Where I come from waiting for the green man to appear before you decide to cross the road just does not happen. It is not uncommon to see mothers push their prams on to the street without any thought of whether cars are coming or not. They just know the cars will stop. The idea that jaywalking is something that is against the law is laughable to us.
In contrast, I remember the first time I went to Germany and stepped out of the hotel to see a group of people at the lights on a car-less street all waiting. Waiting for what, though? I bounded past them, crossing the deserted street, looking back to see if they followed. They didn’t. But their looks all said that I had just done something wrong. Something bad. Something illegal. I had not waited for the green man to signal that it was now safe and now within the law to cross the road. That there were no vehicles of any sort in sight did not matter. You wait. You obey.
But I am from Cork, we cross when we and where we want to.
And this brings me to the photo I am posting today. A photo taken on a wet night in late August on Cork’s Western Road. The building is Cork’s courthouse, an impressive edifice. I have taken a few shots of this before and knew what I was looking for. I wanted to get a blurred shot of people passing. And that it was raining and that there would be umbrellas in the shot all the better. But! It would not be that easy. Western Road is a busy road. It leads directly out of the city centre. Stationed on the opposite side of the road, the passing traffic could obscure the view.

I waited. I wanted to shot and I was willing to pass the time until I could get it. And time did pass. And the rain continued to fall. Times like this I get very self-conscious, especially in my hometown. Passersbys’ attention is drawn to a guy standing in the rain with a camera in his hand. They look around and examine the scene to see what could it be that he wants to photograph; to photograph in the pouring rain. But still I hung in there to get that shot. 

Then it appeared. Further up the road on the opposite side was a group of people, walking in couples and groups of threes approaching. And all seemed to have umbrellas. Perfect! This was it. I could get the shot and get home. I was, at this stage, soaking wet. I was sniffling and cold and impatient. On they came. I checked the settings on the camera. Checked the focus (or lack of it!). I glanced up and down the road and saw there was no traffic coming. Excellent. This shot was going to be exactly as I wanted it.

And then I saw the couple at the head of the group stop. Those behind too and soon a large swell of a group formed, all standing, all waiting at the pedestrian crossing of the intersection just before the courthouse.


Again, I shot a glance up and down the street. Not a car in sight. Over at the crossing they were at, not a car in sight. Yet, there they were waiting. Cross the road, for fuck’s sake cross the road, I found myself saying. But they waited and they waited and of course, cars came by on all sides. The view I had, unobscured on to the courthouse was now gone. Those damn Germans. Couldn’t they just cross the road. It was ten, maybe fifteen steps from either side. No, they preferred to wait in the rain for the green man to appear.

And then it did. The beep, beep, beep signalling it was safe to cross was audible from my side. The swell of the group stretched out into a long file as they crossed the road and began to come into frame. But by this time cars were passing on my side of the road blocking my shot. I had no choice but to get out on to the road past the cars on my side. There were no cars on the opposite side. I could get the shot. I dodged between the traffic. Not that difficult to do as Cork drivers expect people in the city centre to step out in front of them.

Click, click, click. I got it. One of the Germans saw me in the centre of the road taking their photograph and drew his friends’ attention to me. I gave a quick wave and ran back through the traffic to my side and headed home happy.

I had got the shot.




It kind of followed that today I would post a photograph of myself, albeit a reflection in a mannequin. I took this on a photo walk around Cork on Sunday morning last. As you can see I have the weighty DSLR hanging in front of me and the fun iPhone taking the shot. I like the mannequin’s head. It reminds me of a bokeh head and you know how much I love those.



Fear and street photography

A while back, I read a tweet from Eric Kim, a well-known and respected street photographer. His tweet was: ”The biggest impediment to getting over the fear of shooting street photography is not liking having your own photograph taken.”  My immediate reaction was this was nonsense as many other fears about street photography immediately came to mind, but it did get me thinking.

Am I afraid when I am shooting street? It really depends where I am. If I am in Cork, my hometown, I can be hesitant, anxious and uncomfortable. There are fewer streets and fewer people. The chances of knowing someone are high. I can easily envisage a scene where someone could become aggressive or even violent. When I am in big cities, I am anonymous. I have a licence to photograph: I am a tourist. What I encounter around me is new, is interesting, is valid for documenting. When I am in my hometown, I do not have that feeling. What curiosity do I have about those I encounter on the streets of my hometown?

Now, I do not like having my photograph taken. But taken in what context? Posing for a photograph when on holidays or for a particular event like Christmas or a birthday, I am self-conscious; who isn’t? Being snapped surreptitiously when I am walking down the street; fine. If I am aware of it, I think I might be a little bewildered as to why someone would want to take my photograph. Being snapped when I am in an intimate moment with family, I would feel like it is an intrusion. Having thought about Eric’s tweet, I am still struggling to get his point. For me, the biggest fear I have about shooting street is invasion. Invading someone’s right to privacy. As I write this, I am beginning to consider that perhaps what he means is – to shoot street we have to get over our own fear of our own privacy being invaded in that moment when our photograph is taken. But this is not something I spend time thinking about, to be honest. When I am in public places the thought that someone might take my photograph never crosses my mind. Perhaps as someone who likes street photography this is naivety of my part. I don’t know.  Anyway, Eric Kim is a photographer I like. He has a good blog, posts interesting articles and can tweet things to get you thinking.

