Thunder. Fury. Photowalk. Cliffoney.

The titular castle

The much-hyped Cliffoney photowalk of furious thunder lived up to all of our expectations; everyone who made the drive out here in the face of the furious, thundery weather enjoyed a furiously thunderous weekend of photography and walking here in Cliffoney, County Sligo. Mariah and I are burnt out after a busy week of preparation for the walk; Mariah in particular deserves outright worship for taking on the huge burden of planning, budgeting, purchasing, preparing, cooking and serving three delicious meals for seventeen adults needy and two children.

A wee bit o’ background I am my photography circle’s Photographer Without A Camera. Call it a sabbatical, hiatus or whatever else, but I hit a big period of burnout early last summer. After six months of letting all of my camera equipment gather dust on top of my wardrobe, I made the conscious choice to sell all of it this February. Except for a few webcams and Mariah’s iPhone 4, I am completely camera-less, but no less interested in photography. I follow the news, call swan photos shite deliver verbose, encouraging critiques, keep up with other photographers and generally try to stay “in” with it. One of the the best ways to keep in touch is that grand old photographic tradition: The Photowalk. X photographers come together at Y location and take pictures of Z object. When all of our photographic urgings have been sated we retire to X1 pub for drinks and chat. Shared symbols, etcetera.

My own interest in organizing photowalks stems from completely selfish self-interest. I want to meet up with friends who quite often live at the other end of Ireland, but I don’t want take the time and lay out for the expense of travelling; instead I just organize meetings in my locality, ask everyone I know to attend and try my best to ensure they all have a good time after they arrive.

Rinse, repeat. I am hosting several more photowalks in 2011: I will be in Galway in two weeks, Saturday October 1, for this year’s Scott Kelby walk. There will be another run by me in Galway City at a date yet to be decided, focused on the annual Christmas market in Eyre Square.

This weekend’s particular photowalk came out of a desire to celebrate the simple fact that my company is worth sharing. Come to Cliffoney! Eat my food! Sleep on my floor! Bask in my resplendence! Oh, and to meet my friends too. Yeah, you guys. Hi. I floated the idea around back in July; from there the whole thing snowballed from a photowalk-with-lunch to an overnight stay and camp out. The original date was for mid-August, but a certain nameless person who then couldn’t attend anyway due to family obligations asked me to push the date back into September to avoid family obligations.

(Honestly though, you’re great. We love you. All is forgiven. :)

So September it would be! I decided that the date of the photowalk was poignant because tomorrow, September 12, I start my three year college degree. Ostensibly, at least. As I’m starting to discover, trying to research, write, or read at home is next to impossible with my two wild little children vying with one another in their attempts to bring the walls down around us…


Rain rain, go away

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
-William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act III, Scene II.

This weekend’s weather has been a literal Shakespearean tempest as Ireland is currently being visited by the tail-end of Hurricane Katia; Cliffoney has been battered by hundred kilometre an hour winds, torrential rain downpours, and winter (though not freezing) temperatures. After everyone left today, I went for my first walk of the season wearing hats and gloves.

A route planned in advance by Darren’s and I was washed down the scupper when the first shower hit. A visit to several spots in the Dartry Mountains turned into frantic dash in the rain down to the pub in Mullaghmore until the weather cleared up a little. We followed this by a loop of Mullaghmore Head and a fast run up around the Gleniff Horseshoe Valley before returning home for dinner. Saturday night’s hike down to the beach for star photography likewise turned into a drive down the road to an abandoned graveyard and church in nearby Grange, for a few hours of light painting gravestones.

The weather, ironically, directly caused the most memorable of the weekend (see below).

Truskmore schoolhouse?

I’m shocked to hear myself say this, but everyone who was planning to come, came, and arrived in a timely manner. I said midday and had a full house by one in the afternoon. That’s virtually unheard of. Shocked, I am.

So everyone came. Jodi texted Mariah mid-morning complaining about academic pressures and found herself immediately being peer pressured into coming up too for the weekend. Bonus.

We sat about the house for an hour, had lunch (more on the tasty, tasty goodness below). After a fretful reading of the day’s weather forecast, I decided to curtail a drive around the mountains in favour of dropping into Mullaghmore village. After somebody picked up half of fucking Donegal bay and dropped it on the cars, we cut that short too and just hid in a pub for two hours. Alcohol flowed. Typical Irish photowalk behaviour ensured*.

(Typical Irish photowalk behaviour and discussion:*

  1. Gear porn: Gear voyeurism, gear bondage, gear peeping, gear fondling, gear swapping, gear exhibitionism, masturbatory gear exposition, and outright hot gear-on-gear action.
  2. The holy wars: Copyright, Nikon versus Canon, film versus digital, swans, flowers, HDR, infrared, accreditation, profit and loss.
  3. Phoar, Check Out the Aperture on that Beauty.
  4. Shallow depth-of-field, technically perfect portraits of a photographer photographing a photographer photographing a flower in a field.
  5. Fuck it, we’re lost. Pub?
  6. So, the camera club…
  7. I broke my back busting out that shoot, and they wanted a twenty inch print of the blurry one.
  8. Quiet thoughts for friends departed.
  9. Loud remonstrations about this year’s cunt on Boards.
  10. Weddings.
  11. If we line up the sheep with that tree and the stream, we have a fighting chance of getting a shot into National Geographic. No, really.)

