From steelworks to astrophotography | Independent Offaly

One of the magnificent images captured by famed Rahan photographer, Tom O’Hanlon, at the Cistercian Abbey of Bective in County Meath,

Tom O’Hanlon is the first to admit that he “definitely took the scenic route” to becoming a professional photographer!

The affable man from Rahan is this week celebrating the inclusion of one of his astrophotography landscape photographs in a prestigious outdoor exhibition organized by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) as part of their photography competition “Reach for the Stars”.

The stunning image, called ‘Copper Coast Starlight’, was captured by talented local photographer Ballydwan in Waterford and he was inspired to capture it after visiting family in the county last year. However, he had to wait for the Milky Way’s core to return to the Irish sky in March and it took “many hours of patient waiting” before he could get the perfect shot.

The atmospheric image is one of 19 other top-rated images from the 2022 ‘Reach for the Stars’ astrophotography competition to be displayed outside the DIAS premises on Dublin’s Burlington Road for the next few weeks and is free to attend it.

Tom, who is from College View in Rahan, and has two brothers, Declan and Redmond and a sister, Liz, admits his ‘obsession’ with Moto GP racing and his quest to capture ‘the perfect image’ of his hero, Italian Valentino Rossi, a nine-time Grand Prix motorcycle champion, led him to persevere in his hobby of taking photos after buying his first camera, a Fujifilm Bridge.

“I thought it was bee knees at the time, but looking back now, it was pretty basic, he says. However, it allowed him to pursue his hobby of taking photos at various Moto GP events around Ireland, and all the time he dreamed that one day he would have the chance to capture a picture of Valentino Rossi!

In the meantime, he took a very circuitous route to get to where he is today, first working at a steelworks in Tullamore for a year after leaving Killina High School in 2003. not really for me , and I went back to the mill for another year,” he says.

With his father, Tommy, being an accomplished musician, Tom O’Hanlon says he was always interested in music when he was growing up. He was also interested in photography as his mother, Theresa Martina Daly, of Bracknagh, always took pictures with her camera, which used film.

So in 2008 he decided to go back to school and enrolled at the Cavan Institute where he completed a year-long performing arts course, winning honors in all nine modules. After graduating with a three-year degree in sound engineering and music production from Limerick IT, the ambitious young man decided to do an additional year in order to improve his degree.

The turning point for him came in the middle of his fourth year at college when he was struggling to stay afloat financially. “I sold my motorbike to pay the fees I owed and used the rest of the money to buy a Canon camera for €1,600, and everyone thought I was crazy”, s he amused.

Five months later he had secured a job with local newspaper group The Tribune where he spent five years, and he also traveled to Mondello Racecourse every weekend to indulge his passion for motorbike racing and take pictures.

“In 2014, I got official accreditation to take photos at Moto GP events, so I was finally able to operate as an indoor photographer, instead of operating on the sidelines and attending events as a fan,” he explains.

More importantly, it allowed him to finally capture that elusive image he had always dreamed of – none other than Valentino Rossi. “I had several great photos of him, and I even got one during a lighted run in Doha in Quatar, which was an unreal experience,” he recalled, adding that it was at this At that point he felt his sports photography had become “full”. circle.”

Another great passion for Tom O’Hanlon is astrophotography, and he now travels all over the country to capture his award-winning, atmospheric images. He says his girlfriend, from Kilclonfert, Teresa Smyth, has been incredibly supportive of his work. “She accepts all my crazy ideas,” he adds.

As well as working as a freelance photographer for many national media outlets and also as a videographer, Tom says his passion for astrophotography means he has to travel to the coastal regions of Ireland in his spare time to capture his astro shots. .

“It’s hard to explain the amount of calculations that need to be done before taking a picture like my picture of the supermoon over Hook Head Lighthouse, it’s a very precise and detailed undertaking. Everything has to fit together. line up perfectly to get that unique shot,” he says, “and I often had to visit the location during the day to check for hazards and other potential hazards before returning that night to capture the image. Tom O’Hanlon is remained loyal to Canon and now shoots with a Canon R6. When asked where he sees himself in five years, he replied “to be brutally honest, I would like to be known as one of the best astrophotographers in the world. world”.

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