One of the fears I have when shooting street is killing the moment. Hoisting the camera, drawing attention to my action, putting people on alert that I am going to take a photograph. That is why the iPhone is so good for street work. What other fears do I have when shooting street? That’s for another post.

In the meantime, here are some of my most recent images taken out and about in Cork with the iPhone.






My music box of dreams has unwound

When I was little my mother would stand on our doorstep and watch me walk down the hill on my way to school. My schoolbag was made of old, brown leather and had straps that allowed me to carry it on my shoulders. Even though I knew she would watch until I turned the corner, I still would turn around to check. I had to turn because the schoolbag was too big for me to glance over my shoulder. Reaching the corner, I would wave to her and she to me. Then she would go back in home to do her housework and I would unstrap my schoolbag, walk over to the walled garden of the corner shop and drop the bag in.  Then I would climb in after it.

- Is that you, boy?

- Ya. I’m here.

- What kept you?

- Nothing. Sure, I’m here now aren’t I?

In the darkened shade of the evergreen trees, we would wait. 



iPhone favourites

After doing a few blog posts on my personal DSLR favourites a couple of weeks back, a contact suggested I do one for my iPhone photography also. And I thought why not. I have been using the iPhone as a camera for a few years now, but really only got into it heavily in the past year or so. The trip to Asia last year was when I made the most of it.

Looking through my iPhone Flickr account brings back a lot of memories. It really is a great way to document things. I try to post a new photograph each day. The first photograph I chose is a street shot I took in Cork last year. Street photography is what I enjoy most about photography, but unfortunately there just aren’t enough streets in my hometown. It is a smallish-sized city. This photograph was taken on Singer’s Corner in the city centre. I was with my wife and kids at the time and would have had the iPhone in hand, with Instagram open and my finger on the button.  Imagine the scene:

I was standing behind him. Tried to get full length shot – did not work. People gathered, waiting for the green man to pop up, waiting to cross the street. There I am – one finger over the lens, thumb of other hand on the camera button – snap – ” SHIT!”  Delete. Try again. Lights, please don’t change! Finger over lens – finger off – snap. Yes! That’s ok.  Sensing people watching me, I put iPhone back in pocket. Green man appears and off we go across street. iPhone out – try again for another one. 

It was a pain to get, but I do like the results. Hope you like it too.



Don’t look back [commit to the future now]

Is this where it ends?

Another of my personal favourites. Again an old one from years back taken with an old point and shoot. If you come to Cork, you have to visit the English Market. It is one of Europe’s best food markets, full of colour and life. In 2006, with friends from Korea we went on a walking tour of Cork, taking in the sights of the city centre. We finished up in the English Market. I was a happy snapper in those, click-clicking as I went. One of the snaps I took was of this woman lost in thought in fruit and veg stall. The reason I like it is the melancholic mood and her pensive state. I imagine she is always there, every day, but in the moment of the photograph she is far away; dreaming. The mundane surroundings seem at odds with her flight of thought. She has a grace and elegance and arouses curiosity as to what she is dreaming of.


Is this where it ends?

Boredom sits uncomfortably with curiosity on its shoulder

The photograph I have chosen from the archives as one of my personal favourites is one I took over three years ago. For creativity to thrive, I feel you have to experience boredom; unavoidable boredom. I remember I was sitting at my desk killing time on the net, mostly on Flickr and feeling frustrated that I did not have a new photograph to post. This is a very frequently occurring feeling, I can tell you.

So, there I was sitting at the desk. Besides the computer was a bottle of handwash (very handy when you have small children whose nappies need changing), a corkscrew (from a previous evening’s bottle of wine) and of course my iPhone. The bubbles in the handwash gel caught my eye. Then the corkscrew with its spiralling spear and before I knew it I was looking through the transparent gel at the upturned corkscrew and staring at it, but at a loss as to what I could see. Then my phone rang and the colour reflections from the screen transformed the colour of the gel. I answered the call and immediately held the handwash up to the screen of computer and saw how the background colour rushed through the gel. Yes!

There are many apps for the iPhone. One of those is the flashlight one. I knew I could use this to get a single colour background to place behind the gel. With the corkscrew standing upright on the iphone with the all-blue screen shining through, I clicked and clicked. Later uploaded to Lightroom and with a little sliding this is the result.

What I like in particular is the satisfaction in creating a shot from nothing. I was frustrated. I had nothing new to post to Flickr. Now I had.

But of course, it is all about the next shot….

DSC_0007 2

boredom sits uncomfortably with curiosity on its shoulder