If ever a video stirred my soul and created a desire to travel, it is this one of Yosemite National Park. The most stunning yosemite video ever.
I don’t cover general elections, but I do take a photographer’s view of the general election!
I am not a media pundit, an election photographer, a pollster and most of all I am not a politician. But there is something about the cyclical squabble surrounding election day and its feverish build up that is compelling. The British media go daft for about 2 months every time there is a general election – Christ, they sometimes work themselves into a frenzy at a by-election. The party contenders vie for as much coverage as they can get, although quite how many different facial expressions a lensman can capture is not known. But try they do, the pap pack chasing after the ‘celebrity’ politicians, all of whom – even the women – have been taking lessons from Barack Obama’s campaign Bible. In this most ‘presidential’ of general elections, the be-shirted, sleeves rolled-up, sweaty-browed (but those underarms must be perma-sealed with deodorant) contenders take to the hustings like men (and women) possessed by some political dervish. The faux-impassioned spouting in supermarkets and factory floors I never find convincing, but what I do find convincing is that these folks sure love the limelight.
And the British media are on hand to shine the spotlight on them. In this era of Holywood style campaigns with state of the art helicopters, sleek aircraft, buses and trains hustling the party leaders from place to place, I don’t think any of them are immune from that most notable of Holywood traits – entitlement. And with the perma-lens of the broadcast and print media in your face everywhere you go, there is little chance of ever getting away from the importance of yourself (mostly to yourself), something that ironically distances the politicians from the very voters they are trying to attract. I find Cameron’s high-pitched Etonian delivery jarring; I’ll never get rid of the picture of poor Ed eating that sandwich; Nick looks like he has a pole permanently up his ass and talks likewise; Farage nearly died at his last general election outing and has seemingly convinced himself that life’s too short not to be eating and drinking at every watering hole on the campaign trail; the Green woman sounds like a foghorn; every time the Plaid Cymru woman speaks I’m taken right back to Gavin & Stacey; and wee Nicola, taking her name from a fish doesn’t help, but as a wee woman, she surely holds her own in a field of larger, if not big, hitters!
Which brings me rather depressingly to our own lot here in Northern Ireland – or the North, or the Six Counties, or Ulster, or the Sick Counties, or The Province – take your pick depending on your own political persuasion or background. As an image maker I like to innovate and look at things from new and unusual perspectives. But when it comes to the politics of the Sick Counties (yes, you guessed it!) I am at a terminal loss to find anything that might even marginally lift my spirits. Our politicians have succumbed to their British counterparts sense of entitlement as a political elite, but this is as far as they get. Anyone settling in to watch our rather pitiful ‘leaders’ debate on BBC Northern Ireland on the Tuesday evening before the general election would have been served the same cold soup that we’ve been getting since partition. Maybe its that most on the panel have seen too many general elections – signs etched on many of their ageing faces – or simply that these old heads have nothing new to say. Discussion on serious issues like same sex marriage, the deficit, abortion etc. provided on a thin veneer to mask the vicious sectarian nature of our so called politics. Even those who have donned the clothes of global statesmen – Mr McGuiness of Sinn Fein – couldn’t help being drawn into grubby shouting sessions on the past. At least one wag online had a pop in this funny adaptation of the debate.
It is probably certain that no-one takes any interest in our local gobshites, other than when the big media get their mits on some of their more recent outbursts to camera – Jim Wells for example – and then the boys and girls over the water can get to their tut-tutting at a new target other than Nigel Farage. And not even our poor First Minister can sound convincing in his ‘defence’ of the outrageous mutterings emerging from his party’s rank and file. And Tuesday evening’s event once again turned the spotlight on our eternal backwater. Thankfully only a few of us were looking in.
But away from politics, I’ll continue to point my camera and lens at you, my worthy customer, and dwell on the reality of living here in our lovely Sick Counties, away from the glare of the media and into the places and spaces that make meaning of our lives – far, far away from the world of politics.
I’ll still be at the polling station tomorrow though!
Promotional Film for Fergal Kearney Photography & Design, highlighting the range of photography and design services on offer with this fast growing company.
The video features work from the last year of the studio covering a range of events from First Holy Communion, Charity Fundraisers, Corporate Photography and Documentary Photography.
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Here’s some useful photography tips for beginners if you’re aiming to improve your photography skills. After getting to know what all those buttons on the back do, then take aim with more confidence and see your imagery improve.
If you own a digital SLR camera – the ones with interchangeable lenses – and you know your way around even the simplest photo software, set your camera to take both Jpeg and RAW images. The RAW image is the ‘master image’ and holds every single pixel of detail in your photo. This means that you can play around with it to a far greater extent, so there is less risk involved if you’re taking photos at an event or wedding. You’ll not get a second chance so make every photo count!
