Sean Bruen

Photographer, Weather Historian

My Passion

My interests are Weather and Photography. My photography interest delves from my weather obsession which has been a part of my life since I was just a kid. I was fascinated by extremes and was self taught all the meteorological knowledge I acquired through the years.

During my teen years, I became sentimental about memories and wanted to capture every moment I felt was special. This was where photography really began but you’ll see soon why weather is relevant. I did not have a camera at this point, only my phone to capture. The weather was largely uninteresting but this flipped during 2017-18 when we had a run of extremes such as Ophelia, Beast from the East/Storm Emma and the hot drought summer of 2018. I used photography as a means of documenting these events because even though collecting weather stats from official stations was something I loved and analysed heavily, it felt like there was something else missing such as my own personal reflection and memories on the events. This was where photography came in. I still had only a phone to capture on at this point but later in 2018, I invested in my first camera which was a point and shoot as I was a complete beginner but the camera definitely gave good value and I continued to use even to current day despite my advancement as it was a flexible tool that I could fall back on. In 2019, I got into using manual mode fluently and invested in my first DSLR of which I use as my main camera ’til now. Investment in my first DSLR was a huge turning point in my life. My weight was piling on again and I needed to get out and exercise – I never liked going out on walks however. Photography changed my perspective on such and now I love the outdoors, admiring nature’s endless beauty that I had never done before from the fiery sunrise and sunset colours to the beautiful orange hues of autumn. I developed a big love for astrophotography and nightscapes as well in that time.

I am always researching and thinking of new ways to capture something like a composition nobody has done before and lining up the sun/moon with landmarks using apps.

My Journey

I joined Not So Different in 2019 around the same time as I purchased my first DSLR camera. I had just come from finishing the Leaving Cert in June of that year and was unsure of where to go ahead. My photography interest wasn’t nearly as big as it is now. Back then, I had a very pessimistic view on life. I said things like ah sure, what can a new small initiative like Not So Different for me. I refused to believe that Not So Different could make a positive difference to me and help me bring my name out there. Weather was my prime interest at this time and Not So Different recommended to do a meteorology related course instead of going for Photography in college. I went and did Photography in Coláiste Dhúlaigh anyway because that was what I had decided. At first I needed to do a year in Media Production before continuing onto the Photography course. I had many talks with NSD in that time and participated in various showcases – such as the Teelings Distillery physical showcase in November 2019 and the digital showcase in Summer 2020. These events, especially the former, definitely helped build my confidence and genuinely enjoyed them. The first showcase was the first time I felt I had made an achievement, besides my Leaving Cert, since the death of my music interest back in my early to mid-teenage years. I got to talk to officials about my photography as well as other people’s family and friends. This felt like the start of something special and perhaps an interest I would be able to actually do with no limits – I lacked motivation to play the piano regularly for music and didn’t have the greatest voice to sing nor did I do physics or higher level maths in school for meteorology.

As time had passed into early 2020, my weight was falling quickly from regular walks and commuting to college each and every day before lockdown occurred in March of 2020 when that all stopped, at least temporarily. At first I didn’t mind the lockdown as sitting around in my room was something I had done for years and years but it eventually became tedious and began to realise just how much I loathe the idea of online learning. Online learning probably would have been a godsend to me years ago, I wouldn’t have to get up and out of my bed everyday to go to school. All I would have to do is get dressed and log in to Zoom or MS Teams. I think my maturity and interest in photography as well as my time at Not So Different encouraged me to see it the complete other way, especially into the second half of 2020 when my entire educational year was online which to say the least was a huge pain and I terribly lacked the social interactions which would have been very positive for developing my communication skills for say a future job or other courses such as progressing onto university. Somehow I ended up with the highest grade possible in my photography course and got a distinction which I was so delighted with; I could not believe it! All that online learning, endless moans and lack of motivation to do anything yet I ended up with a distinction.

Have only been with Not So Different for 2 years but I feel I have changed a lot in that time with how I look at life and my work. I am more open about suggestions with less of an attitude to things. I am now doing a level 8 degree course in photography at Technological University Dublin.

My Future

My biggest dream is working in the climatology division of Met Éireann because I have always been interested in the past and learning about the various weather extremes Ireland has had in its history. I am not as interested in forecasting for the future per se but looking back on what has happened.

I have many projects that I would like to carry out including writing a book or doing a documentary on the big freeze of 2010 as it was a moment of my lifetime that I took truly for granted because of my age without realising just how extraordinary the period was. As you can probably tell from this, I am also obsessed with snow and as a photographer, I want to capture Ireland frozen and all snow covered – not just Dublin.