Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Photo Vs Video

I have a conundrum. My big trip (it involves a boat ...) is over a month away and although I have a zillion things to think about for it, one item appears to be fogging my brain: should I take photos or a video of my amazing holiday.

Photography or videography?

This is a new issue, brand new in fact from the weekend, I am a photo person, I love photos, I make photo books, I print out photos and frame them, I regularly look back on photos – they make me happy!

But at the weekend I watched a friend's DVD of her trip to the West coast of America some years ago. It was fascinating, we watched on as she and her boyfriend escorted us around Las Vegas, gambled, took shots at Osama Bin Laden (his photo) and we jumped when a lightening bolt appeared on screen as they flew over the Grand Canyon! We awwed as they drove their swanky convertible up the coast, as they examined the interior of Alcatraz at San Fransisco and we laughed about how young the looked.

Despite my array of photos from a similar trip in 2008, they seemed quite inadequate, we certainly didn't show off Vegas like they did, The Grand Canyon looked pathetic, we had just glimpses of the vacation – while they had the full story.

Does video capture more?

Does video kick photo's ass?
In this instance it certainly did. But yet I struggle.

I look back on my photos from that trip regularly (they are in a photo book ...) would I do so with a video? – certainly not.
Photos can be more artistic, more flexible in terms of use but they do not show the full impact. Video can capture sound, more expressions, vastness, depth and you are probably more likely to capture the perfect picture, moment from a constant video than a lucky photo shot.

A Tasmania Devil aggressively feeding on a tail - this would have been more entertaining as a video.
(c) fifiheavey
Yet you will not stop the DVD player to tell a story, you will with a photo, it deserves more dialog – an explanation, some context – what happened next.
Maybe it is time to move with technology – take my photos from the footage filmed – become a youtube sensation ...

Even when taking photos I usually take a few minutess out in places of true inspiration to stare without a camera lens, to trace the image or the scene into my memory, to savor the feeling. Would I be too busy filming to do this, would it take away from the moment?

Still artistic image or fast paced footage? That is the question.
What is the answer?
Maybe a little bit of both?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

How do I breathe???

How do I breathe? - This was my one and only concern when I decided (I didn't decide actually I was cajoled, pushed and bullied) to go for a tandem sky dive.
Before I jumped with my sky dive instructor
(c) fifiheavey

We were in New Zealand, I already had the bruises from Skiing, money was short and we needed to make some decisions: bungee jump, black water rafting or sky diving.

Bungee jumping was immediately ruled out – it only lasts a few seconds, you have to jump yourself (in sky diving the instructor does that for you) and you dangle upside down and may hit the water – no flipping way!
Black water rafting – this seemed like fun, it was unusual and involved abseiling, climbing, cave tubbing and a lot of, eh black water. But by this stag of our trip we had snorkeled, scuba dived and surfed so we had ticked the water sports box enough.

Sky diving it was then. New Zealand is the best place for your first sky dive (yes that is a biased opinion) and Lake Taupo is breathtaking (with or without a parachute).
So we booked our appointment with Skydive Taupo, I informed family and friends of my impending death and we anxiously waited for the big white stretch limo to collect us.

The stretch limo
(c) fifiheavey

I didn't sleep the night before, I was excited (really I was shitting it) the next morning I didn't eat, the limo arrived and inside we met some Irish lads (of course) also paying for the service to jump out of a perfectly good plane.

Sky high
(c) fifiheavey
They chatted with my boyfriend about what music they would choose for their DVD of the experience. I didn't partake in this trivial chat because all I was worried about was “How exactly do I breathe?”

I understood that thousands sky dive probably each week (I made up that stat!) and very rarely does anything go wrong, but I just couldn't comprehend how I was supposed to breathe in the face of free falling at over 50mph for one minute.
Sixty seconds of 50mph wind in my face – where, how when was I supposed to breathe?
It seemed so unnatural, so wrong.

These questions all seem irrational, even annoying now, post sky dive but before hand, no amount of talking or explaining would calm me. My instructor did a great job of distracting me and he reassured me I would be able to breathe, he promised his life on it – if I arrived alive I would keep him to that!

