Declan Keane from Stabannon, originally from Knockbridge, recently won the "Topflight Travel Photographer of the Year 2016".
The winner was announced on Tuesday 31st of May in the Gallery of Photography in Temple Bar. The competition was run by Topflight holidays in association with Canon. His image "Stars Over Manarola" was chosen from over 4000 images to be in the final 24. Voting on Facebook then lowered it down to a final 10 images. The final 10 images were judged by Mr Dave McKane, principal of the Institute of Photography in Dublin.
As the winner he won a 7 night luxury holiday to Sorrento and a Canon DSLR camera as well as the title of Travel Photographer of the Year 2016. All 24 images will be on display in the Gallery of Photography in Temple Bar until the end of June as well as in Dublin Airport, Terminal 1 mezzanine level. Declan and his fiancee will be heading off to Sorrento, staying in the sensational Hotel Bristol Sorrento later this year.
The mage "Stars Over Manarola" was taken in Cinque Terre, Italy. Declan had seen pictures of Cinque Terre online before and just had to photograph it. “It is an amazing and truly unique place. Cinque Terre translates as 5 Lands. It is made up of 5 villages, Manarola, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. All the villages are built into the cliffs and until recently were only accessible by boat or by a train journey through tunnels cut into the cliffs.” he said
What is your thought process before taking a photograph?
I find every picture is different. Some pictures are taken in an instant, almost instinctively, whereas others are more carefully thought out. Often I ask myself “Why am I taking this picture?” “What am I trying to capture?” “What emotion do I want to evoke in the viewer with this picture?” With this in mind I then I work out the best way to capture it. I decide on a composition. I try to remain somewhat mobile to afford myself the opportunity to photograph things from different angles and perspectives. When I get home and look through the images I shot I will often find a composition I like best; oftentimes it is something I would have missed had I stayed stationary all evening.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of entering next year’s competition ?
First off, invest in a decent camera and learn how to use it. Perhaps get some lessons or join a camera club. I am a member of Mid Louth Camera Club. Camera clubs are a great place to learn from other photographers, socialise and get feedback on your work. Start traveling; both nationally and internationally. Starting closer to home, Ireland offers some specular photographic opportunities from the hustle and bustle of modern Dublin to the unique, natural beauty of Donegal or Kerry. If you can try and get abroad for a holiday, great! The huge range of different cultures which can be reached in a 2 or 3 hour flight range offer a wealth of photographic opportunities.
Additionally, taking the picture is only the beginning. I think the post-processing is where each photographer’s own personal style starts to emerge. I could spend hours processing one image before I am happy with it.
With your image "Stars Over Manarola", did you plan to capture it for the competition especially?
No, I captured this image long before I had heard about the competition. This was a shot I had in my head for a long time. I had seen pictures of Cinque Terre online before and I just had to photograph it. As soon as I got an opportunity I took my girlfriend Kate on holidays to Italy and planned out an itinerary that gave me enough time to enjoy my stay and have a good holiday as well as get a few good shots.
As for how the final image turned out; I spent about 4 hours photographing the town one evening, from sunset to darkness. When I got home I thought about how I would make a picture that would stand out among the hundreds of others shot of this beautiful place. I decided that the starry sky was something that I hadn’t seen done yet, so I went with that.
What inspires you to take great photos like this?
My big passion in life is travel. I love experiencing new and exciting places. Photographing them is my way of recording memories. I get inspiration from other photographers, I love seeing their images, and the places and people they photograph. This inspires me to go to these locations and explore them for myself and hopefully capture something unique.
Was photography always something you had an interest in?
I took up photography when I was in college and the interest has been there ever since. This combined with my love of travel has led me to having a diverse portfolio of photos. Every time I pick up a camera there are new challenges to shoot; new people to meet; new Photoshop techniques to try out; new gear to empty my bank account! It’s such a versatile hobby. That’s what keeps me interested.
In your opinion, how difficult is photography as a trade?
It is definitely a difficult business to do well in. For me, it is purely a hobby. I’m a primary school teacher by profession. I think the biggest challenge for anyone in this field is getting their work to stand out. There are so many amazing photographers out there so getting your work noticed is quite difficult. Facebook and other such websites are great as a platform for getting your photos seen but it is important to be critical of your own work and only show people your best images. It is a lifelong learning curve and there is always something new to learn.
You can follow Declan at facebook.com/declankeanephotography