A Letter to Dublin Cyclists

rentabike

Dear Dublin cyclists,

I’ve been here a few months now, and I think I’ve gotten to grips with the niceties of inner urban cycling.

At first, your city scared the living bejesus out of me. Navigating the quays in the morning, trying to cross three lanes of traffic, hoping for a red light so that the goddamn cars would stop moving for sixty seconds: each day was what they politely call a ‘new adventure’.

Now, I’m blasé about the whole thing. I stick my hand out, check behind me, and pop gracefully between lanes before filtering through to the junction.

And when I get to that junction, I stop.

That’s right: the red light means stop. Means it for cars, means it for cyclists.

It bugs me when I see cyclists gleefully running reds because they don’t see a car coming at that particular moment.

It bugs me because they cheerfully reinforce the image of cyclists as gobshites. Gobshites who ignore any inconvenient rules of the road while simultaneously trumpeting their right to use that road.

It bugs me especially because I’ve been the other cyclist who, while crossing a junction with a green light, nearly gets creamed by some absolute spanner who’s run his red.

So please. If you’re a cyclist, or even a POB* (or whatever the proper cyclists call those of us who don’t wear spandex), stop running reds.

And while I’m at it, if you just like to amble peacefully along the road — no rush, like — stop pushing your way right to the front of the bike queue at the lights. You’re holding up everyone behind you who cycles at more than 4km/h.

</rant>

* ‘Person on bike’ apparently. That is, not a real cyclist.

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Today I Did Something New

St Pats Park Swing 1

Sunshine! Spring! Warm weather!

I don’t think we’re in Ireland anymore.

Wherever we are, I’m not complaining. I was sweating while cycling to college this morning. Sweating! In nothing but a hoodie! (And jeans and shoes and the likes, of course.)

One of my classes in college has an ongoing weekly assignment: we simply have to do something new or different every day, and to write about it. Each week, we take an excerpt from our writings and send it on to the lecturer, along with a photograph that’s somehow related. It’s a great assignment, and it’s something that everyone – regardless of what they do – should try.

The above photo, while nothing spectacular, is my submission for this week. There’s a park near college, beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, that I have, thus far, failed to enter. I rectified this today, as I took a stroll around to see what it’s like.

Shockingly, it turns out that it’s lovely. The cathedral itself is a beautiful old building, very imposing and graceful, and the park, while small, is laid out really nicely. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s sick of the busyness of Stephen’s Green at lunch time.

I know that as long as it stays dry, I’ll be popping in there more often.

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Digitalism

Digitalism

So, Santa — in the form of the girlfriend — was good to me this year, and gifted me a shiny new Kindle 3. Yeah, I threw ‘gifted’ in there because, well, you don’t really see it used as a verb very often.

Anyway: it’s a good present for me. Reading and gadgetry in one slim package? Yep, don’t mind if I do.

Aside from my personal tastes — she reckons I have a fetish for electronics; sometimes I’m not sure I disagree — this also promises to come in useful for college work. The Thesis is starting to loom ever closer and I’ve a nasty feeling that I’ll be doing a lot of reading in the months to come. Being able to throw a load of PDF journal articles onto this device and thus read them without either A) blinding myself through staring at a screen, or B) bankrupting myself through the printing of small rainforests-worth of paper can only be a Good Thing.

As a gadget, it’s very satisfying on a purely aesthetic level. It’s slimmer than my phone, the size of a paperback, and fits quite nicely into the hand. The interface is pretty straightforward (at the end of the day, you’re mostly going to be opening books and pressing Forward or Backward), though it’s hard in this day and age not to paw clumsily at the screen and wonder why it doesn’t respond.

A Clue: not everything is touchscreen in this world.

In terms of its functionality (and how I despise that word): it’s seemingly quite good indeed. The screen refreshes quickly, you can customise the font size, line spacing, and portrait/landscape display.

While a big problem the last time I looked at e-readers was the format war between ePub, Mobi, Amazon, and whatever else is out there, it’s all been made irrelevant by a lovely wee open-source programme called Calibre. Calibre sorts all that mess out for you by quietly converting any format into any other format. This is a big relief, as you don’t have to worry about whether your favourite author is in the Waterstones or Amazon camp.

