Friday, 28 October 2016

We need rain

There's a line you won't see very often on this place, I can tell you.  But seriously, we do.  I've been spending a lot of time in the garden these last couple of months - had a big project which has been hanging over me for a long time.  We had a small side garden, y'see, which had been allowed to 'run wild'.  Not wild as in a proper, planned, wild garden, the likes of which you might hear Charlie-boy drone on about with regard to Highgrove or some such palace.  No, we are talking wild as in a serious jungle of stinging nettles and not much else.

A grand sight - if you're standing where I was when I took this shot, it means you are on the ferry to Rathlin, just leaving Ballycastle.  And that, dear readers, is a Good Thing.

So, with the aid of Surely-to-God-Tony, as he has become known, the side garden has been tackled - strimmed, cleared, dug over, fruit trees (eating apples, cooking apples, damsons, plums) have been purchased and planted and grass seed sown.   I say sown, I mean grass seed laid out for the wild pigeons' breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Some seeds have decided to take root and actually grow, to be fair, but it's patchy to say the least.

I'm sure when the nettles re-appear next spring the bare patches will not be so noticeable.  Ah, the joys of living in the country.

There are many of these old winches dotted around the coast here in The Liberties - this one lies near Port-na-Happle in Portstewart.  Used for many years to bring in salmon nets - in the days when salmon were plentiful.  Nowadays out in the bay it's mostly lobster pots, which are brought in by boats like Lady Jade.

But anyway, since the grass seed was put down, I've been checking on it every day, as one does.  And it has been unbelievably dry since the start of September, so I've actually had to water the seed from time to time.  This is unheard of in The Liberties for this time of year.  Actually, for any time of the year, come to think about it.  And the ever-eloquent Mr Karlsvik over there in Norway-land has also something to say about the weather.  The ground actually needs rain.  It's mad.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Jar of Irish, anyone?

I can hold my own in the kitchen but most times it is Mrs NE Liberties that handles things in that department.  There was a time, not so long ago truth be told, when we added spices to pretty much everything.  Nowadays we seem to prefer plainer fare.

View from Castlerock sand dunes, looking over the mouth of the River Bann towards Portstewart.  Taken a while ago, using the rangefinder and no doubt some sort of Ilford film.  Did you notice how I used a slow-ish shutter speed to catch some movement in the dune grass there.  Ah yes, sometimes I actually think about things before I act.  Not often enough though, it has to be said.

Anyway, notwithstanding the above, the other night we had something or other and my wife told me she'd used a little spice from a new jar she had acquired.  I looked.  On the label was 'Middle Eastern...rub to marinade'.  It was pretty good, as it turned out - subtle, which isn't always the case.  But it made me smile a little to myself...I wondered if peeps over there in the 'Middle East' have a wee jar with a label on it which says 'Irish' on it.  I doubt it.

No, Ireland is a great source of good basic ingredients - particularly good dairy produce, beef, milk etc.  All that rain, all that pasture - good for the cows, y'know.

Number 3, on Portstewart Strand.  Number 3 marks the spot I would head up into the dunes, if that's where the notion takes me on a particular day.  After a bit of an up-and-down on the dunes I usually emerge again at Number 5.  Snapped on HP5 in a Mamiya 645 Pro TL, which I borrowed for a while.  Nice camera, but I didn't really gel with it - couldn't really get used to the handling.  I've read that adding a motor-drive grip improves things in that department, but that didn't seem sensible to me, since I don't need the auto-wind feature and it would just add more weight.

It's a very troubled place, the Middle East, these days.  Perhaps it always was.  I travelled a bit in that region in me younger days and boy am I glad I did then, because I sure wouldn't be up for it now, in spite of the beauty of that part of the world.

Monday, 24 October 2016


Its been a strange couple of months in The Liberties. Strange in that since the start of September it has been pretty decent weather, in sharp contrast to July&August, which were both pretty awful.  The last few weeks it's been mostly dry and - get this, not much wind.  Now that really is not normal for this part of the world and OK so we are getting some recompense for the poor summer but I can't help feeling we might end up paying dearly for this in the months to come.  We'll see.  Having said that I still have the waterproofs on in the mornings for the beach walk, since it isn't unknown for a sudden squall to whip up and when you are out on Portstewart Strand you are, dear readers, pretty exposed to the elements.  It doesn't take long for you to be soaked if you don't have the proper gear on.  So nowadays I don't even look outside before I dress in the mornings, I just put the waterproofs on anyway and then I don't have to worry.

An old one, but useful to illustrate just how perfect Portstewart Strand is at this time of year.  Not a sinner in sight, as my grandfather used to say.

And the trees are beautiful at this time of year, which almost makes me want to stick a colour film in a camera.  Almost.  But not quite - you'll have to use your imagination.  Most years we don't really get to appreciate the beauty of the foliage, since the wind usually has the leaves off by now and the rain has them turned to mush.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it's actually a lovely autumn we are having this year.

