Back in March, my wife was over with her folks in Poland for a week, and so I took a couple of days off and headed south to explore another part of Ireland. The Ring of Kerry is rightly popular with tourists and can get extremely busy during the summer months. Seeing as it’s now ‘on my doorstep’, I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit out of season to avoid the crowds.
The Spring weather here in Western Ireland, on the Atlantic coast can be summed up as changeable. And that’s not every-few-days-changeable, it’s every-five-minutes-changeable. I wasn’t in a rush and had good waterproofs, so felt pretty confident that I’d at least be able to get some photography in over the course of the three day trip.
I followed the route shown above – hopefully you can see a map created on the excellent Roadtrippers.com and app, and took along my new-to-me Mamiya RB67. I’d bought it a month or so previously but had had to spend a bit of time getting into the condition that it had been advertised in. I took apart the lenses and removed internal dust (although I wasn’t able to get at the spot of fungus that’s growing in one of them) and changed all the light seals in the body and back. I also gave the vinyl covering a really thorough scrubbing, cleaned up the focussing screen and mirror. It still isn’t ‘new, old stock’, but it’s a whole lot better than when it arrived.
I’d used an RB a couple of years ago having borrowed it from my buddy Cory, but had only shot a couple of rolls with it before deciding that it was too cumbersome for my kind of use, and felt a little fragile when getting it in and out of a bag.
However, since moving to Ireland, I’m shooting more landscapes and views and while my Mamiya C330 does a decent job of it, it isn’t easy to use with filters (although I’ve tried with some success). I thought about going back to a GW690, but being a rangefinder, filters still don’t quite work out on that either. The RB67 still seems the best value for money alternative, given the price of Pentax 67s, Hasselblads etc.
The week I was travelling coincided with #shootweek of the March FP4Party, and so the decision was made on what film I’d be using, even if it wasn’t really the most appropriate (I only have one film back so far, so couldn’t really switch).
I certainly wasn’t travelling light, but as I’d never be too far from the car, I loaded up and set off south…
First stop on the Ring of Kerry route out of Killarney was supposed to be Torc waterfall, but the car park was full. I pressed on another couple of miles and found Upper Lake, with the snow-capped MacGillycuddy Reeks beyond, and had the place to myself.
Just off Derrynane beach is Abbey Island, an island with the remains of an abbey(!) and graveyard. It’s an easy walk across the sand to the island when the tide is out. Just make sure you’re ashore before the tide is back in.
The view of Scariff and Deenish islands from the lookout on Beenarourke Pass in the fantastic Atlantic light. These rocks in the Atlantic still had people living on them in the ’90’s.
The remains of the Napoleonic-era barracks on Bolus Head (the fence might be younger).
Bolus Head is the closest point to the Skelligs – two more lumps of rock that sit 6 miles off the coast. They’re now a UNESCO world heritage site and location for Star Wars films, but were once home to a monastery.
Walking across the bog to Cool Rocks on Valentia Island.
An ancient (6/7th century) stone cross at St. Brendan’s Well with Fogher cliff in the background.
I spent the night in the Royal Hotel in Knightstown on Valentia Island. I’m pretty sure that whichever royal had visited the hotel didn’t stay in room 209, but it served a purpose.
After eating too much dinner, I took a walk around the harbour to burn up the last couple of frames on the roll. The next rain storm was blowing in (as evidenced by the spots on the lens) but I’m pleased that I persevered…
I visited the Valentia Island lighthouse at Cromwell Point a couple of times through the next day. The cloud/fog/drizzle made for a classic ‘soft’ day but, just as Met Eireann predicted, it lifted at midday and was beautiful.
The now disused Valentia River viaduct with Cnoc na dTobar mountain in the background.
There is a pilgrim path that runs up Cnoc na dTobar, the mountain in the previous picture. The trail is marked by these ‘stations of the cross’. I’d like to photograph all of them on a future visit…
I travelled home with one exposure left and, as my daughter was away with her mother, had to shoot something other than my favourite roll-ending subject. This was shot in the woods across the road from us.
The results from the RB67 are as good as expected, with the huge negatives offering massive detail. But it is a lump.
(I know it’s designed for use in a studio and so it’s wrong to criticise its bulk, but I was cursing it a little whenever I was more than 100m from the car).
Mamiya RB67 with 65mm and 150mm lenses, Ilford FP4+ processed in Ilford DD-X, scanned at home.