“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
— William Butler Yeats
was up with the dawn, anxious to see what photographic wonders I could capture along the shore of the Kenmare River.
We were staying at the Blue Merles, a wonderful little B&B run by a British couple on the Beara Peninsula, along Ireland’s south-west coast. Our hillside vantage looked down on the river’s wide expanse, the beautiful tree-lined Dinish Island and the mist-shrouded coastline of Kerry.
Outside, the rain fell hard, but our hosts had insisted the coastal shower would be short-lived. They were almost right.
Dressing in the half-light, I put together a rain outfit from the half of our possessions that had made the trip. The other half of our new luggage set had gone to New York instead of Dublin, and for a day or so we would make do and improvise.
The two unescorted bags would eventually catch up, crumpled, ripped and delivered by van across half of Ireland. The contents were intact, but traveling without humans to New York had put them at odds with someone in authority. … And for the rest of the trip I found myself on a terror watch list.
But that’s another story. Today, we were in Ireland, and that was enough.
Irish breakfast was an hour off, but the kitchen clatter and morning talk radio assured me our hosts were up and attending to our needs. The freshly brewed pot of coffee in the dining room told me they had paid attention to my stated desire to rise early.
Sipping black coffee from a heavy mug, I watched the rain wash the broad windows that looked down over the rooftops to the featureless blackness of the river. Not light enough yet, I wondered why I had set my alarm so early.
As rain became drizzle and Dinish Island separated itself from the gloom, I set off down the long wet drive, warm and dry beneath my L.L. Bean slicker, camera safely clutched beneath that same protective layer.
Low tide had sucked the river to the sea, revealing the rocky riverbed covered in a thick growth of seaweed. The soupy air smelled of fish and salt and decaying vegetation. Sea birds were slow to rise, hunkering down beneath the mist, holding their spots atop soggy boulders. I was enjoying the morning as the sun fought to peek through, and I shot despite the rain, despite the dark. … But I knew I would have to wait a bit longer for the sun to give me the shot I really wanted.
My vantage was far from a photographer’s dream. The narrow and winding Irish lane pushed to within inches of a low retaining wall that dropped off 15 to 20 feet to rocks below. Balancing atop the wall would be treacherous, but standing at the edge of the lane might be more so. Any vehicle rounding blind curves in both directions would pass just inches away.
I tried the top of the wall, snapped a few shots, and thought better of it. Better to stand in the road and listen carefully for traffic. If necessary, I reasoned, I could scamper to safety across the road.
I had told Marti earlier, “Never pass up a picture of a blue boat.” And I wasn’t about to.
I had glimpsed it the night before when we arrived, anchored in the river just off that lovely island. It was just a simple dark blue rowboat, bobbing in the high tide, nothing really to look at.
But I liked it, and it was the target of all my stalking.
The morning low tide had stranded it amid the seaweed … an even better shot than I had imagined.
Waves of rain returned while I waited for the sun. I retreated to safety off the road, ducking my head beneath my rain hood and letting the wet run harmlessly off.
I was starting to worry about missing breakfast, but I waited. This was the shot. I just needed more light.
Finally, about an hour after my photo safari began, the clouds overhead began to break up and rays of the morning sun peeked through.
I labeled the shot I captured, “Blue Boat at Low Tide in the Rain.”
Never pass up a blue boat. … I won’t.
A week later, in Scotland, I decided the same rule applies to red boats.
Dave Berry is editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph. He and his wife Marti went to Ireland and Scotland in 2011. Yes, they would go back … in a heartbeat.