Togs & Tales

Nial O'Connell

Nial O'Connell

Landscape Photographer

Hi I’m Nial and I’m from Dublin. I’m currently working at a Staircase manufacturer, making timber stairs for houses. I’ve had many interests over the years, Mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding and snowboarding but the older I get and larger my belly becomes the less I can do them. That’s when I decided to get back into motorbikes. I had a small 125cc bike when I was younger but had to give it up for the practicality of a car.
About 6 years ago after getting back from living in Canada for a year and finding it difficult and costly to get insurance on a car, I decided to throw my hand at it again. It helped that a few lads I know were getting back into it around the same time. Now 5 bikes later I drive an old man touring bike and I’ve travelled all around Ireland and parts of Europe on it. I’m trying to sell it so if anybody is interested give me a shout haha. My plan is to build a small campervan, so I have less of the early morning drives for sunset and will get me away more on the weekends to discover more of this amazing country.

What was your path to becoming a Landscape Photographer & What was your first camera?

I’ve always liked to take photos but it was mainly on my phone, but never actually thought of taking up photography. My dad used to do a bit when I was younger and was always curious, my brothers used to dable a bit too.
About 3 years ago my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was a shock to us all as she was only 37 at the time, so spent the best part of 2 years going through treatments then surgeries and more treatments.
Luckily she was giving the all clear but physically and mentally it has taken its toll on both of us. Not long after that I was diagnosed with Arthritis which over the course of about a week, I was crippled with pain and could barely move. Eventually, I got treatment which is working out really well at the moment. This is when I came across Thomas Heaton on YouTube by accident about 18 months ago, then I started to delve a little deeper into it, in the hope that it would give me a bit of time to myself and something to take my mind off everyday problems and a little bit of easy exercise to do. So, I borrowed my brother’s Canon 5d mark 1 and a few lenses he had, and started to go out and shoot. It wasn’t long before I was hooked.

What was your favourite Landscape Adventure Story since becoming a Photographer?

I’m relatively new at photography so every trip out is a bit of an adventure. If I had to pick one though it would have been a weekend back in April when myself and Phil Traynor (@philstagram1984) decided to throw our hand at a bit of astrophotography in Dalkey, Dublin of all places. We met early but I was running late. We got straight into it, luckily I looked at a YouTube video the evening before so I considered myself a bit of an expert at this stage.

We shot different compositions at the Vico Baths, not knowing what we were actually doing but we’re hopeful of getting a shot. Once that was in the bag we stuck around for sunrise and we got a cracker of one. After that, we ended up flying over to Howth and met up with some fellow Dublin togs at Burrow Beach. The astro bug had me though, so I decided to head back out early the next morning to the Dublin Mountains to an old cottage ruin that I was told about. It was bloody freezing at 2am in the morning! I started to get ice on my lens, it was that cold but I soldiered on. I’m glad I did because I could actually see the Milky Way with my naked eye it was faint but visible. Then, I saw the back of my camera and I was blown away at how clear the RAW file was and this was just in the Dublin Mountains. I Spent 3 hours just shooting it not wanting to mess it up.
Still on a high from what I saw I decided to tackle another sunrise this time I picked Lough Bray. Never before being there. It was just over an hour to sunrise so I made the decision to b-line it up to Eagle’s Crag rather than take the normal route. Did I mention to you that I’m seriously unfit and was still holding a bit of Christmas weight which also had a bit of covid weight on top of that keeping it company. I eventually scrambled up in part on my hands and knees but eventually got to the spot in a bit of a panic not because I was a little late, but more because I thought I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t, so I got set up and just sat and relaxed for a few hours just watching the sun rise and taking a few snaps of the frost covered landscape and lakes below me. with my naked eye it was faint but visible. Then, I saw the back of my camera and I was blown away at how clear the RAW file was and this was just in the Dublin Mountains. I Spent 3 hours just shooting it not wanting to mess it up.

What was your worst in-the-field experience as a landscape Photographer?

I have to say hands down my worst in the field experience was when I thought Phil was dead!!! We were in Glendalough one morning, conditions weren’t great we were a bit late for the fog. So we went up to Poulanass Waterfall. I had already gotten a shot before from there so I was happy just going up to see it again. Phil had other ideas. He decided to hop the fence and climb down in the hope he could cross a shallow spot to get a clearer shot back up to the falls. I was happy enough staying put as the aul reactions aren’t what they used to be so I let the younger kid have at it. As I pulled my phone out to get a video of him crossing the river he just disappeared. Out of the shock I dropped my phone down the hill he just climbed down. I jumped over the fence first to see if my phone was alright then to check on Phil. I could see a good 50 to 100 feet down the river but no Phil. Ah Feck what do you do in that situation, my first thought was to go home and act like nothing happened and you didn’t see him that day but that one night of lost sleep wasn’t worth it so I grabbed my phone. Yes, I checked on Phil first. I’m not an animal. Ran back up the hill and down the trail shouting his name. I got a few hundred feet down before I heard him answer. I jumped the fence and saw him climbing out of a plunge pool up the bank. If he had gone any further downstream, he would have landed on some nasty rocks and would probably be dead.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

For me it has to be sunrise. Getting that early start on everyone else. Having a place to yourself in peace and quiet. There’s no better time. Plus, I love the old man snooze I get when I’m home.

Where is your favourite Location in Ireland to Photograph & Why?

I love shooting around the Dublin coastline, trying to find small intimate locations that nobody has shot. It really is a great spot. Although, I’ve recently been up to the Antrim coast and by god it’s epic!!

What is your favourite photograph, that you’ve taken to date, & Why?

That’s like asking someone who their favourite child is so I guess it would be my top down drone shot in Portmarnock of the river inlet that looked like a set of trees. See everyone has a favourite child. I Like it because it’s different and a shot I’ve never seen before so it was all the more exciting for me to take.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Just keep shooting and educate yourself on the different aspects of photography, compositions and editing. YouTube is your friend.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Don’t get bogged down in what other people are doing. Shoot for yourself.

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer?

Thomas Heaton as he was the first real inspiration to get into photography. So many others like Nick Page, Sean Bagshaw and Michael Shainblum.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment?

So many great Irish photographers so can’t name just one but I’d have to say for landscape Sean O’Riordan @seanorphoto and Orla Flemming @orlaghdhz for street photography Alan @varlak._, wildlife Julie @bubblesjulie_photography

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Nial O’Connell
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