Your Incompetent Photographer

I can’t do this place justice in photos. I don’t have the skill. It’s doubtful that I can do it justice in writing, but I’ll try anyway.

The days are long, and for the hours near sunrise and sunset, the light is soft and gauzy. You can almost see the water hanging in the air, even when it’s not raining. The light moves constantly. I go to set up a photo, only to find the light has shifted. If you stand and look a while, your view changes before you.

Rivers and streams score the land here. In the countryside, I either hear running water or nothing. The soil is a reddish brown, and I can see the color in the riverbanks, contrasting with the trees and grass. There’s water everywhere in Ireland, I think, seeping into the ground and feeding the plants that threaten to swallow everything else up. Down the road from the house, there’s an abandoned house. The plants have engulfed it. Stinging nettles, popping snapdragons, and ferns that will hitch a ride on your sweater flank the roads. The plant life seems sentient in its activity.

This Irish summer smells of fall. The flowers have lost their intense smell after their earlier blooms, and now the dominant scent is that of wet underbrush and earth. Autumn has also lent this summer its temperature, comfortable for vigorous motion. Every time I step outside I think of new beginnings, which is what fall must represent to many students. It’s not just that, though. It’s the same feeling I get from every natural area, the feeling that I might explore and find something more than what I knew I was coming for. In the city, you can’t just walk. You have to have a path set for you, or inevitably you will run into an obstacle or a bad area. Even in towns here, you are never far from a forest, stream, or field. Just start walking and find your own way.

The biggest difference, though, is the size of the sky. In the background, I can nearly always see the Galtee mountains, and above them that sky. Looking up is impressive even when the sky is covered over with clouds, perhaps especially when covered it’s over with clouds, light blue and silver rimmed, their peaks and valleys like canyons in reverse. In an airplane, the clouds look like a landscape of their own, and it’s the same even from the ground here.

I don’t understand Ireland yet. I have an idea of its history, in broad strokes, and cumulatively I’ve spent months here, but I don’t know the nation. The national situation on the island is complex. If a majority of people living in Northern Ireland want to join the Republic of Ireland, and most in the Republic agree, then the UK must allow a unified Ireland. So far, Northern Ireland has opted to stay a part of the UK. But north and south have a common language, and history, and land. Are they a part of the same nation, even if they don’t want to be a part of the same polity? When I asked Mary, an Irish native, she said that the two places do not largely have the same national identity. According to her, the ethnic protestants in Northern Ireland would want to remain a part of the UK, the ethnic Catholics would want a united Ireland, and still others would see Northern Ireland as its own nation, not a part of the UK or the Republic of Ireland. It depends on who you ask.

We’re going to Belfast in about a week, which is located in Northern Ireland. It’ll be my first trip to the UK. Ciara’s dad Jesse (heretofore referred to as “the doc” because he is a doctor and that’s what I usually call him to his face) and his friend Jeff will join us on a tour of all the castles in Game of Thrones, which is largely filmed in Belfast. I’m excited for the trip, as I want to see as much of Ireland as I possibly can. I’ll take more photos when I’m there, and I have taken more photos between the last post and now, but I wanted to try to give you an idea of what my photographs leave out.

Edit: sorry, I have a photo of the big sky. Enjoy my inconsistency.

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One thought on “Your Incompetent Photographer

  1. On your topic/ the challenge of capturing an experience… I’m reading “The Big Sea” by Langston Hughes (it’s the Penn Reading Project Book for 2015 on the 30th anniversary year, wonderful book) . In the book, he writes about watching bullfights in Mexico, and wanting to write about the bullfights but a bullfight is something that has to be experienced and can’t be written about…he tries but says he really can’t capture it (he does manage to fill a page somehow). And, you say the photos can’t capture Ireland. I met a water color artist this weekend, who said the outdoors studies come closest to handling the experience, and when finished later in studio, it’s never the same. He has stopped selling his outdoor studies as for him they are the visual diary of the places he’s been and experience there. He says the photos flatten out the atmosphere and make it 2-Dimensional.
    Interesting to think about how these art forms try to capture experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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