the irish light a collection of landscape photographs by PETER COX
foreword by JOE CORNISH
Copyright © 2012 by Peter Cox Portrait on facing page: Copyright © 2012 by Bob Towery The Irish Light – A Collection of Landscape Photographs First edition. Published in 2012 by Peter Cox. Printed in Ireland by Castle Print. ISBN: 978-1-908655-05-9 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photochopying or otherwise, without the express prior written permission of the publisher. 2
Moonrise, Ballingeary, Co. Cork
To Ann, for her unswerving love and support. And to Liam, who brings me great joy.
Foreword Joe Cornish The mysterious (and often misty) landscape of the entire island of Ireland provides an epic challenge for the artist and photographer. Brewed across fifty million square kilometres of North Atlantic Ocean, the climate is windy, changeable, and usually mild. As a result, the air and light are as ‘soft’ as anywhere in the world, the colours often correspondingly muted. As beautiful as it is, this is no easy place for landscape photography. Having spent many months of my life in Ireland on dozens of visits, I have not made more than a handful of pictures here I could describe as first rate. I am convinced that to master the Irish landscape as a photographer, you’d need to be a resident. And in these pages lie the proof. Peter Cox has dedicated much of the last seven years to exploring his home nation, bearing witness to its atmosphere, mood and mystery. In this endeavour he has spent thousands of hours and hundreds of days walking, waiting, setting up his tripod, sometimes coming away empty-handed. He has been battered at times by wind and rain. Occasionally, even baked by the sun. He has taken the trouble, and expense, to find new perspectives with aerial photographs of landscapes whose drama only unfolds fully from above. Some of his “aerials” are made from mountainside perspectives too. Many of the turbulent seascapes were made, no doubt, during or in the aftermath of storms. When I look at Peter’s pictures I feel that, in the words of the famous Eagles song he really has “taken it to the limit, one more time”. His local knowledge, dedication and commitment are palpable, but these are matched by the artistry of his compositions and his willingness to experiment with photography’s peculiarities, perspectives and process. Photographers will be fascinated to read the details of Peter’s cameras and technical detail in the image index section. Ireland’s landscape and light reflect all the passion, pain, mystery, intensity and longing of the human condition. It is through sensitivity to this light, and dedication to the form and rhythms of this landscape that Peter Cox’s pictures will appeal in turn to everyone who holds Ireland close to their heart.
Abandoned House, Black Valley, Co. Kerry 7
On my Photography For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed the landscape. I can remember Sunday drives with my father in the Wicklow Mountains, near our home in Dublin. Those memories are very fond ones, not just for the enjoyment of his company, but the impression the stark beauty of the landscape made on me. I had played with cameras as a child, but never in a particularly serious way. I seemed to have a natural ability for photography as comments were often made about the quality of the images. However, I had no interest in learning the craft, nor of thinking about composition. It was point-and-shoot all the time. I’ve always had a strong interest in computers and all things technical, and that’s the direction my first career took - I was a computer systems engineer. With the advent of digital, my interest was rekindled in photography, and I bought a Sony DSC-S70 3 megapixel camera in 2000. This was replaced with the 5 megapixel Sony DSC-F717 in 2002 and then by the 6 megapixel Canon EOS Digital Rebel (or 300D as it was known in Europe) in 2003. This last marked the beginning of my serious interest in photography. It was my first SLR, and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and a reflex viewfinder sparked a real passion in me. For the first time I began trying to understand the mechanics of how photographs are made. Shutter speeds, apertures, ISO - all these were mythical and intimidating concepts. I was completely at sea, and I loved it. Aside from the technical side of things, composition and the proper use of light were new ideas for which I had no time. In my head, I was pretty good at taking photos, so why should I pay attention to these things that would only get in the way of my enjoyment? The realization that a proper understanding of both the technical and artistic aspects of photography was necessary to make consistently great images was a long time coming. I remember feeling overloaded on many occasions as there was too much to take in. One day, I came across the saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” and resolved to focus my attention on one specific aspect of photography at a time, understand that and then move on. Before too much time had elapsed, I was becoming more and more proficient, but the photographs were still lacking. Ansel Adams once said “There’s nothing worse than a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept,” and he was right. The technician 8
in me had taken over. For me, photography was all about the gadgets and getting the best technical quality. It was time to learn about composition. I moved back to Ireland in 2005 and began to focus heavily on my photography. I wanted to make a career out of it, and I wanted it to be in landscape photography - definitely a niche area, and one in which the cards were absolutely stacked against me. There just didn’t seem to be money in it. However, I had become thoroughly dispirited with my IT career and didn’t want to make the mistake of going down a road in photography that would bring me to the same place in a few years time. I wanted to do photography because I loved it, so why do weddings or portraits when I didn’t enjoy them? In late 2005, I bought Joe Cornish’s book First Light: A Landscape Photographer’s Art, and my jaw dropped. Here was what I wanted to achieve. Here was a way of photographing the landscape that I never knew was possible. The clear attention to detail, dynamic compositions and vibrant colours all made each image leap from the page. I took it with me on my first dedicated photography trip - which incidentally was to West Cork, where I now live. I went out shooting at dawn and dusk, scouted locations during the middle of the day, and immersed myself in the book in the evenings. That trip marked my beginnings as a professional landscape photographer. Not that I was earning money from it at that stage, but because I applied a strict discipline to myself to get the best possible photograph from any given location. Often this means making an initial scouting visit and deciding at what time of day, and even what time of year, the best photograph can be made. Sometimes, wonderful light is gifted to me when I first arrive at a spot, but that’s a very rare occurence! Now, seven years later, I’m still learning and growing as an artist. Being able to relay something to you, the viewer, of what I felt when standing in front of a beautiful scene, capturing a fleeting moment of light, is what motivates me to keep photographing and to keep improving. This book is a portfolio of my best work from 2005 to 2012. It’s been split roughly half-and-half between seascapes and landscapes. The images are in no particular order, but a lot of thought went into the layout. I’ve placed the photographs such that they complement each other as well as possible. I’m happy with the result. I hope you are, too.
Peter Cox Ballingeary, Co. Cork June 2012
Nocturne, the Giantâ€™s Causeway, Co. Antrim 12
The Muglins by Moonlight II, Co. Dublin
Kilcatherine Point, Co. Cork
Poll an tSéideáin, Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co. Galway 15
An Tiaracht, Blasket Islands, Dingle, Co. Kerry 16
Mizen Head, Co. Cork 17
Sunset, the Pigeon House, Co. Dublin
An Searrach, Trรก Chathail, Dingle, Co. Kerry
Silver Strand, Co. Mayo 21