I call it a “Location Scouting” trip, mostly because I know this — I want to go back again!!! (here’s a few shots from the photo book I always create after each trip).

First, a little about Ireland
What an absolutely magical place! The Irish people are as warm, witty, and kind as everyone said they would be, and we had an absolutely wonderful experience from beginning to end. It truly is a beautiful country, and even though I just saw a tiny bit of it for five days, it makes you want to spend months there and just explore the countryside and learn more about the people, their history, and their lives.

Now, for the shooting
This was a family vacation trip (joining me, Kalebra and the kids was my brother Jeff and my in-laws, so we were seven in total). I knew from the outset that photography would not be the focus, and honestly, that was fine with me. I never got up for a dawn shoot (it would have awakened the wifey and kids for sure), and at sunset we were usually at dinner, so I just had to shoot in whatever light was there. The only problem was — there wasn’t much light at all.

Ahhhhh, the weather
We were there for five days (with two travel days on either end), and it rained every single day. All day. When you woke up, the sky was dark gray and it looked like it was ready to rain. If you looked outside and didn’t see dark gray clouds, it was only because was already raining. There were a few moments each day when the sky would start to clear a bit and the rain would pause, but literally just for few minutes here and there. I read while I was there that July had been Ireland’s rainiest month in history, and August was already looking like a record-setter as well. Yup, that’s when we chose to go. (LOL!).

I didn’t push that shutter enough
I only shot around 150 shots a day total, including multiple frames shot for HDR and Panos, which is really low for me (I shoot twice that in a 3-hour football game), but the weather kind of limited what I could shoot. For example, we drove out to the famous Cliffs of Moher, and it was so socked in with fog and rain, we couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us (not to mention it was windy and cold!. Brrrrrrr!). So, while me and my gear got plenty wet, I never pushed the shutter button once.

We had originally planned to get up to Galway, and spend more time in Cork, and to see Shannon a bit, and well… we where having so much fun (we got to stay in Dromoland castle, which everybody loved — especially my six-year-old daughter), that we wound up doing more relaxing and playing around they we had planned, but it made for an incredibly fun vacation for everybody.

The Gear
I took my Nikon D4 (so I could shoot in really low light if necessary), and I took two lenses: My 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 VR lens, and I had tried out a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens from LensProToGo.com (awesome folks — highly recommended) a few weeks back, so this time around I borrowed Matt’s 16-35mm and it’s a great little lens (though I can’t really justify buying one when I already have a 14-24mm, but the advantage of the 16-35mm is that you can use 77mm screw-on filters (like the 8-stop Tiffen ND I took with me). I also took an Oben travel tripod with a Really Right Stuff Ballhead. That’s pretty much it (I actually did take a lightweight flash kit, but never even got a chance to use it once).

The danger of setting your own expectations
I had in my mind the kind of shots I was hoping to come back with. You know the ones —- the tiny thatched-hut village with a quaint dirt road overflowing with a flock of sheep and stranding a Land Rover. Well, I never saw anything like that. That’s the danger of setting expectations — you go thinking you’re going to get a particular type of shot, but then the reality of where you wind up sets in you’re disappointed with your shots, (which I was), and it’s not Ireland’s fault, and its not the weather’s fault. It’s my fault. I should have gone open to whatever came my way, instead of standing there saying “This isn’t what I was really looking for. It must be somewhere else here.”

Now that the trip is over, and I put my photo book together (seen here), I’m happier with what I got then I was while I was there, but it sure makes me want to go back and capture those giant waves crashing against the coast, and sheep in the streets, and sweeping landscapes under crisp blue skies. I now have a better idea where I want to go when I go back, and I have some specific locations I want to return to. I also want more than five days.

Contrast this with Cuba or India
In India, I had a guide and driver, and it was just Kalebra and I so we could cover a lot of ground each day.  If I saw something I wanted to shoot, the driver would just literally pull over. If I wanted to shoot a particular thing, the guide knew right where to take me. Same thing in Cuba. But in Ireland, we were literally on our own  — seven of us in two rental cars, so it definitely changes how you shoot on your trip.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, it’s only about my photography failures, because I had one of my best vacations ever (and we got to celebrate my wife’s birthday while we were there, which was a blast). I saw a beautiful country, met some lovely people, I watched Olympic boxing in a pub with a pint of Murphy’s, I got to stay in an amazing castle, watched my daughter learn archery (and she rocked it!), watched my son row across a still lake in the morning mist, saw my wife experience a life-long dream (I’ll leave that for her to tell on her G+ page), and saw my brother make a beautiful chip up out of the bunker right and land right near the hole on the 18th green. We had lots of laughs, wonderful meals, and at one point we almost drove straight into a stream (another story, with more laughs). It really was a perfect trip, and set me up to go back again when photography is the focus, and I can’t wait to go again to shoot, and to return once again for another family vacation just like it.

Thanks to everyone here and on my Google+ page who sent me ideas on where to visit, where to shoot, where to stay, where to eat, and what not to miss. I missed some of it, but now I have a perfect excuse to go back to one of the most beautiful, warm, welcoming places I’ve ever seen. :-)