Togs & Tales

Gavin Sheehan

Gavin Sheehan

Landscape Photographer

Hey my name is Gavin. I’m 28, a Clare native and currently living in Bridgetown, Co. Clare with my partner Emer. Monday-Friday I’m a Quality Engineer in Analog Devices in Limerick City but at the weekends or after work I’m liable to be found anywhere around Ireland either taking photos or trying to keep up with a few other hobbies like hiking, camping, whitewater kayaking and bodyboarding.

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

I can probably thank my dad for initially getting me involved in photography and videography. He (and me for that matter) are lifelong Munster Rugby fans and he always used to take a camera to away matches with his friends and document the things they did and people they met along the way. Almost like early 2000’s vlogging! Anyway, he always had a variety of cameras and other gear lying around and as the years went by, I eventually tried a few bits and pieces and as a teenager found myself recording matches for my secondary school and local GAA clubs. It wasn’t until I was in The University of Limerick that I bought my first camera on a J1 to California. I think it was a Canon Rebel T5i (Canon 700D in Europe). I remember using the Auto mode for the first year or so, and when I finally took my first ok photo in Manual mode, I thought I was ready to conquer the world!  Since then, after countless days spent exploring Ireland over the last few years with the camera in tow, the periodic hobby has turned into an addiction which I’ve thankfully been able to convert into some print sales and adventure photography work.

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

This thankfully is a very easy answer! In October 2019 after saving for 18 months, Emer and I left our jobs and went on a 3-month holiday to New Zealand and Australia. We spent 10 weeks living in a camper van in New Zealand, exploring both islands and having free reign over wherever we wanted to go. New Zealand had been on top of both our bucket lists for years and it absolutely surpassed every expectation we had. The hype around the New Zealand landscape is absolutely justified and I can safely say the trip was the best experience of my life to date. Every single corner of the country is littered with beautiful places to visit and thankfully over our 10-week trip there (4 weeks on the North Island and 6 weeks on the South Island), we were able to do 99% of things we planned to, in addition to taking thousands of photos, videos and timelapses.
The stand out memory for me has to be the time we spent in Fiordland in the South Island. I believe Fiordland is on record to be the 2nd wettest place on Earth, only behind Meghalaya in India. Of course, us being Irish we didn’t believe this could be true with us well used to damp, cold, miserable winters year on year. It turned out we were wrong and upon arriving to Fiordland it was bucketing rain like nothing we had ever experienced. We were due to go on a boat trip around Milford Sound that day which turned out to be my fondest photographic memory of the trip. Thousands upon thousands of waterfalls streamed off the steep mountainsides for the entire day in what turned out to be the perfect weather for our visit. During our time there, there was an average of 40mm of rain falling per day but it turned out only a few weeks after we left, in Feb 2020, 566mm of rain fell in a single day; washing away roads, houses and turning the entire area into a disaster zone.

We finished off our trip with 3 weeks in Australia visiting Emer’s brother and spending a week touring around Tasmania too before falling back to reality again in January 2020. I still can’t believe how lucky we were to do the trip right before the world shut down. I recently posted a highlight video from the trip available here if anyone would like to get a flavour of what we did. I’d recommend New Zealand to absolutely anyone who has an interest in the outdoors or photography. For me at least, it was the best experience I’ve ever had, photography or otherwise.

