31st December 2021 was the warmest New Year’s Even since records began, with some parts of Northern Ireland reaching 14 degrees Celsius. That’s warm for this part of the world! People were getting out and about, and no more so that at Portstewart, on the North Coast.
When it come to scenery, there’s few places better than Strangford and Lecale, – an area of outstanding natural beauty, and of great scientific interest.
On Thursday 7th January I crossed the straits between Portaferry and Strangford on the ferry, with my Fujifilm X-T4. It was a cold, bright winter day, and Strangford village was sparkling in the winter sunlight.
It’s encouraging to drive along a road and see some inspirational words on a wall. In Belfast, it makes a nice change from some of the darker, paramilitary or terrorist inspired murals. Ant when you are ‘getting on a bit’ like me, this wall on the Newtownards Road is particularly appropriate – a good incentive to keep going!
This area of Belfast is known as ‘Ballymacarrett’ – an ancient townland name, and the home of many of the old Belfast industries, most notably the famous Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Short Brothers aircraft factory, the Belfast Rope Works and the Scirocco Works.
The mural features everything that is good about East Belfast, its community and renown, including CS Lewis, born in East Belfast. Also included are a ballerina, Belfast City Hall, and a group of children playing in the street, a boy releasing a dove, symbolising peace.
The main text on the mural is:
You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.
The Martin Memorial Clock Tower – beloved monument or ‘a decrepit eyesore?’
Back in September, 2020, Janette and I did a drive around the Lecale District, an area of outstanding natural beauty, not too far from where we live in Co.Down. I did three blog posts about that area, and in the first of those pieces, https://bobmcevoy.co.uk/2020/09/01/the-lecale-district-1/ I mentioned Van Morrison’s song, “Coney Island.” (Is it really a song?), in which Mr Morrison, one of our native sons, mentions many of the local places of interest in this part of Northen Ireland. But one of the lines of the song intrigued me. For Mr Morrison writes of driving through Shrigley to take photographs before he travelled on down to Killyleagh.
Between Dundrum and Newcastle, Co.Down is this ancient Dolmen, a strange stone structure that stands out against the skyline.
It is generally supposed that these stone structures mark burial grounds, probably from around 3000-4000 BC. Who built them, or how they were built is a mystery, it seems, but they occur all over Western Europe. Notice how the heaven top rock seems to fit into ‘sockets’ on the supporting rocks, and marvel at ancient engineering skills! To visit the Dolmen take the A2 road from Dundrum to Newcastle, and on reaching Murlough Nature Reserve turn onto Old Road, The Dolmen is on the left. Be aware though, that the tomb is sited on private land, which often is sowed out in crops, and to cross over to the monument would be trespass. It’s wise to take a medium range zoom lens if you want to photograph the Dolmen, and work from the road verge.
I visited the Dolmen on a bright afternoon, so conditions for photography were not optimal. I had to overexpose by around 2 stops to bring out some detail in the stones, which left the sky overexposed. I’d no tripod with me, so no opportunity for a series of shots for HDR processing.
The images above was made with the Fujifilm X-T2, F=180mm, f/8 @ 1/250th sec on ISO250.
The recent storm (Ellen, I think) caused flooding in the seaside town of Newcastle as the Shimna River burst through its banks. The Shimna rises in the Mournes and meanders through forested areas on the sides of the hills. Wood swept down by the torrential currents ended up in the Irish Sea and washed up on the beach.
The dark hills in the background are the Mourne Mountains of Percy French fame, sweeping musically down to the sea. I like this image because of its contrasts, its light and shade, the textures of the driftwood and the deep shadow of the hills.
Fujifilm X-T2, F=18mm, f/6.4 @ 1/125th sec on ISO800.
The driftwood is quite bright – after all, it’s been washed clean by the sea, so I exposed for the wood, which cast the mountains into deep shadow, an effect I rather liked!