One thing Ireland isn’t short of (other than pubs) is pilgrimage sites and general Saint Patrick related places of interest. One picturesque site is Lough Derg in County Donegal, just outside village of Pettigoe which like the Brexit vote, is half in the North and half in the Republic – and hence the EU.
Lough Derg has a nice walk around the lakeside, a visitors centre and a church but is mainly used for the boat crossing over to the Station Island of retreat – St Patrick’s Purgatory. This isn’t available to non-pilgrims but it’s a nice spot for a walk and a photo. I had the chunky Praktica L from this post with APX100 and being in Donegal, guessed exposure with Overcast 8. Or 5.6.
There are basic cameras and there is the Praktica L, a large block of East German utilitarian metal introduced to consumers and comrades in 1969 as the first camera in Praktica’s L-line. The previous PL Nova range cameras were basic enough with some models having metering, and the whole range having some curves, bevels, lines, circles and a bit of a retro look, even for 1960’s cameras.
With the L range, Praktica embraced modernity, sort of. No lines, curves – just a big heavy functional camera, and to these eyes, a thing of beauty.
The Praktica L has no meter, no split focussing screen, no battery – nothing other than a shutter button, speed dial and a winder. My model has a slight deviation from conformity. A small number of the L’s had the Pentacon logo etched on the prism housing and a small ‘L’. I was delighted when my £8 eBay purchased arrived with this decal.
The winder doesn’t even have the black covering present on many later Praktica L ranges, obviously far too decadent. The shutter speed dial is the usual with a flash hot shoe sync at 1/125, a fastest speed of 1/1000th and an ISO indicator. Just as a reminder as there is nothing electrical in this camera.
The viewfinder is bright and bare. There is a wee pointer which disappears when the shutter is cocked. There is also no focussing aid like a split screen – which can make focussing a bit trickier than usual. So nothing to distract from composition..
Which brings me to the lens – the much derided Domiplan 50/2.8, a lens with a pretty poor reputation out there.
It looks nice with the ‘zebra’ markings, it’s extremely basic in construction and, yes – a bit soft. But it’s not terrible and with metering by sunny 16 it did ok. These shots were taken in changing weather in County Donegal on a roll of Agfaphoto APX100.
Like a lot of old cameras – and basic cameras – there’s a lot to enjoy using without a meter and focussing aids, and using a pretty crappy old lens while getting half decent results. And of course using one so aesthetically pleasing.
Walk around any of the main Dublin tourist areas and you’ll see 1916. The major exhibitions/tours at the National Museum and Kilmainham, the GPO and its exhibition, murals and pubs with photos covering their frontages and prominent places named after the leaders – eg Pearse, Connolly and Heuston stations to name a few. Over recent decades and particularly around the centenary in 2016, the Easter Rising has been elevated to the pivotal event in Irish history leading to independence and the establishment of the Republic. Less visible, however is the legacy of the War of Independence from 1919-21 and the subsequent civil war between Pro and Anti treaty forces.
Central to this was Michael Collins – holder of various government posts in the revolutionary republic but effectively the mastermind in the guerrilla war against the British and signatory to the treaty establishing the Free State. He is probably the leading figure in modern Irish history yet perhaps due to the treaty and it’s aftermath and his assassination by anti-treaty forces, his presence around the capital city is a bit muted.
There’s no statue or memorial other than this less than flattering bust in Merrion Square alongside Oscar Wilde and Bernardo O’Higgins.
The old British Army barracks was renamed Collins Barracks in 1922 and now houses a main site of the National Museum, but there’s little of his presence at the site other than his name.
There is, however a memorial to his chief of staff and future Fine Gael leader, Richard Mulcahy.
Ironically, the most prominent site relating to Michael Collins is his grave at the Glasnevin Cemetery just outside the city centre. Vying for the centre of attention among the great and good (and ordinary) of Irish history, Collins’ grave is one of the most visited and tended-to at Glasnevin.
(all shot on Olympus OM20 and Ilford HP5)
As Ireland prepares for its next round of centenary commemorations, perhaps Michael Collins will be able to find centre stage in the country’s capital.
I never intended to buy a Canon T50. I had rescued a T70 body from impending landfill, and after a clean and new set of batteries, it seemed to work. Needing a lens, the typical eBay rate for a 50mm f1.8 was around £30-£40 quid. So as is often the case, I ended up buying one attached to camera for a tenner. In this case the camera was the T50.
