Next, he went by bicycle to the surrounding district. It was never his intention to do as much as he did, as he just wanted to get to know a bit more about his area. Then he went further afield to various other towns and villages in Tyrone. His system now is to go out one day a week to take as many pictures as he can. Then it takes another day to view and edit them and a further day submitting them on to the website for moderators to approve. You can be a casual submitter, sending in just one or two photographs to the website or you can be like Kenny and seek out more squares.
When Kenny goes out he aims to do as many one kilometre grid squares in a day. He plans his route carefully before he goes out. He takes with him a map, a GPS reader, a compass, a couple of cameras, making sure that these are well charged and a couple of memory cards. He's on the lookout for anything that's interesting, whether it be a building, a standing stone, a bridge or a viewpoint, or maybe something which is particularly topical. The project is not itself really people-based; it is geography-based.
At present, Kenny is working through some old historical information on Omagh, which he fits in between his geographical forays. People from abroad as well as people from the local area look at his site and send him questions. A lot of people from abroad are trying to trace their roots and he tries to help them as much as he can.
Bad weather doesn't bother Kenny; the only time he is stopped from going out is when there is fog. There was a problem with the severe ice and snow weather at the end of 2009 and early 2010, with road conditions. He finds differing weather challenging, and if in doubt, he will take a picture anyway and sort it out later on the computer.
There are other people in Northern Ireland doing what he is doing, though not so many west of the Bann. Kenny says that you have to be careful not to get knocked down when you are out because a lot of the time you stop near the road. Sometimes you are on minor roads. A high visibility jacket is useful, if only to indicate to the general public that you are on some sort of official business on the roads.
The people he meets are very kind and helpful - usually. One person however, wanted him to remove the film from his camera. On being told that the camera was digital and did not function by film, the man insisted that he delete the image from the memory card!
Something else you can do for the Geograph website is to subdivide a kilometre-square into a hundred smaller squares. This means that you have to dig deeper and explore every nook and cranny. Kenny has done three of these in Omagh. As a result he has discovered all sorts of things which he knew nothing about previously, despite being born and bred in Omagh. Kenny is ahead in the competition in the whole of the British Isles with the number of first submissions into squares into the Geograph website (www.geograph.org.uk) He has photographed over 10,000 square kilometres of the north and west of Northern Ireland, Including the border counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan; the area of Northern Ireland being approximately 14, 000 square kilometres. He has the highest number of "firsts" in the British Isles and altogether he has submitted over 44,000 images to the site which leaves him third overall in the UK. His favourite programmes on television include Countryfile, Countrytracks, Coast and Lesser Spotted Ulster.
Area captured in Geograph Project
This article by journalist
Vera Cave appeared in the December, 2011 issue of the local newspaper, The Donegal Times.
Hundreds of photographs of Donegal Town's buildings, businesses and places of interest in the locality have been included in the Geograph project which aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Ireland and the UK. Geograph is described as a national geography project for the people, and anyone can contribute photos to the website. So far, over 2.5 million images have been submitted, including over 137,000 from around Ireland. Each photo has a grid reference, place-name and short description.
Photographer Kenny Allen from Omagh, who is responsible for the majority of the photos of Donegal Town which appear on the website www.geograph.ie visited the town in August and spent time photographing premises on every street, providing an important record of the town's appearance in 2011 and giving visitors to the website a glimpse of everyday life here.
Former local government officer Kenny has found more time to enjoy his hobby since his retirement eight years ago and he has recorded many towns in Co. Donegal and in Northern Ireland during the last few years. His photos for the project also include pictures of Laghey, Teelin, Ballintra, Murvagh and Mullinasole
"The project was carried out on foot, using a Olympus bridge camera, spare batteries, a gps and note pad - and I just worked through from one end to the other," Kenny said.
"It is a snapshot in time and it will be interesting to see it in future years. I'm looking out for plaques on walls, standing stones, etc. Shops change hands and buildings deteriorate during time.
Towns are fairly resilient, and some of the villages are slow to recover, but what I admire about some of the Donegal towns is that old buildings can be treated to look like they are occupied," he said.
"I haven't any particular connections with Donegal Town," he added, "but it is one of several interesting places. Most medium places can be captured in a day, some require re-visits to pick up anything that was missed. I like to get into conversations with locals and you can learn a lot from them. Sometimes it is the other way round, and you can tell them something they weren't aware of."
A number of other contributors to the project have provided also photos of Donegal Town and rural areas, among them local artist Louise Price whose pictures include Inver, Mountcharles, Kilcar, Ardara and Glenties with particular focus on old buildings and scenes showing the landscape at its best.
"I have a special interest in old buildings and really this is how my involvement began, after driving past a lovely old house that got suddenly tossed, and I'd wished I'd documented it at least as there's no way of stopping these demolitions. For example the old mill at Inver (Drumduff Mill), an important part of our industrial heritage, is about to be wiped out - apparently we need a wider road," said Louise.
"The Geograph site is such a worthwhile archive. It's a fantastic resource for schools and tourism, and I get emails from all over the world, descendants of those who have emigrated & recognise the townland of their origin."