A Flight Over East Cork

The best present I got last Christmas, thanks to my children and son-in-law, was an Atlantic Flight Training Academy gift voucher. This entitled me to a 60 minutes flight from their base at Cork Airport. I’m a bit of an aircraft and flight nerd so this suited me perfectly.  Not that I was interested in flight training per se –  I just wanted a pleasure flight and an opportunity to take some photographs. Most recipients of such vouchers are probably in the same, er, boat.


I had never flown in a light aircraft. The nearest I came to it were trips on the Aer Arann/Aer Lingus Commuter ATR 72s  – twin-engine turboprops – and I was looking forward to the experience. When I phoned the company to make an appointment for the flight I was pleasantly surprised to be told they could accommodate me the following afternoon. This was perfect as the forecast was for a calm, bright day.

The formalities over – you have to complete a short form, get a visitor’s badge and a high-vis vest – I was led to the aircraft by my pilot for the trip, Alan Walsh, a fellow East Cork man. He asked me where I’d like to go and naturally I said the East Cork direction.


Then it was into the left-hand seat and Alan proceeded to carry out the pre-flight checks. This is something that aviators around the world do as a matter of course, whether they are flying a small aircraft like this or a jumbo jet, and it ensures that no risks are taken as far as safety is concerned.

We then donned our headsets, Alan started the engine, and communicated with Air Traffic Control giving details of our route and asking for permission for take off. Once this was given we headed out to runway 35, pointed the aircraft north, increased the throttle and in a few seconds we were airborne and flying over Cork City.

From there we made our way down to Carrigtwohill ( where he circled my house), Midleton, Castlemartyr and on to Capel Island. On the return leg we went along the coast to Garryvoe and Ballycotton and thence to Roche’s Point, Spike Island and on to Carrigaline before turning right to land at runway 35.

Alan checked with me throughout as to where I wanted to go (e.g. around Capel Island) and in turn he kept Cork ATC abreast of where we were headed.

Our speed was 100 knots – about 115 miles per hour – and we flew at 1500 feet. Conditions were perfect and ideal for photography. I was surprised at how calm the flight was; even though the day was fine I was expecting, given the size of the aircraft, some buffeting and turbulence but there was none. The headset kept noise to a minimum and it was a very pleasant experience overall.  It is something I would recommend anyone interested in planes or sightseeing from a height to do.  Christmas is coming and if you are stuck as to what present you should get for someone you should certainly consider an Atlantic Flight Training gift voucher.


Please click on any photo to see it in larger size. All photos were taken with a Canon 6D and a 24-105L lens. I was shooting through a window so there are invariably some glass reflections evident in some of the shots.


IMG_8156The cockpit.

IMG_8169Cork City looking north to the Galtee Mountains on the top right. 

IMG_8179The old city dump at Kinsale Road now an environmentally friendly landfill site and soon to be a major recreational area.

IMG_8190The Jack Lynch Tunnel.

IMG_8197The River Lee with the suburbs of Blackrock and Mahon in the foreground.

IMG_8203Fota Castle in the foreground with Carrigtwohill on the upper right.  

IMG_8221Fota Wildlife Park.


IMG_8364Lough Aderra near Castlemartyr.

IMG_8373Castlemartyr with the Castlemartyr Resort and Golf Course in the foreground. 


Youghal is in the middle distance and beyond that is West County Waterford. In the foreground, the River Womanagh flows into the sea. 


Ballymacoda. I was christened in that church in the foreground by a namesake of mine (but no relation).

IMG_8442Knockadoon Head and Capel Island.

IMG_8451Capel Island.

IMG_8466Capel Island.

IMG_8525Ballypherode, Ballymacoda. My father was born and raised in the house in the centre (with the single white van in front). First cousins of mine live in that house and the house directly above it. 


IMG_8578Ballycotton Island.

IMG_8609 Ballycotton Island.

IMG_8640Roche’s Point.

IMG_8665Roche’s Point.

IMG_8738Spike Island.

IMG_8733Spike Island.

IMG_8749The outer Cork Harbour. 

IMG_8789Heading in to land at Cork Airport’s runway 35.



According to Wikipedia: ” A supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The most recent occurrence was on June 23, 2013, as the closest and largest full moon of the year and the Moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2013. It will not be so close again until August 10, 2014.”

Curiously, the term comes from astrology and is of relatively recent (1979) coinage – it is not used in the astronomical community which refers to it as a perigee-syzygy or perigee moon. Somehow, I think the astrological name will stick as far as the general public is concerned.

The weather forecast for East Cork of the evening of the 23rd June was good – calm and clear. I wanted to photograph the Moon as it rose in the sky with some landscape in the shot to give a sense of perspective as well as interest. I figured that Ballycotton Island would be a good choice and I checked the Photographer’s Ephemeris application to establish the moonrise direction. It was due to rise at 21:43 and would be directly over the island, viewed from Ballinamona beach, shortly thereafter.

