June 29, 2016

Ireland VII (Lackeen Castle, Ireland)

This day dawned, as every day in Ireland seems to, with drizzle; in hopes to out-drive the rain, I decided to head west, to the abandoned 12th century Lackeen Castle. Standing in a bawn, the fortified house is four stories high with easy stair access all the way up (though it does lack a roof, so the very top of the building's walls is inaccessible).
Lackeen belonged to Brian Ua Cinneide Fionn, chieftain of Ormond, who died in 1588. The castle passed to his son Donnchadh, the last Ua Cinneide chief of lower Ormond who further fortified it against the Cromwellians, but ended up surrendering to Cromwell in 1653. Donnchadh Ua Cinneide descended from Brian Boru, who in the 10th century was High King of Ireland. Cinneide translates to ‘Helmeted Head’, the Ua Cinneide chiefs were the first to wear a helmet in battle against the Vikings. The name ‘Ua Cinneide’ was anglicised to ‘Kennedy’. Post Cromwell the Kennedy family regained Lackeen Castle and restored it.
When we arrived at Lackeen, the sky had cleared some, and there were lovely period of intermediate sun. After some time spent exploring the castle, Ingrid and I set up on the top floor. An east-facing window had some wonderfully worn stone around it, and served as the first location Ingrid posed in for the day. I started with my go-to default - placing the window centred in the composition, with a formal, architectural approach to the space. Having worked through that approach, I shifted the camera to a more acute angle, and suggested a post that create a more dynamic body line, while still interacting with the window

After making another set of images with a small doorway on the top floor, Ingrid and I moved into the spiral staircase, and proceeded to explore its possibilities. I've been a passionate photographer of spiral staircases since 1998, but this was one of only a couple of times I've had the opportunity to work with a model on one (the most successful session with a spiral stairway before this was in a VERY public place in Halifax).

The luxury of having one of my favourite architectural setting to work with, and the freedom to take the time needed to work out compositions and poses was a fabulous gift. Having made a great number of architectural images in stairways over the past 8 years, I immediately knew how to set up my camera (upside down on my tripod, which was splayed almost horizontally, so there were no tripod legs in the image. Once the camera was set up, Ingrid and collectively worked through a handful of different poses, with a number of really pleasing results. I highlight the above image here simply because I particularly enjoy the contrast between the set geometry of the stairway and the lovely curved form of Ingrid's figure, illuminated by the light of the narrow window.

An unfortunate side effect of working within the castle was that a chill set in pretty quickly for Ingrid; within the stairwell, the wind came in through narrow windows, oscillating between almost non-existent and a howling banshee that whipping Ingrid's hair around and stole what little body warmth remained in her. As a result, after finishing the set of images looking directly down on her, we agreed after a couple of more compositions, we'd being the session to a close (to take a break for lunch, and give Ingrid a chance to warm up).

The last images of the session were made in the first landing down from the top of the stair well - the light that fell across Ingrid was just lovely, and while the narrow doorway I was photographing through truncated her arms, I felt the incredible sculptural quality of the lighting would make the abrupt end to her upper arm seem at least somewhat referential to classical sculptures (which frequently are missing arms, and even heads). The above image ended up being Ingrid's favourite of the session for that exact reason!

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