One year in acting – My experience at the Gaiety School of Acting

Back in April last year I was searching for a new way to occupy my free time. I think we’ve all felt at one point or another that we get too caught up in our work and I was going through that stage. A friend of mine suggested I create a bucket list to give me ideas on things to do so I went ahead and wrote down the 50 things I wanted to do before I died.

Amongst that list was my wish to do a stand-up routine. I’ve always thought I was pretty funny and I wanted to put my beliefs to the test. I however did not think I had the confidence or the skills to get up and perform in front of a live audience. I had done it many times before as part of a music group but never as a solo performer. So I started to look into courses that might help me boost my confidence and I saw that an introduction to drama course was due to start the next week at the Gaiety School of Acting. I signed up immediately.

The next week I headed to class, not knowing what to expect and how it would start me down a path that has redefined the way I see the world and what I expect out of my life.

Playboy of the Western World Production

I have now completed 3 courses and 2 workshops at the Gaiety School of Acting and I can honestly say it has changed the person I am. It has awakened a passion for acting that I never knew I had. Going from stumbling through my first monologue tutored by Gene Rooney to working on my first duologue scenes with Niamh Maguire and ending with our showcase of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” under the direction of Clare Maguire has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Getting ready for the showcase
Getting ready for the showcase

I feel like I have grown as a person. I am happier, more confident, less worried about where my life is heading and more focused on where I want to go. It is a strange feeling to discover something that you love so much in such a short time. I know this could not have been possible without the amazing team at the Gaiety School of Acting.

Playboy of the Western World Production

I don’t know if I will ever be able to make a career out of Acting. It’s a hard life out there for any Actor and I do not know if I have the skill or guts to follow this dream. What I do know is that Acting will forever be a part of my life. It has become as much a part of what I want to do as photography.

I couldn’t write this post without thanking all the incredible people I have met through these courses. Putting yourself in a position of vulnerability every week in front of your classmates helps you develop a bond that is indescribable to anyone that has not experienced it. I have made some friendships that I know will last me the rest of my life and have a group of friends that I can honestly say I could not live without. I have had a life filled with many friends and have met a lot of very special people but I have never met such an astounding, honest and open group of people before. We wear our emotions on our sleeves every day and that makes them shine all the more.

Performance year enjoying a drink at the pub

To anyone thinking of trying acting, I would say go for it! It will change your life so beware of the path you are starting. To quote a much better writer than myself:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Performance year actresses hiding behind a prop

Places to visit in Ireland part 1 – Donegal

I’m starting a new series on my favourite places to visit in Ireland. I’m going to start by what has been by far my favourite place, County Donegal.

Donegal is in the Northwest of Ireland and is one of the least populated parts of the country. It’s a great place to visit if you like spectacular seafronts, forests and the countryside. While most of these things apply to many other parts of the country, in Donegal you also have the added advantage of not being followed by masses of tourists.

I spent 2 weeks travelling around Donegal in 2010 and fell in love with the place. Here are my favourite spots to see in no particular order:

Slieve League (Sliabh Liag)

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These are the highest cliffs in Ireland. While they may seem less spectacular in the pictures than the better known Cliffs of Moher, they are very breathtaking.  There are also quite a few things to see around them so I would recommend going there with some time to walk around and nice hiking shoes.

The cliffs are not the easiest to find but getting lost in the area around there is also very enjoyable. We stayed at the Derrylahan Independent Hostel which was very nice and affordable. The views over the bay are also great. The breakfast at the pub in Carrick is also worth having!

Glengesh Pass

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This mountain pass is on the road between Glencolmcille and Ardara. The road itself is well worth the drive and this is a great place to stop to have a bite to eat. There are several hiking trails around this area if you enjoy walking.

The road does not have much traffic and should be taken slowly as there are many hairpin turns. We drove a car over there but I can see this being an ideal motorbike road.

 Bloody Foreland

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This area takes its name from the red hue that the mountain takes at sunset. I didn’t get to see that but it is absolutely stunning to see the sun go down over the sea.

It is very idyllic and full of sheep, gives off the vibe that you expect from rural Ireland. We stayed nearby in Bunbeg at a small hostel on the pier. Highly recommended.

Inishowen Peninsula

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This place is hard to summarise in a few words. You have absolutely everything here, from natural parks to stunning cliffs. There are ancient ruins to explore and lovely little towns to explore.

I would recommend seeing Malin Head for the seashore, going to the top of Barnan Mór for the views and just exploring around the area in general.

We stayed 2 nights at the Redcastle Spa and Golf resort. The main reason we came to Donegal is that we had won a stay for 2 days at this resort. It’s highly recommended is you can afford it. The deep tissue massages are amazing and the golf course is very good as well.

I hope these tips have inspired you to travel to this beautiful part of Ireland. If you have any tips of other things to see around there, I’d love to hear them. If you want to be notified when the next article goes up, remember to subscribe to my blog my entering your email address in the box on the left!

Shooting the streets

I am a Street Photographer at heart. I have always been fascinated by the activity of city life and have spent many hours sitting and doing people watching. When I decided to take my camera out onto the street and start recording the things I saw around me, I discovered a whole new passion for the art.

Taken while waiting for the bus to work
Taken while waiting for the bus to work

Nowadays I try to carry my camera with me at all times. Up until recently my trusty X100S was always in my pocket and ready to shoot. This allowed me to turn any spare moment into a photographic opportunity. Many of my favourite images were taken while on my way to somewhere else.

There are photo opportunities all around you and having a camera always available helps you keep your photographic eye open all the time.

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I also enjoy going for walks with the sole intention of taking pictures. Some people have commented on how awkward they feel taking pictures of strangers on the street. Initially I felt the same way but there are several techniques that can be used to either avoid being caught or to diffuse the tension.

Pretend to look behind the subject

This is a good technique for when you are starting out or for when you’ve been spotted but want to try to get another shot. Basically all you do is take your camera away from your eye and look at something behind or to the side of the person you are trying to photograph.

Once you do it a couple of times, your subject will generally ignore you and go back to what they were doing and then, SNAP! You have your picture. 🙂

HEre I pretended to take a picture of the city but was really interested in the man looking out on the city
Here I pretended to take a picture of the city but was really interested in the man looking out on the city
Shoot from the hip

This is the most discrete way of shooting but easily the most difficult one to master. As the name implies all you do is carry your camera at waist height and take the picture without raising the camera to your eye.

It takes a bit of practice to get right and is easier with wider lenses but if you are good and get lucky it can make for some really nice pictures.

Waiting a traffic light
Waiting a traffic light
Hold your ground and then smile

This is the most intimidating technique to carry out but the one I use the most. It is easy to do once you realise that people generally don’t mind getting their pictures taken as long as you don’t look like a pervert or a creep.

When I see something interesting or a person I want to photograph, I just stop, raise my camera to my eye and take the picture. Sometimes I’ll even stand there waiting for them to look at me to catch that intimacy with the camera.

As long as you smile at your subject, maybe say thank you, or even go up and talk to them a while, I’ve never had any issues.

This would be a much weaker picture if the girl wasn't looking at the camera.
This would be a much weaker picture if the girl wasn’t looking at the camera.

My last tip to overcome the fear of taking pictures is to just take a few. I will generally start any photowalk with a couple of really close-up pictures. These help me get warmed up and lose the nervousness of photographing pictures. They will almost never be pictures I keep but help loosen me up for when I do see something I want to capture.

I hope this post has been helpful and would love to hear any tips or techniques that you use when you’re out taking pictures!