Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the free-diving photographer who captures wildlife off Ireland’s wild west coast

Known for its lush rolling landscapes and rugged seas, Ireland’s west coast is a dream destination for many travellers. Boasting unspoilt charms, it’s a place that is favoured by surfers, hikers and holiday makers alike, and for wildlife and water photographer George Karbus, originally from the Czech Republic, making the move there made complete sense. With work that focuses on wild marine mammals, surfing and beautifully lit coastal scenes, George’s images have been inspiring travellers, as well as unveiling the hidden world that lies beneath the waves.

George Karbus free-dives to capture incredible underwater images both in Ireland and further afield. Image by George Karbus

George’s interests in the underwater world began in Majorca, where he lived for five years. With easy access to the ocean, he started snorkelling and free-diving, but didn’t begin taking photographs underwater until he went to Ireland. Cold, green and wild, it was completely different to the Spanish island that he had moved from, and proved to be an inspiring subject. “Ireland is a very unique place. There is, of course, the rough Atlantic ocean, and you can experience huge waves and storms. The weather is so changeable, conditions can go from sunny to heavy cloud in minutes. It’s really good for photography and teaches you to react very quickly,” George told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Winter waves off the coast of County Clare. Image by George Karbus

Capturing stunning images of humpback whales, dolphins, compass jellyfish, spider crabs, seals, gannets and puffins amongst other wildlife, George usually takes to the ocean with nothing more than a camera (in a waterproof housing) and a mask and snorkel with long fins. Preferring to free-dive, his small setup allows him to get up close and personal to animals without disturbing them. His photography takes him all over the world, but he says that his most successful images are captured in Ireland, in locations such as the Blasket Islands, Dingle Peninsula, Saltees Islands, Baltimore and Skellig Michael.

Dingle in County Kerry, Ireland Image by George Karbus

“In underwater photography, the visibility is usually limited, so you have to photograph with a wide angle lens and come really close to the subject. To be able to be so close to those animals is a unique and amazing experience. And of course, when you get a good shot with good light it’s mind-blowing for people that never see this underwater world. Not everyone can go into the sea and see the things we see, so it’s great to be able to share it,” George said.

A humpback whale in Tonga. Image by George Karbus

To date, George has won numerous awards for his work and runs workshops and tutorials for people interested in photography both in Ireland and further afield. He also takes images of surfers and has a collection of incredible pictures that show people riding powerful and large waves.

A surfer captured from beneath the waves. Image by George Karbus

More of George’s work is available at his official website.