Welcome to the Blog for Bronwen Healy Photography. The Benchmark in photographic excellence. Full Website:

31 May 2017

Postcard from Ireland

Bonjour!  We are in Ireland after arriving on Thursday.  I had been intending to write each day but we seem to have been running from 6am right through till 10pm without stopping much.  By the end of the day I've been too tired to write anything.

Our flight across was really pretty ok.  I'm a nervous flyer, despite the number of miles I do in the air, and was therefore a bit apprehensive about flying Emirates because I'm used to Qantas but they were really very good.  Although we were a fair way back in the plane (and to tell the truth the seats were a teeny tiny bit hard) our row had no one behind us which meant we could recline our seats without impeding anyone.  We had a full row (only 3 of us) but the man sitting with us was nice and we chatted on and off to him throughout the flight (he was English from memory heading home through Heathrow Airport for a family gathering?).  I can't say that I got a lot of sleep but it seemed to go much better than the flight a couple of years ago to Los Angeles which took FOREVER!
On arrival into Dubai which was our 90 minute stop over we were able to use the Emirates Business Lounge through my Qantas Club membership and that was pretty nice so we felt more refreshed when we got on our flight to Dublin.  I read recently that if you get on a flight and think "only 7 hours" it really does prove that you live all the way to whoop whoop.  Alas and woe we didn't have a window seat on the flight to Dublin.  Although in reality that was a small price to pay because for some reason our flights across were not linked and at one stage it looked likely that we wouldn't be sitting together for the 7 hour Dubai - Dublin leg and both of us thought that would suck.  It's a lovely experience when Darren and I travel together.  I have a sense that Darren is always looking out for me, and even when things get stressful an argument is really very rare.  We have a mutual love of the work and we spark off each other and have different skills.  Plus we have an easiness together that I've never had in previous relationships and perhaps that comes with both being so passionate about what we do. Truly, madly, deeply?  I guess so.

The plane landed into the Dublin just after midday on Thursday and we breezed through customs and got our bags off so quickly and easily I was walking out the front saying "is that it????"  We caught a taxi into Dublin City to our hotel.  

Dublin is filled with cobble stone streets and fabulous building and the streets are lined with so many different and brightly coloured doors.  Naturally I liked the red ones the best.  We spent a few hours wandering around on Thursday afternoon/evening where I did a little bit of gift shopping (which turned out to be time well spent because the rest of our time in Ireland just raced through and was spent mainly on the farms).  We then grabbed some dinner at the local pub before collapsing into bed around 8.30pm.

Jetlag kicked in around 3am on Friday morning and we gave up and got up around 4.30am.  Since we were up we figured we might as well go for a walk before breakfast.  We discovered that our hotel was on the same block at Oscar Wilde's house and the gardens which are named in his honour, Merrion Square.  Much to our annoyance the gardens were shut until around 9am which seemed ludicrous to us and I walked around muttering that Dublin was shut.  Truth be told though I absolutely loved Dublin.  The people were all so friendly and the age of the streets, buildings and just the general feel of it was fabulous.  I can't say I developed any real sense of where I was (that 'no inner compass' kicking straight back in) but Darren was pretty good at getting us around.

We spent a fabulous hour in the gardens of St Stephens which is a garden dedicated to Ireland's fight for independence. It was so pretty and the morning was warm and sunny.  After this I insisted that we head back to a little jewellery shop I'd seen because I wanted to buy Jessica and her beautiful friend India a matching pair of shamrock earrings and then headed back to check out of our hotel so that we could collect our hire car.

The hire car company in Ireland was Europcar.  It's fair to say that after my experience with them that I will never hire another car from them in my life (apart from the one that is prepaid in England) because basically they are capitalist elitist snobs and have a draconian policy that classes you as a second class citizen if you do NOT have a credit card.  According to them a VISA Debit Card is useless and we were very nearly left without a car despite having PREPAID for it.  Just for the record I don't want a credit card because I believe in living within my resources.  I manage my money and this policy is NONSENSE and outrageous.  As I said, never again..  We did end up getting a car which I had to pay more money for and it was far smaller than the car I had paid for and I bet getting a refund from them will be like getting blood out of a stone.  As I said, after this trip they won't get anymore of my business!

