Archives for category: photographs

I’m spending a lot of time with Affinity Photo these last few weeks – originally looking at how to improve my portrait photos on the iPhone, but now looking at trees and buildings. I’m experimenting with methods of isolation – removing the subject from the foreground and placing it on a complementary, neutral background. It’s trickier than it seems, particularly when it comes to trees and plants – the complexity is immense. I’ve been working on selection refinement and feathering as ways to reduce complexity and to allow the subject to sit well with it’s background with no jagged edges.

Here’s a selection of photos I’ve been working with. I took all of them over a single hour last week in Castlemartyr Resort in Ireland, and I’ve since been working on extracting them from their backgrounds. Castlemartyr Resort has some stunning trees for me to work on.

Oak Tree, Castlemartyr

Oak tree, Castlemartyr Resort

Pine Trees, Castlemartyr Resort

Pine Trees, Castlemartyr Resort

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Spruce tree, Castlemartyr Resort

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Monkey Puzzle, Castlemartyr Resort

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Irish Yew, Castlemartyr Resort

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Mixed trees, Castlemartyr Resort

Lastly, a photo of the castle on the hotel grounds.

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I hope you like them.

In some ways, 2017 was a surprising year. I was expecting it to be all doom and gloom, and it certainly had its moments of awfulness, but lots of things happened and I’m surprised how much I managed to do over the year. Kids growing up: all teenagers now, some work trips to America and Singapore and a very enjoyable holiday in Wales. Day trips to Waterford and Kerry. Added to that were trips to see Brian Cox and Alt-J in Dublin, as well as hosting Professor Edzard Ernst here in Cork. I was busy at work though, and this resulted in me taking less photos and being less active online overall. I tend to get bored taking the same types of photo all the time.

Ballydowane, Co. Waterford

Ballydowane is a wonderful rocky cove near the coast road between Waterford and Tramore. It’s off the beaten track, but worth the spin. This tiny island is a regular subject of much local photography.  I took this photo in early January.

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Dromana Gate, Co. Waterford

Dromana Gate is located near Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. The gate is a Hindu-Gothic design originally built in wood and papier-mâché to celebrate the marriage in 1826 of Henry-Villiers Stuart and his wife Theresia Pauline Ott. It was later reconstructed in stone. It’s a fascinating structure – out of place for Ireland, yet a reminder of our varied cultural heritage.

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Pink Rock, near New Ross

I used to pass through this area of the country almost every week when I was a child. The River Barrow flows here, on its way to Waterford Harbour. It’s an area of steep ground and great views to New Ross and beyond to the Blackstairs mountains in Carlow. A large bridge is being built here at the moment, which will take traffic from Rosslare to Waterford, avoiding the narrow bridge in New Ross, which has been a bottleneck for decades.

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Fields of Barley, Co. Cork

During the summer, I took some photos in the fields close by the house. Some of them turned out well, I think.

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Lismore Castle

Lismore is a terrific place to go for a day out – the gardens are a real gem and the castle is such an imposing edifice over the Blackwater River. This photo was taken in May with the Rhododendrons in full bloom.

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Honeybee in flight

I took this photo with my iPhone in early June, patiently using burst photography to try to get the right shot. For a phone camera, the results worked out quite well.

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Coumshingaun Lake, Co. Waterford

In late June, I ventured with a group of friends into the Comeragh Mountains. We did the Coumshingaun Horseshoe. It’s one of my favourite walks in the country. A hard slog at the beginning, but it levels off quickly. The views are delightful.

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Waterford Greenway

This was the year we explored the Waterford Greenway properly – travelling over two different days the length of the route from Dungarvan to Waterford. It was fantastic. A relaxing journey, but not by any means trivial.  A great centrepiece of the Greenway is the viaduct in Kilmacthomas.

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Valentia Island, Co. Kerry

In July we travelled to Valentia Island in search of some of the largest tree-ferns in the country. We ended up in Glanleam house, walking through jungle paths, eventually breaking out to see some of the finest vistas Ireland has to offer. This picture was taken near the Tetrapod Trackway.

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Roche’s Point, Cork

On one of the summer days, we took a bike trip to Roche’s Point. This is the picturesque entry point to Cork Harbour, offering stunning views across to Crosshaven.

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Cardiff, Wales

I had a wonderful week with the kids in Wales. Cardiff Castle is one of my favourites – it dominates the city centre and it gives people an opportunity to walk through centuries of history. And what a history! Norman dungeons to gruesome medieval punishments.

