'I have some ideas about capturing Milky Way shots with Ireland’s most famous golfing landmarks under the stars'

'I have some ideas about capturing Milky Way shots with Ireland’s most famous golfing landmarks under the stars'
Cian O'Regan's stunning picture of the North Star overlooking the sixth green in Cork Golf Club.

GOLFER and photographer Cian O’Regan combined his interests recently when he captured some pretty unique shots of Cork Golf Club.

Unusually the shots were taken in the middle of the night, something that doesn’t happen too often.

“The idea of taking pictures of golf courses at night first popped into my head a year ago when taking pictures one evening down in Cork Golf Club

“It was nothing more than an after-thought, I wondered what the place would look like at night. I never took it any further until I went down during lockdown after the travel radius was increased to 5km and captured the images of the fifth, sixth and seventh.”

The quarry holes in Cork are the oldest part of the course, reclaiming the limestone quarry that dates back well over 200 years. The sixth and seventh in Cork closely align with two of the original holes that date back from the first course in 1899. Planning and timing were essential to a successful shoot, and the results were exceptional with five great shots.

The International Space Station features in one picture of the fifth green, while the stars are the focal point in a shot of the sixth green. The ISS picture was taken from a disused pier that stretches out into the estuary while the North Star picture was taken from the safety of the fairway. Both were technical shots, but it was the second one that took the most planning.

“My biggest concern about this shot was the composition of the photo,” explained Cian.

“Even though I was shooting using a really wide-angle lens, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to be able to get the North Star and the sixth green in the same shot.

The International Space Station rises in the night sky behind the sixth tee at Cork Golf Club. Picture: Cian O'Regan
The International Space Station rises in the night sky behind the sixth tee at Cork Golf Club. Picture: Cian O'Regan

“I knew that the hole is pointed roughly South to North when walking from teebox to green, but I did look up the course on Google Maps before heading down to figure out what my heading would be, to figure out where the North Star would be positioned over the green and house that overlooks the quarry.”

Cian has had an interest in astronomy for many years, and that led to his interest in night-time photography. While many people now have a top-class camera in their phone, and many more have dedicated digital cameras, night-time photography is very much a niche area. There’s the obvious issue around going out at an unusual time but there’s also a technical element to taking pictures in the dark.

“I can understand why some photographers don’t branch out to include night photography, or astrophotography, as part of their portfolio. It involves late nights, a great deal of planning, high levels of patience, and disappointment when you don’t get the shot you imagined.”

Good landscape photographs — in daytime or night-time — rarely happen by accident. The amount of planning that goes into capturing images like the full moon rising over Roches Point, or the International Space Station flying over Blackrock Castle takes a great deal of preparation.

“But in terms of planning, the thing I find myself spending the most time researching before going out to take a photograph is the weather, which in Ireland, is notoriously unpredictable. Combined with the fact that we only get 60 clear nights a year, the window of opportunity for capturing the night sky is extremely limited, so you have to take advantage of clear nights.”

Cian O'Regan with astronaut Dan Tani at the Space Studies Programme in CIT.
Cian O'Regan with astronaut Dan Tani at the Space Studies Programme in CIT.

Obviously safety is a key element of the process, trekking out through a golf course in darkness has its obvious risks. But just like his pictures, Cian has everything looked after from the planning.

“Whenever I’m looking to take a picture somewhere at night that I’m not particularly familiar with, I always try and arrive before it gets dark or sometimes even the day before just to see if there are any problems in terms of good footing, street lighting, treacherous terrain, animals I need to worry about.

“The most important piece of equipment I have with me any time I’m out taking night time shots is my trusty headlamp so I can see what’s in front of me, as well as my mobile phone.

"I’ve had a few close calls over the years where the batteries in both my headlamp and phone went dead. That’s not such a big deal if it happens in a place you know like the back of your hand, but it’s not a good situation to be in when it happens somewhere you’re visiting for the first time.

“I’ll never go somewhere to take a picture if I’m not able to get to and from a location safely.”

The response from Cork golfers has been very positive with many ordering prints from Cian. It’s certainly a unique view of well-known areas of the golf club.

“I really like how these photos are making both myself and other people who might be lifelong members of Cork — who have probably played the course a thousand times oversee the place in a new light. 

"Combined with some beautiful drone imagery that’s been shot at the club recently to show off changes that have been made to the course over the winter months, it’s always nice to be able to show off the course from a different perspective — whether it’s taken 300 feet above the course during the day or from the ground at 1am!”

You can purchase Cian's work here: 

https://www.cianoregan.com/pages/golf

Cian is planning for more night-time golf shoots, combining his passions. As soon as the current travel restrictions are lifted he plans to contact a few courses with a view to capturing some more unique shots.

“I have some pretty cool ideas about capturing some cool Milky Way shots this summer to include some of Ireland’s most famous golfing landmarks under the stars. I’ll be posting them all on my new website www.cianoregan.com which I’m just about to launch where people can be mounted and framed prints of these photos and many more.”

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