To Ireland and Further: George Karbus
Written and photographed by Vaclav Krizek
Everyone has their own ideas about Ireland; some go for the Whiskey and pubs... while some go for the stunning nature and powerful seascapes that attract photographers from all around the world.
In June 2018, I went to visit one of those photographers - George Karbus. He was born in the Czech Republic, but 15years ago left his home country for the coast of Ireland. Working and living around the water, he has made his way to be one the most admired marine-wildlife, seascape and surf photographers in the world.
It took me close two hours to get from Prague to Dublin by flight and another two hours driving to get to the west coast of Ireland. According to George, the city of Galway was the starting place for him and his girlfriend Kate. Being used to hot summers back home in Czech, I came in shorts and sandals, but this was not the right choice for the harsh Irish weather that greeted me.
I took a seat in the bus station just as George entered the room; “Hey buddy, welcome- welcome, nice to see you. I would really like to have a pizza, since I have not been in the big city for sometime... plus we need to charge the car anyway”. Well, pizza happened and after sorting out some minor problems with a broken charging point followed by an hour or so of driving, we arrived at George’s home, just in time for a beer and some conversation. But then it was off to bed.
"I love the open land and views here, it gives me a sense of freedom”
George had some sort of saying every day, which gave me a feeling that he really understood life here and he lived in its presence. It rained the whole day, so we talked about the industry, our lives in general and of course, what photography gear he uses. Two Nikon bodies; the D850 and D810, along with standard lenses like 16-35 for landscapes, the mighty 300 2.8 and a 16mm prime - which he uses mostly for underwater photography of marine animals. It fits nicely to his Subal housing and thanks to the high resolution these cameras offer, he does not have to worry about cropping images every now and then. Personally, I shoot with a with D850 and standard 24-70 VR, 70-200 f2.8 VR and 300 f4 VR.
Finally it was evening and the storm has cleared. The light had started to improve, so we headed out to take photographs. The Cliffs of Moher are probably one the most visited sea cliffs in the world and George at one time or another, has shot here in just about every weather condition. After all he only lives 20 minutes away from them. “You never know what nature can throw at you. Storms can come quick and the weather changes rapidly” - said George. That evening, the weather delivered perfect light and the cliffs amazed me by their majestic looks.
”People are not listening to the weather and nature but too stereotypes and time”
We headed for the beach that morning - George had “smelled” good waves in the air. My question to George was: “Doesn't small George (AKA his son Joshua) need to go to school?”. George just smiled at me and said “If there are waves, there is no school my friend”. It really felt like George lived a care-free existence, he lives with a rolling flow. He was not even that bothered that we returned late to pick up his daughter from kindergarten; “In Ireland no one really expects you are going to be on time, the community is really strong here and everyone knows us”.
“When I die - I do not want to be buried under a shiny stone in a landfill of the people”
George spoke strongly about humanity during our breakfast and how things are, he spoke genuine and honestly. He also mention an email request he received in that morning. He explained; “A couple, or more like a groom from the US, asked me If I could shoot a proposal image at cliffs for them. I know exactly where to tell him to propose. Not only because she will say ‘yes’ (laughing), but because the light is going to be perfect." He then said "It is up to the groom to propose, I will pretend to be a landscape photographer - so the bride has no idea... it is quite funny at times”.
It really happened like that, I was standing at a different part of cliffs and watched the whole scene through a long-lens. George later said “It was perfect light - they will have some nice images - but the groom took some time...” (laughing again). The light was indeed good, so I placed myself on the very edge of the cliffs and photographed fulmars gliding through the air. After, we left to photograph horses, and as George said; “There is energy in the air (man), and it gives the horses power to jump around and run” and so they did. Another storm was coming and we photographed through the sunset and into the darkness.
“I live today. I rode some nice waves yesterday, but that was yesterday..."
We headed for the Aran Islands located just off the coast of Doolin. For me, this was my final day and where I would see Kate and George swim with their close friend, a solitary bottle nose dolphin called “Malinká”. While carrying one of his large prints George said, “We sail for the photographs”. He later handed the image over to the owner of the ferry company who would take us to the islands - rendering our journey free of charge.
Kate has been swimming with Malinká for many years now and George has been capturing it through images with his unique way of seeing things. It was a beautiful day and after we had lunch together, he also swam with Malinká. I was sitting on a sandy beach with Joshua, while watching Kate and the dolphin dance upside down together. The water was blue - like in the tropics, but very cold. Joshua said to me “you should go in to the water too..." and with a little encouragement from him, I did too. Suddenly Josh shouted with excitement - “Look!” - the dolphin swam towards me to have a look. She circled me and then took a closer look. Although I knew she was friendly, I froze for a moment. It was a strange feeling of the unknown - but it felt great.
She then left me and swam back to Kate in the distance. It was a wild finish to an amazing trip. Eventually we headed back to George's home where we enjoyed a final beer and then went to check in on the Lahinch surf break. The sunny weather that day had produced a tranquil light on the evening waves.
Farewell my friend, I thought.
I would like to say big thanks to George, Kate and their kids for welcoming me into their lives and I shall hope to see them soon again.
The original article was written, photographed and translated by Vaclav Krizek and is posted here.