To start with, however, I’m going to work my way through the classics available for free from the likes of Project Gutenberg: copyright-free works that ought to keep me going for 2011 at least.

And of course, this being the Internet: number one most-downloaded book on Project Gutenberg? This one.

Ah, Internet.

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A Rainy Day in Dublin

Orla

So, it’s been quite a while. How are you? You’re looking well.

I should probably explain myself. This whole moving-to-Dublin, going-back-to-college thing has been an interesting experience. First among the things you learn in a Masters, I’ve discovered, is that there’s no such thing as free time — especially if you have a part-time job alongside your educational commitments.

Nonetheless, it’s been an enjoyable few months and I’m definitely enjoying the perks of living in Dublin (for instance).

There are downsides, and chief among these is lacking the time to get out with the camera. It’s a brand new city, nice and photogenic, and I haven’t been able to snap it as much as I’d like. Ach weil, I’ll be here for a while at any rate.

I did manage to get out for a mini photowalk on a Saturday afternoon a while back. Typical of anyone holding a camera, Orla was not happy to have the lens pointed at her instead.

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Regular Service Continues

Menlough Castle BW2

SoFoBoMo continues… The above being a particular piece of evidence for my progress.

At the moment, my Lightroom SoFoBoMo collection contains about 130 photos. Of these, about 10 or 12 are half-decent, and will make it in to the final product. With 13 days down, and 18 to go, I think I’m on reasonable track for this. However, the current decision of the weather to fall back into the Irish default isn’t helping. (Although, it must be said, the nice dramatic sky rather helps this photo, I think.)

Another problem I’m having is with the subject matter. As I said before, I’m focusing on the river Corrib as it rolls through Galway City. However, some of the locations along the river that I had intended to include in the book don’t really seem to fit the rest. Specifically, I’m talking about NUIG. The few photos I took on a scouting run through here are very steel’n’concrete architectural-style shots, which jars with the undulating riverbanks of most of the other stuff I’ve shot. Still, there’s a few that I quite like, so hopefully I can transition neatly between two styles.

See, I’m learning stuff with this whole SoFoBoMo carry-on!

In other news, the Galway Arts Festival has begun, and I’m looking forward to seeing the meagre couple of things I could afford to go to. I am booked in for The Divine Comedy and a talk by Bret Easton Ellis, but I’m raging my inability to go to productions of Uncle Vanya, Penelope, and a couple of other smaller gigs.

If you’re around Galway, check it out. There’s a load of great stuff on.

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Oscar Mike

17Jan2010-5
[Buoy on Salthill Strand, January 2010]

Done! Sorted! Yeah!

Well, ‘not done’ is more accurate, but ‘sorted’ works. In the manner of all epiphanies, I settled on my SoFoBoMo topic while strolling aimlessly about the other evening.

It’s tentatively titled On the Corrib and I want to start upriver, following the River Corrib downstream through Galway City, photographing both the river itself and some of the landmarks upon its banks.

This serves a dual purpose: I’m going to re-take photos of some Galway landmarks that I haven’t done justice to before now, and I’m going to spend the month really studying this beautiful city.

I do this because, come September, I’ll be leaving for Dublin to study for a Masters.

Part of me is excited — I’m looking forward to doing this new course, and a lot of friends who I don’t get to see very often live in Dublin — and part of me is a bit regretful about it.

Galway is, hands-down, the nicest place I’ve lived in this country. It’s a laid-back, friendly, cultured city where the emphasis is strictly on enjoying life instead of falling victim to the rat race. That’s a clichéd statement if ever there was one, but it’s really true in Galway’s case. They don’t call it the graveyard of ambition for nothing, and if empirical evidence is more your thing, it’s hard to argue with the wealth of unemployed crusties playing bongos on a sunny day.

However, all things must pass, and after three great years here, it’s time for me to move on. I’m just thankful that I’ve got one more summer left here before I go.

And as I’ve said before, ain’t nowhere like Galway in the summer.

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One-two, one-two, this is just a test…

image

Okay, just messing about with the WordPress app for my phone (I haven’t actually used it yet) and thought I’d upload a photo I took yesterday evening.

I got home late from work, did some shopping, and finally got the chance to relax. While waiting for the oven to heat up, I sat out on the balcony and had a beer in the remnants of the sunshine.

