July 07, 2016

Ireland XXX (The Glen, Ireland)

If Castlegrove House was everything I had hoped for, and met every expectation I had, the Glen was something I was totally unprepared for. The photographs of it online only hint at the incredible beauty of the space, and when Ingrid and I first walked into it, it was truly awe inspiring.

The Glen is one of the most interesting natural phenomena on the Coolera peninsula of County Sligo : it is a narrow, deep and long chasm on the south face of Knocknarea, a massive rocky hill that is caped with a giant rocky cairn known as "Queen Maeve's grave". This microvalley in the limestone hillside runs for about three quarters of a mile and averages 20 metres deep, with sheer limestone cliffs on both sides.

Finding the entrance to the Glen proved quite straight-forward, thanks to detailed instructions found online, but getting in to the heart of it proved a little more challenging. Thick mud on the route in force a retreat to the car to don rubber boots, and even these proved almost futile, as I stepped into mud so deep on the way out of the Glen that I filled one boot with thick, viscous mud. I shudder to think of how inaccessible the space would be after a couple of days of rain.
In some ways, the simple question of where to start photographing in the Glen was the hardest; the location was so visually rich that everywhere I looked had potential. For lack of other guidance, began working with Ingrid at the far end of the clearing, and then we worked our way back to where we entered it. Given how verdant the location was, I worked exclusively in colour, hoping the contrast between Ingrid's skin tone and the sea of green around her would make the images pop.
It is ironic that, for all the beauty and majesty of the location, the greatest challenge Ingrid and I came up against was a familiar one - the question of posing with trees. In Nova Scotia, where trees tend to be smaller, a Nude next to a tree can look disconnected; in the Glen, with massive trees towering overhead, it was even more disproportionate. In the end, for the most part, I decided to focus on lines and form (i.e. the trunk), and not worry about the trees as a whole.
By chance more than design, Ingrid and I started working in the Glen shortly after 6pm, and through the location was full of evidence of visitors, the session was uninterrupted, primarily, I think, because of the late hour. A further advantage of starting so late in the day was that the evening light, as the sun moved lower in the western sky, began to illuminate the Glen from one end, providing some beautiful angular side-light to work with towards the end of the session.
 The final set of images made at the Glen were also amongst the most dramatic. By this time, the sun had moved low enough to rake across the sheer limestone walls that defined the Glen. Dusted with trailing ivy, the northern wall provided a perfect space for Ingrid to work in, with the soft evening sunlight falling across her body in an almost theatrical manner.
Like so many of the places Ingrid and I worked with in Ireland, I could have spent a full day (or more) working in the Glen, but between the long morning drive, and the intense session at Moyne Friary, by 7:30pm, both Ingrid and I were getting hungry. Knowing that dinner was likely an hour away in Sligo, and would be followed by at least a 2 hour drive back to our accommodation, we decided, with some reluctance, to call the session to a close, and head back to the car.

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