Spotlight on: Kerstin Hellman, travel photographer

Is there a dreamier occupation than travel photography? We chat to the very talented Kerstin Hellman, who moved to Ireland’s scenic west coast to capture its crashing coastline and romantic landscapes.

So, Kerstin, which camera do you use?

I use a Canon 60D. I would love to upgrade to a full frame, but I would miss the 360º variable live view screen, which I use a lot for my low angle shots due to a knee injury. Maybe Canon will include it in their next 6D II??

What’s your favourite time of day to shoot?

During the summer an hour before sunset, which gives the best golden light. I am not a morning person and would only shoot the sunrise in the winter when it’s at a more civilised time of day and not at 4am.

Where is your favourite travel destination?

Oh boy, there are many! But it has to be my now hometown of Louisburgh, Co. Mayo. I particularly chose this area to live because it has everything to offer for a landscape photographer; the Atlantic Ocean with its 14 unspoiled beaches and a few cliffs, Croagh Patrick, Mweelrea and the Sheeffry Hills for the mountain scenery, as well as the tranquil Doolough Valley, Killary Fjord, Aasleagh Falls and miles of almost wild countryside. All of that within a 20-mile radius.

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Doolough Valley, County Mayo

Why did you choose to call Western Ireland home?

I was born and raised in Germany, but knew from a very early age that I wanted to live in Ireland, especially along the rural west coast. I don’t know why that is. My parents always say that if there’s some sort of re-incarnation, I must have been Irish in a previous life.

What are your thoughts on the increasingly sophisticated technology of phone cameras and social sharing sites such as Instagram?

I use my iPhone quite often for taking snapshots. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you. But I still prefer to use my SLR, especially, if I am making long exposure shots. I use a few social media sites to promote my work and connect with friends and followers, but I do not have an instagram account. I personally just don’t like to square format and the awful digital filters which make every amateur believe they are pro photographers when they post their hundredth photo of their dinner or cat.

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What are your main tips for taking good holiday photos?

Take your time and stay in one area. If your goal of the trip is a handful of really good images, plan ahead and research particular areas. If you want to travel along the whole  Wild Atlantic Way within a week your chances are very slim to get the light and weather conditions just right when you rase from one location to the other. When I am on a photo trip I stay within a 10-mile radius with maybe two or three different shot locations. But I have done my homework and know when and where the sun will be at certain times, as well as checking the weather forecast/satellite on an hourly basis. Most often I set up my camera and wait up to eight hours until I am happy with the light conditions. And if that doesn’t happen on day one, I come back and sit there for another six to eight hours on day two. And sometimes I come home with maybe just one or two usable images after a week long trip. But these two images are worth sharing on social media and most importantly selling as prints in my gallery.

Your favourite photo ever taken?

I think it’s the one of the cave view of Dún Briste at Downpatrick Head. Not just because of the photo itself, but because it took me over two years in planning and waiting for the moment when everything came together; the sun’s location at sunset to lighten up parts of the cave’s entrance, the very low spring tide at sunset that made it possible to climb down the 150ft cliff into the cave, which is usually filled up with sea water, and of course the Irish weather that needed to be clear enough on that day. Not to forget the thrill I got from free climbing the cliffs, which is another thing I really love doing when scouting for new and unique view points.

For a chance to make your own photographic pilgrimage to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, enter our competition with Tourism Ireland and Canon. We’re offering a luxury break in County Kerry for a lucky winner and five friends, with the additional prize of a Canon EOS 100D Digital SLR. Competition closes 31 October. Good luck!

Visit Kerstin Hellman’s website to see more of her fine art landscape photography.

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