The birth of the books

October 24, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

By way of introduction really, I just want to briefly explain how I was lucky to be able to publish two books on Irish birdlife.  I spent a few years in Japan, living and working in Osaka, and returned to Ireland in mid-2008.  Having come back with very little in the way of Irish bird species photographed, Jim Wilson (my uncle) approached me with a project proposal - would I be interested in supplying images for a book on the shorebirds (waders) of Ireland? I didn't have to think for very long and just said yes straight away.  The idea of having a book with my photographs was something I really could not pass up. 
So Jim and I devised a list of what species we wanted to include and I set about looking to secure the images required for the book. As Jim was writing the text and sending me chapters to proof, I had a better idea of what images would be good to accompany the text.  It was with this operatus modi that I set out to photograph the subjects. 
All-in-all, I spent roughly 12 months getting the photographs that we required for the book.  This involved spending my weekends and holidays taking photographs. I used portable hides to sit and wait for rising and dropping tides at high-tide roost areas, and also borrowed some local knowledge of areas where only certain species were guaranteed. Without the help of local birder/photographers, I would not have been able to get some images for the book. 
The book was published by Collins Press, Cork in October/November 2009 with some help with the publishing cost from the Heritage Council. The book was well-received critically by reviewers and is considered a best-seller in terms of the Irish book market for this area. An exhibition entitled "Lost souls, pioneers and long-distance travellers" based on the images from the book travelled around the 4 provinces for about 18 months. It is a piece of work I am very proud of and luck to have been involved in. The book is still available in book stores and online. 
   With the Heritage Council being inhibited to fund publications due to the lack of funds, the Collins Press were willing to publish a follow-up project devised by Jim once again.  We were delighted  that Collins Press were happy to go with it and so set out again with the same operatus modi as for Shorebirds but this time concentrating on the freshwater birds.  This would turn out to be a more challenging project not only because it spanned two of the worst winters in Ireland in 50 years (thus preventing me from travelling any distances at all by car or foot!), but also because the majority of the subjects to be included in the book were hunted. This made the birds very nervous on their wintering grounds and so very jumpy, keeping their distance the majority of the time. Much stealth was going to be required. I learned even more about patience for this book! Despite the difficulties thrown at us, and some last minute dashes to get photographs of Call Ducks, we put together an excellent body of work I think. The book is approximately 30% larger in volume than the Shorebirds book, including many more photographs. Jim did an incredible job on the text once again and the book sits proudly on my book shelf. The book was published in Oct/Nov 2011 and is for sale in all bookstores and online. 
Having these projects to focus my mind and the focus of the camera, I learned an awful lot about wildlife photography, and in particular bird photography. I improved as a photographer doing the Shorebirds book and improved again while doing the Freshwater book. Each time I go out with the camera, I aim or at least try to learn more about wildlife photography and to push the limits of the camera and lens in my hands. It is a fantastic interest for me as it gets me out into the outdoors and away from the desk I sit at all week. I shall finish this with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that sums up why I love photographing nature and what it takes to get "that image"; "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience".


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