Tag Archives: Brendan Ó Sé

May 20, Cork versus Clare

What do Irish soccer captains, carpenters turned bus drivers, young lads on the lash, and kids refusing to support the county they were born in have in common? The love of hurling.

With grey clouds hovering over the newly-renovated Pairc Uí Chaoimh the newly revamped Munster championship got underway yesterday with Cork hoping to take their first steps towards regaining their Munster crown and the hurlers of Clare looking to build momentum towards winning their first Munster championship since last winning it in 1998.

Cork and Clare in the pre-match parade

With the teams level for the ninth time and heading into eleven minutes of added time due to the injury Cork’s Robbie O’ Flynn picked up, Cork pulled away  thanks to Seamus Harnedy’s goal. The match was a real tit-for-tat affair and could have gone either way, before ending 2-23 to 1-21 in Cork’s favour. Clare will rue the chances they missed, but should benefit from the game and head into their clash with Waterford next week in better shape.

As you will know from following my blog here on hurling posts, I am first and foremost a Cork supporter. In no way, do I try to hide that. My dream scenario every year is Cork winning. Full stop! Sadly, it does not happen. Yesterday, was special for me. It was the first game of my project where Cork would be playing. I hopped on my bike at about 12:45 and made my way down the Pairc.

The minor match had a 2 p.m throw-in and when I arrived at the stadium there was a good crowd milling around. One of the first people I met was David Meyler, son of Cork’s manager John, and captain of the Irish soccer team. He was there with his buddy Peter Kelleher and good enough to stop for a photo and a quick chat. What does hurling mean to you? I asked him. I’ll tell you that at about 6 o’clock, he told me. 

Peter Kelleher and David Meyler

“Going on the piss together before the game.” “The banter!” “Winning!” These were some of the responses these five Clare characters gave me when I asked them what they enjoyed about going to hurling matches together. “Win or lose, we have the craic.”  These guys were in great form and reminded me of my younger days when I used to enjoy a pint or two (many) before (during and after) games with my own friends. Happy days!

Michael Curry, Cillian Gregan, Austin and his brother Evan McMahon and Eibhear Quilligan

What about in school; do your classmates try to wind you up about following Clare? I asked young Lewis O’ Gorman. A young man born in Cork, but who refuses to follow the county of his birth. “I don’t care, he said, making his father James proud. I’ll always follow Clare.”  Lewis plays hurling for St. Finbarr’s in Cork, but dreams of togging out for the Clare hurlers. I was really impressed by this young man.

Lewis and James O’ Gorman

“Oh, they try, believe me they try, but I keep them in line.” Gerry Costello, the bus driver for the Clare hurlers, a Limerick man, told me the lads try to wind up about being from Limerick but he gives as good as he gets. “Ah, they’re good lads, really, he said. They’re never any bother.” Gerry, a carpenter by trade, has been driving the bus for the Clare hurlers for 6 years. The highlight? “Ah, sure it has to be 2013.”  I heard a lot about 2013 yesterday. 

Gerry Costello. Bus driver to the Clare hurlers

“The excitement, I love it. There’s no other sport that has it.” Joe Casey, from Crosshaven in Cork, a steward for years loves hurling. “Where else would you get it?”

Joe Casey

I cycled from home to the Pairc yesterday. Took me about 30 minutes. Denis Joseph McClean flew in from Birmingham, England for the game the day before. He has been doing it for years. “I never miss them. Not once since 1966.”  he told me. Myself and my two brothers go to all the games together. Sadly, his two brothers, Chris and Noel, were unable to make the match, but Denis will continue to come for as long as he can. “My best memory of the Cork hurlers was seeing Joe Deane score the winning free in the 1999 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny.” The day it was lashing.” I said. “Ah, we don’t remember the rain at all,” Denis said. 

Denis Joseph McClean

Brothers Paddy and Donal Brassil get together for Clare games. Paddy lives in Carlingford in the north of Ireland and Donal in Blackrock in Cork. Paddy, the elder brother, told me the best goal he ever saw was Paddy Kenny for Tipperary against Cork in the 1952 Munster final. Donal listened patiently as he recounted the tale and with a glint in his eye and a broad grin he told me: Me, I don’t have a favourite goal. I have three of them! he said. As a Corkman, he didn’t have to say anymore. I stood in the Hill in 2013 as Shane O’ Donnell, in the game of his life, scored 3 goals in 18 minutes against Cork. If I were a Clareman, I think they’d be my favourite 3 also.

Paddy and Donal Brassil

In the end Cork came good and saw off the challenge of Clare. Tipp, who lost to Limerick, are up next for Cork in Thurles next Sunday in one of hurling’s greatest rivalry. Clare host Waterford in Ennis. In Leinster, Dublin fell short at the end again, conceding late points, giving Wexford their first win. Kilkenny beat Offaly as expected, but Kevin Martin’s men did put up a good fight before Kilkenny pulled away towards the end.

So far, this year’s championship has produced some cracking games and we are only two weeks in. A long way to go to the final on the third Sunday in August. Exciting to think of all that lays ahead.

