The Home of GAA

Croke Park, Dublin

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.

Croke Park, Dublin
St Joseph’s Avenue, Dublin – arriving at Croke Park
Croke Park, Dublin
the other Gaelic sport
Croke Park, Dublin
Welcome to Croke Park

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.

Croke Park, Dublin
the county clubs

Michael Cusack, the GAA founder – marked by statue and stand.

Croke Park, Dublin
Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA

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, Dublin
Hill 16

Croke Park holds over 82,000  It’s an Irish Nou Camp

Croke Park, Dublin
the Davin stand meets the Hogan stand
Croke Park, Dublin
The Iconic County Shirts – colour slide film may have been better

The museum itself is one of the best presented sports museums I’ve visited.

Croke Park, Dublin
Museum entrance
Croke Park, Dublin
GAA Museum
Croke Park, Dublin
from the Hall of Fame to Government.  Former Irish Prime Minister, Jack Lynch

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.

Croke Park, Dublin
Replica trophies for the selfies – Hogan stand
Croke Park, Dublin
that was Croke Park

O Fortuna 2.

Inside the Espirit Arena – after the ticketing and bratwurst purchases – every seat seems to have a perfect view of the pitch.  And no-one seemed mind a visitor shooting with an old film camera.

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The civilised German approach to bottled beer in the stadium
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Sky Bundesliga
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when they come, they come together…

Ricoh KR-5
Kentmere 400

O Fortuna. Part 1

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Toni Turek.  Fortuna’s most famous player – and goalkeeper in the 1954 Miracle of Bern West Germany world cup winning team

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.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Industrial estate setting

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.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Fortuna Station (ESPIRIT Arena / Messe Nord)

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.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
End of the line – train heads straight back out again

Unlike many city centre stadia, there’s plenty of space when crowds start to arrive – ticketing and queing is all very efficient.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Pick your seat
Fortuna Dusseldorf
Then buy the ticket

Of course, being in Germany the onsite food and drink is top quality and decently priced.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
My Club, My Stadium, My Sausage.

The last pre-match task – the Club Shop. For a hat.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Fortuna Fan Shop

Kit:   The robust and utilitarian Ricoh KR5, 50mm f2 lens and a roll of Kentmere 400

Contains Flash Photography

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.

Lighting setup
the budget setup..

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,

softbox, brolly fill and 85mm lens
single light with soft-box

Then a white backdrop with the softbox straight on.

key – no guitar
and with guitar

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

tones ok  – but scanning a bit off round the face
look forward to the darkroom print…
getting there…
35mm close up glory

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.

Grand Prix. On Poundland 200.

I’ve been to a number of Grand Prix over the years – in Spain and Germany – and normally turn up with full frame DSLR, and a backpack of lenses, headed up by a monopodded 150-500 zoom.  However, for the 2017 trip to the Barcelona circuit, I decided to travel light.


The Mju was a £3 purchase off the eBay a few years back before the current over-inflated prices appeared and the Praktica was a rebadged MTL3 bought from Argos in the mid-80s.  Both filled with Poundland 200 (in an Agfa box).

When armed with the digital setup on my previous visits, it ended up being an ongoing search for the sharpest panning shot for the weekend.  Pan-click-chimp-repeat.  And getting hundreds of panned racing car shots  that never saw the light of day.

So this year it was to be film only ( bar the phone) and shooting around the F1 village, the stands – but with the odd panning shot – see if an creaky manual Praktica and an old Vivitar zoom lens out of Boots could cut it.

Barcelona circuit tower.  Praktica Nova II

And this was a liberating experience – I had a weekend to enjoy the racing and soak in the atmosphere, with no heavy gear to lug about and chimp-free snapping.

It was also interesting to watch the guys in the stands with the monopods and DSLR/big zoom kit and reflecting that despite all this gear, you were still just a punter in the stands.  I’ve shot some low level motorsport events and had press-photo access to Irish League football and to get the sort of shots that type of access allows, you really need exactly that  – access.  And when you’re a punter – it’s easier to take punter shots.

The kit itself?  Well the Mju is a wee delight.  Totally auto, good sharp autofocus (most of the time) and it’s a genuine pocket camera, quick and easy to snap and it’s easily one of the best point & shoots I’ve used. The flash is on by default, so you’ve to remember to knock it off if you don’t want flash. Apart from that, it’s quick and accurate.

team Max
Team Verstappen
Timing by Rolex
Williams F1 truck
senna store
Setting up the Ayrton Senna store
The view from stand C

As for the Praktica, there’s no doubt it slows you down.  This particular one (of my many Prakticas) had a bit of a dirty viewfinder and together with manually focussing at 200mm, those panning shots were going to be a challenge.

This one of Daniel Ricciardo was only one of very view panning shots taken, as there were other uses for the long lens.

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Daniel Ricciardo.  Legend.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull pit


Stylish Spectator
2 Fans
Stand G – seats remaining

So some nice snaps to take home from a great weekend.  I’d a lot more time to enjoy the event, no worries about batteries needing charged and the £1 film rolls held up well.  If I’m in the press area for a County Down Racing club meet or pitchside at Crusaders v Glentoran in the Irish League, then it’s full digital and the big lens.  Otherwise, I’ll enjoy being a punter with some old gear.

Films developed at
Scanned on Epson V370