Northern Ireland

Welcome to Northern Ireland! …Or at least my blog post about Northern Ireland! This five-and-a-half-thousand square miles of the United Kingdom is home to innumerable sheep, romantic stone architecture, dramatic coastal cliffs, and that aggressively vibrant green color only found in locations with chronically dismal weather.

Leslie and I flew into Belfast and headed straight to Dunluce Castle on the northern coast of the isle of Ireland. We were greeted by the customary sheep. As cattle ranchers in the Old West would identify members of their herds by branding them, so Irish shepherds identify their wards with paint; those shown here belong to someone who uses a reddish-orange color. The first stones were laid here in the 13th century; the ruins still rise formidably straight up from the cliffs on several sides. We were excited to see the caves beneath the castle, but they were closed for renovation or preservation (or whatever you do to caves?) so we had to make due with the spectacular above-ground scenery.

(The drive from Belfast Int’l to Dunluce was my thank-goodness-not-literally-crash course intro to driving in Ireland. I will discuss this at greater length in a later blog post, but for now keep in mind that this endeavor generally takes place on the wrong side of what can’t possibly be wide enough to carry two-way traffic, but does.)

After Dunluce Castle we visited the Dark Hedges, which is a strech of Bregagh Road in County Antrim that is lined with picturesque beech trees. Due to its appearance in the second season of Game of Thrones, this place has become quite the tourist destination. The Department of Infrastructure has since closed this particular length of road to traffic, so it should be a nicer stroll now, but at the time I was lucky to get a bus-free image.

Speaking of busses, the entirety of Ireland is lousy with tour busses, and it seems most of the famously pretty sites are swarmed with tourists, at least in the summer, when Leslie and I were there. Fortunately, in the summer, the sun doesn’t set until like 10 P.M. (and likewise rises at some uncivilized hour), so if you’re willing to head out early or stay out late, you may still get the opportunity to experience some of these places in their uncluttered glory.

This is excatly what we ended up doing later that day. As we checked into our Airbnb, our host suggested we visit the Giant’s Causeway late in the evening to avoid the crowds, and she was so right. Northeast of the town of Bushmills, vast stretches of basalt columns jut right up from the sea, forming a breathtaking portion of the coastline. 50 to 60 million years ago, Paleocene volicanic activity brought quite a bit of lava to the surface here. As lava cools, it shrinks, and as it simultaneously hardens and shrinks, cracks form, causing the columnar shapes you see here. Most of the columns are hexagonal, but we saw other shapes as well. The whole thing was slippery, slightly dangerous, and absolutely stunning. It’s not hard to imagine Finn MacCool tromping out into the sea here to fight some Scottish giant. Rain contributed to the slippery danger (you can see that I have deployed the rain fly of my Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW), but it didn’t deter us!

The Causeway Hotel was super cool; I half expected to see characters from Mad Men lounging in the lobby. If we’d had more time, we would have definitely eaten and stayed there.

The following morning we wandered down Benone Beach (yet another picturesque portion of Ireland’s northern coast) to the Downhill Demense near Castlerock. Both the sand of the beach and the cliffs above it teemed with life; each step brought into view some new critter or evidence of such burrowing around beneath the surface. In addition to being riddled with caves, the cliffs thronged with seagulls (more seagulls than tourists, even!), and at one point we had to make a dash across an open stretch of sand to avoid getting splattered with guano from above.

Downhill Demense is home to Mussenden “Temple”, a round building perched atop the cliffs overlooking Benone Beach. It was built as a library in 1875 and meant to resemble the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. A few hundred feet south along an arrow-straight track lies the castley ruins of Downhill House, also built in the 18th century.

That evening we made the short drive to Dublin and the Republic of Ireland, where our story shall continue.

—narrative assistance by Dan

Easy Peasy Stranger Meetsy: Photo Series 1


I was reminded of something important during my latest photography workshop on Thursday. When I tell you what it is, I’m sure you’ll think, “Well, duh, Krista.” Still, knowing doesn’t DO anything. Doing, with knowing (or not), DOES. You may be ready to write off of my ridiculousness, but please wait. It’s important.

First, let’s recap Thursday evening: For the first time I attended Mark Maya’s free Photo Field Trip at the Durham Farmers’ Market. I was a bit nervous because, well, large group gatherings can be somewhat intimidating. Fortunately, everyone was nice, and I felt comfortable conversing and getting to know the many local photographers who attended. I was thrilled to learn we’d be starting the workshop by creating our own backdrop for the shoot. How cool is that?! I had a wonderful time making a mess, and somehow I ended up with absolutely no paint on me. I got mad painting skills, y’all (okay, not really, but let’s pretend I do because it doesn’t harm my story). After the splatter, blotching, and smearing paint party, we hung our backdrop and dove right into photographing our model. Here’s the thing: I was distracted by some nearby clatter. Actually, let’s use the phrase “drawn to” instead: I was drawn to the clatter and the movement off to my right. “What was to your right?” you may ask. I’m glad you asked. Skateboarders. Here I was, photographing a pre-picked beautiful model in front of our handmade backdrop with many amazing photographers, yet I was completely drawn to the skateboarders to my right. Mind you, I’m not really interested in skateboarding. So, why was I drawn to the skateboarders, then?