“Across that strand of ours the cattle graze
Up to their bellies in an early mist
And now they turn their unbewildered gaze
To where we work our way through squeaking sedge
Drowning in dew. Like a dull blade with its edge
Honed bright, Lough Beg half shines under the haze.”
The poem beautifully evokes the stillness and beauty of this place, which Seamus often said was his favourite place in the world.
Lough Beg is situated on the the lower River Bann between counties Antrim and Derry. It is dotted with many small islands, the best known being “Church Island” where it is said St Patrick spent some time and left the impression of his knees and hands on a large stone by the water’s edge, – this ‘buallan’ stone can still be seen today and is reputed to have various healing powers. A monastic settlement was founded on the island, maybe as far back as the 5th Century, by St Thaddeus who is buried there. The settlement continued until the middle of the 16th Century and the Church acted as a Parish Church until its burning in the early years of the Ulster Plantation. The feast day of St Thaddeus falls on the 7th September and the annual pilgrimage to the island in honour of the Saint still takes place on the first Sunday in September. The church spire was added by The Earl Bishop of Derry, Frederick Hervey at the end of the 18th century to improve his view from his new home at nearby Ballyscullion Park.
“The Strand,” has been designated the Lough Beg National Nature Reserve and is an Area of Special Scientific Interest (deemed so in 1965) for its diversity of plant and animal life. In 1985, the Ramsar Convention fortified the protected status of the Lough Neagh/Lough Beg wetlands by addressing some of the finer points of the area’s protection that the original 1965 document only touched on or did not discuss at all.
In summer, snipe, lapwing, and redshank settle in for the season. In the fall and spring, migratory species such as the black-tailed godwit, greenshank, knot, green sandpiper, and wood sandpiper are very common sights on Lough Beg. Being an important stop on these migrating birds’ seasonal journeys has contributed to the recognition that this lake and its environs are ecologically important. The many rare species of invertebrates and insects that live in the area also make the protection of these wetlands important. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has a management plan in place to protect and reintroduce native species to the wetland.
While many local people take the lough and its shoreline for granted, the remoteness of Lough Beg means that it has very few visitors year round, with only enthusiastic birdwatchers and watersports enthusiasts enjoying its many charms. Any ambitions to further open the area to visitors and tourists is often fraught, with many local people against any exploitation of this hidden gem. However, with the recent development of the new Seamus Heaney Centre in Bellaghy (due to open in Spring 2016), there is likely to be an increased interest in the many places and spaces of Seamus’ writing, the Strand at Lough Beg included. This may require something akin to a ‘visitor management plan’, not unlike those already in place for the wildlife.
But it is worth reacquainting yourself with the Strand and Church Island if only to pause at the wall and look out across the expanse of wetland to the island and the shimmering lake behind it – and maybe Seamus Heaney’s famous words will accompany you as you go.
NOTE: Guided tours can be arranged by Fergal Kearney by emailing email@example.com or by phone on 02879 386638
Many Bellaghy natives will have enjoyed a recent event at Ballyscullion House, or marvelled at it from the shores of Lough Beg. But the house you see today remains a modest but substantial reminder that a once grander edifice stood nearby – Ballyscullion Palace.
Most of us have seen Downhill House and particularly the Mussenden Temple on the North Coast. Impressive as these ruins may be, the palace at Ballyscullion was something splendid, rumoured to have 365 windows – one for each day of the year – and modelled on the Hervey Family residence at Ickworth, Suffolk, in England.
Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol PC DD FRS (1 August 1730, Suffolk – 8 July 1803, Lazio) was an 18th-century Anglican prelate.
Elected Bishop of Cloyne in 1767 and translated to the see of Derry in 1768, Hervey served as Lord Bishop of Derry until his death in 1803.
As Edward Gibbon remarked “every great man is something of a builder” and the magnificent mansions at Downhill and Ballyscullion bear testimony that Hervey, also known as Lord Bristol, had at least one of the elements of greatness. Accordingly he became known as the Edifying Bishop or The Earl-Bishop.
Despite the palace at Ballyscullion nearing completion, the great man never had the opportunity to move in – dying on his final voyage to his beloved Italy in July 1803. Passing his estate onto his only remaining son Frederick, the family interest in Ireland did not extend to the next generation and Frederick Jnr. focused on finishing the great palace at Ickworth while Ballyscullion was left to decay.
Today, only a few walls of the central rotunda remain, overgrown and crumbling in the grounds of Ballyscullion Park. However, the classical portico that once adorned the grand entrance to Ballyscullion Palace now sits on the entrance to St. George’s Church of Ireland, Victoria Street, Belfast.
