If you have visited my website before, welcome back. You will notice it has had a complete makeover. If this is your first visit, I hope that you enjoy browsing through my images; any feedback from new or returning visitors welcome.
I am most grateful to Michael O’Brian and all at the ‘O’Brian Press, Dublin for making this possible. Michael first contacted me in August 2015, as at the time he was looking to produce a photographic book on Kerry and a mutual friend Bob Joyce suggested that he take a look at my website. I subsequently went along to meet the O’Brian team in Terenure, Dublin. There we agreed that I would not only provide the photographs, but also write the book. I spent the following year on the road, travelling the length and breadth of the Kingdom in an attempt to fill in some of the missing locations from my Kerry collection. I explored and searched out sites and places that I had heard of but never visited. Michael asked me to include photographs of people - something rather absent from my portfolio. After all, Kerry is much more than just splendid scenery! It is people that make a place and add character to it. I have also included the curious & quirky, in an attempt to broaden the book’s appeal.
Editors Helen and Emma, and Liz from ‘The Little Red Pen’ have made sense of my writings and reduced a folder of nearly 400 images down to the 240, we see. An extra special thank you to Liz, who has been extremely professional and very patient with me. The phrase ‘steep learning curve’ comes to mind. I am already compiling images for my next book; Irish-based again but this time rather different.
Kerry the Beautiful Kingdom is now available to buy on Amazon! Click here to view on Amazon's website.
The Skelligs have been invaded again. Not by Vikings this time, but by the returning Star Wars film makers. Last year there was a great deal of controversy and consternation by environmentalists as filming ‘The Force Awakens’, part one of the new Star Wars trilogy, took place in July, whilst the famous Skellig puffins were still nesting alongside many other sea birds. The hullabaloo led to the Irish Government sending a navy vessel to safeguard the situation; quite how the crew and their firepower on board ‘Le Samuel Beckett’ were to help the puffins and petrels in their burrows was never explained. This year filming took place in September when the birds had already left the islands, to the relief of ornithologists and our feathered friends alike.
It was reported on 13/9/2015, in The Sunday Times, that the actor Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) was saved from a fall on the steps of Skellig Michael by the quick reactions of an OPW (Office of Public Works) guide whilst filming last year. However, I have been told by someone who was there and had responsibility for getting filming equipment on and off the island that this did not happen at all. Disney, the company behind the making of the film, imposed a complete news blackout, all those employed by the company were sworn to secrecy in their contracts, and boatmen were booked for as long as filming would take… the tourists would have to wait. With no information forthcoming it is no surprise that with such a huge franchise in the area people were keen for any news about what was going on. In Kerry word can spread fast (sometimes before the individuals concerned actually know themselves) – and, on this occasion, to be reported as fact by the world’s media! The star of the show nearly falling to his death on the steep steps is a good story, and it is no wonder that it was picked up. Just how steep the steps are can be seen elsewhere on this site in the VRT video (below); they are dangerous indeed.
The latest rumour is that Star Wars are returning again next year for more filming. Chewbacca will be coming too… no, I made that last bit up!
Mark Hamill reaches for his Guinness, while steadying himself on Johnny Depp lookalike barman Paul. On the right is Bar Manager Kieron. Picture taken in the Bridge Bar, Portmagee, via Paul’s smart phone. Thanks to Paul for sharing the image.
The Bridge Bar is often ‘base camp’ for expeditions out to the Skelligs, and also a place to recover after a trip, where discussions are had among fellow day trippers, stories exchanged and tales told. Others look on and join in, as they plan their own trip; maybe tomorrow… weather permitting.
Recently at the bar, pint of Guinness in hand, I met comedian and BBC 'One Show' presenter Alex Riley, along with his camera and sound man. They had been filming on Skellig Michael that day, and had been lucky enough to see Humpback whales 'bubble-netting' while on the way out to the islands. The whales blow a circular curtain of small bubbles from below a shoal of small fish to frighten and concentrate them into a ball near the surface, before rising up through the middle to engulf them and breaking the surface in an iconic 'breach'. This natural phenomenon has been seen by millions of TV viewers on David Attenbourgh’s Blue Planet - how lucky they were to witness it in action, and I told them so! I do hope they show some footage of this when the programme is aired, I gather the purpose of their visit was related to Star Wars... It would seem the interest Star Wars has created in the area will not be dying down any time soon.
Back in May 2014, I was asked if I would interested in taking part in a TV programme. VRT, the national broadcaster in Belgium, were making a programme about the west coast of Ireland, ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’. They were looking for a photographer familiar with the Skelligs who could act as a guide and help to tell their story for this part of the journey. By the time I met the directors a couple of weeks later they had already looked at my website, decided that they liked my work and asked me to take part. However, like most photographers, I like to be behind the lens and not in front of it! Members of the production team, Marijne and Hanne, described their filming and production process to me. They had a very casual approach, making it seem easy enough. I would have a radio microphone attached and would lead Bill and Tina, the two TV presenters, to the top of Skellig Michael, followed by a camera and a sound man.
The trip is something that I have done many times before with friends and acquaintances, pointing out the sights and sharing the experience. Only this time it was all being recorded. What helped was having the Islands completely to ourselves via an evening trip by special permission from the Irish Board of Works. Des Lavelle of Valentia was our boatman, along with fellow boatman Cav. We were in good hands. Des is famous for his comprehensive knowledge of the Skelligs and has written extensively about them. He is also an excellent photographer. Once on the island, we met up with the Head Skellig Michael Guide, Bob Harris, who is familiar to many visitors to the Island, having worked there every summer for nearly thirty years.
The weather could not have been better. I am not sure if Marijne and her excellent crew really knew how lucky we were in this regard, with not just a fine evening, but not a breath of wind either. The conditions made it possible to stand on the summit for the last shot; a suicidal prospect for 360 odd days of the year, with a near vertical drop of nearly 700 feet behind us. All in all, another very pleasurable trip to this most interesting place…and this time on record!