That was at three o’clock(ish). A nice break opened at half five, so we took to the road and looped Mullaghmore Head. This was g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s: You couldn’t see across the bay to Slieve League, but once we rounded the head, we had a glorious view of Mullaghmore Castle brooding atop storm-wracked cliffs. I only had my iPhone 4 to work with, but I gather everyone netted some really spectacular shots that (as I write this) I am very much looking forward to seeing.

From there, Truskmore! Shane literally hopped out of his car before it had stopped and dove headfirst into the forest campsite at the foot of the mountain. We padded around the forest, photographed the waterfall, lost lens caps (whoops) and buried ourselves up to our knees in muck. After that it was up through Gleniff Horseshoe Valley, for some awed gazing windbitten misty cliffs (I think Vlastik was gobsmacked by the drive down?) a spot of gerrof me land from a local landowner. Whoops.

Then home. Dinner.

Even the cats wanted more! Saturday


Dinner deserves its own special mention. It needs to be announced by trumpeting cherubim. Signposted in glitzy Las Vegas lights. Crooned over by Frank Sinatra. Mariah outdid herself. I’m not going to detail the food, because all I did was eat it. I’ll leave that task to both the post on her site and the praise from our guests:

  • buzzlightyear5 Philip Hennessy @sineadw Ah you missed a great event along with creations of orgasmic food by mrs @bhalash . Hopefully next time artyeva Gillian Eva @bhalash Best. Photowalk. Everrrr. Thanks so much for yesterday, twas great craic.Mrs Bhalash deserves a feckin medal for the stellar grub. DanKing_IRL Daniel King @bhalash thanks for a great photowalk and to your wife for the epic food! #cliffoney2011 *
    There you go. We all loved it, Mariah. Frequent orgasmic noises were noted during dinner. A cheer to Jodi too for all her invaluable help!

Saturday night

After dinner and a round of drinks everyone took off for a late shoot at a local graveyard. I didn’t go along as I had things to take care of at home, but I gather sacrilegious conduct ensued.


Dan’s tent got blown away and wound up stuck ten feet up a tree. Really. I’m serious. We had a delicious breakfast, exchanged thanks, hugs and handshakes before everyone went on their way back home.

The brave little photographers

In the end, fifteen brave men and women ventured from all corners of Ireland to sleep on our floor and use our electricity for the weekend: Vlastik, Shane, Jodi, Aafke, Nico, Denis, Lorraine, Phil, Dan, Darren, Derek, Gillian, Brian, Yvi and Will – thank you from Mariah and I for braving the weather and making this weekend memorably fun!

Have your say on 'Thunder. Fury. Photowalk. Cliffoney.'

  • Mariah on


    Thank you to the brave souls that took home all those brownies today. You’ve helped keep Mark from taking another decade of wear off his arteries. <3

  • Dan King on

    Such a great read backed up by a damn good weekend Mark. One I’ll not forget! Thanks again to Mariah, Jody, (Kids n kittens) and your good self :)

  • Vlastik on

    Nicely written. I can only repeat the the fantastic food and more than lively kids you yours :-)
    And my pictures from the photowalk are here –

  • aafke on

    well put into words (how many?), mr.grealish. have not enough words to express thanks to you, mariah, caira, garreth and jodi.

  • Philip on

    To a master of ceremonies and creator of epic an photowalk – many, many thanks. It was a weekend filled by the company of wonderful friends, using the excuse of photography to have great craic, climb mountains, drink beer, explore graveyards, eat wonderful food and rescue abandonded tents. On more than one occasion I had to take deep breaths to stop myself convulsing with laughter or calm down from the orgasmic food created by the very talented Mariah. Mark, thank you for the hospitality shown by you and your wonderful family. This is definitely a weekend I’ll not forget ;)

  • Petra on

    Now I feel as if I was there too – well, kinda. And hopefully there’ll be another one.
    That missing couple would be Will and Yvi btw – just in case they somehow miss this great post.

  • Denis O'Donovan on

    You’ve said it all. Epic is too small a word for it. Brilliant weekend, brilliant food, brilliant company and we even took a few photies!

  • Mark on

    Mariah and I are both very happy to see that everyone here had such a great time in Cliffoney. I’ll (/plug) be running several more photowalks between now and January next in Galway, Sligo (town) and Dublin.

  • nico on

    Your account gives a very good impression of the Cliffoney-experience last weekend. I’m glad we were there –and survived. Hope you’ll have in the foreseeable future quieter weekends, concerning friends and weather. Best of luck with your studies.

  • Mariah on

    Though his next photowalks will not include awesome food, as I will be hiding from the Atlantic weather a few thousand miles away. This really was a great time, I hope we can do it again soon(ish) :)

  • Mark on

    Hey, you fixed your icon too!

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