And this is where my point picks back up…err…begins. Personally, I am drawn to movement (this is the “duh” part). I mean this in both the literal and figurative senses. People doing active things interest me. People doing active things that they are passionate about and completely engrossed in, things that inspire other souls into “doing”, will draw me in like a kid into a candy store. People DOING things they’d normally do fills me up with joy, e.g., skateboarders working on their moves on a ramp Thursday evening just because. I don’t have to love skateboarding to love the act of skateboarding. My eyes were glued. It was pretty much a done deal. I was going to photograph the skateboarders.

I had mixed feelings about my decision. I wasn’t there to photograph the skateboarders; I was there to attend the workshop and learn from other photographers. Was it wrong of me to peel away? What did the other photographers think of my decision? Would have I learned more if I had focused all of my energy with them instead? All valid questions with answers that won’t be explored because here’s the thing: I’m glad I made the decision I did, and it’s because it reminded me of why I am a photographer, why I’m so drawn to people doing what they do best or want to do best or want to do because it makes them happy.

On top of that, I have found that some of the most interesting people I know are ones I have met spontaneously, and some of the best moments I have had doing photography are ones that I made spontaneously, with people I hadn’t yet met, but did meet because I decided to open myself up to the possibility of photographing a feeling – that full of life and love feeling – that was already out there naturally in the world. It is real. It is love. It is passion. It is grit. It is inspiration. It is peace. It moves. It does. They are. They do. They love. Those are the moments I love capturing. Even if I miss the opportunity to capture a person’s smile or gesture or sick-ass skateboard move, nothing is lost. It’s the feeling behind the moment that counts. I can just stop, ask them if I can take their picture, and that feeling will shine through in plenty more moments that I’ll be ready to catch.

Every person is different. What moves you is unique. No matter what path you take in life, I hope that you are able to reflect upon on your decisions and have that “ah-hah!” moment often enough, thinking “This is why I do what I do, and damn, does it feel good.”

I am incredibly fortunate to have had the experience I did on Thursday. I am thankful for Mark and his workshop, the people in his workshop I got to know (and undoubtedly will be friends with for years to come), and am thrilled to continue to go to more events like this. Thursday night ended at Motorco with these incredible people. Seriously, it couldn’t have been more perfect. Thank you.

So, let’s talk briefly about these pictures I took. I started off just photographing the skateboarders doing their thing, but another photographer from our group seemed just as interested as I was with taking portraits of one of them. So, she asked one of the skateboarders if we could photograph him, and he was kind enough to agree.

This is how the mini-shoot went: GREAT. Our subject was easy to photograph and has a natural smile. If you haven’t been on a photo shoot before, know there are certain tactics to get a subject to feel relaxed and give a natural smile. For this shoot, one tactic we used was to ask him to shake his head and toss his hair. Sounds ridiculous right? Well, umm, it is. The thing is, we aren’t counting on those intentional moments to land us a good image. It’s the shots of laughter and smiles BETWEEN the head shakes that capture something special. Even if you, as a subject, realize what we are doing, you still can’t help but smile. Anyway, Jay (our skateboarder right here below this long-ass story) did wonderfully. What I found to be bizarre, but neat, is the fact that the hair-tossing images were soothing to go through. You just wait. Look at them and then ask yourself how you feel. I suspect you will find yourself calm and at peace. Why? I think Jay himself is a calm soul and while doing such a simple and ridiculous thing, he seeped out calmness. The series of images are beautiful and so I decided to keep a good deal of those photos in the blog post.

Lastly, I want to put this out into the world. This experience has quite clearly moved me and from here on out, I will challenge myself to spontaneously and randomly meet and photograph a person or a couple I don’t know once a month. I’m going to call it the “Easy Peasy Stranger Meetsy” photo series. ;-P

By |May 28th, 2017|Adventure, Outdoors, People, Photography, Portraiture|2 Comments

Moore’s Wall Bouldering Trip


Weather: a climbers best friend or worst enemy. A wet Tuesday turned a large group trip into a Wednesday duo. It was just Burke and I for the day. Now, I’ve seen Burke at the gym, but didn’t really know him well, yet we were going on a trip to Moore’s together! Nothing stops me. The more I post about my trips, the more you’ll realize that. ;-P

Okay, so outdoor climbing at Moore’s Wall, YAY! I don’t have a lot of experience with outdoor climbing, but am quickly getting acquainted with the surrounding climbing areas. Moore’s definitely didn’t disappoint. I’m very thankful Burke was on board for showing me around the area and helping me work through certain problems. We had a fantastic time and I look forward to going back as much as possible! Here are a few photos I took on our trip!

Note: From what I understand, the Bouldering Moore’s Wall book by Adam Sokolow is no longer available to purchase. However, if you plan on spending a lot of time at Moore’s, I’ve been told you can email Adam Sokolow and see if he has any books left to sell you. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the next book comes out OR go to Mountain Project: Sport Climbing or Mountain Project: Bouldering in The Valley . Though, in the pictures below, we were in the Main Area.

By |January 17th, 2017|Adventure, Bouldering, Climbing|0 Comments