Seamus Harnedy lining up for a pop at a point

 

#totheheartofhurling

 

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Down the Pairc

When Seán Óg Ó hAilpín gave that great victory speech in 2005 after Cork had won the Liam McCarthy for the second year in succession, little did Cork fans believe that it would be the start of the second longest period in Cork’s hurling history without winning the All-Ireland (1903 to 1919 was the longest). In 2013, Cork came within seconds of bringing the cup back to Leeside, only for Clare’s corner back, Domhnall O’Donovan, a hurler who had up to then never scored in the championship, to hit the equaliser and bring the game to a replay where Clare would win deservedly and distance Cork further from the dream of a 31st All-Ireland crown. This Sunday, we can allow ourselves to dream again as the Cork hurlers welcome Clare, down the Pairc, to Pairc uí Chaoimh for the first Munster championship match in this year’s new format and Cork’s first championship game in the newly-refurbished stadium.

Cork glory days

I fell asleep as a child in the hurling fields of the Mardyke, Thurles and Croke Park. My father would stand at the foot of my bed and bring to life the high drama of hurling. He was my very own Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and my bedroom became my very own stadium. I would lie, head perched on my plumped up pillow, enthralled as he recounted the great games he had been to. Battling sleep, as the stories went on, I would try keep myself awake long enough to learn if the swing of Christy Ring’s hurley could suddenly turn a game where the blood and bandage of Cork seemed certain for defeat,  into a magnificent victory.

It was not only glorious Cork victories in those bedroom stories, though. No, I learned young that giving your heart to your county also meant enduring heartbreaking defeats, referees robbing us, crossbars denying us. Sport can be cruel, my father knew that only too well from following the Cork hurlers (and more so the footballers) through the years. I guess in telling me stories of Cork’s losses, he prepared me for it too. But who dreams of losing?

It was with dreams of glory I used to go to the matches with him. The first time I went to Pairc uí Chaoimh (the Pairc as we all call it in Cork) was for the official opening in 1976. I was 7 years old. All the family went. We got seats high up in the stand and I remember being confused as to how it was called the stand when we were all sitting. Cork invited the then All-Ireland champions Kerry and Kilkenny, and bringing delight, and much hope for the championships, to all our family Cork won both matches. I recall how dark it was where we were sitting high up in the stand, but the beautiful blood red of the Cork jerseys against greyness of the day shone for me. The black and amber of the Kilkenny jerseys and the Kerry green and gold were decidedly unappealing. Even at that tender age I knew that any team worth supporting had to be in red; not all red, mind you. Red and white.

The next time I went to see Cork play, again down the Pairc, was against Kerry in the Munster Football Final of 1976. Kerry were All-Ireland champions and had what would go on to be the greatest gaelic football team of all time. The match attracted supporters in their thousands from both counties. My father had made a little wooden seat for me to sit on between his legs in the stand. We sat near pitchside in the covered stand near the Blackrock end terrace and I remember the swell of the late crowd causing the stewards to open the gate on to the pitch to leave the public in. It scared me to see so many people rushing on to the pitch. I remember my father laughing and telling me it was OK, that we were there to see a football match and there was nothing to worry about.

Nothing to worry about except for those Kerry footballers. That match ended in a draw and a week later we were back down the park for the replay. A replay where a referee robbed Cork of a Munster football victory; that and a Kerryman,  Jimmy Deenihan who seemed to love the Cork jersey so much that he tried all he could to get it off Jimmy Barry Murphy every time Jimmy got near the ball.  It would be another 9 years before Cork would win a Munster Final. In that time, Kerry would dominate gaelic football and break my heart over and over again.

“There’s always the hurlers.” my dad would say in consolation as we streamed out of the Pairc after another loss to Kerry.

And in those days there always was. A few weeks later we were back down the Pairc to see the glorious Cork hurlers light up the stadium with a magnificent win over Limerick. The roars meeting each Cork goal (they got 3) shook me to my core, and I left there dreaming of players like Ray Cummins and Jimmy Barry-Murphy. That team would go on to win 3-in-a-row All-Irelands. Those days for a young boy from Cork  it wasn’t so much of a dream for his county to win the All-Ireland. It seemed easy. I recall in 2013 when Domhnall O’Donovan spilt the posts for Clare and the referee blew up the match on Nash’s puckout, that the dream was so, so close and yet so distant all in one instant.

But that is long gone too. We are all back down the Pairc on Sunday and Cork and Clare fans will allow themselves to dream again.

Bring it on!

 

Follow my hurling photography project on Instagram. #totheheartofhurling

 

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May 12, OFFALY VERSUS GALWAY

Tullamore was a town I had not been to before. I arrived there about an hour before throw in and made my way towards the pubs where the fans were hanging out. The first guy I met was Denis Duggan. Denis told me the first GAA match he ever went to was the football final of 1982 between a Kerry side gunning for a record five-in-a-row and an Offaly side hoping to avoid back-to-back final losses. As first matches go, I said, there cannot be betters ones that. 100%, he said. It was magic! When defeat looked certain for Offaly, up popped Seamus Darby to break Kerry hearts. I’ve liived off that moment whole life, he said. And we beat ye in 2000, he said, reminding me of 2000 when Offaly beat another reigning champions: the Cork team of 1999, and then to add salt to the wounds he would not stop laughing. What’s so funny, I asked. It’s your accent. I think it’s hilarious. They say you always remember your first, and for me, Denis was a gas man, and just look at that smile.