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

Now to the other end of the spectrum! In 2018 Emer and I visited Athens for a few days. Things didn’t start well when we arrived and realised our Air BnB was in a really rough part of the city but we thought we’d be ok! The next morning, we had planned to get up and catch sunrise over the Acropolis from Filopappou Hill. We woke up around 5am and planned to get the subway from just outside our accommodation, only to be shooed away by swarms of policemen just as we went to walk down the stairs. I peeped over the wall to see what was up and was met with the sight of a body lying in a pool of blood. At that stage we should have called it quits and gone back to bed but we flagged a taxi who brought us to the base of the hill. Queue stage 2 of the nightmare. It was pitch dark and silent as we approached the top of the hill until suddenly we heard a huge dog barking and sprinting towards us with only its eyes visible with our lights. We both screamed and fell to the floor which thankfully scared him off just as it was within touching distance. To compound all of that, the sunrise was a no-show with thick grey clouds covering the sky for the entire morning. It being a Sunday, all of the restaurants were closed in the early morning so we eventually made our way back to the Air BnB hungry, scared and photo-less.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

I used to much prefer sunset but now I’m steadily veering towards liking sunrise more. Early mornings are a killer, but during the 2020 lockdown we built out a camper van which makes it a lot easier to park on location and get a few extra hours sleep before the early start! As difficult as it is leaving a warm bed, you’ll never regret getting up for sunrise (unless you’re in Athens)!

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

As a Clare man I’m biased but it has to be The Burren. It truly is a one-of-a-kind landscape and once you’re 20 metres away from the road, you may as well be on the moon. It’s a place that is still for the most part, untouched by mankind but the parts that have been (passage tombs, ring forts, churches, castles, Martello towers), typically have a rich history to them which makes photographs of the area even more special. In my opinion its the most difficult place in Ireland to come away with a decent photo of which drives me insane most days but when everything clicks, it’s a great feeling. After going on holidays to Fanore in the Burren every summer since I was a child, its really only in the last 3-4 years that I’ve come to appreciate how special it is. Clare’s best kept secret.

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

I think it has to be the shot I call Sunrise at the Giants Playground. It’s a sunrise shot from the summit of Mullaghmore in The Burren National Park. My friend, Alan Hartigan  and I hiked up in the dark and even 75 minutes before sunrise the sky was glowing orange. The sun broke the horizon with a dark grey cloud overhead, batheing every one of the Burren’s grey limestone rocks in an intense red light for all of 30 seconds before it disappeared and the fun was over. 

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

I recently moved to full frame and now shoot with a Sony A7R3 as well as a Sony A6400. I have a Tamron 70-300 f4.5-6.3, Tamron 17-28 f2.8, Samyang 12mm f2 and Sony 18-105 f4 as my lenses. I do a lot of timelapses too with a Syrp Genie Mini and recently sold my Rhino ROV Pro Slider (hoping to upgrade that soon too!).

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Stop copying everyone else! I was certainly guilty of it starting out too but it drives me bananas when people are so fixated on going to places for photos just because Mr/Mrs XYZ posted a shot from there last week. It’s a lot of effort but doing your own research, going somewhere new and coming home with a shot that you created from scratch is a lot more satisfying in my opinion. Adding to this, if you do find an amazing location off the beaten track, please don’t tag the location. Instagram is great but it’s also slowly exposing all of the fragile hidden gems to the masses.
Another piece of advice I’d give is – Learn when to put away the camera and enjoy the moment. Starting out, it can be tempting to try and capture absolutely everything but over the years I’ve learned that you can have some very special moments or experiences with friends and family pass you by while you’re in a world of your own fiddling with a tripod or changing camera settings.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Not advice that was personally given to me but something that really stuck with me when I heard it was a snippet from a Netflix Crossfit documentary last year from Mat Fraser (5 time consecutive Crossfit Games Champion). He said “If something is worth bragging about, someone else will do the bragging for you”. I guess that can be related to a lot of things in life but in photographic terms, to me it means leaving your ego at the door, putting in the hours of planning, driving, hiking, failing and eventually when things turn out the way you want them to and the light shows up, people are going to share and appreciate your shot and you can be safe in the knowledge that all of the effort you put in in the lead up made it what it is.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

George Karbus is probably one of the few photographers whose photos stop me in my tracks every time. His stuff has such a distinctive look that I’ve found nowhere else. And the fact that the majority of his shots are from Clare also tips it in his favour!

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Gavin Sheehan
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