Six Swans Kinsale, 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Framed Print

December 20, 2017  •  1 Comment

Six Swans, Kinsale Harbour, 1997.

Six Swans, Kinsale Harbour, 1997.

Limited Edition framed print 500 x 500mm box frame.

This has been one of my most admired images of Kinsale and it is hard for me to believe that it was made twenty years ago now. Like most strong images, the moment that it was made it clearly imprinted in my mind. For younger photographers who have not experienced making photographs with medium or large format film-based equipment, the will seem like something quaint from a century gone by.

My primary camera system at the time was a Hassleblad 503CX. This was slightly more refined version of a workhorse camera for a generation of photographers, both professional and enthusiast, the square format 500. It took either 120 or 220 roll film, a larger format than 35mm, and along with wonderful Zeiss lenses, created superb images. It had no electronics, had a waist-level viewfinder and was really at its best on a sturdy tripod. 

Six Swans, Kinsale Harbour.Six Swans, Kinsale Harbour. The evening that this image was made was one of those rare, perfectly still early summer days when high tide coincided with warm evening light. I had seen this coming and was setting up for a nice composition near where the mast and monuments are today, with tripod just where I wanted it and I settled to watch the light bathe the harbour at the end of the day. From the corner of my eye, I spotted a couple of swans swim under the Kinsale Yacht Club marina walkway and only then saw four more a short distance behind. There was no time to move the tripod, so I quickly released the camera and lens and ran down the Pier Road and managed two exposures before the line of six broke up and wondered on, oblivious to the art being made above them!

Transparency film was a tough medium to work in – it was extremely intolerant of incorrect exposure and it was very much a case of the colour, shadow and highlight detail either being right or completely wrong. I'm sure there are many film-era photographers will relate to this as they recall chucking transparencies that they thought were going to be perfect in the bin. In the case of this shot, I had already read the exposure for the film using a handheld light meter (Fujichrome Velvia 50) and had no time to re-think or calculate this as the moment passed. And while the composition of the photograph still pleases me today, the slow shutter speed (probably 1/30 of a second) renders some movement blur in the swans. The finished image, when printed, is a moment – not a spectacular instant of light or anything – but unique and unrepeatable.

I have asked my colleagues in Strand Framing in Clonakilty to produce a special frame for this limited edition print, the overall size being 500x500mm (20"x20") and I have printed the scanned image on Permajet Fine Art Royal, heavyweight archival paper. I take great pleasure in individually finishing and signing each one.

I hope you enjoy this moment as much as I treasure it.


John  C. December 2017.




Martin Kiely(non-registered)
Lovely memories John , fantastic image
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