Denis Duggan

The great thing about Tullamore is that the Bord na Mona stadium is in the heart of the town and a short distance from the pubs where the fans congregate before the game. Walking up from the main street I met with more fans. John Daly and son Stephen who were excited to see the start of another championship year and told me they were hoping to see Galway in Croke Park together again. Did you see them do it together there last year,  I asked. We did and with the help of God, it won’t be another 28 years before we see it again. 

John and Stephen Daly

Hanging around the bridge as the crowds began to stream into the stadium, I stopped and got chatting to a few Offaly fans on their way to see their hurlers entertain Galway. No, I don’t go to all the games, Padraig Mahon told me, but tonight I have to come out and support the lads. 

Padraig Mahon

Making my way over the Grand Canal bridge I was stopped by a member of the local GAA club. There was a raffle for a heifer in their prize draw. What would I do with a heifer, I told them when they approached me. You could take the cash prize instead, they said. But that’s a fine looking heifer, I said.

A Pedigree Limousin Heifer

Just before I could put pen to paper and to get my chance to win the heifer, one of the Faithful County’s most famous supporters caught my eye: the former Taoiseach, Brian Cowan. Not wanting to miss out on the chance of my first celebrity portrait for the project I asked him if I could take his photo. I asked him who he was going to the match with and he said Tony. Get Tony in for the shot, I said. Do you always go together to the games? We always do, the former taoiseach told me.

Ex-Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Tony his friend

Tom Kilgarriff’s son Paul was born in 1988 when Galway were reigning champions. He would be 28 years old before they would become champions again in September last year. Did you go together, I asked. We did and it was special. Really special after all these years. I asked Paul did it mean more because you got to share it with your dad? Oh, yeah of course, he said.

Tom and Paul Kilgarriff

I got into the stadium just after throw-in. Galway eventually made light work of it, but Offaly were still in contention at half-time. I spent most of the match looking for photo opportunities. One of the beautiful things about sport is that we want to share the passion we have for it; to pass it on to our children, to keep it alive. This is so evidently beautiful when you meet people like Joe Clancy. Joe brought his little boy JJ to his first championship match. No, he told me, it’s not his first game. He’s been to two league games already. Why is it important to bring him, I asked. Well, he said, it was 28 years. It could be another 28 years before he sees them as champions again. Joe told me the first match he was at was in 1985. An All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Cork and Galway. A match Galway won to defeat the then All-Ireland champions Cork. I could begin to see a pattern emerging in the stories people were telling me. I had better start telling some of my own.

Joe and baby JJ Clancy

At half-time Galway led by ))))))). The crowd spilled out of the stand and out to tunnel below to use the toilets, calm the nerves with a cigarette, or if you are Martin Lawlor and Tom Errity it was time to for a few pucks of the sliotar while the teams had their break. Both Martin and Tom are in the Offaly development hurling squad. Do ye dream of playing for your country?, I asked. Of course, Martin told me. Why? It’s the pinnacle of everything, he said.

Tom Lawlor and Martin Errity

The second half started and with that Galway went through the gears and began to pull away from Kevin Martin’s men. Still the crowd enjoyed the spectacle. After wandering around the stand I came near the sideline and decided to take a rest and take in the remainder of the game. Galway were on the attack and narrowly missed a scoring chance which was met with loud exclamation of disappointment from the elderly lady sitting next to me. Surprised at her intensity, but at the same time intrigued, I introduced myself and told her about my project. What followed was gold.

I’ll tell you, she said, last September, who were in the final? Galway were, yes. And I was due to fly to New York to meet my brother on that Sunday, but did I go? No! No, I cancelled it. I was not going to miss the final. Did you go to Croke Park? I asked. No, I didn’t. I watched it here in Tullamore. And they won. And you cancelled your flight to  your brother in New York for it? I did and I would do it again.

This information took a while for delivery, as it was punctuated with Mary giving her Galway team encouragement and appraisal to every puck of the ball. Mary told me she was originally from Athenry, but had come to Tullamore many years ago, but had never lost her love for her home county. When the final whistle sounded, she let a little yahoo out of her and with a big smile and fist raised, she said goodbye to me. 

Mary Horan

With the evening slowly beginning to darken the match ended. Galway had eased past Offaly and secured their first two points of the new format championship. As is customary, the fans, mainly kids,  ran on to the pitch at the end to greet their heroes. I followed. I found the star attraction, Joe Canning, in the centre of a huddle signing autographs on sliotars and shirts and hurleys and posing for photos with young fans. Soaked in sweat he stood there for ages without a hint of impatience as the light faded and the wind picked up. I imagine Joe did the same thing himself as a kid. I was tempted to ask for his autograph too, but settled on shaking his hand and telling him I was delighted he won his medal last year. He thanked me and nodded in appreciation.

The great Joe Canning

I left the stadium with a warm glow after the first match of my own journey to Croke Park. I had been a little apprehensive about how this first weekend of my to the heart of hurling photography project would go; would I be able to get good shots, talk to strangers and get their stories? To be honest,  there’s not a lot to it. I love talking hurling and I love photography. Put the two together and I am in my element.

Come back tomorrow for my blog on the dramatic Dublin and Kilkenny match.

Follow this project on Instagram.

 

 

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TO THE HEART OF HURLING: A photographic journey discovering what hurling means to us

TO THE HEART OF HURLING

A photographic journey discovering what hurling means to us

It’s that time of year again. The All-Ireland hurling championship begins in Tullamore this Saturday, as Offaly and Galway face up. It is time again to allow yourself dream. To dream that this year is going to be the year that sees that Liam McCarthy trophy come home. The year that your beloved hurlers will conquer all-comers and emerge triumphant in August.