Friday, 21 October 2016

All my own work

Some more 'first frame masterpieces' for you.  These were taken out on Rathlin Island in August.

Looks like The Brother's torso has been speared by a light sabre - but he survived.
This was a very special roll of HP5+, as I rather cleverly managed to get light leaks on the first three frames.  This was the second one:

There's a few houses in need of a bit of TLC on the island - presumably left over from the 19th Century when there were upwards of 1000 people resident on the island.  Today there are just over 100. As I said to The Brother, here's a wee fixer-upper for you.  It would make a grand wee holiday home for him, living in the West Chicago 'burbs as he does.

By the third frame the light leak was almost gone:

View coming back from the Rue Lighthouse, towards Church Bay.

Perhaps I need a better system for me film cassettes.  For 35mm I tend to buy 30m at a time and load me own.  I like doing that, since it's easy to have a roll with just 10 shots in it if I want to try something different exposure-wise or processing-wise.  Usually I load about 25 shots per film, which seems to suit the way I shoot OK.  It means the film isn't lying in the camera too long,  I've a good relationship with a local high-street photo outlet who keep me any film cassettes they get in - not many, it has to be said, but enough for me.  Thing is, I tend to just re-use them without any care or thought about how many times it is safe to do so.  Perhaps the felt light trap in this particular cassette is toast - that might well explain why I've got the light leaks above.  I'll have to devise a put a mark on the cassette when I load it and then throw them away after say, 3 re-uses?  

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


You can see where they've blasted away the limestone rock to make way for the road - the road that leads to the car park at Ballintoy Harbour:

I'm not sure when this particular road was made, but the famous Antrim Coast Road, which wends its way from Larne to Portrush and which you drive along to get to Ballintoy, was constructed in the early part of the 19th Century.  In a similar way to this one we see here, by blasting through rock.  The surveyor for the Commission of Public Works in Ireland at the time was a Mr William Bald, a Scotsman.  Beckford's Patent Safety Fuse was a godsend, apparently, and helped reduce the number of accidents, which I'm sure were still numerous.  All in all a very impressive undertaking, considering the horse, cart and manual labour were responsible for moving the millions of tonnes of rock which must have needed shifting.  The cost in today's money was something like £370 million - I wonder if it would get built today, in these times of austerity?

I remember when I was very young, sometime in the late 60s or maybe early 70s, mum and dad had driven to Ballintoy for a 'day out'.  Probably it was a Sunday - that's what we did after church.  And, as happened frequently in those days, the car broke down.  No rescue service in them days, no siree.  Dad had to go find a house with a phone and call our farmer neighbour who came out with a tractor and towed us home...not before we told him how to get to Ballintoy.  Never heard of it, never been there was his story. It's wasn't that far away from us, about 20 miles.  But it was on the coast and a farmer in them days had no business going to such places.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ballintoy Harbour

Picturesque Ballintoy Harbour used to be a favourite destination in the summer - it lies just past the Giant's Causeway on the Antrim Coast.  Nowadays famous for Game-of-Thrones filming, which of course means it's on the Tourist Map.  On a decent day in the middle of summer trust me, you don't want to be anywhere near it.

Looks like this was on the rangefinder with a 35mm lens, on HP5+ no doubt.  That would be Fair Head in the distance I reckon - some way past that gets you to Larne and then Belfast.
No, nowadays we get to Ballintoy very much out-of-season, when it's much more pleasant.  Must be time to go back there soon, I reckon.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Yer Man Manannán

OK so I more from Gortmore:

Manannán Mac Lir ('Son of the sea'), a Celtic Sea God from Irish Mythology (or a representation of him, if you want to get all pedantic about it).
I would suggest you click here for further reading on the matter.   A couple of years ago some hooligans took the first statue of Mac Lir and dumped him in the nearby forest, as they do.  Eventually, after an extensive search (a 'Missing Person' was apparently raised for him) he was found, but badly damaged.  And so a new, regenerated version now sits atop Gortmore.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Looking East

Last of the tripos from Gortmore - looking East this time, towards Portstewart, Portrush and The Giant's Causeway, way in the distance.

On a good day you might get a glimpse of Jura from up here - but too much cloud around today.  Not many folk about.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Another from our trip to Gortmore - looking West towards Binevenagh, a beautiful, table-top hill/mountain:

There's a pretty decent viewing point here from which to point your camera over.  Even though there's a stone wall you can't be doing with looking over it for too long, for there be a steep drop on t'other side.

