Hey, everyone! Michael here. I wanted to introduce you to the newest member of our team, Megan. She’s an Ohio State student interning with us, and she’ll be taking over some of the blog duties. Recently, over spring break, Megan realized a longstanding dream and toured Ireland solo. Here’s what she had to say about documenting her trip:
This past month I embarked on my first solo trip abroad to Dublin, Ireland. I’ve always been interested in Ireland because of my heritage and I’ve been romanticizing for years about moving there or somewhere in the United Kingdom. While studying for my undergraduate degree and working full time this past December, I realized there was a huge problem with my end goal of living in Ireland: I had never been there. It had never been an option with finances and school, living day-to-day as a college student. But I managed to save enough money to quit my job and booked my flight in hopes that Ireland could be my home someday. Almost everyone I knew called me crazy, but there was something about Ireland that I needed to discover.
At the beginning of my trip, I decided that instead of lugging around my camera bag for 10 days, I was going to stick with taking pictures only using my Nikon D7000 with a fixed 50mm lens and my iPhone 5s. It was also going to be a challenge because I am not a landscape photographer or street photographer by any means and the majority of my shots were going to be of landscapes and the streets of Dublin.
Despite what people generally think of Ireland, it wasn’t at all as dreary and rainy as everyone says. A majority of my stay was filled with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50s, which meant perfect weather for taking pictures and being outside all day.
My journey began in the small coastal town of Malahide, just north of Dublin. If you ever go to Dublin, hop on a train from the city center and go there, it’ll be the best 5 euro you spend. This place was idyllic for taking pictures, meeting locals, and having a pint of Guinness at the famous Gibney’s Pub. I was glad to have spent the beginning and end of my journey there and to have the Dublin, Differently tour company show me around.
By the end of my tour through Malahide, I realized how much I didn’t know about Irish history. Determined to learn everything I could, I looked for a tour in the city that would be informational and fun and that’s when I stumbled across New Dublin free walking tours. After arriving 30 minutes late (I was really good at getting lost), I somehow caught up to the tour. I met Max and Danielle on the tour and they quickly became travel buddies and good friends throughout my trip. My tour guide, Brian, was also great to talk to and knew a lot of interesting facts about Dublin that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned such as the fact that it’s still a law at Trinity College that the men must carry their sword to class. Most of the pictures from that day were unfortunately taken on my iPhone as I was running late to the tour.
Following the formal tour of Dublin city, I spent the next few days going to all the “must see” places my friends and locals had suggested, including the Book of Kells and the Old Library at Trinity, The Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Ireland), the Guinness Storehouse, and the Dublin Castle.
After spending a few days walking through the city, I wanted to get out and explore the countryside. I took a bus tour down to the county Wicklow because my ancestors, the O’Toole’s, owned the Powerscourt grounds back in 1540. I am still kicking myself for not taking my DSLR that day, but it was starting to rain as I left the house that morning so I didn’t bother (about an hour later it was perfectly sunny and clear). The Powerscourt Gardens are breathtaking—I spent two hours just walking around the grounds in awe. I took pictures on my iPhone the whole time and as great as iPhone’s are, it did not do this place justice. Being surrounded by picturesque landscape, I still found it difficult to take pictures without people in the frame. I found myself not changing the angle and not shooting detail. Most of my shots taken that day were of the open landscape. Had I thought about it more, I would have loved to get detailed pictures of some of the plants and unique aspects of the garden.
While I was away on this day trip to Powerscourt, people had been arriving to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It was amazing in just the day I had been gone how the atmosphere had changed so drastically. The streets were now crawling with street performers, tourists, locals, and a lot of green, white, and orange. On almost every street corner was a stand selling hats, flags, and scarves for the occasion. I had taken my D7000 out on Grafton Street and took some shots of street performers and the crowds on the street. The most frustrating thing I found was trying to get the historic buildings in the shots as well as the people on the street with my 50mm lens. I was able to focus on the certain details, and I either was focused on the architecture or the people. Below is a shot of a building on Grafton as well as one of human statues on the street.
Throughout the rest of the weekend, I volunteered with the St. Patrick’s Day Festival which involved helping with a citywide Treasure Hunt. It was there that I met Sophie, a student from France in a Master’s program at UCD, who invited me out to the pubs for the Ireland vs. France Six Nations rugby match. It was there, in Doyle’s pub, that I fell in love with rugby and Ireland itself.
I also volunteered to help direct pedestrian traffic with the Garda (the police force of Dublin) during the parade day. I was lucky enough to be stationed near the General Post Office in the heart of the city. The parade was . . . interesting. It was very different from the local Westerville, Ohio parades that I am used to seeing. Almost everything was done by a theater company and depicted some aspect of Irish history. I found myself talking with the Garda the whole time as we tried to guess what was happening as each group moved through. It was easier and more enjoyable for me to take pictures during the parade due to the fact there were several interesting subjects constantly walking by.
The thing that struck me the most about Ireland was the history and how proud people were to be Irish. It was truly amazing hearing about Irish history—from the 1916 Easter Rising to the famous authors. Looking back, I wish I had lugged around my camera bag every day. There were so many perfect moments that were only captured by my memory that I would have loved to have on camera. But despite my camera restrictions, I glad I was able to capture the history and the beauty of the country. I found myself in awe and in love with Ireland and I hope to one day call it home.