Togs & Tales

Breeda Kiely Morgan

Breeda Kiely Morgan

Landscape Photographer

My name is Breeda and I live and work in Fermoy Co Cork. I love to explore the outdoors and to photograph it. I’m fortunate that I also live close to the town and love to explore the beauty of it and the magnificent scenery all along by the banks of the Blackwater river as well as the many beautiful walks and woodlands close by.

What was your path to becoming a Landscape Photographer & What was your first camera?

I suppose my love for photography has developed in many ways and from many different life situations over many years.
While studying Science and Mathematics at University College Cork I was invited to join the film society where we would screen and make our own movies. The idea of seeing an idea or story you might have translated from page to screen fascinated me. Our year end at College would always be marked with a film  competition. It was during one of these competition nights that my interest in landscape photography developed when I met my future husband Frank Morgan. Frank was a well known and gifted photographer and filmmaker having received many international awards and I remember being so delighted to be asked to join his film unit that night. I got involved in the writing of his new stories and turning them into scripts. At the pre filming stage my main role was finding suitable locations and I suppose it was while doing this, that my love for the beauty of our local landscape and how to capture it at its best became so important to me. We would travel the highways and byways looking for suitable locations for filming. Taking his advice on how best to capture nature,  I would do all the publicity still images before entering his films for competition. Frank however became very busy in his photographic business and studio and the time for making films was difficult to find. I was also busy as a secondary school Principal so my landscape/seascape photography was put on pause for some time. Sadly five years ago Frank was diagnosed with cancer and the only way I could deal with his passing and the unbearable loss was to give up my own profession and join the business as its manager. Shortly after taking up this position Covid-19 meant our business had to go through all the lockdowns and we operated only as an online business. For many other businesses the lockdowns have been very stressful indeed but for me it was a chance to take many trips down memory lane and take to the highways and byways within our area to explore our beautiful countryside again. My passion was reignited. I found my solitude again , the love and peace and tranquility I once experienced had come back. It made me happy again! I felt as energised and enthusiastic as I did when I got my first camera, a Rolllei 35 many years ago. I still have it! It’s a very small mechanical 35 mm camera. At the time it was the smallest ‘full frame’ 35 mm camera in the world. In those days the ‘full frame’ had to be distinguished from the Olympus ‘half frame’. It still is the smallest all metal full frame 35 mm camera and still takes amazing good quality images.
Like most businesses we are back working to full capacity but now no matter how much work is calling I will always find time to go close to the serenity of a lake or to the woods as its there I’m at one with nature and feel most comfortable. That will never change for me now!

What was your favourite Landscape Adventure Story since becoming a Photographer?

Anything truly worthwhile in life cannot be achieved without effort and the surmounting of difficulty and challenge that go to make up the stuff of adventure. And yes, that may sometimes mean putting comfort to one side and facing a certain inconvenience. But as G K Chesterton once said ‘adventure is inconvenience rightly considered’.
And it was in that spirit that my sister Helen and I set out very early one morning heading off down to the banks of the Blackwater just east of Fermoy to take a picture of the dawn touching the iconic landmark structure of the old railway Viaduct. It was built in 1872 to carry the now disused Mallow – Fermoy railway line over the River Blackwater. It’s best known for its starring role in the 1966 World War I film ‘The Blue Max’ which starred George Peppard, James Mason and Ursula Andress. However, less than two years after its moment of fame, the Fermoy bridge was left idle when the Mallow-Waterford line was closed down in 1967. But its now a great tourist attraction in our town and we regarded it as a must for our 2022 Fermoy Calendar. 
For very many years now the Viaduct has stood silent, neglected and derelict morphing slowly into almost a natural feature as swathes of ivy climb up along the limestone columns and we needed to capture that moment when the old decaying structure felt the first bright rays of the rising sun.
It was still dark when we set out to achieve our ambition. This site was quite inaccessible but we had identified one spot where the electric fence was just raised high enough for us to crawl and roll our way through, gingerly avoiding the wire, gritting our teeth as we encountered the soft yielding muddy ground, pulling and hauling our equipment behind us. But we made our way through and it was sombre and silent as we trudged on purposefully. The sky brightened and soon the first glimmer of sunlight threw the looming structure of the Viaduct into sharp relief turning the woods into a symphony of light and shade. We were cold and feeling the damp chill but had no time to worry about that as we readied our gear and prepared to launch the drone and very soon our mission was accomplished. We were delighted and overjoyed to return the drone to earth, gather up our equipment and retrace our steps. But as we did so we froze to hear coming from behind us the snorting and heavy ominous growling…We could scarcely dare to look over our shoulders to glimpse the terrible presence of a huge bull that was rapidly gaining on us. The stamping of its hooves grew ever louder. Now there is a school of thought that the best way to deal with an angry bull is to face him head on, stare him straight in the face with unblinking gaze and maintain a statuesque stillness. The theory is that the nonplussed creature will simply back down and return to his pasture. However that demands a nerveless steely resolve that is easier to admire and to contemplate ! Equally it is said that a good run is better than a bad stand any day of the week! But nothing so stimulates a bull’s anger than the smell of fear as seen in the act of trying to flee – and with his immense strength could easily outrun us. But there was another option….to keep our heads about us and quickly get to the dip in the ground beside us and we would then have lowered ourselves out of the bull’s line of vision and virtually have disappeared from his sight and the narrow span of his attention. So as calmly as we could we got under the wire the same way as we came in, getting down onto that cold, damp, messy ground, and pulled ourselves along right under the wire, dragging our gear once more behind us and hardly even allowing ourselves to breathe.The growling and snorting subsided as the bull fell quiet and was content to look idly around him as we hastened away and did not look back at him.
You might say, why would one call this their favourite landscape adventure ? Well to quote Epicurus, the great Greek philosopher …… “The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.”
We had held our nerve, we had achieved what we came to do and now I look at that photograph of The Viaduct with its unseen but inescapable imprint of past generations and also those echoes of the aerobatic exploits of the stunt pilots of The Blue Max. For us , we felt we had put in the effort carried on in that same vein and almost felt their presence with us as with difficulty and discomfort we had attained an image of a great piece of Victorian railway engineering that holds a special place and lives on in the hearts of so many.
Across all those years its storied stone and metal frame still speaks the language of adventure. Now we had had our share of that!