The one other legacy of Hervey’s vision at Ballyscullion is the tower on the old church of St Taoide at Church Island. He reputedly added the tower to improve the vista from his new home. It remains there to this day, giving its name locally to the Folly Brae, after Hervey’s ‘folly’ at both Ballyscullion and Church Island.
NOTE: Ballyscullion Park is a private residence although groups can arrange tours of the house and grounds by contacting Richard and Rosalind Mulholland on 028 79 386235.
I happened to grow up in a place called Northern Ireland. My birth almost co-incided with the advent of what became known as the Northern Ireland Troubles, around 1969. The region began a quick descent into chaos. The ready availability of broadcast media and photography meant that our conflagration quickly became global. This media coverage no doubt contributed to the longevity of a conflict which lasted nearly three decades.
I’m not here to argue about the politics or the morality of that long war, but as a photographer who grew up during the troubles. Northern Ireland Troubles imagery is bleak – probably as it should be – but the ‘reality of my reality’ during those years bears little resemblance to the shady monochrome representation in so much of the narrative. What has perplexed me even more in the years since is the continuing negative halo that this imagery casts over the global perception of the place in which I live.
At the onset of 1981, I was 13. We had 3 television channels and my grandfather used to buy The Irish News every day. In our era of 24/7 media coverage this seems all the more remarkable. But even in the absence of contemporary wall-to-wall media coverage and its forensic analysis, the IRA Hunger-strike of that year was somewhat remarkable. Its intensity was largely as a result of the media. The mass mobilisation of people through television and newspapers was unprecedented and quite frightening. When a neighbour of mine, Francis Hughes, joined the Hunger-strike just after Bobby Sands, the world’s spotlight literally shifted to our unremarkable, rural corner of the world.
As the Spring of that year unfolded, the rolling countryside around my home was no longer the safe and tranquil place in which I grew up. The fields and pools of childhood became places of danger. Suddenly the remote, urban view of the Troubles descended on rural Bellaghy, County Derry and even more quickly the grim shadow of Troubles reporting cam home to us. Watching the evening news, familiar places were presented through some terrible media filter that turned vibrant green into hues of grey and black. Neighbour’s houses were shot starkly against the evening light, rendering them inhospitable and menacing. I shouldn’t have recognised the place but for the fact that I saw them filming it. It was a life changing moment for me.
While many of my peers were quickly politicised in this hothouse, I was not drawn into the game. Instead I went to school, learned and came out the other end as a university graduate. But there was always that little pang of regret that I hadn’t pursued my interest in imagery, and photography in particular. True, I had my first camera when I was eleven, progressing to 35mm SLR in my late teens and early 20s, but it would not become a career for almost 30 years. However, in that time I was heavily involved in re-imagining Northern Ireland through my work in the public sector and in particular in tourism.
It was through my work in tourism, particularly in leading teams to change the national and international perception of Northern Ireland, that I realised that the long-ago images of our darkest days were still very much how the world perceived us. The challenge remains, as the lingering fall-out of our centuries old political argument still galvanises so many on our streets. Changing perceptions of this place, however, remains my personal goal. And I have my camera to do it.
I knew Seamus Heaney personally over a long period of time. Before I met him, I was taught his poems at school but only ever came to appreciate his writing when I got older and started to pay attention to the place in which I live and in which I shared so much of Seamus’ personal and lyrical history – Bellaghy, County Derry. Although Seamus was born and spent much of his childhood at Mossbawn, near Castledawson, his family moved to a farm outside Bellaghy in the townland of Tamlaghduff. It was around Bellaghy and South Derry that he sought inspiration for his poetry and over many years he evoked a sense of place through his lyrical imagination.
Even 18 months after his death, I still find it hard to accept that the greatest literary voice of our time will be forever silent. As we approach what would have been his 76th birthday in April, I have prepared a personal tribute to Seamus Heaney through image, music and his own words. I hope you can enjoy!
My Fantastic Northern Ireland Photography Sale is Now On! With savings of up to 20% there has never been a better time to book your appointment and put your life in focus. Telephone 028 79 386638 now!
I specialise in bespoke family and portrait photography that is not studio based, but tailored to the specific needs of the client in a place of their choosing. This could be their home, garden, place of work or education – or somewhere that has been important to them throughout their lives. This always creates a relaxed and informal atmosphere that enables me to capture your imagery in a truthful, honest and memorable way.
So why not give me a ring on 028 79 386638 for a chat about what is possible. Remember it is my mission to put ‘your world in focus’.