While the AE-1 and AE-1 Program had wowed the market since the mid-70’s (and continues to do so as a regular hipster choice – and at hipster prices), 1983 saw the release of a new Canon entry in the beginners market. Gone was the sleek-lined black and chrome look the AE1/AV1 shared with it’s competitors in the Olympus OM and Pentax M ranges, and its simple, classic engraved logo . Instead we were given the future of camera design. It was big and chunky, plastic, noisy and a more flashy screen-printed logo. Welcome to the Eighties.
The T range is considered to be a bit of an ugly aberration in the Canon SLR series – a short lived 1980s mistake between the classic A series and the EOS range of cameras which evolved into the DSLRs of today. In a non-revisionist opinion however (as a young Praktica user in 1983 I seriously wanted one of these..) I have to say the T50 is not the ugly duckling of popular opinion but a beautiful design classic of the era.
It’s certainly a bit on the minimalist side.
It has a big black shutter button, a function selector wheel, film rewind lever, a hotshoe and a big black thumb grip.
When I say function selector though, it’s more of an on-off button. The T50 is (almost) a fully automatic point and shoot camera. ‘L’ is off and ‘PROGRAM’ is on. BC checks the battery and ‘SELF’ is the 10 second self timer, which operates in ‘PROGRAM’ mode.
And PROGRAM is a glorious unknown. There is no indication of aperture or shutter speed other than the sound of the mirror slap giving you an idea of duration. You do have a viewfinder warning where the ‘P’ indicating PROGRAM mode flashes when you’re going to get camera shake. Or need a flash.
The other manual intervention is setting film speed. There’s a dial in the usual place.
There is a slight opportunity for manual control. The A setting on the lens is for fully auto operation. But when you move this to an aperture setting, the camera responds with a shutter speed of 1/60th. No metering indication other than an ‘M’ for manual in the viewfinder, so you’re on Sunny 16 for this.
And that’s as complicated as the T50 gets. It takes AA batteries (thank you Canon), has a remote control socket (don’t have a remote control) and takes a dedicated flash (included in my £10 bundle). The other thing about the T50 in addition to its opinion-dividing looks is the audio. Its built-in auto winder is one noisy fecker – no Leica street photography stealth with this camera, it’ll definitely attract the attention. Especially if you keep the shutter button pressed where it’ll go off on a 1.4fps continuous burst.
Using it is a blast. Stick in a roll of film, compose and focus the nicely sharp Canon 50mm 1.8 and press the button. I used Kentmere 400 to ensure decent shutter speeds in what was overcast weather. I was pleased with the results.
And that’s the Canon T50. A big beautiful point and shoot with a Canon FD lens. It’ll wind on for you but you need to manually rewind. It has manual control but only at 1/60th and no metering. You can get it for the fraction of the price of an AE-1 or AV-1. But don’t use late at night – you might wake the neighbours.
A century on from the decade when Ireland began the final struggle to gain independance from Britsh rule, a visitor to Dublin will see memorials, museums, experiences and physical reminders of events that have shaped the Ireland of today. Whatever your take on this chapter of British and Irish history, it’s a rewarding experience to breathe in the history and come to your own conclusions. The events from 1916 through to independance are marked throughout the city – the civil war not so much, but we are still a few years from this centenary.
A good starting point is the Arbour Hill cemetery. A former British military cemetery, it’s also the burial place of 14 of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, you can get the history on sites like Heritage Ireland.
While the likes of Kilmainham Gaol, the cemetery at Glasnevin and the GPO Museum are always busy with fully booked guided tours, Arbour Hill is usually deserted. There’s no entrance fee, no guides (except an occasional free talk at the weekend) and no shop. Once you pass the church you’re into a fairly staid and unremarkable military cemetery.
Then towards the back, there’s the reason Arbour Hill gets visitors. The executed leaders of the Rising were unceremoniously buried at a British military cemetery seemingly to avoid the martyrdom and pilgrimages that might stoke further unrest. History of course had other plans for Ireland, and naturally subsequent Irish governments have developed the grave as a remembrance site.
Surrounding the grave site are stones inscribed with the names of those buried – in English and Irish script. Thomas Clarke, the old man of the Rising, had a floral tribute marking his stone.
One of the more fascinating characters of the Rising was James Connolly, a Scot of Irish descent, a former Britsh soldier, trade unionist and leader of the Irish Citizen Army.
Arbour Hill is located a bit away from Dublin’s main tourist sites, on a quiet street at the rear of the Collins Barracks Museum. It is however worth a visit if you’re doing some revolution tourism – a site of great signifigance in Irish history and you’ve plenty of further options for the tourguides, multimedia displays and souvenir shops.
Photos were taken on a robust (heavy) Hanimex 35SL (a rebadged Chinon CS) a Pallas 35mm lens (never heard of them) using Lomography Earl Grey 100 film.
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.