What was your worst in-the-field experience as a landscape Photographer?

The most memorable and unfortunate experience has to be while capturing the beauty of a period home and it’s surrounds while making a brochure to promote the sale of the property.
I thought the best time to capture this was at twilight. So I set out to take this photo at dusk to capture both the landscape and property and to highlight it’s wonderful features like open fires, warm interior lights the blue evening sky and possibly a mellow sunset. I always liked to use my wide-angle Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 in these situations. As I was finishing the shoot and as the light was now fading quickly I thought I would do one more take from another angle so with great speed set up the tripod on the patio not seeing that it was covered by a layer of slippery green algae ! I took the final image and turned around quickly to tidy up and yes you guessed I caught my foot on one leg of the tripod as I slipped on the slippery surface. Right in front of me was my upturned tripod , my camera and lens some distance away still attached to each other but faced downwards ! I thought could I be lucky? but no as I lifted the camera the lens wasn’t recognisable as the many elements of its make up remained in the ground. ….. the camera survival and the images making their way to the brochure eased the pain!

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

I suppose I am more of a sunrise enjoyer than a sunset. I would rather watch a sunrise in the absence of crowds which this early time allows particularity in the summer months and from a technical point of view , that time of the day is usually less windy so there is little movement in the landscape and seascape. What I enjoy most is the peaceful quiet and the beauty of the sunlight coming through the clouds.
“It’s almost impossible to watch a sunrise and not dream….. as Bernard Williams reminds us.

Where is your favourite Location in Ireland to Photograph & Why?

It has to be the Lakes of Killarney. There are very few places quite like here and for me it always feels like a dream while I enjoy the breathtaking views across the Lakes to the wonderful Macgillycuddy reeks that surround them. It’s here I feel most at one with nature and have captured some of my favourite images at sunrise in tranquil , calm waters and mood filled skies.

What is your favourite photograph, that you’ve taken to date, & Why?

Nature photography and my many trips to the beautiful woodland areas near where I live has always given me an appreciation for the world that we live in. Its where I spend extended periods of time, as it gives me the opportunity to see and experience things we can sometimes take for granted. So my favourite photograph has to be from one of these woodlands. Its one which provides me with some wonderful memories that I like to share with people. It was the photo that gave me the revewed energy to become a landscape photographer again! I took it during our first Covid-19 lockdown!
Its the only memory I have now of my favourite wood which was recently almost totally cut down.
I have that image framed in a large size and hanging in our studio and it is always greatly admired and easily recognised by the local people.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

I think self-belief and self-confidence in our ability to get things done are key to achieve our goals. If we don’t have this I feel it reduces our chances of success.
It’s so essential to have that desire to improve and that comes through practice and dedication to detail
Photography needs time to develop, it needs perseverance so I would advise all new to photography to photograph what you like , the things you enjoy and have an interest in. It might be the beauty of early morning sunrises or evening sunsets but whatever it is it should become fun and it will become less difficult with practice.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

If you want to achieve your goals it is so important to care about what your doing and have that desire and hunger to improve and the only way to achieve this desire is through hard work and practice.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

Oops, what a difficult question because there are so many talented photographers in ireland today and I like all types of photography so I study and appreciate all of their work. It’s a great way to deepen one’s own understanding and develop and inspire your own creative vision.
My favourite list is very long and I keep changing my mind!!!

A special thanks to Conor @conorfinneganphotography for asking me to do this blog for @togsandtales. It’s been both enjoyable and an honour to take part.

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Breeda Kiely Morgan
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