To the heart of hurling

This year I am dreaming it a little differently. Sure, with all my heart I want to see Cork win it outright, but I also have this passion project of mine. Two of my biggest loves in life are hurling and photography. Over the years, I have always brought my camera along to matches with me, capturing the craic with the lads and family, as well as scenes of the games.

This year I want to do something special. I have been to big sporting events around the world and while they are spectacles to behold and have great atmosphere, they lack a certain something that the GAA has.

What is it? It’s what our games give us: an identity, a uniqueness, something which is ours and ours to be proud of. It is what we do, what we do together. It brings us together, building bonds, giving us memories that live on and ones we live off as we continue to hope and dream that this will be our year. Hurling is alive in us, in our hearts and  I want to get to heart of it with my camera.

I am very happy to announce that Bord Gais are sponsoring this project and very grateful to them for it.

Follow me as the this year’s hurling championship evolves on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter and on the hashtag #totheheartofhurling

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

Larry Mackey

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

To the heart of hurling

 

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Limited print sale

I am doing a once-off limited edition print of the following photographs. All prints are signed, numbered and certified. Printed professionally using the best museum quality archival papers and inks.

Shipping worldwide.

These images have not been offered before. If interested, please contact me.

Photographic Punctuation

Perpetual Endeavour

The Unbeckoned

 

The pip-pop life span of worries

My Tokyo

My Tokyo

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How to make your photography fun

How can you say you love photography if it is 99% frustration? Do you even enjoy it?

These were some of the questions put to me after my last blog post. Not questions which got me thinking or made me feel anxious about how to answer.

No, I fully know why I continue to shoot and why I truly love everything to do with photography. But, how can you make photography fun? Well…

Toyko, 2017

SEE IT AS FUN

I do it because there are few things in life which satisfy my soul like photography. When I get in the zone, when I am on the street and lost in the moment, it electrifies me. I come alive and whatever worries or problems I may be carrying lighten in load.

It is exhilarating. It is life-affirming. It is fun. And fun is something I believe is so neglected in photography. I believe fun is something which is so neglected in adult life. Ask an adult what they do for fun and you will embarrass them. The word fun seems to become loaded when we pass from childhood. Fun seems like something illicit; something we ought to be ashamed of. Ask a child what they do for fun and watch how excited they get when they tell you. If you have a hobby, you should have that childlike excitement and passion for it. If not, abandon it.

Cork, 2015

YOU ARE MAKING MEMORIES

In August of last year, I gave a talk at at Zafigo X travel conference about photography and how it is all about moments, all about creating memories. Photographs are visual entries in your diary which become powerful in their capacity to catapult you back in time.

When I open up iPhoto (I use it to categorise events) and look through old images, it can launch me back to when and where I was and land me softly in the emotion of that moment. It is magical. It becomes something beautiful when I do it with my two kids. The dynamic of they discovering how they were when they were little babies or toddlers and my reminiscing of days that are now long gone is a gift that just gives and gives.

My little daughter and her grandfather

Sumi-Anna aged two reading Voltaire

YOU CREATE, YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF

I need to create. Why? Because it puts me on a path of discovery and understanding. Photography is about picking up a camera, pointing it at something or someone because your instinct tells you you need to capture that instant; to claim it and keep it for later examination. This in turn may lead to later learning and with some luck lead to subsequent experimentation. When I look back now at what I was shooting in and around 2012/2103, I see I was much more experimental. I shot much more blur; particularly on the iPhone. Why? Because of the limitations of the device. It performed poorly in low light, had no image stabilisation and working my way through this I discovered that these limitations allowed me to create beautiful blur imagery. Funny how these days I sometimes feel I have lost that freedom to create. 

Shot on iPhone 4. 2012

Photographic Punctuation

CONFORM TO ROUTINE

Conform to routine and routine will conform. I am a very ill-disciplined person. My life’s maxim is to not do today what you can do tomorrow, because tomorrow you might not need to do it. I leave things go forever and ever, discovering new excuses to put things off with graceful ease. I have wasted so much time. Photography changed things for me. Flickr found me wanting to share my photography on a regular basis. This meant I had to photograph on a regular basis. I began on Flickr in 2007. By 2009 I was posting photographs there on an almost daily basis. By 2012, I was posting to two accounts almost every day.

I committed to photography. I conformed to the routine and the routine conformed. This calms and soothes my soul. It gives me discipline. There is not a day goes by that I do not spend time taking/making photographs, looking at those of others, reading about photography, or hatching plans for my photography. It has been the most beautiful learning experience and has been so rewarding for me. I can say I have become a better person because of photography, because of the commitment to it. 

Tokyo, 2015

IT IS THE FRIENDSHIPS YOU MAKE

Want to become a better photographer? Here’s how. Spend time with other photographers. You have to. You need to spend time with like-minded people who get you. People who won’t find it strange or rude that you have the concentration powers of a puppy dog when you are walking down a street with them. Spend time with people who inspire you, people who push you to experiment, push you to achieve. People you can learn from. When I look back at the past few years, I see I have been so lucky in this respect. I have met some wonderfully creative people; wonderfully kind people. People whose work can stop me in my tracks and make me want to improve; to get to their level. And those few you might meet along the way who are insecure, jealous and negative. Cut them loose. There is truth in the saying to surround yourself with positive people. 