So up we went in the pink plane, and actually inside I regained my nerve – on the other side of the small aircraft however I saw my boyfriend's face and realised panic had just crept in.

The pink Skydive Taupo plane

Despite my pleading to be the first out, I had to watch the other two fall from the plane before I got my turn.
The experience was out of this world, the free fall exhilarating, the pull of the parachute released, the feeling of flying, the view of the two New Zealand islands, the lake, the birds and clouds.
Even the landing was so much fun.
Sky diving is a high like no other, those who are thinking about take recreational drugs should be first introduced to this, a high adrenalin activity that cannot be beaten.
Preparing to land ...
(c) fifiheavey
How did I breathe? Well actually quite easily and once out there it was the least of my concerns, I just wanted it to last longer, to see more, to feel more.
Sky diving is a whole lot better than drugs – but be warned it can also be highly addictive!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A different view and something new

The West Coast of Ireland never looked so beautiful as it did on BBC2 last week.
Mony Halls 'Great Irish Escape' to Connemara has done more for that area in Galway than thousands of euro of advertising and marketing by Tourism Ireland.
The programme listing had slightly caught my interest on paper, and so I tuned in, an eye on the TV another on the laptop. But I soon closed the computer.

Connemara Coastline
If I had watched the programme with the sound off I would have been 100% sure that the location was somewhere tropical, remote and a million miles away.
Instead I looked on, eyes glazed and listened with disbelief that this beautiful turquoise blue ocean crashing against an ancient rocky coastline, shadowed by the most luscious green landscape was in fact just 2 hours away from my cosy sitting room.

There had to have been some photo shopping going on and I have no idea when Mr Hall got this stunning weather for filming but according to him he was in Connemara, forgotten Connemara – the location of school child family holidays, a remote corner of Galway – the same location for Brendan Gleeson's dark and hilarious film 'The Guard.'
The great Irish Escape is no tacky show, there is big money invested in this project and it shows – sitting on my couch previously contemplating a holiday in Greece (hence the eye on the laptop), I really did take a u turn and ask out loud – why not Connemara?

Monty Hall and Rueben
Monty and his dog Rueben are helping the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group to examine how many whales, dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and even blue sharks visit the Connemara coastline. (If these water mammals seen this series it would surely attract more of them!)
Mussel cooking competition, scuba diving with congers, dolphin watching, otter spotting ...

I have no doubt that Connemara has been inundated with accommodation requests from the UK following this show and the area will enjoy much more positive searches with another six episodes to be indulged in on BBC2.

So this is obviously the way to go, forget the huge marketing campaigns on the back of buses, the posters, the radio and TV ads – lets promote it “by accident.” Get some movies filming here – look what Lord of the rings did for New Zealand.

My advise to those marketing the country is don't just tell them about Ireland – show them. Or better still let broadcasters show themselves, they may just see something that we are overlooking – lets maybe take a step back from the world known landmarks in Ireland and promote the lesser spotted ones, find something quirky, a different view – something new.

Sharks off Connemara?
(c) fifiheavey

Sharks in Ireland – who ever knew? 
I didn't, but I do want to know more.
Monty Hall's 'Great Irish Escape' BBC2 8pm every Thursday until September 22.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Melbourne is Unforgettable!

Sydney or New York are the popular responses to the question of favorite city in the world.

Before I went to Australia all I ever heard about was Sydney, Cairns, Brisbane ... but I knew, even thousands of miles away none of them were the place for me.

South Bank, Melbourne at night
(c) fifiheavey

Because of my pale complexion I chose to live and work in Melbourne for five months, despite this when we lived there in 2008, Melbourne got a heat wave while the East Coast was battered with rain.
Melbourne became our home (my first with my boyfriend), we lived right in the CBD, Lonsdale Street in a cosy studio apartment and life was bliss. Usually you need to leave a place to recall how good it was, not with Melbourne. We knew it, we loved the place from the first night we drove in fresh from the Great Ocean Road, in the middle of a carnival in St Kilda.

The beach at St Kilda may not be up to scratch with Bondi, the city may not be a clean as Perth or as tropical as Cairns but Melbourne had something I felt was missing from all other Aussie cities: Culture and identity.

