Thursday 31 October 2013

Behind the Lens of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust 2014 Calendar

Along with a great collection of cards and gifts, our Christmas Shop is also selling our 2014 calendar, containing photos taken by the Trust's own Dominic Kavanagh.

We've asked Dominic to give us an insight into the story behind some of the photos included.

It's a privilege to help out with the 2014 calendar It's exciting to think my efforts will help support clinical care, campaigning, raising awareness and funding of vital research within cystic fibrosis. 

My creative expression has always been through art; through watercolour painting and drawing as a child and young adult, but a love of wildlife and the natural world and interest in cameras led me into wildlife and landscape photography as a hobby.

Importantly, this has kept me relatively fit over the years - carrying heavy lenses to photo destinations is a great form of airway clearance! Although my health has deteriorated in the last two years, I've not let CF beat me or my photography. I have to compromise, doing morning physio whilst other photographers are capturing great sunrises; stopping short of the highest vantage points as others carry on for the best landscape views. But whilst other photographers list their achievements in terms of awards or competition prizes, I feel my achievement is managing to get out there and capture an evocative image in spite of the discomfort and breathlessness CF causes.

Some of my favourite images have been the hardest to achieve. A trip inside the Arctic Circle in March 2013 was physically punishing for me, in temperatures of -25 °C in Finland and a balmy -7 °C in Norway. I dosed up on steroids and took all the advice from my CF team to counter the low temperatures. I battled my way through Heathrow with camera bag, tripod, suitcase, rucksack of meds and compressor/nebs, as well as my in-flight oxygen. Hours later, the snow scene (January) of pine trees greeted us, as we headed into the woods for Finland's colourful birds. I stayed out until 3am to photograph the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), although haemoptysis cut my last night short.

The image of two puffins (July, pictured) on the Shetland Islands reminds me of the challenge of wildlife photography for someone with cystic fibrosis. I had to get up at 4am to do physio and nebs before our gruelling walk, with kit, to the cliffs at Hermaness. The experience provided everything: beautiful natural morning sunlight, undisturbed great squa birds breeding in the moorland and the melodious call of ring plovers which look like Faberge eggs in golden sunlight. To top it all, the return from sea of colourful, characterful puffins to feed their young, at almost arm's length in front of us. We lay in wait for hours for a handful of puffins, kept awake by 'the Stones' on a photographer’s iPhone.

Photography continues to be an incentive for me to challenge myself, pack as much as I can into my life, to achieve the unachievable, and to keep as well as possible for as long as possible. There are some images I still haven't managed to achieve, but I guess, 'you can't always get what you want.'

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