Copenhagen, 2014

IT IS THE STRANGERS YOU GET TO KNOW

But they are all just photographs of strangers. People you do not know. What is it about random people that interests you? This is what a friend asked me once about my photography. Ya, I don’t know them, but there is something in every one of them that I recognise. Something that resonates with me. I may not be able to immediately (or ever) say what exactly it is, but I photograph them because something attracts my attention to them. It can be a look, a gesture, a posture. It can be because they looked at me. It can be because I want to look at them. They are characters in my story. I can construct or deconstruct their reality to suit my perception; to build my interpretation. 

Waiting for hair to grow. Hanoi, 2012

And then there are those strangers who I get to know a little. Those who I stop and ask if I can take their photograph. Those who I continue to ask questions as I shoot them. Those who I tell little things about myself as I try to get them to reveal who they are. I love these connections. This opportunity to get to know people a little. It can be amazing what they tell you, and it can be beautiful what their portraits can reveal. 

We all want to be seen; we all want to be heard. Photography can allow this.  

Bangkok, 2017

IT GIVES VALIDATION TO WHAT YOU DO

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a buzz from winning competitions or being selected for big global ad campaigns. The first time I won a competition (Mira Mobile Prize) I cried. It was a dream of mine to win a competition and truthfully I never believed I would. When it came, I was overwhelmed and felt so relieved. It was a form of validation. Any artistic pursuit is framed in doubt. We can never be sure if it is right; if it is worth anything. Competitions provide some validation. But you know, it is bullshit too. Photography should not be a competitive pursuit.

Winning photo: IPPA 2017

IT IS ALL ABOUT LEARNING

What is life about if it is not about learning? It never stops. There is nothing which enriches life more than learning. Granted I could spend my time learning more about the technical aspect of photography or learning about photography gear, but that does not excite me. What does excite me is that with every photograph I take, I learn. Learn about myself, learn about life. See mistakes and ya, get frustrated. But that frustration is positive. It is what drives me to learn and improve. 

London, 2015

STORIES; SO MANY STORIES

So many. Stories that are immediately evident and others that slowly reveal themselves. 

Delhi, 2016 (Nikon D7000)

IT DRIVES YOU ON

I have often talked about how viewing the photographs of my friends has inspired me and pushed me forward in wanting to improve in my own photography. It is so true. Seeing friends posts photos on a regular basis keeps me wanting to do the same. Seeing them shoot something new excites me to get back out and get shooting. I try to spend some time each week looking through photo books of established, renowned photographers. This is a different type of inspiration because these are not photographers I get to engage with. Their work is polished and presented as the finished article. Yet, there is so much to learn as you explore the connections in the photographs they showcase in a coherent and cohesive presentation in book form. 

Mumbai, 2016

YOU DISCOVER HOW TO SEE

What is photography about for me? It is trying to see what can be seen and how to see it.

As Dorothea Lange said: The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. On every photo walk I have been on, one thing always strikes me. While we all walk the same route and can see the same things, how we observe and interpret them can be so different. It is what makes photography exciting, it is what gives it endless possibilities. When you are working with fractions of seconds when the shutter opens and closes, you are also working with slight shifts in centimetres, angles and aspects which can dramatically alter images.

Photography doesn’t allow me to see, it pushes me to see; to construct, deconstruct and create. It elevates beyond seeing. It allows me to begin to understand. To be part of my surroundings and to be an external observer of it too. 

Tokyo, 2017

So is it really 99% frustration?

Of course it is not. It can feel like that at times, for sure. But it definitely isn’t. It is what I do for fun. And whenever I experience that ongoing frustration, I keep coming back to why I photograph. And the answer is always the same. I do it for fun. I do it for me. 

Bali, 2017

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Why do you need a second Instagram account

That’s a question I am asked a lot: Why do I need a second Instagram account?

Truth be told I don’t need one and I probably would be better off just focussing on building my main account. Addition is dilution, as they say. That is true. So, why do it then? Well, I shoot a lot of photos. So much gets my visual interest and over time I build up a lot of photographs which lead a lonely existence in the depths of my camera roll. Back in May of 2016 I decided to create another Instagram account and just post photos there that did not feature people. My thinking was that my main account is primarily for street photography shots with the human element. The second account would let me showcase images that just might not ever see the light of day otherwise. I hate rules, but I do apply just one rule to this account: no people.

So, arriving to January, 1st, 2018, I have decided to look back and choose 12 favourites from that stream. An algorithm chose my best nine, but honestly what the f*** does an algorithm know about photography? A bloody lot judging by the success of platforms like Instagram!

Anyway, here goes in selecting 12 photos from my second Instagram account. I am not going to do this like I did when selecting my fave 12 from the main Instagram account – when I chose one photo from each month. This time, I am going to make it easy for myself and just choose 12. (a little side note – I am trying to get this done in the next hour or so – otherwise it will not get done – actually took me over 90 mins)

I hit the streets of Hong Kong wanting to capture street life and character. I had my camera ready for action. My head was on a swivel seeking out that scene. Then I stopped. Perched myself against a yellow facade and shot the passing traffic.

