Tag Archives: music

Great Craic: Pubs and Trad Sessions


I can say, without reservation, that getting sick while traveling SUCKS.  I came down with a nasty cold last week on the day I went over to Kilkenny to spend a couple of days with my old college roommate and her family.  When I got back to Doolin on Thursday night, I felt like death, and so I missed out on the Doolin Folk Festival this last weekend.

Talk about a heartbreaker– I had been looking forward to this weekend for weeks, especially because the trad sessions at the pubs have become one of my favorite things about the area.  To be honest, if the tickets had been less expensive, I probably still would have gone, sick or not, but I didn’t want to spend so much money and not be able to enjoy the experience to the fullest.   Luckily, I still have the pubs, and since I finally seem to be over the worst of my illness (knock on wood) I’m trying to cram in as much great music as I can into my last couple of days in Ireland.

Doolin is famous for its folk music and trad (traditional Irish music) sessions.  All four pubs in the village feature live sessions nightly starting about 9:30.  That being said, I’ve found that the overall experience on any given night varies widely.  In the month I’ve been here, I’ve been to all the pubs, and the craic has ranged from “meh” to outstanding.  I have yet to figure out the perfect formula for an outstanding experience, though I think it’s largely subjective, based not only on the music, but also on the atmosphere and the crowd on that particular night.  It’s amazing to me how much a session, with the same musicians in the same pub, can vary so much just based on the crowd that night.

Quick tip for those wanting a more authentic trad experience: STAY LATE!!! I’ve noticed that a lot of the tour groups and day tourists leave after the first hour or so, but the later it gets, the better the craic!  At least that’s been my experience.


Trad session at Fitz’s Pub.

So, getting back to how I got from “meh…” to “wowza!” sessions: I had been here for a couple weeks and had yet to hit a really good session, so I asked around and was told by several locals to look out for signs advertising Blackie O’Connell and Cyril O’Donoghue.  I was on the lookout, but it was still just by chance that I went into McDermott’s one Monday night and they were playing.

Between sets: Live session at McDermott's Pub with Blackie O'Connell, Cyril O'Donaughe and Foolin in Doolin.

Between sets: Live session at McDermott’s Pub with Blackie O’Connell, Cyril O’Donoghue and Foolin in Doolin.

Holy Amazing, Batman!  

This is one of the times I wish I shot video as well as stills. These guys are masters and are an absolute kick to see perform.  Watching Blackie on the Irish bagpipes is incredible.  How he makes such a complex instrument look so effortless, I have no idea, but I love watching him play.  And Cyril’s vocals are mesmerizing. HIs version of “The King’s Shilling” is probably my favorite song that they do (and they played it for me by request last night, which was all kinds of wonderful). I admit that I’ve become a bit of a groupie as I’ve tried to hit at least a couple of their sessions each week!  It’s always a delight.


The piper and the fiddler.

Non-traditional music is also thriving in the area.  A week or so ago I went with a couple friends to a bar in Lahinch, another small village just a short drive down the coast.  That night we slistened to two Irish bands with completely different styles of music than the trad sessions. These groups had a folky-alternative-bluesy quality (how’s that for a description?) that I happened to love.  It actually reminded me quite a bit of the Seattle indie music scene, so it was almost like a taste of home–with a bit of a twist!


The group “Mongoose” performing at Kenny’s Bar.

Live music has been a huge part of my travels, and I’ve been blessed to have some incredible experiences: a classical concert in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, featuring an amazing string quartet, a baroque concert in a church on the Piazza Navona in Rome, and now these amazing trad sessions in the local pubs of Doolin.  There’s just something about music that enriches my travel experience and enhances my appreciation of different cultures.  I can’t wait to enjoy more as I continue traveling!


Music & Imagery












I love good music.  Now this might not be the world’s most earth-shattering confession, but there you go.  Now, my love of music isn’t really restricted to one particular genre or another, and my tastes are pretty eclectic (though I must confess, I’ve never found any rap, hip-hop, or heavy metal that I’m really fond of).

My iTunes has everything from classical, jazz, & opera to show tunes, rock, & pop.  Oh, not to mention a HUGE collection of Christmas music.   I was particularly proud last weekend, when driving back to Washington, I had AC/DC, Alfie Boe, She & Him, Dean Martin, and Keith Urban all playing back to back.  Yes.  I’m awesome.

