I’ve always had mixed feelings towards the Queen’s area in Belfast. I grew up around this part of Belfast and it’s got an undoubted charm, but as a graduate of the University, studying there was nothing special – dull and uninspiring, even. Maybe it’s an age thing but I’ve had much more productive learning through part time study and of course, through life experience.
Still, it’s one of the city’s nicest areas for a walk with the camera. These were shot on a Canon T70 (underrated and not the slightest bit ugly) and Ilford HP5+, not too grainy and a pleasure to scan.
Queen’s has Belfast’s leading Art House Cinema and while there’s always an eclectic mix of films on show, the seating is most uncomfortable and at my last visit, I surprisingly witnessed numerous Wittertainment Code Violations.
For those born into a particular community in Northern Ireland, one tends to follow a certain ‘conditioning’ in what’s ‘ours’ and what’s ‘theirs’. If the community is the British facing one, then in my experience there’s a lot to miss out on during one’s formative years and beyond.
One large cultural gap in my life experience was that of the world of Gaelic sports – the GAA and its components of football, hurling and camogie. Thankfully that has been rectified and I enjoy going to a gaelic football or hurling game almost as much as going to a (proper) football match. (‘Soccer’ is not a word I care for…)
A must-see on any visit to Dublin is a guided tour of Croke Park and the GAA museum. The sport itself is dynamic, athletic and with an admirable amateur ethos at its core – and a history and culture inextricably linked with the evolution of the Irish state.
I took a visit out of season with a roll of Tri-X loaded in that neglected design icon of the 1980s, the Canon T70.
The GAA has a presence throughout Irish society where the sports are at the heart of community. The role of the clubs can be seen throughout the ground and museum.
Michael Cusack, the GAA founder – marked by statue and stand.
Hill 16 – once named Hill 60 based on an Irish regiment of the British Army – renamed to reflect the legacy of 1916. No large stand at this end – it’s in a residential area after all.
Croke Park holds over 82,000 It’s an Irish Nou Camp
The museum itself is one of the best presented sports museums I’ve visited.
Many stadia and clubs have tours and a museum although perhaps only Nou Camp in Barcelona compares with Croke Park in having a historical context and cultural significance beyond the sport itself.
When travelling it’s always a pleasure to check out a local football club. On a visit to Düsseldorf, the grandly named Fortuna Düsseldorf were playing the lowly 1. FC Heidenheim 1846. Or Düsseldorfer Turn- und Sportverein Fortuna 1895 to give the home side their full unedited title. (The book Tor! by Uli Hesse explains the background to the glorious naming conventions of German football).
As to the match itself, it was a cracking 2-2 draw ending up with a mass brawl between both teams, coaches and substitutes – and a referee who clearly lost control and the general ability to referee a football match.
From a photographic point of view however, armed with a 1970’s Ricoh KR-5 and a few prime lenses, it was going to be some documentary shots to give a flavour of the matchday experience.
The Espirit Arena is a big multi-function trade fair venue (Messe) and sports arena in an anonymous looking industrial estate. It does however hold over 54,000 and the Rolling Stones have played here. For a 2nd tier yoyo club, it’s an impressive home stadium.
And with typical German efficiency, getting to the ground and around the stadium couldn’t be easier.
The regular train service connects the city centre and the stadium with a loop to get the train heading back out again while the next train comes in.
Unlike many city centre stadia, there’s plenty of space when crowds start to arrive – ticketing and queing is all very efficient.
Of course, being in Germany the onsite food and drink is top quality and decently priced.
The last pre-match task – the Club Shop. For a hat.
Kit: The robust and utilitarian Ricoh KR5, 50mm f2 lens and a roll of Kentmere 400
Every so often it’s good to do a studio shoot using a few flash heads. I’ve nothing grand – a cobbled collection of eBay-sourced Interfit units with cheap backdrops and stands. It’s a basic setup with a soft-box facing the sitter and two units at 45 degrees on to the white cloth, then using a black backdrop with a soft-box and brolly two-light arrangement.
To make things interesting, the session with my good friend and singer/songwriter/guitarist Thomas, was to be captured on full-frame digital ( Canon 6D) and on 35mm black and white film (Kentmere 100) using mid 70’s basic manual camera, the Ricoh KR-5. Without a flash meter, the plan was to get a setting on the 6D that looked ok, then set something similar on the Ricoh. So 1/125 at f8 – then play about with the lights.
First up – some low key against the black backdrop,
Then a white backdrop with the softbox straight on.
Next up was a repeat of this lighting with the Ricoh. It’s a very basic but solidly built mechanical SLR. And it did ok
As is often the case, scanning a low key image is a bit tricky – the real test will be darkroom print – but the high keys portraits on the Ricoh were near the mark with the full frame Canon digital.
So a quick photo shoot to compare digital and 35mm black and white film. Next will be to compare negative scanning with a darkroom print scan as well as an indepth look at using the Ricoh.
I’ve had the good fortune to visit the US on 3 separate occasions in recent years – and most of that time has been spent in Indiana.
These were working visits – it’s one of the more unlikely holiday destinations if you’re heading across the Atlantic but it has a quiet charm and warm feeling that makes me want to return.
The city of Indianapolis is a smart place with an accessible downtown area, the speedway and is home to my weekly dose of NFL.
I spent quite a while at two of the state’s Universities – Ball State and Taylor – and travelled around some unheralded places.
Gas City – the smallest ‘city’ I’ve ever been to, but home to Friday speedway. Noise, fumes and fried food.
One of the most striking visual features I noticed was the signage. Sometimes grander than the actual place, sometimes unintentionaly funny but something we’ve lost over here.
Baseball. If ever a sport is more enjoyable watching live rather than on TV, it’s baseball. This was my first experience at Fort Wayne.
I hope to go back to Indiana next time I visit the US. It’s an unassuming place with warm, friendly people, incredibly photogenic and seems to exude a laid back form of conservatism. Sometimes, though you have to be immodest, especially if you are the best damn sports bar.
Summer in Indiana and I got to experience that colourful cultural experience – the County Fair. We have, of course, fairs in Ireland – it’s usually cold and wet, they’re often like outdoor shopping malls, and they’re a bit… two dimensional. Now whether it’s the novelty of travelling or enjoying a trip to somewhere like parts of Indiana that are well off the tourist trail, there are things you just don’t get at home.
Forget Healthy Eating
There was a serious diet and a gym membership organised after this trip. It wasn’t just the grilled/fried everything – it was the sheer size and volume of portions. All delicious, of course.
We The People With the fine weather and good food, everyone seemed chilled.
Bit of Politics
I have to say that these guys had considerably less attention than the food, agricultural shows, sports and entertainment. The Tea Party strangely had no tea.
Tractors we have at home. Horses at agricultural shows, ditto.
Demolition derbies and pig wrestling, not so much.
Sorry about this Dave, but we were on the lookout for you the whole time.
Hancock, Grant and Delaware County Fairs, I salute you. Every conceivable type of food and entertainment, everyone enjoying themselves and so, so much to photograph.
ColorEfex Pro was used to punch the Raw files taken off the Olympus E450. It’s a great free tool.