Life is full of coincidences...
Recently, I came to realise that I have spent almost my entire life living in islands. I was born and raised in Mallorca, a small and beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea. I spent one year in Dublin (Ireland, another island), and since then, I have never lived back home. I later lived for one year in Barcelona (not an island this time, but close to the sea) before moving to Great Britain (island!), where I spent almost eight years. I then moved to Strasbourg (France), whose historic centre is surrounded by channels of the river Ill, thus forming an island (!) called Grand Île. After two years, I returned to Great Britain, where I am still living now.
Ireland is a wonderful place where I have been extremely fortunate to live in, as well as to visit in several occasions. It is a country erected on an extremely interesting history, often quite problematic, which I think has enormously contributed to the development of their people’s nature. I think that even the famous “Irish weather” has forged the personality of that nation. Irish are friendly, funny, curious and very welcoming people. I would dare to say, without any shadow of a doubt, that they are the most Mediterranean-like citizens of the British Isles.
Probably after language, food and religion, music is one of the most recognizable features of the cultural identity of a country. That is for sure no different in Ireland, very well known for its musical heritage and tradition. Indeed, Irish musicians have always been right at the top of the worldwide music scene (U2, Sinéad O'Connor, Van Morrison, Enya, The Cranberries, etc… among many others). Irish folk music is one of my passions and was one of the reasons that attracted me when deciding Ireland as a destination where to live. I found it vigorous and rhythmic, it pulls you in, up to the point of getting you immersed in a sort of cathartic state. This is in fact the case for most traditional music around the world, often associated with cleansing and healing powers of both the body and soul. If you are new into Irish folk music, I would recommend my favorite band, Lúnasa. They call themselves “the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet”, which may seem a bit presumptuous, but I completely agree with their statement.
Another reason that dragged me (and many visitors every year) into Ireland is its majestic landscape. The island offers all sorts of different landscape for everyone’s taste: rough and wild coast, mild and smooth rolling hills, calm lakes and forests… However, if one scenery really blew my mind when I visited it, that was the region of the Burren. This is a vast bare glacial-era limestone pavement that gives the landscape a unique lunar-like appearance. Apparently, the word "Burren" comes from the Irish word "Boíreann" meaning a rocky place, which describes the area to perfection. If you enjoy rare and unusual landscapes, I strongly recommend you visiting this region. I am looking forward to my next visit!
County Donegal was the target of my recent visit to Ireland during four days in the last week of July. The aim of the visit was to participate in a landscape photography workshop organized by Nigel Cooke. My friend Alex and I attended the workshop and we really enjoyed every minute of it. The workshop was centered on the Inishowen and Fanad peninsulas, which I had not visited before but did certainly not leave us with disappointment. The scenery alone is “just beautiful” by itself, but having the chance to visit it with someone like Nigel, who really knows the area very well, turned the whole weekend into a magic experience.
The weather forecast was not very promising on our departure from Cambridge, but in the end, it was never that bad for prolonged periods of time. Although we never really got the desired amazing light always loved by photographers, the continuously changing conditions propitiated the right circumstances for the workshop. Indeed, a take-home message from the workshop was that a good knowledge of weather makes a huge difference when it comes to landscape photography, and Nigel certainly has it. He was capable to identify every single “squall” that appeared in the horizon and adjust accordingly based on the conditions.
The organization of the workshop was exquisite and completely tailored to our needs. Nigel enjoys teaching and the fact that we were only two of us ensured that he spent plenty of one-to-one tuition time with each one. Although in the end, we decided not to attempt any sunrise (mainly due to the unfavorable weather conditions and the fact that sunrise time in July is at stupid o’clock!), we had nevertheless plenty of time for tuition and shooting during the whole day. Indeed, tuition and photography discussions did start from the very moment we woke up, while having breakfast, and finished later in the evening after sunset session, while still in the car going back to the hostel.
I truly enjoyed the days spent in Ireland and I would certainly recommend attending a workshop with Nigel if you have the opportunity. I learned a lot and had a great time also. And of course, it was nice to visit Ireland again and have a change of island for a few days…
Thanks very much Nigel!!!