Between the boats sailing, the walkers bopping up and down Nimmo’s Pier, and the lazy bastards like myself just taking in the evening, my long-held belief was once again reaffirmed: there’s nowhere in Ireland quite as pleasant as Galway in the summertime.

[Photo SOOC on the HTC desire]

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Hidden

Hidden

I am torn.

I still haven’t settled on a topic for SoFoBoMo. I have thought of a couple of topics, but nothing that really appeals to me yet. At this rate, I think it’s going to be more towards July before I get going.

Here’s a quick round-up of my ideas so far:

Churches and Graveyards
As an old Irish city, Galway is endowed with houses of worship and places of rest. I was thinking of making a photo essay about a couple of these old sites.

Portraits
This one appeals to me most, in a way. Portraits are something I’ve not yet done, and I’d like to get some practice in.
Pros: Would force me to take directed photographs of people, would force me to get some real practice with off-camera flash.
Cons: Would need a specific theme or group, would require me to do a LOT of portraits in the space of a month, and — crucially — would require willing volunteers.

500 yards (or similar)
Take a stretch of path/road/field/beach, and document it thoroughly, from wide-angle shots to macros, and possibly in different weather conditions or different times.

I’ve a couple of other half-formed ideas bouncing around in my head, but nothing solid enough to even describe here now. If anyone has any comments or suggestions, all is welcome!

In other news, my grasp of personal finance — which could normally be described as ‘taut’ — seems to be slipping. I’ve got a couple of big weekends ahead of me and am not really sure how I’m going to pay for them. I did briefly consider pulling a King James and running a fake lottery over the course of 10 years and never actually paying out, but the organization involved is far outside the boundaries of my laziness.

It’s also very possible that King James was not the person I’m thinking of. At any rate, I specifically recall mention of a lottery organised to finance some national scheme, which the ruler/government never really got around to paying out on. It was in this book, if you’re so inclined.

Better days (if you were a king)…

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SoFoBoMo

or, Prometheus Unbound

I’m not really sure why the subtitle for Frankenstein occurred to me just there; it just seemed like the title needed some explanation. It’s not like that actually explains it, though.

Anyway. SoFoBoMo (not to be confused with NaNoWriMo), stands for Solo Photo Book Month. The basic idea is 31 days, 35 photos, 1 PDF.

One of the problems with digital photography is that you end up not printing pictures. SoFoBoMo challenges you to work against this by taking enough shots to print a photobook (at least 35), processing them, writing any accompanying text, and laying out the book in .pdf format — all within the space of 31 days. Obviously, you should carry on and order a print of the finished book, but this is considered outside the scope of the project.

The start/end times are flexible, to accommodate different schedules, but the project window runs from the 1st June until the 31st July, 2010. Start when you want, as long as you’re done by the end of July.

I’ve been thinking about it and have decided to sign-up for this year. At the moment, I’m not sure what theme I’ll deal with, but I’ve got some time yet to decide. I have to say, I’m looking forward to this.

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Scrap

Scrap-1

Yeeeeahh photography!

I’ve been really lazy lately, and haven’t bothered going out with the camera. With a reasonable Saturday afternoon ahead of me, one which was pleasant enough but not quite warm enough for the beach, I decided to go out and shoot something which I’ve been meaning to, but hadn’t actually done yet.

Background: every couple of weeks, a huge pile of scrap metal is dumped on the Galway docks before being loaded onto a ship and — presumably — sent off to China for recycling or reusing.

I wandered around the scrap for half hour or so, doing my best to get some interesting photos. I have to say, it was a great lesson in capturing ‘flat’ subjects: taking any kind of wide-angle shot presented me with a solid wall of metal, so I mostly used mid-range apertures (from f/8 to f/11) and tried to capture the textures of the metal. Every once in a while, some individual piece would stick out, so I’d open up the aperture and tried to get nice shallow single-subject detail shots.

I think I succeeded more with the wide-angles than the close-ups, but I still enjoyed taking them all.

The pic above is probably my favourite shot from the lot. If you’re interested, the full set is available here.

As a side note, many many congratulations to haido on his engagement! All the best to the two of you 🙂

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