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Stonehenge, England

I’ve wanted to go to Stonehenge for years. It’s one of the most iconic locations on Earth. And, right, it’s a busy place in summer – crowds of tourists everywhere. But I wasn’t prepared for the vast expanse around it, the barrows, the Cursus, the feeling that this area was a big deal millennia ago. A prehistoric Roman Forum, Mecca or Vatican City, of which no written clues have been left behind. If you are in England, I urge you to go.

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Bath, England

Bath is a city like no other. There is a deep sense of beauty in this Roman city, built of Jurassic stone. Modernity and great antiquity side by side with each other.

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Rhosilli Bay, Wales

I was here many years before, but I had forgotten how beautiful this place is. In the distance is Worm’s Head, a tidal island that’s connected to the mainland for a few hours each day.

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Silicon Valley, California

While Santa Clara valley is not the prettiest place, close by are areas of wonderful natural beauty. I was there in August, and one evening I took a trip up Sierra Road near Milpitas to watch the sun set over the valley. It was worth the drive.

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Shark Fin Cove, California

The Pacific Coast Highway is a favourite place of mine when I go to California. I always find something new on this route, and last August was no exception. This is Shark Fin Cove, not far from Santa Cruz.

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Comeragh Mountains, Waterford

The Gap is one of the most scenic walks in the Comeragh Mountains. Starting from the car park in the Nire Valley, it’s a relatively easy walk followed by a steep ascent to the plateau.

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Singapore

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Singapore again this year. It was so strange being in city so warm and humid when temperatures were in the single digits back home. After work, we would make a special effort to see different parts of the city. The area around the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore River are particularly picturesque.

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So, quite a year last year, all said. Some great memories and interesting places visited.

Here’s to 2018.

2016 was a long, withering year. A year that brought the world into new and dangerous directions. I didn’t take as many photos as I had on previous years, perhaps because the year exhausted me. I feel older, and not just in the literal sense. The joy of photography, as with many things, was lessened. I know I left a lot of chances go begging, sometimes because I felt they had nothing new to offer, sometimes because the energy just wasn’t there. But there were a few moments nonetheless. Here are a few photos from this year that gave me some joy. Open them separately for the full effect.

Hammerhead Over Ballycotton

Yes, it’s a panorama shot and yes it’s a landscape shot and yes it features yet more clouds and yes it’s taken from just outside the door, but the whole structure appeals to me. This, almost alien shape rearing over Ballycotton during the month of January. Living where I do, there are endless opportunities to take photos of the sea, the island and the clouds. It can be spectacular at times.

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Southern Auroras

We caught some very subtle auroras in Cork on March 6 of last year. They were so indistinct the naked eye could hardly pick them up. An SLR could, though. With a long shutter speed setting, the sky came to life. Witness the reds and greens caused by fast moving particles high above the atmosphere. One day we might witness something even more spectacular. Here’s hoping.

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The Iced Cross of Galteemore

On the 25th of March, we took a walk up to the summit of Galteemore in County Tipperary. It was a cold day, with ice and snow on the approaches to the mountain-top. I found this natural effect stunning, the result of driving wind and snow.

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Pope’s Quay

One weekend in April, while my younger sons sat entrance exams for secondary school, my daughter and I strolled around Cork, taking photos along the way. I like this shot of Pope’s Quay and the reflections in the River Lee.

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Connemara vista

In May, we journeyed to Roscommon to take possession of a new cat – a Maine Coon kitten we subsequently named “Gandalf”. We took the long way round, heading first to Galway city and Connemara before collecting the cat. After visiting Leenane, I took this photo of Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only true fjord, as it opened itself to the Atlantic.

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Approaching Storm

A few days later, while Gandalf was making himself at home, I rushed to the crest of the hill above the house to try film an electrical storm before it came too close. I didn’t get any shots of lightning bolts, but I did snap this great array of summer colours. It captured a mood, I think.

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Alicante Sunset

In June, we briefly visited Alicante in Spain. It was a work visit for C, with me tagging along as her wheelchair companion (she had broken her leg while running a short time before). I loved it and I was disappointed we could not have stayed a short while longer. This photo was taken as we ate dinner at a restaurant by the marina.

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Shanghai Surprises

As soon as I arrived back from Alicante, I was travelling to China for a work trip. This was my third visit to Shanghai in the last few years and my first time there alone, giving me some time to explore. The city gets more fascinating each time I am there. It was swelteringly hot there, but thankfully little smog and it was great to catch up with some good friends. Below are a) the interior of the Jin Mao Tower looking down to the piano bar, b) the Pearl Orient tower at sunset and c) the financial district at night.

