Drone shot of Tory lighthouse, Co.Donegal, Ireland

We talk to John Eagle, one of Ireland’s best-known photographers and landscape artists who specializes in aerial coastal views and lighthouses.

John runs Irish Lighthouses and Coastal Tours of Ireland a number of times each year.

He has also published the book “Ireland’s Lighthouses, a photo essay“, which covers every major lighthouse on the Irish coast alongside many of the smaller lighthouses. It gives directions to each of them along with a tale or two.

John lives on the Beara Peninsula, Co.Cork, Ireland having arrived from England in 1991.

In the early days, he took his aerial photographs from a helicopter, usually flying with Irish Helicopters, and he was the first to take aerial shots of Irish lighthouses on a commercial basis in 1993.

He got his first drone for Christmas 2015 but continues to photograph from helicopters, using drones when location and weather permits.

1. John, when did you become an aerial photographer?

I first started taking aerial shots in 1993, flying around in a Bolkow helicopter with Irish Helicopters, then on a regular basis for the next twenty years.

Aerial view of Tearaght Island and the Inishtearaght lighthouse, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Photo shot from helicopter.

Aerial view of Tearaght Island and the Inishtearaght lighthouse, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Photo shot from helicopter – © John Eagle Photography


Aerial photo of Fastnet lighthouse, Ireland

Aerial view of Fastnet lighthouse, Ireland. Photo shot from helicopter – © John Eagle Photography


2. When did you decide to get a drone?

I was given one as a gift for Christmas 2015.


3. You run Lighthouse Tours all over the Irish Coastline, do you have a favourite lighthouse you like to photograph?

My favourite is Inishtearaght, but it is too far away to get drone shots so I have to use helicopters. I got some spectacular drone footage of Tory and Altacarry on my Northern Lighthouse tour.

Rathlin East lighthouse, also known as Altacarry

Rathlin East lighthouse, also known as Altacarry, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim. Ireland – © John Eagle Photography


4. You have named your drone “Eagle Eye”, what is the make and model of your drone?

It’s a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced.


5. You were the first person in Ireland to photograph every lighthouse and you have produced books on this subject, will you publish a book of aerial drone photographs?

I’m not sure yet.


Drone photo of Dursey Island, Co. Cork, Ireland

Drone photo of Dursey Island, Co. Cork, Ireland – © John Eagle Photography


6. The Irish coastline can have some very windy blustery days, how do you feel about sending “Eagle Eye” up in the air? Do you worry about it getting damaged?

It’s been up in 18mph winds and it was ok, I flew it around Blackball Head signal tower (Beara Peninsula).


7. You don’t add music to your drone videos of Irish lighthouses, why is this?

I prefer to use surf sounds. Also, I only have three pieces of music I can use at present, anything else would be breaking copyright.


8. What time of day do you like to shoot with your drone?

Mostly from 10am to two hours before dusk to get the best light.

Drone photo of Sheep's Head, Co. Cork, Ireland

Drone photo of Sheep’s Head, Co. Cork, Ireland – © John Eagle Photography


9. Do you use your drone to mainly get aerial photographs or do you want to get great aerial video too?

I prefer to go for still shots, but I do get videos as well.


10. Do you use any weather apps before you travel to the lighthouse where you want to take some aerial photographs? What apps and programs help you in your pre-flight checks?

I used to have a UAV app but found I wasn’t really paying much attention to it. I look at the sky, if it doesn’t look or feel like rain then I fly. I get my weather forecasts from the Norwegian weather app YR.

Drone shot of Broadhaven lighthouse, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Drone shot of Broadhaven lighthouse, Co. Mayo, Ireland – © John Eagle Photography


11. Is it hard getting permissions to fly in Ireland? Do you ask at each lighthouse before you take aerials of them?

I got permission to take pictures at Irish lighthouses back in 1993, I have it in writing. If I am near an airfield or public area I tend to avoid flying. I was a bit surprised to get a warning message at Rosses Point (Co. Sligo). There is a minor airfield at Sligo. I had to fly keeping the drone low. I mostly flew at the height of the Metal Man (historical stone navigation beacon, erected 1821 standing 5m or 16ft high). I don’t think any pilot of an aircraft would be mad enough to fly that low.


12. Are you licensed as a drone operator?

I don’t have a licence yet, my drone doesn’t need one, and I registered my drone in Ireland. I looked into going on the flying course but it is a heck of a lot of money. I guess I might do the course for the licence at some stage.


Note from the editor: A drone may not need to be registered if it is under a certain weight, however, if you are flying commercially, you may still need to be licensed to do so in certain jurisdictions/airspace regardless of the weight of your drone. Future regulation may see the current weight cap reduced as drones become smaller and even more sophisticated.

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