Hong Kong

Korea

When we are in Korea, one of the things we enjoy most is walking to the river near my wife’s parents’ house. The kids love to play in the water. It is a short walk; takes about 5 minutes or so. Over the years I have shot so many photographs and videos of them playing in the water and also so many shots of things I see en route. This one here is an example of the things you can see on the way. I look at it, the kids look at it, they look at me, they look at one another, and then they run on. The river is waiting.

People love it when I tell them that these are coffee pods. I found these in Brown Thomas in Cork when I was in there with my wife one day. I had to ask the store assistant to step out of the way to let me get the shot. When I showed her the shot she said: “Wow, I see that every day, but I have never seen it like this. That’s fabulous.” That made my day.Cork

Tokyo

Tokyo sees a lot of rain. Hit that up with neon and you get some beautiful reflections. This shot was shot using portrait mode to defocus and accentuate the colours. I edited in RNI Films (if you haven’t got that app, you are missing out. Go get it!)

Bangkok is hectic. An assault on the senses. I love the place. So much going on and the people are just the most photo-friendly you can meet. It can be hard to get a shot that gives the sense of activity without having people visible in it. I think this goes towards it.

Bangkok

Korea

I think the reason I like to shoot abstract images when I am out photographing is because there is control in this. It is not like street photography where, as the saying goes, if you see it, it is too late. There is a comfort in finding scenes which are to a degree permanent, ones you can take time with. Ones you can even manipulate. This shot is from Daegu, South Korea. I was wandering around the city frustrated that killer moments were not happening for me. They rarely do. One way to deal with this to seek out photographic constructions. This scene, while appearing calm, screamed at me.

I was asked once in an interview if I ever had a lightbulb moment and it annoyed me. Annoyed me because to begin with I could not recall any and then annoyed even more when I realised how unfortunate that is. A light bulb moment is by nature an abrupt clout of clarity which shakes you from your trodden and dour path. Why didn’t I ever have one? I want one now, I thought. But you can’t will these no matter how you try. But you know now that I am in the process of reviewing my images and wondering what I saw when I took a shot, I begin to think about a moment when an ex-girlfriend of mine spoke to me about seeing colour. I was about 20 years old and I was bored listening to her. She knew this. But she also knew I was not seeing colour. No, she said, you don’t, you don’t see colour, you see colours, but you don’t see colour. This confused me, but by now I was listening to her; no longer bored. Colours, colour, what’s the difference? She continued to tell me, but what she was saying continued to confuse me until I began to try to see it for myself. And then I did, I began to see colour like I had not before.  No matter how I try to explain this I can’t. I am not going to even try. Perhaps the easiest way to achieve this is just by trying to see colour. It is the same with shapes and lines and layers and distortions. They are all there. You just need to train your eye to see them. This photo below is an example of this.

Cork

This photo I love because it is simple and was such an easy shot to get. I like it because when I look at it, I leave it and I am back in Bali. The sky is clear of clouds and the sea is pristine.

Bali

Copenhagen

One of the hardest things I find in photography is to immerse yourself in the scene and to become part of what you are seeing. To allow the viewer feel what you might have been feeling. So often I fail in this. This image here is of a staircase as seen from above. Using a zoom burst I wanted to give the sense of vertigo I was feeling looking over it. I have a dreadful fear of heights.

Vietnam

I obsessed with the future. I struggle so much with optimism. It is like I am on a trampoline. Each time I am vaulted skyward I panic. Enveloping pessimism consumes me. I fear there is nothing under me to cushion my fall. Yet, each time I hit that trampoline optimism is injected and I believe again. What does this have to do with photography? Leading lines, vanishing points, all leading to the future. I stop to examine and caution floods in. But it excites me too. Commit to the future…

Cork

Cork

Trees. They need to cheer the fuck up, you know. Every photographer goes through a phase of shooting trees. They are easy. Stuck there in the ground, unable to make you question the reason why you are photographing them. Snap, snap, snap, they can do nothing. No response. Nothing. Move on to the next tree.

I teach my students how to write. One of the pieces of advice I give them is: Let your ideas control your writing; not your writing controlling your ideas. What does this mean? Well, this blog piece is an example of my writing controlling my ideas. Before I began this piece I had no idea what images I would choose, not to mind what order I might present them in. I even began by telling you that this second account is for photos with no people in them, and now here I am getting to the end of the piece and putting in a photograph with myself in it. I can offer excuses, but they would be pathetic ones like telling you this is my blog and I make the rules. Then, to compound things, I realise this shot is the one I should have used when I was talking about lightbulb moments. Too late. I just could not be arsed going back and reorganising. It’s done!

Anyway, I am choosing this as my last favourite of 2017 from my second Instagram account. Why? Because all my photographs are all about me. I may not be in them, but if you look you will find me. In all of them. Every single one. Even this one.

Not the lightbulb moment shot

Kiss the future….
Posted in Best of year, iPhone, iPhone photography, My own favourite photographs, photograph posts, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Favourite 2017 Shot on iPhone Photographs

OK – I have tried to start this so many times in the recent weeks and each time I tell myself I will get it done tomorrow, knowing full well that I will wait until the last moment and then rush it through. But hey – once I get it done, ya?

