Posted by: David Vernon | January 29, 2010

For the stories…

Kilkenney Hen Party

I’m starting a new little featurette on the CIPB today – and it begins with this image.

I’m going to occasionally feature images here simply for the stories they tell. I usually provide no real context for the imagery that appears on the blog – I just kind of put it out there. Sometimes it pertains to the article and sometimes it doesn’t.  But every so often I’m digging through the archives for a picture that stands alone – that simply tells a story.

Let me tell this story.

This image is far from the best photo I’ve ever taken. In fact it’s noisy, it’s not particularly sharp, and the composition is a bit busy – especially the background. But it does do two things right I think. First it tells an interesting story and secondly – at least for me – it evokes an emotional response. It does that without me knowing a single soul in the image.

So anyway, a couple years ago, my wife and I were walking through Kilkenny, Ireland on a Saturday night and the place was a bit of a madhouse. It was in fact our only Saturday night in country, having arrived on the previous Sunday morning, so we had no basis for experience. Kilkenny doesn’t have a big city center, and it was absolutely packed by twenty-somethings pubbing. And we saw group after group of exclusively males or females wandering around, 20-30 strong. Turns out they were actually bachelor or bachelorette parties, except over there the female parties are called hen parties. Who knew? ( Actually, if you search flickr for the term “hen party”, this is the first image in the results. And until the evening I took this picture, I had no idea what it was either, but that search returns some 27,000 images so someone must know.)

So it’s getting late and we’re standing outside a pub when a large group of noisy nuns starts coming our way. Nuns? Noisy? Okay, okay – they’re not nuns. I get it. It’s a hen party and their not only noisy, they’re – well – quite drunk. And the bride is dressed as a bride – but everyone else … nuns (in Ireland no less). So this group was about to enter the pub next to us but changed their collective mind and kept coming down the sidewalk. I thought I’d just sneak a quick shot to try and capture the excitement. It was after 10pm but it was still light outside. I had my Nikon D70 (6MP) and an 18-70 lens. It was light outside but not THAT light. So I didn’t think I’d get anything. The spouse and I shuffled to the side to let them move past and I raised my camera anyway. I was getting 1/25th of a second at f/4, ISO 400 – not great – but passable. I’m ready to click the shutter when it happened.

I raised the camera as they started to pass, but the gal (nun) in the lower right hand corner catches me. What does she do? She stops EVERYONE. The entire group. And she makes them pose. She insists that this picture will have to run in the Ireland Times (and I’m thinking maybe the Delavan Times…). Suddenly now I’m on the spot to take a decent picture because it’s no longer a street photograph sneak, it’s now a hen party portrait. So with metaphoric fingers crossed I get off one shot of the moment, with laughter all around, and then they’re gone.

To me this picture has always been a big personal favorite because it really captures the joy my wife and I experienced all over Ireland. I’m still amazed at how fantastic the Irish were – how kind and how much fun. So seeing this image always takes me back to that town, that street, and that moment – and I smile. And someday, perhaps through the magic of the Internet, I’ll get the bride a print of her hen party – but not too big – it is a little soft ya know.

Until the next story.


  1. This is good. and the shot is absolutely magnificent. It has captured such emotions. Keep up the good work. The composition is best the way it is.

  2. It’s a fun shot, and a great story! Nun’s with cleavage…or at least a deep neck-line! That’s gotta be worth a few extra points, doesn’t it??

  3. Extra points? Not when you’re wife standing next to you…

  4. Hilarious! Now I want to see all the rest of your Ireland shots. Are they on your flickr account?

    I followed your advice in your housecleaning post, btw, and added you to my google reader. It’s my first try at it. The web is amazing. And so is this photoblog!


  5. Gloris – Thanks! There is a set on flickr here:

    Lismore - Blackwater River

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