June 27, 2016

Ireland III (Dangan Castle, Ireland)

After a short break for lunch (Ingrid warmed up some with a hearty soup), we drove off to find our second location, while simultaneously slowly working our way westward, towards our first week's accommodation.

The vast majority of preparation for this trip went into researching locations for Ingrid and I work with in, and one of the most exciting was discovering the ruins of Dangan Castle, an old stately home built upon the foundations of an even older castle. The house has been uninhabited since the 1840s. Its most famous occupant was Great Britain's greatest military commander, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington , who famously defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke was born near the castle and spent most of his youth there.
After a lovely walk out to the ruins, Ingrid and I started working not with the house, but with a massive tree that was situated in a field beside it - though the tree was healthy and green, the heart of the trunk was mostly missing, with enough space for Ingrid to clamber right inside. Initially I photographed in colour, but I quickly realized the light was SO green (given all the leaves around us) that getting a colour colour balance on Ingrid's skin would be challenging (this turned out to be the case, so the only "colour camera" images of Ingrid in the tree are in black and white). So I switched to the infrared camera. This presented its own challenges (the infrared light under the tree was VERY low in contrast), but side-stepped the colour issue all together.
After working with the tree until Ingrid and I ran out of poses, we walked over and began working with the house proper. Without the doubt the most prevalent features that remain are the massive windows, so after making a small number of images of Ingrid in the main door, I helped her up into one of the stone window frames and we proceeded from there. The magical part of the space was the fact that the window frame we worked with was partially filled in (on an angle, just to make things different), so while Ingrid was in a massive window, she was also posing against a background to weathered stone and render. 
Ingrid and I worked on the face of the building for half-an-hour or so, experimenting with camera angles and lenses, and different ways for her to interact with the space. Working at Dangan Castle was a very different experience than our first session at the Abbey - at that location, there was a steady flow of interruptions from other visitors - Ingrid and I could never really lose ourselves in the process, and get to the point where a natural rhythm emerged in the session, as we moved from image to image. At Dangan Castle, the only interruption was a local dog walker, who we'd seen at a great distance, and easily worked around. 
One to the reasons I was so keen to work at Dangan Castle (apart from the tie to the Duke of Wellington) was because of the images I had seen of the interior of the castle - it is incredibly overgrown with foliage, and even small trees. I'd hoped to make a whole series of images with Ingrid within the building, working with the magical juxtaposition of such a massive building, and the hand of nature reclaiming it, but sadly, I had forgotten about stinging nettles ( Urtica dioica ). Even walking through the fields to the ruin, we came across the nettles, and the interior of the castle was overrun with them. I did manage to clear a small path for Ingrid, but a standing pose, feet inside the doorway, was all we could manage with the space. 
The last images of the session at Dangan Castle were made in a small out building, beside the main house; Angie had found it during her own photo exploration of the site, and she thought it might provide some contrast to the other spaces we worked in.

The first images in the shed worked with the ivy that flowed over the building, and hung down over the opening; after these images, Ingrid moved further into the structure, and lent back against the stone wall, working her hands in among the ivy. This lead to the final set of images, working with the soft, yet directional light coming in through the only entrance into the building.

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