This is an older shot that I recently stumbled across in my library, I thought it was worth sharing as a Photo of the Week. This is a great example of why bad weather can be great for photography - I believe Americans call this "storm light", where you have weak soft sunlight against a dark angry sky. Here we see swans swimming along the river in Carton Estate near Maynooth in Co. Kildare, Ireland.

Swans in Carton Estate
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/800 sec
  • Focal Length: 38mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.33ev
  • Processing: created by tonemapping a single RAW image with Photomatix Pro, and tweaking the result with Aperture's built-in Dodge & Burn plugin

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This is another one of the shots I took in the ruins of Ennis Friary when I visited Ennis for a friend's wedding the summer before last. This is not the first shot from that visit to make my Photo of the Week series, see also Photo of the Week 77, Photo of the Week 87 & Photo of the Week 153. I chose to process this shot as a monochrome HDR to really bring out the fantastic textures in this tomb and the doorway next to it.

Ennis Friary
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/125 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Processing: created by tonemapping a single RAW image with Photomatix Pro, then converting it to monochrome with the Channel Mixer brick in Aperture, and bringing out the texture even more using the Curves brick.

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If you've been wondering why I've gotten so far behind with my Photo of the Week, the simple answer is that I've been ill. To cut a long story short, viruses are evil, and modern medicine seems powerless against them. I'm determined to get back on track with this series though, so this is an 8-photo bumper edition! Just before I fell badly ill Allison & Steve Sheridan (of the NosillaCast Podcast) came to Ireland for a short visit, so I've chosen my favourite 8 shots form their stay for this instalment. (You can see more shots form the visit on Flickr)

On their first full day in Ireland we went for a drive around the Wicklow mountains. We started off at the lakes in Blessington, then crossed the Wicklow Gap to Glendalough, and returned home by Military Road and the Sally Gap.

I did take some shots in Blessington, but I didn't think any of them were worthy of a Photo of the Week spot, so the first picture I'm posting was taken at the top of the Wicklow gap looking east towards Glendalough.

The Wicklow Gap
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/160 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Processing: tweaked a little using the Topaz Adjust plugin

The second shot I've chosen was also taken at the top of the Wicklow Gap, and it's my favourite shot of Allison & Steve from the trip.

Allison & Steve
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/400 sec
  • Focal Length: 30mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority

The third shot I've chosen was in Glendalough. It's undoubtedly a clichéd shot, but I like my take on it all-the-same. The light was very poor, with a massive dynamic range, so I opted to shoot in RAW, tonemap, and then convert to a very dramatic monochrome to really emphasise the textures. By using the channel mixer for the conversion I was able to make the building really stand out by pushing the red channel very high, and taking the blue and green channels down low.

Glendalough - Wicklow, Ireland
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/200 sec
  • Focal Length: 26mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -1.0ev
  • Processing: first tonemapped the original RAW with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked a little using Topaz Adjust plugin, then converted to monochrome using the Channel Mixer brick in Aperture.

The fourth shot I've chosen was from the end-point of our walk in Glendalough, the shore of the Upper-Lake. Just as we were about to turn around and head back to the car a small patch of blue sky passed over giving us a momentary burst of sun.

Glendalough - Wicklow, Ireland
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/640 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -1.0ev
  • Processing: first tonemapped the original RAW with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked a little using Topaz Adjust plugin, before giving it some final tweaks using Aperture's Dodge & Burn plugin.

As we were walking back towards the visitor centre from the Upper Lake we had some fantastically good luck, just as we had a perfect view of the round tower, the sun picked it out perfectly, while leaving the mountain behind it in shadow. The result was to make the tower appear bright white against a deep green background.

Glendalough - Wicklow, Ireland
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/250 sec
  • Focal Length: 35mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7ev
  • Processing: first tonemapped the original RAW with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked a little using Aperture's Dodge & Burn plugin.

Having come back from our walk we headed over to the ruins of the monastic village before heading home for the day. We were lucky enough to get a few more breaks in the clouds which made this shot of the round tower possible. I'm really happy with the composition I managed to pick out with the the little winding path leading to the tower.

The Round Tower - Glendalough, Wicklow, Ireland
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/400 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: +0.7ev
  • Processing: first tonemapped with the Topaz Adjust plugin, then tweaked a little using Aperture's Dodge & Burn plugin.

The last two images I want to share from the visit were taken on Al & Steve's last day here, when we visited the Hill of Tara on a beautifully sunny but rather blustery afternoon. Through pure luck we arrived just in time to catch a falconry demonstration! The bird was really loving the strong winds, and the sky was quite dramatic, so I was able to get some nice shots of her flying. This first shot from Tara is my favourite of the inflight shots I got.

Bird in Flight
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/3200 sec
  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7ev

Finally, the last picture for today's bumper post is a view from the top of the Hill of Tara out across the Irish midlands. The stone in the foreground is the so-called Stone of Destiny, where the Irish High Kings were crowned.

The Hill of Tara - Meath, Ireland
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/1000 sec
  • Focal Length: 23mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Processing: first tonemapped the original RAW with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked a little using Topaz Adjust plugin.

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There's been a lot of double posts of late, and this week is no exception. Last week I happily entertaining Allison & Steve from the Nosillacast on the Irish leg of their European tour, so I didn't get a chance to post. As always with double posts, I've chosen two related photos, in this case both of the Royal Canal. The vast majority of my insect and flower shots, as well as many of my train shots, are taken along a 10 mile stretch of this canal from Leixlip to Maynooth to Kilcock. Despite sharing lots of shots taken along the canal, I hardly ever share any shots of the canal, so I thought I'd correct that oversight this week.

The first shot I've chosen is taken from Chamber's Bridge just east of the 15th lock looking east towards Dublin. In the foreground you can see the jetty where boats can tie up while waiting to pass the lock which is directly behind us. The boat tied up at the jetty is a very special boat used by Waterways Ireland to keep the canal clear of too much plant growth. You can also see a guy fishing from the boat, and an evening express train to Sligo passing by on an embankment above the canal.

The Royal Canal
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/800 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Full Manual
  • Processing: This image was tweaked a little using the Topaz Adjust 4 plugin in Photoshop Elements 8.

The second shot was taken on the other side of the 15th lock, also looking east. Although the canal has been fully restored around the Dublin area, it's still a work in progress further west, which means there isn't much tourism on the canal yet. One of the few places you do see signs of tourism is here at the mooring place just west of the 15th lock. Lets hope views like this become more common all along the Royal Canal.

The Royal Canal
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/500 sec
  • Focal Length: 55mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.3ev
  • Processing: Generated by tonemapping a single RAW image with Photomatix Pro, and then tweaking the result with the Topaz Adjust 4 plugin in Photoshop Elements 8

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Since I was away in Belgium the previous weekend, this is yet another double post to get caught up. Again, double post means a single theme for both images. Inspired by all the talk of ash clouds leading to nice sunsets, I've picked two of my recent favorite sunset/dusk shots for this post.

The first shot was indeed taken while the recent volcanic ash cloud was making a nuisance of itself over Ireland. It was taken from Jackson's Bridge (located between Maynooth and Kilcock) looking west along the Royal Canal. In the foreground you can see the 14th lock. 13 Locks to the east of here the Royal Canal starts at the old docks in Dublin, and 32 locks to the west it enters the river Shannon.

Royal Canal Sunset
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/500 sec
  • Focal Length: 38mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Full Manual
  • Processing: This shot was generated by tonemapping the original RAW file with Photomatix Pro, and then tweaking the resulting image with Topaz Adjust 4

The second shot I've chosen is a little older, and pre-dates all the ash-cloud excitement. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's of a train, in this case an evening Commuter service from Maynooth to Dublin looming into shot out of a spectacular sunset.

Irish Rail Class 29000
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/400 sec
  • Focal Length: 120mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5
  • ISO: 800
  • Camera Mode: Full Manual
  • Processing: This shot was generated by tonemapping the original RAW file (first converted to 16bit TIFF) with Topaz Adjust 4, and then tweaking the resulting image with Aperture's Dodge & Burn plugin

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Each December the Railways Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) run a series of special excursions called Santa Specials. The trains run from Dublin's Pearse Station to Maynooth and back, and are usually pulled by Steam Locomotive No.4. For three weekends in December there are up to three trips a day on Saturdays and Sundays, so lots of fantastic opportunities to get some shots of steam in action on Irish rails. This year there was a slight hitch on one of the days though, No.4 broke down on the last run on one of the Saturdays, so a Northern Irish Rail diesel loco had to fill in for the runs on the following Sunday, but by the next Saturday No.4 was back in action and was able to finish out the rest of the runs.

Since I missed posting a photo last week this is a double week, and I've chosen my two very favourite shots from last December's season of Santa Specials. I have to say I really found it hard to pick just two, I'm really happy with quite a few of my shots from the month. If you want to see more than just these two shots I've created a set on Flickr with my best shots.

So, on to the first shot, in this case we see No.4 leaving gathering speed as it leaves Maynooth on the return leg back to Dublin Pearse. One thing you'll note here is that the train appears to be going backwards, or "bunker first". This is true, except it was designed to run just as well in both directions, so arguably there is no such thing as backwards. It's this ability to run in either direction that made No.4 such a useful engine during it's working life, because it could run to stations that didn't have turntables for turning engines around. In the past all major stations had to have turntables, but very few of those now remain, and Maynooth never even had one because it only became an important station in the 1980s when it became the terminus for the new Western Commuter service out of Dublin.

RPSI No.4 With Santa Special
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/30 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Shutter Priority
  • Processing: This shot was generated by tonemapping the original RAW file with Photomatix Pro, and then using layer masks in Pixelmator to selectively blend it with the original to merge the best elements from both versions of the shot into the final image.

The second shot I chose shows No.4 on it's way out to Maynooth running forwards. In this case the shot was taken in Leixlip just outside Leixlip-Louisa-Bridge station. This was No.4's second run of the day, and this run had the best weather of any of this season's runs.

RPSI No.4 With Santa Special
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/800 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/3.5
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -1.0ev
  • Processing: This shot was generated by tonemapping the original RAW file with Photomatix Pro.

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I've gotten quite behind at processing my shots - so this week I finally finished the last of my Autumn shots for 2009. With them all edited and tagged I could choose my very favourite shot of the season, and here it is! I just love this place, the buildings are amazing, and the water garden inside the square is amazing. I've taken many shots in here, and very few of them capture the coolness of the place, but I think this one comes close. I'm also a sucker for reflections and vibrant colours, all the more reasons to pick this as my favourite!

St. Mary's Square in Autumn
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/200 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -1.0ev
  • Processing: Single RAW image first tonemapped with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked with the Dodge & Burn plugin in Apple's Aperture

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One of my favourite places for photographing trains is Jackson's Bridge, it's one bridge west of Maynooth along the Dublin to Sligo mainline towards Killcock. Jackson's bridge actually crosses both the Royal Canal and the railway line, since the two run parallel most of the way between Dublin and Mullingar. When you look East from Jackson's Bridge towards Maynooth and Dublin you get a great view of the the track, the canal, the towpath, and a row of trees all running parallel next to each other almost as far as the eye can see.

This is normally a very quiet stretch of line with very little traffic on it, but twice a day the level of traffic really picks up. During the day most commuter trains terminate in Maynooth, but during the morning and evening rush some commuter trains now run all the way out to Longford. The number of InterCity services also increases at rush hour so you get a few trains an hour instead of a train every few hours!

I took this shot in mid-October when the trees have their nice autumnal colours, and when the evening rush-hour over-laps with the Golden Hour. I really like how the soft golden evening light interacts with the subtle autumnal tones of the trees.

Here we see an evening commuter train, consisting of two Class 29001 four-carriage diesel railcar sets joined together, making it's way from Dublin to Longford. The front-most of the two railcar sets is number 29415.

I think one of the reasons I like this shot so much is that the composition feels both strong and natural to me. I think the strength comes from the strong diagonal of the railway line, canal, towpath & trees, and I think it feels natural because the vanishing point is at one of the magical "rule of thirds" regions (one third down from the top and one third in from the right).

An Autumn Evening Commute
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/200 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/3.5
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7ev
  • Processing: Single RAW image first tonemapped with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked with the Dodge & Burn plugin in Apple's Aperture

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With the silly-season in full swing it's probably no big surprise that I find myself a week behind again, so another double post this week. This time I decided to choose a seasonal topic - winter scenes. As it happens both these shots were taken on the same day, the 3rd of February this year. It started to snow in the late afternoon, stopped in time to get some lovely day-time shots, and then the sky cleared to give a dramatic sunset over the snow-covered landscape. A photographer's dream, and this afternoon has already supplied two pervious Photos of the Week (50 "Braving the Snow" & 52 "Fire & Ice").

The President's Arch
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/50 sec
  • Focal Length: 26mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 800
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority

President's Arch Sunset
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/100 sec
  • Focal Length: 34mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 800
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -1.0ev
  • Processing: Single RAW image first tonemapped with Photomatix Pro, then tweaked with the Dodge & Burn plugin in Apple's Aperture

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In some ways this photo is a continuation of an ongoing theme in my recent Photo of the Week instalments - photos shot during the Golden Hour and then tonemapped to bring out the best in them. However, unlike the previous examples, this shot was not taken in Ireland, but rather in my native Belgium.

Although I was baptised into the Catholic Church, we've parted ways in the almost 30 yeas that have elapsed since then. However, despite me turning my back on the church (not the ideals of Christianity, just institutionalised Christianity), I still love church Architecture. Churches are usually designed with great care, and are often the most beautiful buildings in a town. This is not just any church though, it's one of the churches in my home village of Duffel in Belgium, it's also the church myself and my brothers were baptised in (at least I think all three of us were baptised here). This is not the biggest church in Duffel, but, in my mind, it's the one with the most character.

The full name of the church is Onze Lieve Vrouw van Goede Wil, but you almost never see it written like that, on paper or signs you'll generally see it as O.-L.-Vr. van Goede Wil or O.-L.-Vrouw van Goede Wil. In English that roughly translates to Our loving Lady of good will, in other words, it's a church dedicated to the virgin Mary. Today it's a small church in a small parish in a small village in the Belgian countryside, but in the past it was a place of pilgrimage. A supposedly miraculous statue of the virgin mother was found in a Willow tree growing in a marshy field where the church now stands.

O.-L.-Vrouw van Goede Wil
on Flickr - Full-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/640 sec
  • Focal Length: 32mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/4.5
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Processing: Generated by tonemapping a single RAW file in Photomatix Pro and then selectively tweaking the exposure slightly using the Dodge & Burn plugin in Aperture.

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