Broad streets carry traffic and trams all over the city, landmark buildings not only sparkle but they are full of character, it may be missing ancient history but it makes up for that with vibrant life.
The heart beat never leaves the city, during the day it is busy and bouncy, colourful, people of all ethnics and shows and events – at night although the sky gets dark but the colours get brighter.
You cannot be bored in Melbourne – if you hate art, theatre, sport and even comedy then there is music, top food from all over the world, fashion and well... life! (also a must for Neighbours fans!)

Fed Square, Melbourne
(c) fifiheavey

People watching is a permanent activity, Federation Square (ugly or unique you decide!) is a circus of protests, shows, emerging talent and down and outs!
Every week of the year it holds a different festival, it is impossible to take a solid interest in just one thing. Even makes flowers and plants seem exciting here.
Caught enjoying a mince pie at an AFL game!
(c) fifiheavey

Coming from Irish Gaelic Football, we fell in love with the AFL but we didn't stop there, Melbourne loves sport so we submerged into the culture and went to cricket, rugby, tennis and even had an amazing day at the Grand Prix.

The city has plenty of superb art galleries, museums and exhibitions but outdoors in the parks and walks you get the real feel of Melbourne. The Docklands at night and the Yarra River are very romantic.
The contrast between Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station (the only real scary part of town) is stark and yet they are both iconic of the thriving city.

Maybe it is because Melbourne was voted as the most livable city, and because we spent over five months but I found no place on earth like it. The people of course are the main ingredient in the recipe that makes this city, they are fun and flirty and support the city and all the activities it promotes.
When we returned back to Ireland many people wanted to know if we would move to Australia for good, like many Irish young people. My boyfriend exclaimed “I wouldn't go back to Australia – but I would go to Melbourne!”

The Docklands, Melbourne
(c) fifiheavey

The only way to sum it up: Melbourne is unforgettable!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Iraqis in the Ceide Fields

The North Mayo coast line is dramatic, especially on a very wet and windy (Summer) day like the one I chose to visit it last week.
A friend and I took the advice of our elders “what harm will a bit of rain do ya” and ventured to Co Mayo and to the mysterious Ceide Fields.
The Ceide Fields are almost secret, nobody seems to know about them, even the visitor centre looks sort of hidden in the bog , we drove past it at first - the sea cliffs sort of distract your attention!
But in a strange way, that is the whole point of the Ceide fields, for centuries they held a secret – a stone age field and village system – a remnant of domestic farming not too far removed from modern farming.

5,000 year old wall - showing the oldest field system in the world
(c) fifiheavey

It seems that at the same time as the people of the Boyne Valley were plugging away building Newgrange passage tomb, the people who settled in North Mayo (people from Iraq and Iran!) were organising themselves into villages, communities and dividing the farm land equally – essentially domestic farming.
The Ceide Fields have the “most extensive stone age monument in the world.” The Ceide Fields translate into “fields of the flat topped hills” - the sea cliffs. But Ceide goes back further and relates to a gathering of people or a meeting place.

Walkway through the ancient fields which were unearthed at Ceide
(c) fifiheavey
A tour from the visitor centre gives details on the walls, their structure, their purpose, the walls of houses, of animal pens etc. We know that these Iraqis (that is what the guide said) were peaceful people, no weapons were found during excavation, but pottery and seeds from Iraq and Iran were discovered in the soil.
All this, civilization from 5,000 years ago can be exhibited thanks to the bog, which grew and grew and preserved our little known origins.

Tour guide demonstrates how to find the stone walls
(c) fifiheavey

A farmer first discovered these walls while cutting turf in the 1930s but it took his son 40 years later to excavate them and make sense of it all. 

No wonder the European Parliament wants to ban turf cutting in Ireland, it seems we have a lot of history buried “in them there hills.”

The Ceide Fields are well worth a visit (try and pick a nice day) even if you have bad memories of slave labour in the bog during your childhood, or indeed are still recovering from the back breaking work this year. 
The history is titillating and the views sensational.

Oh but don't miss the horror movie they show in the centre about the bog – you have to see and hear it to believe it!

Ceide Fields Visitor Centre, Co Mayo
(c) fifiheavey
The stone ages in North Britain and Ireland