Choosing my 12 favourite photos was so easy before. All I needed to do was head over to Flickr and see what photos I posted in each month of the year and from that choose a favourite shot. Not so anymore. This year I posted virtually nothing to Flickr until September, so for the first time ever this end-of-year-review is being done via Instagram. Here are my Instagram stats for the year: I posted 272 photos to my main account and 186 photos to my second account (the one I keep for shots without people in them). That is a lot of images, but then I travelled and shot a lot in 2017.

I could do the easy thing and allow an algorithm decide what my best 9 photos were, but you know, they weren’t. You can see them if you wish here and here. I prefer to spend some time with the images, recall where I was, what I was doing and how it felt. That is why we create images, no? To make memories. So here are my 12 favourite shot on iPhone photographs posted to my main Instagram account in 2017.

So, January took me to Iceland for the first time. Stumbled across this artist’s house on the seafront. The sun was setting and it was freezing.

Reykjavik (Shot on iPhone 7 Plus)

February and I was on my way to Cyprus to open the exhibition for the Mobile Photography Awards in Limassol. I guess it was here that I began to change my approach to street photography. Not sure why or how, but I began to engage more with people on the street as I shot their portraits. Much like candid photography, people’s first reaction when you ask can you take their photo is one of curiosity. What is it that I can see about them that makes me want to photograph them? Self-consciousness smothers that initial curiosity and the task then is to engage with them to get them to relax. I tend to tell people about myself, revealing myself a little, as I shoot. I ask them questions. I am polite and respectful. I shoot a lot in these moments.

This guy here had no English. I smiled a lot. He stared at me. He smiled when I showed him the photo.

February: Limassol (shot on iPhone)

March was a month at home and not a lot of shooting, bar the Holi Festival in my university, so I was posting shots from previous trips. This one of a bus driver in Seoul I love. I remember knowing that I would stop to shoot it when I was waiting for the green man to appear. I just love shooting into glass and the layered distortion the reflections create.

March: Seoul

April was a full on month for me. I was in Korea and Japan with work and then home for a few days before heading back out to Thailand for the most amazing experience of Monogram Asia’s first 8 x 8 Street Photography Conference. Another highlight of April was the being out on the streets of Cork for the 24-Hour Project with great people. Choosing an image I shot in the month of April is damn hard, but it is not so hard to choose one I posted in that month. Photography is all about memories and connections. My favourite for April is this one shot on the 24-hour Project in late night Cork. May not be my best photo in April, but it is the one which makes me think of the absolute craic I had with Tim, Dee, Judie and Jonathon. 

April: Cork. 24-hour project

And on to May and really there can only be one shot for May. I have written quite a bit about how I began to shoot more asked-for-portraits and how much I began to enjoy it. This one was shot in Bangkok on a very hot morning on a photo walk with Sheldon Serkin and Renzo Grande. Here’s the thing. Once I got the shot I knew it was a good one, but I did not know whether it was better in the original colour or to convert it to black and white. Shel and Renzo thought it was a no-brainer – black and white all the way. I still have a thing for it in colour. What do you think?

May: Bangkok

June: In April in Seoul I stayed in Myeondong. It is probably the busiest shopping district in Seoul and with that comes much activity; perfect for street shooting. My maxim about photography is: Trying to see what can be seen and how to see it. This shot is an example of this. The bright neon lights, the taxis, the taxi drivers. Bringing them all into one frame was not easy. Shooting it on an iPhone at night even more difficult, but I love the result.

June: Seoul

July brought me to back on my travels, back to Hong Kong and then on to Korea again. I shot a lot in this time, but did not post in July. I did share this photo on Instagram though – a photo from Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. A photo which is part of my Rehearsing for a date series of images of people alone in locations where you might commonly find dating couples.

July: Tokyo

August and I am on the beach in Busan stopping people asking if I can take their photo (and they not getting upset that I did not ask if I could make their portrait). Honestly, this is something I felt I would never have been comfortable doing, but now I cannot imagine not doing it. There is something so wonderful about it. I made some really great connections this year shooting portraits. This guy was great fun. He took delight in telling me he knew Conor Mcgregor when I told him I was Irish. Honestly? Conor McGregor?

August: Busan

In Bali, I had Bali’s best motorcyclist as my guide, but I sadly proved to be Bali’s worst motorcycle passenger in this time. I loved Bali. Big thanks to my buddy Gathoe for showing me around Bali on his bike and for bringing me to the kite festival on that first day I was there. I skipped off the beaten bath a little to find these kids playing football.

September: Bali

I tend not to post photos of my kids. This is just a personal thing for me. Probably am too protective of their privacy. But this is one of my little boy that I love. No great timing here to get the decisive moment; no just finger kept on the shutter to shoot in burst mode and then to later select that decisive moment. My little HCB shot.

October: James

November is a bit hard for me. I am torn between this, this and this, but have decided to choose this one in the end. The edited image is a little distant from the original, but I knew that in taking it I would be able to go on many creative routes with the photo.

November: Seoul

And this brings us to the end of a year of shot on iPhone photographs. Life is difficult when there is choice and truly I could have gone in so many different directions with these selections. In the end I opted for all colour, could just have easily gone all black and white as I love many of the photos I shot in black and white this year, particularly when shooting with Provoke.

So, here is it – the final image to make up my 12 favourite shot on iPhone photographs from 2017. A photograph shot in Dublin, and one which is part of my This gap between us will be filled with love or loss series.

