23 Jan 2022

Offaly photographer collects major award in national competition

Offaly photographer collects major award in national competition

Tom O'Hanlon admiring his award winning photograph

Rahan based photographer, Tom O’Hanlon collected his runner-up award last week in the inaugural ‘Reach for the Stars’ astrophotography competition run by the  Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

His winning image, ‘North Star Jesuit House’,  is a series of tacked images, taking in The North Star, which demonstrates the Earth’s rotation, captured at Tullybeg House – the former Jesuit boarding school in Rahan.

The image was selected as a runner-up by an expert judging panel following a rigorous judging process of over 180 entries.

In addition to Tom’s success with this image, one of his other entries ‘Skytrain Lough Boora’ was also selected  to feature in  an exhibition of the judges’ 20 top-rated images.

Tom’s two images will feature as part of the exhibition, which will run online initially, launching on the DIAS website, this week. 

An outdoor exhibition at DIAS's premises on Burlington Road, Dublin is planned for the coming weeks, followed - later in the summer - by an exhibition at DIAS Dunsink Observatory.

Tom, who worked for five years as staff photographer with the Tullamore Tribune, said the award winning image took one hour and 15 minutes to capture.

“I used the Plough to find the North Star using lasers,” Tom told the Tribune this week.

He took a series of photographs over the one hour 15 minutes time span which he stacked on Photoshop to show how the earth rotated around the sun.

“You have to be very careful about camera eqipment getting very hot in such circumstances,” said Tom who used an electric blanket to ensure there was no build-up of condensation.

The winning image was taken on a clear night in late October last year when temperatues were at freezing pont, he recalled.

Josh Mathews from Moyard, Co. Galway was selected as the overall winner of the competition, for his image, ‘To the Waters and the Wild’, while Ciaran P. O’Donnell from Newtownabbey, Belfast, Co. Antrim was also announced as a runner-up for his submission, ‘Cygnus Mosaic in Hubble Palette’.

Commenting on the top three images, Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of Astrophysics at DIAS and a member of the judging panel for ‘Reach for the Stars’, said: “The standard of entries to the competition was excellent, and the judging panel had a very difficult job making our final selection. The chosen images showcase a variety of striking and impressive astronomy scenes, and capture the talent of astrophotographers in Ireland.”

Brenda Fitzsimons, Picture Editor of The Irish Times and a member of the judging panel, said: “I’m simply in awe of the talent, perseverance and technical ability applied to accomplish these wonderful images. The winning photographs are not only astonishingly beautiful and a well-balanced images,  but are perfectly executed. It is evident that the photographers have immense technical knowledge and patience.”

Fellow judge Martina Quinn, Managing Director of competition sponsors Alice PR & Events, remarked on how the Irish landscape provided a striking backdrop for the astro-photographs.

“It was fantastic to see people’s creativity in capturing beautiful Irish landscapes whilst also showcasing astronomical features to stunning effect,” she said.

“From Neolithic tombs to beaches and urban parks, there were entries from all corners of the country. It was also great to see such variety in the range of skill and creativity – from professional photographers and seasoned astronomers to people with an interest in astronomy or photography just as a hobby. The competition certainly captured people’s imaginations, which is what it was all about.”

Speaking about the entries overall, John Flannery, Vice-President of the Irish Astronomical Society and member of the judging panel, added: “I was blown away by the entries to the competition – the level of skill, imagination and creativity shown. Many of the images captured very complex astronomical features that are extremely difficult to photograph, and require great skill and patience. It is great to see such interest in astronomy from both amateur and experienced photographers and astronomers across the country.”

Commenting on the success of the competition, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS said: “I would like to congratulate the winners of the competition on their achievements and thank them and indeed all entrants for sharing their creativity.”

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