Supermoon TPE

A screenshot of The Photographer’s Ephemeris page for Ballycotton on the 23rd June. This application is indispensable for landscape photographers. Seehttp://photoephemeris.com/

I arrived at Ballinamona car park around 9pm.  There were a few other people about enjoying the pleasant evening. Three women emerged from a car carrying a beach windbreaker, chairs and bags of material. They set up the windbreaker and chairs in a sheltered spot in the dunes on the beach side of the carpark and the material they were carrying included sticks with which they made a fire. It was fitting that they did so as not only was this the night of the Supermoon, it was also St John’s Eve – a traditional night for bonfires in Ireland. These women were marking it in style  – having a picnic on the beach and waiting for the emergence of the Moon over the ocean – although I suspect their fire was for heat only. It was a nice night but there was still a chill in the air.

I set up my tripod a few yards away and placed my Canon 5D Mark11 and Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens on it and attached a cable release. I set the ISO to 400.  All I had to do now was wait.

I checked my watch as the time  of moonrise came and went – 21:43, 21:50, 21:55  and still no sign of it. Was it hidden behind the island?  And then at 22:00 exactly it became faintly visible a few degrees above the horizon to the left of the island exactly as the Photographer’s Ephemeris had indicated.  Despite the seemingly clear sky a distant cloud obscured most of it.


At 22:00 the Moon revealed itself albeit faintly

As it slowly rose in the sky however it left the cloud behind and emerged in all its magnificence. I had to politely decline the picnic women’s offers of tea or coffee as I concentrated on the photography.

I waited until it was directly above the lighthouse and then I packed up and left. It was 22:23. When I got home I did a quick edit on what I thought was the best shot of the evening and I posted it on Twitter at 23:06. I should add that it was a straight shot – the moon was not re-positioned using Photoshop in any way.

Immediately people started re-tweeting it and by midnight I was trending in Ireland (Twitter-speak for being very popular  – not to be confused with trendy; I was never that). The image has been re-tweeted 576 times since.

Supermoon Twitter

The BreakingNews.ie Facebook page posted it and they received 2,445 “likes”.

Supermoon BreakingNews

To date it has been viewed 6,377 times on my Flickr account.

I was contacted by the Irish Examiner for a high resolution copy and they published it on the 25th June.


The back page of the Irish Examiner on 25th June

I am astonished at the response.  I thought it was a good enough photo but the image is technically deficient in that it is a bit “soft” due to the atmospherics – it is difficult to get things bitingly sharp when you are shooting into late evening haze with a long telephoto lens. I may well have contributed to the softness by not using mirror lock-up when making the exposures. A shutter speed of 1/13 sec didn’t help either. That obviously didn’t matter as far as the public was concerned. They liked it and that was that. Sometimes those of us in the photographic community can get too bogged down in the technicalities of an image to the detriment of recognizing that a photo can have impact and resonance for people without being  “perfect”. Certainly, I have lots of other shots that I would regard as being technically superior but none, so far, has been as popular as this.

Daffodil Day 2013 – Midleton, Castlemartyr, Carrigtwohill

Despite dreadful weather conditions this morning – torrential rain and high winds – volunteers were out in force around the country to collect for the Irish Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Day.

Here’s a selection of photos showing some of the East Cork collectors and members of the supporting public on the street, in supermarkets and shopping malls; holding a very successful coffee morning in Castlemartyr National School; and Transition Year students from Midleton and Carrigtwohill helping this very worthy fund-raising event.

Once again the public have been more than generous in their support. It is a cause that never fails to elicit a great response as cancer, unfortunately, is something that has touched practically every family.

The Irish Cancer Society does tremendous work in providing awareness, care and in supporting research; their mission is to ensure  fewer people get cancer and those that do get better outcomes.  The annual Daffodil Day collection is hugely important in that respect and has been recognised as such by the public.



Jonathan Finn 

DD13-1 - Copy

Anna Hegarty, Claire Hickey, Sarah Daly, Jess Linehan, Amy McKenzie

DD13-6 - Copy

Stephanie Hartnett, Caoilinn Hickey

DD13-3 - Copy

DD13-11 - Copy

Adam Stenhouse

DD13-12 - Copy

Pauline Clarke

DD13-10 - Copy

DD13-8 - Copy


DD13-4 - Copy

Castlemartyr National School Coffee Morning 








Transition Year students from St Aloysius’ College, Carrigtwohill

DD13-15 - Copy

DD13-14 - Copy

DD13-13 - Copy

Orla O’Brien, Andrea McGrath, Mary Twomey and Aisling Cahalane

David O’Riordan, Priest and Artist

David O’Riordan is an artist based in Ladysbridge in East Cork.  He is an accomplished iconographer  who will shortly have an exhibition of his work at the Cork County Library, County Hall, Cork (27th March – 26th April) with two Greek iconographers, Nikolaos Griniexakis and Eftychia Ilia. A native of nearby Midleton, he is also the Roman Catholic Parish Priest of Ladysbridge and Ballymacoda in the Diocese of Cloyne.


