June 29, 2016

Ireland IX (Clontuskert Abbey, Ireland)

The Augustinian Priory of St Mary was founded in the 12th century by Turlough O'Connor, King of Connaught, possibly on the site of an earlier monastery founded by St. Baedán, who died circa 809. The Augustinian Canons Regular established 130 religious houses in Ireland in the period of church reform early in the twelfth century. Of these remains of thirty survive, including those at Kells, Cashel and Clontuskert.
Ingrid and I arrived at Clontuskert Abbey in the mid evening, after exploring several locations that ultimately didn't work out for photographing Ingrid (i.e. WAY too public), and a lovely dinner (Ingrid was in 7th heaven with her Steak & Kidney pie!). As has become our modus operandi, Ingrid romped around the ruins taking photos as I moved a little slower, mentally mapping out locations I'd like to work with.
The obvious first place to start working was a small north-facing window which had its full stone tracery intact. Working first with the inside, and then the outside perspective, Ingrid worked through a whole set of poses using all three of the lights defined by the bar tracery. One of the last things we did was create a full set of poses using all three lights, so I could assemble them into a triptych in post production. Though an image like this (using three Ingrids instead of one) won't be used in the portfolio, it is by far my favourite result from the first coupe of image sets we made at this abbey.
As we finished working with the windows, the evening sun began to break through the clouds to the west, and fall across the northern face of the abbey. Given the apparent rarity of sunshine in Ireland, and the fact Ingrid was more than happy to soak up whatever warmth she could, we spent then next couple of minutes working with the angular light. The only real frustration was the swirling winds, which wouldn't leave Ingrid's hair alone for a second (though oddly enough, my hair didn't move at all).
As the sun moved lower in the sky, it became more and more dramatic, so I shifted to including it in the composition. After some colour images (using exposure blending to ensure detail in both the sky and Ingrid), I decided to see how infrared would handle the high contrast - and was pleasantly surprised at the results. As it was cooling off, we didn't spend too much time working on the exposed side of the abbey (where the wind hit it with full force), but the few images that did turn out are really quite pleasing, with the dramatic sky contrasting well with Ingrid's figure lying on the ruined stone.
Primarily due to the wind, Ingrid and I shifted to working within the nave for the last images of the session. I'd intended to work within a large wall alcove when I saw a shaft of sunlight fall across the nave, directly below the grand east window. Immediately I shifted focus (and changed lenses), and asked Ingrid if she could stand in the narrow band of sunlight, directly below the window. Already having my lens changed, I fought to find the best camera position, refine the composition, and set the exposure before the light moved or changed. As it turned out, I had less than 30 seconds from when the camera was ready to when the light faded due to clouds moving across the sun...however in that time, Ingrid worked through a number of different poses, including the above, which came with a perfect shadow in the corner of the west wall.
When the shaft of light dimmed and vanished, Ingrid and I pursued the images I'd originally intended to make in both large and small alcoves in the nave walls, but we finished up the session with another set of images focused on the east window.

The 15th century east window, pictured above, collapsed in 1918. Restorers managed to locate all of the window components and it was carefully rebuilt to its former glory in the 1970's.

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