In days gone by my grandfather would take us boys fishing down the River Roe, just under Binevenagh.  It was pretty special, even when few fish were caught.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


We drove up to Gortmore the other day - the viewing point near Binevenagh, from where you can look over to Inishowen and onto the plain that is Magilligan:

Looking down on Magilligan Strand and over the Foyle Estuary towards Donegal.  As you can see it turned out a pretty grey day without much decent light around - a big bank of cloud almost enveloping Inishowen.  It was lovely, though - not cold and not too windy.  In a couple of months time it will be very different, with the cold North-Westerlys trying to separate your head from your shoulders.

Monday, 10 October 2016


Evidence, should it ever be needed, that there was murderous intent in the house on Saturday night:

Notice the effect that pointing a camera has on people around The Liberties.
OK, so this time it was the bread that got cut - for jammy toast before bedtime - but next time?  Who knows...

Friday, 7 October 2016

St Thomas' Parish Church

St Thomas' sits on Rathlin Island - beside Church Bay, naturally enough.  It's a lovely little stone church, which has been here for around 200 years or so.

But that's not the whole story, since like most places in this part of the world a bit of history abounds.  No, there has been a church on this site since around the year 580, thanks initially to St Comgall of Bangor, near Belfast.

The oldest gravestone in the cemetery dates back to 1655.

As you get closer to it, you can't fail to notice four near identical gravestones near the roadside:

Buried here are 7 British sailors who died when HMS Viknor was lost in high seas in the middle of a heavily mined area off the Donegal Coast during the First World War, in 1915.  Of the 295 who perished, 7 bodies were washed up on Rathlin and only one was identifiable - Petty Officer J J Walton.  There are several other war graves in the cemetery.

The church is very simple inside - whitewashed walls and plain glass windows.  Lovely.

There was a small exhibition in the Church when we visited.  It was the story of another shipwreck - the Arandora Star.  A very interesting story, actually - World War II this time.  The Arandora Star was a troop ship which was sunk in July 1940.   On this final voyage her mission was to take Italian and German internees and German POWs to Canada.  U-boat 47 struck her with her final torpedo, which the U-bath captain thought was faulty, but clearly wasn't and the ship went down.  About half of the people on board died - over 800.

The Rathlin connection lies in the fact that two bodies were washed up near the West Lighthouse.  One had no identification marks but the other had papers to suggest he was a Giuseppe Capella, once waiter in the Savoy Hotel, London.   Both are buried in St Thomas graveyard.  There is a very touching story about Signor Capella's boyhood friend, Luigi Zazzi, who was last seen in the water with Capella.  Following some research by local man Michael McRitchie into the Italians lost from the Arandora Star who are buried all along the North of Ireland and West of Scotland, Signor Zazzi's grandson, who lives in New Zealand, got in touch with Mr McRitchie.  He had no idea that any bodies had been recovered from the sea and expressed comfort in the knowledge that the body washed up alongside Signor Capella just might have been that of his uncle.  The full story is here.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Dune walk

Portstewart Strand, up on the dunes.  Printed last night on Kentmere RC and given a quick wash in sepia.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


The Very Talented Andrea across the water there on the Isle of Lewis has some pretty useful snaps of caravans which I have been admiring.

I took this snap some time ago in what passed for summer this year, when on Rathlin with The Brother.  You may recall that at the time I was commenting about the fact that when things wear out on the island they are parked up and left at the mercy of the elements to slowly decay.

I like the table out front - it looks like the owners were just setting up for lunch and popped down to the shop to get some the meantime the whole back end of the van has collapsed.  

I was also commenting about the new ferry which the island is getting - whether they need it or not.  I rather cleverly snapped up the two current ferries in one frame.

The bigger, slower ferry in the background can take vehicles whereas the new, faster one in front only takes people.  And dogs.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Stones

The Stones is the colloquial term for the Giant's Causeway and I had occasion to go there recently, when an old friend stopped by for a couple of days.

It was busy.  Heck, it's always busy.  I should go at night, really...but apparently it's busy then too, with local photographers, wouldn't you know.

The stones are pretty impressive, truth be told:

This big old lump of rock caught my eye - well, hard not to, isn't it?  Looks like some Giant has plonked it there :) I was trying to hide the people around the back of it, but I failed miserably, on account of not taking into account that I was using the rangefinder, if you see what I mean.  21mm lens on HP5+ dunked in ID-11 and scanned.  There might have been an orange filter on the lens.

The Causeway is an area where the rocks have formed into columns of hexagonal shape, on account of volcanic activity several years ago.   There's about 40,000 of them, apparently and it's Northern Ireland's only Unesco World Heritage site.  There are similar stones on the Scottish Isle of Staffa, just across the water.

I gave up trying to get shots without people in them.  Mostly folk wander about, looking at the stones, photographing them and listening to the audio guide that they pick up at the Visitors' Centre.  

If you want to see what the stones looked like around the year 1900, check out the very first blog post on NE Liberties - here.