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The Singapore Merlion

After Shanghai, I flew to Singapore where I had the Sunday to myself. This give me a chance to walk around the tourist district, visiting Raffles, the Merlion and the Singapore River. The heat, as ever, was astonishing. Without a bottle of water, I wouldn’t have made it very far. 2016-fav-14

The Misty Mournes

My work trip to Asia eventually came to a close, and it was now time to start my proper holidays. I went to Northern Ireland with my kids, taking this photo of the Mourne Mountains from Tyrella Bay. It was Ireland’s hottest day that year.

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Kinsale Harbour

In October, I brought the boys on a road trip to Kinsale and the Old Head, stopping off for pizzas on the way. It was an attempt to keep everyone happy, not particularly successful.

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Fota Arboretum in Autumn

In November we visited Fota Arboretum for a short walk. No special reason, just a chance to take advantage of a mild November day.

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Wishing you and yours a happy 2017. Go m’beirimíd beo ag an am seo arís.

I’m just back from a wonderful week in Northern Ireland. I used to work there in the 1990s, but it’s over 20 years since I was last there.

I had my kids with me, so I wanted to share with them how remarkable a place it is, what life was like back then and to see how things have changed since.

Day 1: Belfast

Our first day involved a bus tour around Belfast. There are a ton of tour companies advertising trips around the city on a step-on, drop-off basis. There are a ton of things to see, from the new Titanic Quarter to Stormont, the West Belfast peace walls and the flashy new shopping area in the centre of the city.  Right beside the Titanic exhibition are the film studios where Game of Thrones is produced – that went down very well with my elder teens. Even though it’s such a long time since I lived there, I was surprised how familiar it all seemed. Once I got my bearings, I could relate so well to the place – that magnetic accent, the effortless humour, the dark mountains in the distance.

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Titanic Quarter

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Game of Thrones Studios

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Victoria Square

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Belfast City Hall

 

Day 2: Belfast and Donaghadee

After a trip to Stormont and a walk through Queen’s University, we drove out to Donaghadee, Co. Down. In the distance, you can see Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Given all the trouble in the world – in Nice, in Munich, in Turkey, and further afield in Syria and Afghanistan, this place seems one of the safest places to be. Years ago it was not like that, but I saw no appetite for a return to the bad old days.

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Carson Face Palm

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Queen’s University

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Statue in QUB

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Donaghadee

 

Day 3: North Antrim Coast

One of the most beautiful parts of the island, if not the whole world, is the north Antrim coast. In a small area you have Ballintoy Harbour, the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, the Dark Hedges, the Bushmills Distillery, Dunluce Castle and, of course, the Giant’s Causeway. This is Game of Thrones country for real: massive dark basalts covered the area 60 million years ago, creating a landscape utterly different to the rest of Ireland. I so much wanted to return back here again.

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Antrim Coast

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Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

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Ballintoy

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Giant’s Causeway

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Dark Hedges

Day 4: Coney Island

On and on, over the hill and the craic is good
Heading towards Coney Island.

What a day Tuesday was! One of the hottest days of the year, hitting 30 degrees in some places in Ireland. We travelled south towards the Mourne district, stopping off briefly in Downpatrick then bathing in the cool waters around Coney Island, just by Ardglass. I can see what Van Morrison saw in this place.

And all the time going to Coney Island I’m thinking,
Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

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Mourne Mountains

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Downpatrick

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Coney Island

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Mourne Mountains

Day 5: Derry and Malin Head

Travelling the Glenshane Pass between Belfast and Derry, you get this strange feeling of deja-vu. There are uncanny similarities between it and the road between Cork and Killarney, just by the county bounds.

Derry has a very different character to Belfast – this walled city, looking over the Bogside and the Inishowen peninsula. It is a crucible for many of the key events in Irish history – dating from the early middle ages to living memory – the civil rights marches and Bloody Sunday, 1972. I really like this city. Friendly to a fault and dripping with character.

From there we headed out to the walled hill fort of Grianán Aileach, then travelling north to the very northern tip of the island, Malin Head. Driving rain cut our journey short, but it was a trip worth taking.

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Derry – looking down to the Bogside

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Grianan Aileach

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Inishowen Peninsula

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Malin Head

 

A few days ago, I shared this photo of a Zeppelin that passed us by when I was on Lake Constance.

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It was part of an iPhone burst, so I had the idea to create an animated gif file of the experience. This was a little trickier than expected however, because I was on a boat at the time, so the degree of shake was pretty serious!

I took 22 shots from the burst and, patiently working with Affinity Photo, I stabilised them as much as I could. Here’s the result.

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Just in case you are asking – the two small dots in front of the Zeppelin is a plane carrying an advertising banner.

Against my better judgement (as tomorrow is an incredibly busy day for me) – I heard there might be auroras around, so I ventured out to my favourite place and.. I was not disappointed.

