I can think of no better subject for my first post on the ‘Capturing my World’ blog than the iconic symbol of my home town, the Ha’Penny Bridge. Us Dubliners have been crossing this iron footbridge for over 200 years since its grand opening in 1816.
Before then, Dubliners wishing to cross the River Liffey had to embark on one of seven ferries run by a crotchety city alderman named William Walsh. Now to say that Mr. Walsh was not too concerned with health and safety would be something of an understatement. His rickety fleet of ferries were in a state of leaky disrepair and passengers were at constant risk of disappearing under the murky waters of the Liffey.
Walsh was given an ultimatum by the city council: repair the ferries or build a bridge. Rather wisely, he chose the bridge. He was also given the right to charge a toll to people wishing to cross. It will come as no surprise to you that this toll was set at…. yes you guessed it…. one ha’penny! The toll was finally abolished in 1919 but the name stuck. This is actually only a nickname and the official name is the ‘Liffey Bridge’. I bet the city council were up all night thinking of that one!
I arrived at the Ha’penny Bridge on a freezing cold January morning. Morning is without a doubt my favourite time to get out with my camera. The pre-dawn light has a wonderfully pastel quality compared to the more vivid tones of dusk and sunset and often I have the place to myself. This is a rare treat in any city.
A large element of making beautiful photographs is luck. On this particular morning, I was lucky to find a beautifully colourful dawn sky as a backdrop to the bridge. The yet to rise sun was bathing the underside of whispy morning clouds with gentle hues of pink and purple. The waters of the Liffey were perfectly still, creating a pleasing reflection of the scene in river.
In order to take this shot I set my tripod up on the quay wall itself and leaned over as far as I could. One false move and I would have gotten an extremely close up view of the River Liffey (and I am not a good swimmer). Thankfully, I kept my balance and my dignity and captured the shot you see above.
One of my favourite aspects of getting up early for a photo shoot is having the place to myself. Normally, the Ha’Penny Bridge is teaming with people crossing from one side of the city to the other. This makes for interesting photographs but here I wanted to capture the bridge on its own without any people. The symmetrical nature of the scene meant that a centred composition was a must.
As a child, I would cross the Ha’penny Bridge on the way to Hector Grey’s on the North Side of the city. This shop was owned by a colourful character of the same name and sold a bewildering variety of nick-nacks all priced at one pound. This was usually a reward after a day being dragged sullenly around the shops of Dublin looking for a new pair of school shoes or some other similarly boring excursion.
Visitors to the city will no doubt cross this Dublin landmark on their way to one of the scandalously overpriced pubs in Temple Bar on the south side of the city. Make sure to take a moment to admire this fine example of eighteenth century engineering….. and be thankful you don’t have to cross in a rickety old ferry.