. Leo Curran, chairman of the Rathfeigh Historical Society, “We agreed that most of the monuments in Tara are from the pre-Christian era, but St. Patrick should be at the uppermost layer, representing Christian tradition extinguishing paganism.”

By this time, a new government and minister were in place.  The decision was made to search Ireland to find a suitable, existing, replacement statue.  By 2000 the present statue, donated by the Sisters of Charity, was in place at the Hill of Tara entrance.

At the end of this post I provide the two references from my internet research and from which many facts and all the quotes were used here.  I concluded the statue author was anonymous without copyright protection and submitted a revised image description, attaching a copy of my research.

Let’s see what happens to my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara.

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References :
“Should St Patrick stand again on Tara?” Independent, Dublin, Ireland March 17, 1999.
“Statue of Saint Patrick”, Meath Roots web site. The page includes photograph of the Thomas Curry statue.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ice Bells on Fall Creek

from multiple thaw-freeze cycles

Captured outside our former Malloryville home on Fall Creek of the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

I used a Canon 100mm “macro” lens.

SONY DSC

Cheers on this January morning.

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