Rant over, we drove down out of Dublin to the Irish National Stud in Kildare.  It's a gorgeous farm.  Warm, welcoming and beautiful.  Invincible Spirit stands there and so to be asked to become his stallion photographer is pretty grand.  The first day at a stud is really all about learning about the place, the horses and the staff, and we weren't blessed with great weather.  The next day was quite humourous and put Melbourne to shame.  We had a mixture of cloud, then beautiful sun, then cloud, then sun, then rain, then sun, then cloud, then rain followed by hail before the sun came out again!  All you could do was be patient and laugh!  The forecast was pretty ordinary on Sunday so we postponed the 2nd day and went sightseeing instead.  It was a fun drive down to Waterford which my mum had said we should visit.  We went to the Waterford shop and did a bit of shopping although we were both pretty tired seeing as we were still getting over the flight and jetlag and Saturday had been a big day.

Then on Monday I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by driving through the front gates of the Aga Khan's famed Gilltown Stud.  Passing the statue of the brilliant but tragically ill fated champion racehorse SHERGAR brought tears to my eyes.  I was in high school when he was abducted and killed by the IRA in the early 1980s.  The statue is fabulous and symbolic of a lost champion and the legacy that never was.  Alas and woe we weren't left with a Dubawi, who managed to carry on the line of his short lived sired Dubai Millenium, from Shergar's one and only foal crop.  He was lost to us forever.  We've spent a great deal of time with Aline Giraud, who is warm and welcoming and at times immensely funny.  I've loved hanging about with her and working with her as we've gone along.

Sinead Hyland and Patrick Diamond (who we'd previously worked with at Arrowfield Stud - he'd featured in those lovely images of Miss Finland with her Animal Kingdom filly in 2014) at the Irish National Stud were just terrific and we had a couple of lunches and evenings with them.  They were generous with their time and loved the photographs which pleased us so much.  The stallion staff, in particular Daffa and Paul were wonderful and we like to hope that this trip has been the start of an ongoing relationship with both staff and horses.  The National Stud is a wonderful investment from the Irish Government who clearly views the thoroughbred industry as a national asset.  The number of tourists who visited on the 3 days we were there was quite remarkable.  

To be asked to photograph for the Aga Khan Studs is very special and the importance is not lost on me and I think after my cancer health scare in 2014 these moments are all the more special to me.  Sea The Stars was a racehorse I idolised and so to photograph him as a stallion is a gift.  It's been fabulous meeting and developing a working relationship with his stallion groom Ray and assistant Ben.  They had a laugh when "Pinky" (my secret weapon) came out.  When I accidentally left her behind at the stallion barn and came looking for her the next day, Ben joked that they were holding Pinky for ransom.  As always, just as she's done with other famous horses, Pinky worked her magic when nothing else would.  It was terrific photographing Sea The Stars' half brother, a stallion named Born to Sea.  He's also out of champion broodmare Urban Sea (she's also the dam of the remarkable northern hemisphere stallion Galileo) and he's by Invincible Spirit.  The third stallion we photographed was Harzand, who is their new stallion and dual Derby winner and son of their champion Sea the Stars.

After we finished shooting for the Aga Khan Studs and the National Stud we had two days at the Curragh for the Guineas weekend.  The first day was just quietly fairly wretched as it poured with rain.  The second day was much better!  The highlight was meeting my 'cousin' and famous Irish racing photographer Pat "Cash" Healy.  Pat is surely one of the only people in the world who can make Ryan Moore giggle spontaneously.  Following him around and watching him work, and watching the way he interacted with Irish racing personalities was (to quote Bruce McAveney) "special".  Darren, Pat and I had dinner together on Saturday evening after our soaking at the Curragh and he helped us out on track on both days and it was great to hear his thoughts. 

Our trip out of Dublin was eventful with the Airfrance check in counter completely overwhelmed and in all honesty we were lucky to make our flight.  Our next installment comes from France and that's been daunting but fun and humourous all at the same time!  The clouds have finally cleared this evening and we're hoping for nice weather today. 

We're so jetlagged.  My once nice smile gets lopsided now when I smile.  Alas and woe.

Hello Dublin

Night cap.

Roadside strawberries!