So, what does this have to do with photography?  Well, not much.

But, I have found that while visual arts and music are both beautiful and enriching on their own, together they are even more powerful.  Beautiful images combined with the right song are even more poignant.  To that end, one of my practices as a photographer is to create a musical slideshow for each of my clients as the first impression they get of their photographs.

Here’s a little insight into my workflow.  After I’ve finished retouching and doing the artwork on the photos, I upload them into a program where I arrange them, create the visual effects, and choose the perfect song.  Sometimes the song choice is very apparent and easy, other times it takes a little bit of searching.  Other times I’ve *thought* I knew just the right song, but when I put it with the images it didn’t gel.  Nevertheless, I’m tenacious about such things, and eventually I end up finding the perfect fit.  I love it: organizing the photos and telling a story with both with the images and music makes my creative process that much richer.

Conversely, there have also been a couple of times when music or a song has inspired the photography.  Last December I was listening to some new music by Katie Melua, and heard the song “Red Balloons.”  I got a vision in my head of my nieces standing in snow covered lawns, dressed in red and black, holding dozens of red balloons, with a final shot of them floating away.

I called the girls, and they agreed to do the shoot when I went home for Christmas.  We had so much fun (despite the cold)!  Though we didn’t get to shoot at the Daly Mansion as I had originally intended, we did get to go to Riverside Park, and had a grand time.  As I was shooting, I had the song running through my mind, which helped me design the photos I wanted.  When I got back to the studio for developing, and put the final project together, the result was awesome!

I’ve recently created a YouTube channel to showcase the videos from my various photo shoots.  So far, I’ve posted the Red Balloon video, the videos from Erin & Trevor’s shoots as well as Brent & Michelle’s engagement session.  To see them, please visit my YouTube page at:


What do you think?  Does the music make it a little more special?

Les Miserables and Photogenic Tenors

My brain operates in a weird, circular way.  Playing word association with me would make psychiatrists cry.

Case in point: I’m planning my trip to Paris, so have had all things Paris & French on the brain at the moment.  Paris makes me think of Les Miserables (both the book and the musical, but in this case, we’ll focus on the musical).  This sends me to iTunes to listen to the soundtrack.  The soundtrack makes me want to watch it.  Hello Youtube!  I watch the 10th Anniversary cast.  Then I move on to the 25th Anniversary concert.  I cry.  I get goosebumps.  I discover Alfie Boe.  This sends me to Amazon where I download his new album, “Bring Him Home.”  This sends me into blissful delight as I play it over and over.  I start YouTube-ing like mad.  I find Alfie Boe singing Christmas songs in a church.  I start thinking of Christmas.  I start thinking of Christmas trees.  I start thinking of Christmas trees that can sing like Alfie Boe.  I decide to take a break.  I come back from my break to the same YouTube video of him singing in a church.  The church reminds me of the Sainte Chapelle that I plan to see in Paris.  I’m getting excited for Paris.  I once again go back to planning my trip to Paris. I read about Victor Hugo.  I want to visit his house.  I’m in the mood to watch Les Miserables again.

There you have it.  I am just a little nuts (but in the good way, like a DQ peanut buster parfait).

However, during my recently discovered Alfie Boe obsession (and now I will forever associate him with my first trip to Paris, which, my friends, is not a bad thing to be associated with) I found these INCREDIBLE publicity photographs, and I fell in LOVE with this photographer.

The sad thing is, I don’t know who the photographer IS! 😦  I can’t find the photo credits anywhere!  If someone can, please let me know, because I need to be their friend (plus, I need to put their name here).    The lighting in these portraits is GORGEOUS!  Theatrical, but subtle.  Just enough background to allude to the theater, while still keeping the subject as the main focus.  The costuming is perfect–adding to the character without overwhelming him.  Sorry.  I’ll stop gushing now and let you see for yourselves!

Besides, YouTube is calling for me again…

***UPDDATE: Thanks to a reader, Fin, I now know the photographer!  His name is Ray Burmiston.  His website can be found here: www.rayburmiston.com  I just followed him on Twitter. 🙂  Thanks, so much Fin!

The staging of this is beyond brilliant: putting the actor in the balcony for a change. Plus the pose is just so languid and reposed.


The use of light and shadows is BRILLIANT. Also, love the expression that was captured here.

I love the detail of him playing with his cuffs, and the shadow in the background... so atmospheric!

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