Fr David O’Riordan 

I became aware of his work while doing photography for the Ordination Service book of William Crean who became Bishop of Cloyne on 27th January. I was asked to photograph one of David’s icons– of Saint Colman – that is on the wall at Cloyne Church. I was so struck by the beauty and professionalism of the image that I texted David to say so. A few days afterwards he asked if I’d mind photographing some of his other icons at his home in Ladysbridge as they were required for the County Library exhibition.


The icon of Saint Colman as it appeared in the Ordination Book  

As I expected, the icon of Saint Colman was no fluke. Here was a collection of beautiful icons in various sizes and done to the highest standards of the genre. Icons are religious images more commonly associated with the Eastern Orthodox tradition than Western Christianity. The word iconography itself is from the Greek words for “image” and “to write”. The convention is to say that an icon has been written as opposed to painted as the artist, in producing an icon, is writing a religious story in picture form.

To those of us more familiar with traditional Western art icons can appear strange. They lack the three dimensional quality so familiar in paintings since the Renaissance. This is deliberate. They are not meant to be naturalistic. Instead they are replete with rich religious symbolism that has changed little in over 1,000 years. Colours, for example, are used to signify The Radiance of Heaven (gold), The Divine Life (red), Human Life (blue) and The Uncreated Light of God (white).

So, for example, Jesus is often depicted wearing a red garment underneath a blue one to symbolise God become Man whereas the garment colours are usually reversed for the Virgin Mary (a human gifted by God). Neither do they comply with the compositional conventions of more traditional art where the subject is usually off-centre: in icons the subject occupies the very centre of the frame in order to underline the centrality of the sacred presence.




The faces look odd to us too. This is also to do with symbolism. Eyes tend to be larger than natural, for example, in order to symbolise the spiritual eye looking beyond the material world. Likewise, the mouth is usually depicted much smaller than natural as it is often the source of empty or harmful words.


David working on an icon

They are painted – written – using another ancient method: egg tempera – a permanent fast-drying paint made with coloured pigment mixed with (free-range) egg yolk and purified water. This was the standard method of painting up until the 15th century when oils became the norm. Again, the very medium used underlines the traditional nature of the craft. And “craft” is used advisedly as there is little or no room for self-expression in iconography. Adherence to the tradition is paramount and icons are rarely if ever signed whereas our modern understanding of art is primarily one of the artist expressing himself or herself.


Preparing the egg tempera colours

In contradistinction to the formality and asceticism of his iconography David’s other art is abstract and wildly colourful and executed through the voluptuous medium of oils. It is hard to believe that it is the work of the same person who produced the icons. Here we are very much in the modern era with influences as diverse as Georgia O’Keeffe and Salvador Dali being evident.

One could say that his iconography and his modern-influenced art represents the sacred and the secular except that a religious sensitivity can also be detected in his modern paintings. Not in any conventional sense, of course, but a mystical reverence for the underlying nature of things can be detected in his work. Which, of course, given the man’s religious vocation, is not at all surprising.







Obviously, David O’Riordan is no mere Sunday painter. Which prompts the question: why haven’t the general public  been given greater opportunities  to see his work? Apart from the forthcoming County Library event the only other exhibition he has held (of icons) was in Ballyvourney years ago when he was curate in Macroom (he has also served in Castlelyons, Cobh and Clondrohid.) Certainly, his non-icon work  deserves to be seen as well and one hopes that he will consider an exhibition in due course.


Ballycotton Cliff Walk

I live within 20 minutes drive time of Ballycotton in East Cork and I go there regularly to walk along the cliffs. It’s an easy route, there is a path all the way, and for a bit of undemanding exercise and fresh air it’s hard to beat. I usually walk as far as the headland beyond Ballytrasna – about 2.75 kms  – and back again and this takes about 75 minutes.

You can walk further as far as Ballyandreen – another 0.75 kms –  and either return whence you came or via the road back to the village. The former is the better option – for the views – unless you are one of those walkers who prefers a circular route.

To get there drive all the way through Ballycotton village. As you near the port stay on the main road – it veers up to the right – and continue all the way to the end where there is a car park next to the beginning of the walk. There’s a sign there with illustrations of the bird life to be found in the area (click on any of the photos for full size) :




One of the several stiles on the walk. They are there to prevent livestock from straying on to the path.



Ballytrasna. The headland in the distance is my destination.



An old lifebuoy at Ballytrasna. A modern one has recently been erected next to it.


The view east from the headland with Ballycotton Island in the distance.



On the return journey.


As you near the end of the walk there is a path down to “Paradise”, the name given to a popular swimming area in summer. The steps down are narrow and precipitous and most of the hand rail has long since disappeared. Be very careful or, if you dislike heights, avoid.



A note on the photography: camera used was the Sony RX100, a little pocket marvel. All photos were shot in RAW and processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS6.