Photographer: George Sheils

"George Sheils has been involved with photography since about 1980 when he started to shoot 35mm using a Pentax. He is self taught and reads avidly about techniques for lighting, taking and printing images. In 1999 he held a solo exhibition which featured a mix of landscape, portrait, and still life - mostly monochrome.

One comment in his visitors book stuck with him, though. "George, why don't you take pictures that are a bit more raw?"

And that is what he strives to do and is perhaps one of the key reasons why he likes lensless photography so much...it's ok to be raw."

Extract from interview by Erin Malone, full article at Withoutlens.com.


Rockmount Playing Field
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Photographer: George Sheils

This is Rockmount National School playing field which is situated on a hill overlooking Miltown Malbay in Co Clare. This field was developed by the parents of the pupils at the school so that the kids could have somewhere to play hurling and gaelic football when the weather is fine. There is no exercise space inside the small schoolhouse so all PE activity either takes place in the tarmacadam schoolyard or on this playing field. The school was built in 1865 but is still in use today and services the educational needs of some 45 pupils from the rural community nearby.

This marks the first set of pictures which I am putting together in a project which is looking at the current status of small rural schools in Ireland, of which many are under threat of closure for a variety of reasons. Emigration, falling family sizes and the need for parents to travel further to work are some of the more compelling reasons which seem to be affecting the viability of small rural schools such as Rockmount.

I photographed another school not far away from this one and it has recently closed despite having all of the facilities one would need to provide children with a fine education. What a pity it is to see this.

-George Sheils

Calumet cc-402 Wide Field Large Format camera/ Schneider Angulon 120mm lens/ 5x4 Fomapan 100 film exposed at 50 iso/ F22 @ 1/2 sec

 

Loughshinny, Dublin
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Photographer: George Sheils

I revisited the village of Loughshinny a while back and took some images on a pebble beach north of the harbour.

The area is predominated with folded rock formations from seismic activity many millions of years ago and geologically is quite interesting.

- George Sheils 

DIY 5x4 Pinhole Camera/ f150; 0.3mm diameter pinhole/ 45mm focal length

Lone Tree, Poulawack, Clare.
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Photographer: George Sheils

Taken with a 5x4 DIY Pinhole camera

45mm focal length

0.3mm pinhole diameter

F150

- George Sheils

Tower Bay Beach, Portrane
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Photographer: George Sheils

There is a beach about 15 minutes drive from my home and which is absolutely lovely - but to my shame I had not been there since I was 11 years old.

I can't believe that four decades have passed since I last set foot on Tower Bay Beach at Portrane in North County Dublin. It is a tiny cove shaped beach with rock formations and cliffs at one end and which has spectacular views to Lambay Island across a narrow channel of water aswell as up and down the coast.

While the morning of WPPD was calm and bright, some tough weather rolled in that afternoon just at the time I went to revisit this marvellous place. The light was ok but the movement of the tide was amazing and at one stage I was hit by a big wave and looked around to see my camera bag full of film holders actually floating out to sea - I managed to recover it and luckily I had my film in zip-lock bags so they were ok.

Anyway, I pinholed for 45 minutes until it was just too cold, wet and stormy to stay out any longer.

- George Sheils

DIY 5x4 Pinhole Camera/ f150/ Focal Length: 45mm/ Pinhole Diameter 0.3mm

Dune, Fanore Beach.
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Photographer: George Sheils

Ireland has a lot of areas where natural sand dunes occur, particularly on the Atlantic battered West Coast.

In recent years these dunes have been subject to violent winter storms and, in some places, have been damaged by both wind erosion and human footfall. To protect these fantastic places there has been a policy of replanting Marram Grass to ensure the health and regeneration of the dune and also in some cases fences of natural hardwood and zig-zag piles have been erected to restrict the flow of movement through at-risk areas.

I think these dunes are nice places to photograph and make for ideal pinhole material.

These images show the Dunes at two different locations on the West Clare coast.

- George Sheils

5x4 DIY Pinhole Camera/ f150; 0.3mm pinhole

Old Milk Churn, Moanmore Bog
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Photographer: George Sheils

Ireland is rightly famous for its bogs with an estimated 16% of our land area under peat. Boglands are a part of our culture and heritage, and are home to a unique array of plants and animals. Not only are they amazing habitats but they help to alleviate the effects of climate change by locking away carbon; they act as enormous sponges, storing water and so preventing flooding during heavy rain; and they purify our water – helping to provide our homes and business with a clean supply. Ireland has two main types of bog: raised bogs, which formed out of lake basins and are found throughout the midland counties; and blanket bog, which is found in uplands and areas of high rainfall in the west of Ireland.

However our bogs have been seriously damaged over time with the Irish Peatland Conservation Council estimating that only 8% of our raised bogs are of any conservation value. Meanwhile, in a report to the European Commission by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment in 2008, the remaining areas of ‘active’ raised and blanket bog habitats were assessed as ‘bad’. While turf-cutting for fuel has gone on as long as there have been people in Ireland, the industrialisation of peat extraction from the 1950’s laid waste to huge areas of bog that are visible from space! (enter 53°15’34.80″ N 7°53’33.45″ W in Google Earth to see the brown scars across county Offaly). All turf-cutting is bad for bogs as it lowers the water table and dries them out. No bog in Ireland is in pristine condition. Many bogs are so badly damaged that continued small-scale turf-cutting is no longer an issue however this makes the few remaining areas that are relatively intact all the more valuable.