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It was a subtle enough effect. With the naked eye you might not have seen much, but with a camera set to 40 seconds exposure, the sky came to life.

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I was expecting to see green, but not red.

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Our atmosphere clearly got hit by something big tonight! A big explosion on the sun is usually the reason for such beauty.

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Most of the time, Cork is too far south to see anything of value. Not tonight.

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I had the morning free, so my daughter and I took a walk around the city to see what was going on. The election count was in full flow in the City Hall but we didn’t stay there too long. The city was waking up, getting ready for the day.

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We headed down to the footbridge by the Grand Parade. In the distance were the limestone towers of Finbarr’s Cathedral, looking out over the city.

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And in the other direction, Father Matthew Church, flanked by the river Lee, modern architecture competing with the buildings of earlier years.

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The English Market was already in full swing. It’s one of Cork’s main attractions – the variety of food stalls and coffee houses is wonderful.

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Close by, a small arcade selling coffee and Middle Eastern food. Cork is full of little alleys and side streets.

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Pembroke Street, joining Oliver Plunkett Street to the South Mall, and home to some great bars and restaurants.

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St. Paul’s Avenue, with a view of Shandon in the distance.

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Finally, we made our way back to the City Hall and out of the city. The muddy river Lee continuing its march towards the sea.

Looking back over all my photos this year, I found it hard to pick out the top ten shots that I was most happy with. It was a great year for photography for me. I managed to travel to a number of far flung places, but, in the end, most of my favourite photos were taken locally.  So here they are. Click on any one of them to get a better view.

Electric Sunrise

This photo was taken in mid-January 2015, in the hills near Glanmire, Co. Cork. I don’t usually stop my car when driving to work, but this was an exceptional dawn event. We often forget how beautiful the sunrises can be here in Ireland.

Electric Sunrise, Glanmire, Co. Cork

Pacific Breaker

I took a work visit to California in March. As always, I drive towards the Pacific coast as soon as I get off the plane. The waves are often enormous. This day was no exception. It was taken by Bean Hollow State Beach, about halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

Breakers, Cabrillo Highway, California

 

Rowing Boat, Killarney

Quite a story for this next one. Myself and my friend Ais had elected to do a charity night-time walk up Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, in April. It was a total washout. We just barely managed to reach the top of the Devil’s Ladder before we were forced back by strong winds and lashing rain. We arrived back at Cronin’s Yard soaked to the skin. The original intention was to photograph the sunrise from the top of the mountain, but in the end, we were lucky simply to get back uninjured. The afternoon before the walk, I took this photo of a boat near Ross Castle.

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Double Rainbow

This photo from June was taken just yards from my home. The weather was showery that day, with rainbows guiding me all the way from Cork. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a double rainbow so stark as this one.

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Beech Trees, Waterford

The following day, Claudia and I went on a drive through County Waterford, taking the northerly route across the county from Portlaw to Clonea. It’s wonderfully picturesque; a maze of tiny roads and high estate walls. I took this photo on the walled road out of Portlaw. In the background is the lone hill of Slievenamon, Co. Tipperary.

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Camphire Horse Trials

I’m not at all into horses, but in July I visited the Camphire International Horse trials, nestled in a beautiful part of Waterford on the banks of the River Blackwater. It was a thoroughly wet day, but this didn’t spoil the enjoyment in the slightest. This photo, taken during the cross-country event, was full of action; the horse has just landed into the water after a challenging jump.

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Running boys

I just love this. My two youngest boys full of action. Why walk anywhere when you can run? It was taken on Garryvoe Beach in early August.

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The Big Sur

A few days later I was back on a plane, again in California for a few days. This time I decided to drive as far south from San Francisco as I could, reaching the Big Sur before sunset. It was a 100 mile drive to get there (and another 100 miles back). But my, was it worth it.

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Jellyfish Clouds

This photo was taken near home in late August. As the sun was setting, the cloud formation took the appearance of a tentacled jellyfish. It’s quite a panorama.

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Night Trail

A few days later, I took this evening shot by Garryvoe beach – the contrail of a jet casting an upwards shadow on nearby clouds.

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A few more

These are the photos that didn’t make my top 10. A pity, because I love all of them for different reasons. There are photos here from Shanghai, the Burren, Bantry House, Mount Congreve, the Galtee Mountains, California, Fota Wildlife Park, Penarth and Singapore, among other places.

 

 

 

Lights in the sky shining down on Cork City?

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Lights from the Sky

Yes, but before you contact the UFO hotlines, it was just the sun shining through holes in the clouds. The spotlight / laser effect was quite stunning that evening.

A contrail from a passing plane casts a shadow high in the sky.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Contrail

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