The final session of the first full day of photography for the Ingrid Portfolio was at the small ruined Augustinian abbey of Monaincha. The location is both isolated and relatively unknown, and was one of my first little victories of all the research I did before the trip - it was easy to find, and turned out to be the perfect space to finish our first day of photography.
Founded in 1140, but built on a site of an earlier abbey founded in the 6th century by Saint Elair or St Cainnech of Aghaboe, Monaincha Abbey is described by locals as "Tipperary's best kept secret". The abbey's name comes from Mainistir Inse na mBeo
meaning "The Monastery of the Island of the Living". Originally the
monastery was on a small island surrounded by water, but agricultural
drainage works in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries drained the
bog and left the monastery perched conspicuously on top of a mound in a
More by happenstance than planning, Ingrid
and I arrived at the Abbey as the setting sun was falling across the
main doorway; the weathered Romanesque chevron designs and scroll-work
carvings were easy to make out with the angular sun, and it provided the
perfect setting to start working with Ingrid. I began with my colour
camera set low on my tripod, and used a wide-angle lens to frame the
entire doorway, looking through to the high cross and arches beyond.
Ingrid experimented with a number of different poses and I shifted my
camera camera angle occasionally, but the above photograph of Ingrid's
body back-on and low in the doorway, with her arms reaching up and
anchoring the inner arch above her is by far my favourite. The dark
shadowy interior behind her is the perfect counterpoint to the almost
sculptural quality of Ingrid in the doorway.
After some further explorations of the
doorway and nave spaces, Ingrid and I moved into a small addition to the
abbey, added in around the 15th century. The original purpose of the
small chamber is unclear, though it is thought to have been either the
priest's quarters, or a sacristy. The vaulted room was only a little
higher than my head, and was lit by two small windows. Though the light
was low, it was also lovely and dramatic, and Ingrid and I struggled for
sometime to find a pose that did the space justice. In the end, a
simple composition from the side of Ingrid crouching, and leaning back
upon the tomb at the end of the room proved to be the most pleasing.
Dealing with the high contrast of the location needed four separate
exposures to be combined into the final image - in retrospect I wish I
had thought to try the composition in infrared - I suspect it would have
been even more pleasing, and would have needed just a single exposure
Though the light was lovely in the vaulted
room, it was also easily the coldest place Ingrid modeled all today, so
after a couple of other compositions, we moved back into the main body
of the abbey, and after Ingrid spent a few minutes dressed to warm up,
we set to work in the ruins of the east window. After a couple of
photographs made in colour, I shifted to working with the infrared
camera, as the glow it gave the trees behind Ingrid helped separate her
figure from the background. Working relatively quickly, Ingrid and
explored more than handful of different poses with the window - the most
successful were those with her standing, and arching back against the
sea of trees moving behind her in the wind.
After about 45 minutes of working within
the abbey itself, the light levels were starting to really drop (sunset
was just after 10am, and we'd arrived at the abbey at 9pm). Given the
small island the abbey was on had some massive trees on its outer edge, I
decided to finish up the session working with the ancient hardwoods.
Though I have photographed the Nude for close to 30 years, I have to
admit, I have never really worked out how to fit the body into
trees...they are incredibly challenging to work with.
it turns out, the larger the tree, the easier it is to work with, and
after some pose experimentation, Ingrid I managed to make a number of
really pleasing images, including the above photograph which really
thrills me - the lovely tone of Ingrid's body set against the rich
shadow tones of the tree behind and beside her. Just lovely.
brought the session at Monaincha Abbey to a close at sun set - by 10pm
the air started to cool, and both Ingrid and I were feeling the length
of the day - three sessions and several hours of driving only a day
after landing in Ireland had worn both of us out. The final session left
us both feeling elated, however - in the single hour at Monaincha, we'd
made some incredible images, working with both beautiful light and a
stunning setting. An auspicious beginning to the two-week long project