Viking castle in Waterford.  Just for fun.

Love this shot Darren took head on of CHURCHILL winning the 2000 Irish Guineas.

CHURCHILL.  Irish 2000 Guineas.

CHURCHILL.  Irish 2000 Guineas.

HARZAND.  Son of Sea the Stars.  Epsom and Irish Derby winner and new Aga Khan stallion.  Loved him.

New ad for champion racehorse and stallion SEA THE STARS.

Our BnB in Kilcullen. Geraldine and her gorgeous daughter Laura were lovely.

My 'cous', Pat "Cash" Healy.  He's so fabulous.
No biting!!!!  With my 'new boy' INVINCIBLE SPIRIT.

Our "new boy" INVINCIBLE SPIRIT, Patrick Diamond, Bron and Darren.  Magic moment..

13 May 2017

Countdown. D Day minus 14 (.... errr.. 4)

When I started writing this post (which admittedly only got as far as a single paragraph) we were 14 sleeps away from walking onto a plane and flying to Ireland.  My kitchen bench is a sea of lists and they don't seem to be getting shorter although I am crossing things off, so I guess I'm making progress.  But on going back into my only just started post, I had to correct the title because it's now only 4 sleeps until we walk on board of said plane!  Which demonstrates how parlously bad I have gotten at writing on my Blog.  Sorry about that.

This will be my very first trip to Europe which when I think about is a bit pathetic.  Somehow there were always horses and not much money and overseas travel wasn't possible.  Then my kids came along and so straight away that made it a lot harder.  Well, impossible really. 

Naturally this trip will be incredibly horsey but surely you'd guessed that already. Actually, I think it's going to be almost all about horses.  And much to my disgust I just discovered that the one really touristy thing I wanted to do, which is the Princess Diana Exhibition at Kensington Palace, is sold out for the dates we are in Europe!  The website does say that there will be some tickets available at the gates but to expect huge queues.  "Disappointed!!!" 

At the moment I'm spending nearly all my time organising things for my children while I'm away and also preparing all the things we need to do before we leave.  This activity comes off the back of a very busy summer and autumn carnival so there's no shortage of things to put on my list.  There's a diary as long as my arm of the kids' commitments, all nicely entered into the calender and printed out which I hope my Nanny will be able to follow easily.  And then of course its the "how much camera equipment can I take?" debate.  I think that the equipment is all in hand.  We've bought some nice camera bags which should work well and there's a few other new items as well.  We do after all want to produce our very best work.

First we go to Ireland.  Oh hurraahhhhh!!!!  I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Ireland.  We'll be visiting the Irish National Stud and Gilltown Stud.  And we're hoping to go and meet Galileo at Coolmore and it would be terrific to see champion Australian mare Atlantic Jewel (or "AJ" as we called her affectionately) seeing as she's now a resident at Coolmore Stud.  She has a few Galileo foals although I don't think any of them are of racing age yet.  We will also go to the Irish Guineas weekend at The Curragh (again, oh my god....)  and we'll meet photography luminary Pat Healy.  Namesake, right?!  But no, we are not related. 

From there we fly to France. We're doing french lessons and they are complex and hard but I just love it.  I remember doing lessons when I was really young but I hated it and was terrible at it.  Of course now I wish I had persevered.  We are going to keep up with the lessons on our return.  I think that my pronounciation is better than Darren's but I am struggling to remember it all.  Most of our time in France will be in Normandy and Chantilly.  We will go to the Aga Khan Studs and to Haras d'Etreham and also to the French Derby. 

The final leg will be in England.  I'm going to pretend to be Bridget Jones in London.  We have a few days to just swan around in London (staying in Kensington) and then we'll spend the last few days in Newmarket where we'll see Juddmonte, Dalham Hall and go to the gallops. We're staying with a great friend of mine and that will be fabulous.

So stay tuned and watch for the images.  I hope that you will like them.  As we say, the Image is Everything.  I'll leave you with a series of images of The Legend, Redoute's Choice, who stood 2 seasons for the Aga Khan Studs in France.  He is represented this weekend but some of his French bred runners in a couple of Group 1 races in France this weekend.  This is the horse who has made all of this possible for me.  Redoute's, it's been a privilege to be your stallion photographer.