In 1999 the implementation of the EU’s Habitats Directive in Ireland should have seen an end to turf-cutting on the most valuable midland raised bogs that were designated as Special Areas of Conservation. However the government at the time sought, and got, a derogation from the EU of 10 years before this damaging practice was to cease. Since this time turf-cutting has continued apace and our heritage and biodiversity continues to be lost. Since 1999 the IWT has been calling for an immediate end to the derogation and a halt to all turf-cutting on SACs. In 2010 the belated end of the derogation and the implementation of turf-cutting bans began on some bogs. This will apply to more bogs in 2011-2013 however there is currently no restriction to turf-cutting on blanket bog SAC.

- George Sheils

The Captain's Bathing Place, Skerries
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Photographer: George Sheils

I used to swim a lot here when I was younger.

Placed my tripod low with my 5x4 pinhole camera mounted on it about 50 cms above the surface of the slipway. The waves were rushing up and down the slipway - although, because of the long exposure (1 min 36 secs) the water has blurred into a mist.

 - George Sheils

DIY 5x4 pinhole camera/ f150/ 0.3mm pinhole diameter/ 45mm focal length

Illaunbawn Plantation - Artifacts From Another Time
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Photographer: George Sheils

County Clare is home to over 2,000 forest owners, largely from farming backgrounds. The two main reasons why forestry is becoming popular in Clare are the levels of grant money and premium available and also the fact that forestry is seen as a better use of marginal land.

I visited one such forest to see what effect intensive foresting has on the landscape and at Illaunbawn, near Lahinch I could see that while foresting is obviously a welcome income boost in the long term for farming families there is no doubt but that there is an awful mess left behind once harvesting has begun. The devastation is Hiroshima-like with tree roots, branches and general timber debris left over.

This picture shows an old kettle which was used for boiling water to make tea and even provide hot water for baths and washing.

- George Sheils

Calumet cc-4402 Large Format Camera/ 120mm Schneider Angulon/ F8 for 1/60 second

North Strand, Skerries
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Photographer: George Sheils

I used to swim a lot from this rainwater culvert when I was younger.

For the picture I placed my tripod absolutely flat on the culvert with my 5x4 pinhole camera mounted on it about 10 cms above the surface of the culvert. The waves were rushing up and down the culvert - although, because of the long exposure (1 min 36 secs) the water has blurred into a mist.

 - George Sheils

DIY 5x4 Pinhole Camera/ f150/ 0.3mm pinhole diameter/ 45mm focal length

Rock Formation, Rush.
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Photographer: George Sheils

A rock formation in Rush County Dublin.

- George Sheils

Barnageera Groynes, Dublin
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Photographer: George Sheils

Barnageera Beach has 4 or 5 groynes (most in pretty poor condition) which help to minimise the erosive power of the waves on the coastline.

I like how they look when they are uncovered by the receding tide.

- George Sheils

Exposure time: 36 seconds/ 5x4 DIY pinhole camera/ f150 , 45mm focal length/ 0.3mm pinhole diameter

Barnageera Groyne, Dublin
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Photographer: George Sheils

Barnageera Beach has 4 or 5 groynes (most in pretty poor condition) which help to minimise the erosive power of the waves on the coastline.

I like how they look when they are uncovered by the receding tide.

- George Sheils

Exposure time: 36 seconds/ f150 , 45mm focal length/ 0.3mm pinhole diameter

 

Drumanagh, Skerries
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Photographer: George Sheils

Some two miles from where I live there is headland called Drumanagh (pronounced Drum-on-ok).

It features a 19th century Martello tower and a large (200,000 m²) iron age promontory fort which has produced Roman artefacts.

Some archaeologists have suggested the fort was a bridgehead for Roman military campaigns, while others suggest it was a Roman trading colony or a native Irish settlement that traded with Roman Britain.

Although its archaeological importance has been known since the 1950s, when ploughing turned up sherds of Roman samian ware, it has not been subject to archaeological excavation, but numerous artefacts have been dug up by illegal metal detectorists. One such collector attempted to sell a trove of Roman coins and ornaments at Sotheby's in London in the 1980s, which was impounded and deposited in the National Museum of Ireland

Anyway, it's a magic place and I always get a special feeling when I am on it.

- George Sheils

DIY 5x4 Pinhole Camera

Baltray Beach, Louth
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Photographer: George Sheils

I decided to revisit Baltray Beach recently when I was testing out some new pinhole cameras.

The first image here is of a wooden post which for some bizarre reason is stuck in the sand some 200 yards out and can only be seen at low tide. I don't know what it is doing there and I don't think it serves any obvious purpose but it is nice to photograph all the same.

- George Sheils

DIY 5x4 Pinhole Camera/ f150/ 0.3mm diameter pinhole/ Exposure time: 12 seconds

Deserted Farmhouse, Balcunnin
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Photographer: George Sheils

This is an image from a small roll of film taken in a derelict farmhouse just outside Skerries. Everything was left as is. Kettle on the window ledge, cobwebs, dust, peeling wallpaper and some very nice old furniture including this old chair.

The farmhouse has recently been demolished.

- George Sheils

Dry Stone Wall, Clare
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Photographer: George Sheils

This shot of a dry stone wall was taken near Lough Inchiquin, Co Clare.

- George Sheils

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