December: Dublin

Thanks to all for your kind support throughout 2017.

Here’s to 2018 and the unexpected, the unimagined it will bring.

 

Posted in A Flickr Year, Best of year, iPhone, iPhone photography, James, Summer 2017, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

HOW TO SUCCEED IN SMARTPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITIONS

With the upcoming Mobile Photography Awards competition taking place I was  asked by Tommy Wallace to do an interview with him about smartphone photography competitions. Below is a copy of this interview.

Brendan, I want to thank you for this opportunity. Will you briefly describe your involvement in mobile photography contests?

I’ve been a judge on a number of them now over the past few years. It is great to be on the other side of things after being an entrant before. I guess having been fortunate enough to have won in the major mobile photography competitions (MPAs, iPhone Photography Awards and Mira Mobile Prize), the organisers invited me to judge in these competitions. It’s been a great experience, and also one that comes with responsibility to ensure the best images get the recognition they deserve.

Would there be any advantage to try to guess what a certain juror is looking for and submit photos according to his/her tastes?

From my own experience I know how hard it is to put together a series of images to enter a competition. The selecting is easy. The hard part is deselecting. The thing about the MPAs is that Dan Berman (founder) assigns categories randomly to judges. So, it is very unlikely that I would get the Street Photography category. Also, speaking personally, but I am sure it is the same for most judges, I would be hesitant to select an image which people might feel was very similar to my own style of photography unless it was a stellar shot that could not be ignored.

I probably will repeat myself in this interview, but I really believe you’ve got to go with your instinct on these things and not be guided by what you think judges might like. I know I have entered competitions thinking a particular judge likes a particular style, and entering accordingly. It never works out.

How important is the storytelling aspect of submitted photos in contests?

Photos are springboards for stories. Strong images will connect in a way that the viewer can enter the image and allow his or her imagination to build on what is presented.

How does composition figure into selecting a photo for submission?

Hugely. A technically perfect photograph cannot compensate for a poor composition, but conversely a dynamic and engaging composition can overcome technical flaws. For me, photography is always about composition, story and the moment.

How daring should a photographer be when it comes to originality? Should all caution be thrown to the wind or is it good to exercise discipline according to the “rules” of photography?

I am not really one for rules. Rules can stymie creativity. Again it comes back to trusting yourself. If you are an experimental photographer and entering the MPAs, there are categories there just for you like Digital Art/Photo Illustration, Visual Effects and The Darkness. I think it is a good idea to check the winning shots in the different categories from previous years to get an idea of the types of images that can fit.

What do you find are the most common mistakes people make when entering smartphone photography competitions?

Well, the biggest mistake, one which surprisingly does happen, is to enter an image that is not shot and edited on a smartphone.

Others would be when you have three killer shots of the same person or the same location, but all in essence just variations of the same, don’t enter the three. You are diluting your chances, all three will not be selected.

Take some time to check previous winning shots in the different categories to see if your shot is a match in type. Often entrants will post photos that just do not fit the category. In saying that I must commend Dan for ensuring high-quality images entered in the wrong category do not get looked over.

Do you believe it is helpful to get second opinions about what to enter?

Definitely, but ultimately you’ve got to trust yourself.

So let’s say I go to someone for confirmation of my photo selection. Who would you recommend I seek out?

I have a couple of people who I would trust. My wife is probably the best judge. A simple nod or shake of the head does it for me with her. I would say to reach out to a photographer friend who will be honest with you, but ultimately go with your guts and enter what you feel are your best shots.

Brendan, you’ve been extremely helpful. To finish up, if there is one most important tip you could give someone entering a smartphone photography contest, what would it be?

Prepare for disappointment. You probably are not going to win. I know that sounds harsh, but it is the truth.

But here’s the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.

I guess what I am saying is competitions are great if you do well, but they sure do suck if you don’t. Photography should not be a competitive pursuit.

My advice to anyone entering a competition, be it photography or not, is to always get back to why you do it. You will find that the answer is because it’s fun. If it’s not then give up. Find another hobby.

Brendan, I want to thank you for giving us all a better idea of how we can remain passionate about our smartphone photography and remain focused on what is important at the same time. I know I’ve certainly learned so much from you in this interview and I’m sure many others will as well.

Thanks to Tommy for doing the interview. Hope these tips help you if you are entering a photography competition. Trust yourself! 

 

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, Interviews, iPhone, iPhone photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Busan in black and white

Busan was the first place I shot on iPhone using the Provoke app. This app is great fun to shoot with. I just kept it simple. Set and forget. I chose the HPAN filter and flash and began. The shots in this post are straight out of the camera. I am just too lazy at the moment to do the editing.

Busan (shot on iPhone)

I have seen some crazy English on t-shirts in Asia. The one below is not as risque as some. In fact, it actually is quite cool.

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Shooting in black and white in strong sunlight is brilliant. I love the high contrast results.

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Got to love the Koreans and their take on the iconic Little Mermaid that is more commonly associated with Copenhagen.

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

I wrote in my other post on Busan about heading out on the coastal walk and getting sidetracked when I came upon a group of elderly Koreans bathing in pools of water among the rocks. I sure did enjoy shooting there.

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

And the sun sets in Busan.

Busan (Shot on iPhone)

Nest stop Kuala Lumpur.

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, iPhone, iPhone photography, photograph posts, Summer 2017, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |