One of the things I really miss with all this being sick is spending my lunch times out and about enjoying the grounds of St. Patrick’s College, so I thought that this week I’d share one of my favourite shots of people enjoying those great grounds. As you can see from the photo – it’s “Pedestrian Traffic Only” along this lovely avenue of Linden trees, but that doesn’t mean it’s not busy 🙂

This general part of the college is known as ‘the Graff’ (technically I think the original Graff was one path to the North of this one) because it’s apparently as long as Graffton St. in Dublin city. Not sure how true it was, but when I worked as a tour guide for the Students’ Union during Freshers Week in the past that’s what was written on my script!

Jogging on the Graff
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/100 sec
  • Focal Length: 38mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.67ev

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I was looking back through some older shots this week when I noticed this one which I had forgotten to upload to Flickr. I have no idea why I didn’t upload it when I shot it, because it’s one of my best astrophotography shots, nicely and clearly incorporating both the Moon and the Planet Venus into the shot. What at we see here is a view across St. Joseph’s Square in St. Patrick’s College Maynooth (SPCM)looking towards St. Patrick’s House with the spire of the College Chapel also visible. In the top left of the shot you can see Venus, and just above the building you can see a very thin crescent Moon with a lot of Earth Shine. This shot was taken with a tripod because it was dark and a four and half second exposure was needed.

Moon & Venus over SPCM
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 4.5 sec (shot on tripod)
  • Focal Length: 19mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -3.0ev

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I’m not even the smallest bit of a football fan, but given that it’s World Cup final weekend, I figured this would be a good time to share one of my few football photos. As well as being beautiful, the grounds of St. Patrick’s College provide a great amenity for the people of Maynooth. Here we see some local lads enjoying a kick-around on one of the pitches on the so-called Playing Fields a fantastic summer afternoon. In the background you can see the spire of the Gunne Chapel (the college chapel).

Soccer on the Playing Fields
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/1000 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7ev
  • Processing: This shot was edit using both the Topaz Adjust and Topaz Detail Photoshop plugins.

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I’ve always loved the great photographer Imogen Cunningham’s take on Magnolia flowers, particularly this shot. So, earlier this year, when I noticed that the Magnolia trees in St. Patrick’s College were in bloom, I set out to have a go myself. Obviously I’m no Imogen Cunningham, but I’m quite pleased with this shot all the same.

Inside Magnolia
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/320 sec
  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority

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I’m playing catch-up again this week with another double post – I’m not doing too well the last while to keep these on schedule. Anyhow, as usual for a double post, I’ve chosen two photos that share a theme – last Autumn in this case.

The first shot is taken along one of my favorite sections of the Royal Canal, between Deey and Pike Bridges on the stretch from Leixlip to Maynooth. This is one of the sections where the towpath hasn’t been surfaced, even with gravel, and where the canal is lined with trees. It’s a really lovely stretch of nature for walking or cycling along.

The Royal Canal - Leixlip, Ireland
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/160 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: +0.3ev.

The second shot was taken on the grounds of St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth as Autumn was just starting.

St. Patrick's College in Autumn
on FlickrFull-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: +0.7ev.

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Due to a few busy weekends in a row I’ve gotten very behind again, so I have a triple post this weekend to get caught up. As usual when I do a multi-week Photo of the Week, I’ve picked a theme that relates the photos to each other. In this case, they were all taken during the abnormally long and harsh cold spell at the start of January this year (you can see all my best shots in a Set on my Flickr stream).

The first shot I’ve chosen is of the College Cemetery in St. Patrick’s College Maynooth (SPCM). This cemetery is almost like a secret garden, hidden away behind some lovely old trees near the back of the grounds. It’s always a wonderfully peaceful place, especially in the snow. Fr. Nicolas Callan is buried here. He was a great scientists who worked in SPCM and is most famous for having invented the induction coil.

The College Cemetery - SPCM
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/60 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: +0.7ev.

The second shot I’ve chosen was taken on a ground of Carton Estate just outside Maynooth village. I’d been cycling along the Royal Canal where the sun was beaming down and it was just a truly beautiful clear day. Then, the moment I left the canal and entered into Carton estate it was like I’d beamed to another world. There was this thin later of dense mist hovering just above the ground. Above that layer it was still a beautiful day, though clouds were starting to roll in. The layer of mist gave the whole place an ethereal feel. I’d honestly never seen anything like it. To be honest none of my shots did the scene justice, but I still really like this one.

Out of the Mist - Carton Estate
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/60 sec
  • Focal Length: 19mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: +1.0ev
  • Processing: This shot was generated by first applying the Topaz Adjust 4 filter to effectively tonemap the image, and then tweaking the result a little in Photoshop Elements 8 to selectively brighten just the snow.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve also chosen one of my train shots as one of my favorites. This shot was taken as the day was ending and the sun was getting very low in the sky. It shows an Irish Rail InterCity services making it’s way from Dublin to Sligo as it approaches Jackson’s Bridge just beyond Maynooth. From Jackson’s bridge you get a view of both the railway and the Royal Canal which runs next to the track for most of the way between Dublin and Mullingar.

Irish Rail InterCity
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/320 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/3.5
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera Mode: Full Manual
  • Processing: This shot was generated by tonemapping the original RAW file with Photomatix Pro, and then tweaking the results a little using Aperture’s Dodge & Burn plugin.

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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 FlickrFull-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 FlickrFull-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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This is one of my favourite butterfly shots of the year. The season’s pretty much over now, so the changes are this will remain my favourite form the year. For a start, I think the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) is one of the nicest species we have in Ireland, but this shot also illustrates why I love my Nikkor 55-200mm F3.5-5.6 zoom lens very well. When you’re shooting flowers or butterflies, you want the subject to be in sharp focus, and the background to be out of focus so that it doesn’t distract from the subject. You don’t want a busy complex background competing for the viewer’s eye. It’s that blurry background that gives shots that pro feel, sometimes called ‘the magazine look’.

This lens allows for a really shallow depth of field right in the sweet spot of the lens (around f8), and gives a wonderfully smooth and creamy bokeh (the out of focus areas). As lenses go, this is a cheap lens, I paid less than €300 for it a few years ago, and it’s come down in price since. A great value lens of you’re a Nikon DX shooter. There’s a new fancy VR (vibration reduction) version of this lens too, but TBH, I think VR is over-kill on this lens. If you can afford it, great, but I certainly don’t miss it. This is my work-horse lens, and I love it to bits.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/800 sec
  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7ev
  • Processing: This shot is pretty much as it came out of the camera. It has been cropped to improve the composition, and subtly tweaked in Aperture’s Dodge & Burn plugin to selectively improve the contrast on the butterfly.

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This week’s Photo of the Week is a re-visiting of the same original image that formed the starting point for the mono-chrome conversion that was Photo of the Week 48. Although I really like the black & white version, the only reason it exists is that I was never happy with the original colour shot. It was lacking that ever so hard to define something that makes photos ‘pop’. The initial photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day 2008 – so about a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve become a hell of a lot more practised at post-processing, so, this evening I had another go at processing this shot, this time keeping it in colour.

After some tweaking of the blue channel and some selective contrast adjustments with Aperture’s Dodge & Burn plugin I’m now happy enough with the shot to use it as a Photo of the week. I guess the lesson here is never to be afraid to go back and re-edit your old images.

Lunar Cross (Colour)
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/250 sec
  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/22
  • ISO: 800
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority

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I’ve taken a lot of shots all around the wonderful grounds of St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth. However, out of those hundreds of shots, this is one of my absolute favourites. Maynooth is always beautiful in autumn, but the light was extra nice when I got this shot, so it really sings.

This is also a very important shot in my development as a photographer. The very first lesson I learned when I started shooting with a DSLR was that the dynamic range is SMALL. This meant that I was constantly being surprised by how much darker shadows are in photographs than they seem while you’re there. After having loads of shots ruined by deep shadows I started to fear and avoid them. It was while I was trying to line up this shot that I had a brain-wave – maybe the key wasn’t to avoid shadows, but to be aware of them. Sure they can destroy a shot, but, if used carefully, they can add to a shot too! In this case, the shadows add interest to what would otherwise be a very bland foreground, as well as providing leading-lines to pull the viewers eye into the shot. This image will always have a place in my heart because it represents a real Eureka moment for me.

Autumn Shadows in Maynooth
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 18-55mm (D40 kit lens)
  • Exposure: 1/500 sec
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority

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