What was your path to becoming a Landscape Photographer & What was your first camera?
It’s been a long path for me, very long. One of my earliest memories is being upstairs in my Dad’s darkroom developing photos. You never forget the smell of fix which is in one of the 3 baths that you use for the photographic paper when shooting film. My Dad was an amateur photographer and shot black and white, he processed his own film and had an enlarger for developing the prints. I spent a good few years in the darkroom before I got near a camera as film wasn’t cheap and you only had 36 shots per roll, also you had to wait a few hours to get home, develop the film and print before you seen the results, so learning photography was more challenging as you couldn’t shoot, check the image on screen, make changes and repeat till you got your exposure correct. Exposure was done the old way with a light meter.
During Transition Year I got a job working in a camera shop in Donegal Town, initially I was processing the film and doing camera sales. I started to learn about cameras and kept up the date on what was new in the camera market, after about a year processing film I started to get trained on the print machine. This was a machine about as long as a car and took drums of paper that had to be loaded with litres of chemicals similar to what I was used to in the dark room but on a larger scale. My first camera was a pentax, I quickly outgrew it and moved to an slr, it was an Minolta 505si and I was hooked. I made a deal at work where I got a discount on rolls of film, free development of the negatives and a discount on the printing. This really helped me get started into photography. About a year later I saved up as much as I could and decided to take a jump at the pro line that Minolta had, it was the 800si their top pro level camera, something similar to the Canon 1D range. I was broke but loved it and I still have the camera at home.
Around 2010 I moved to the UK and got a job in a camera shop / studio. Because of my previous printing role and photography skills I was able to do two jobs for them, Studio photography and when quiet and not shooting / editing, I was able to print for them. I learned about studio photography and light. This was all new to me, I had experience of photographing people thanks to years of weddings but working with studio lighting and editing was another learning curve for me. I used to travel home to Donegal every now and again and it was only then that I started to appreciate the Irish landscape. Until then I had shot many genres of photography but landscape never interested me. I enjoyed shooting people as you could chat with them and give direction and pose, but I saw landscape being inanimate and unchanging and I was unable to connect with it. However, having gone away and been living in a flat featureless part of the UK, my eyes were open to the rugged beauty of home in west Donegal with the mountains and beaches so accessible and empty. My studio time gave me an appreciation of understanding light and viewing the landscape as a subject and the sun as your light source and this made sense to me. The real challenge is that, unlike the studio, you can’t control either of these, but therein lay the bait and hook. You often hear landscape photographers mention the phrase “chasing the light” and once you are hooked I dont think you ever get off the line. My landscape photography journey then started around 2015 and for me has been the most challenging and rewarding aspect of all the genres of photography I have done.
Recently, I have taken the camera to sea. I started open water swimming about a year ago and swimming at various locations around the coast has given me a new perspective that is rarely seen. It’s a totally different way of shooting, much more difficult to operate a camera in a dive housing and trying to compose an image while remaining upright in the sea and getting knocked around with waves is challenging beyond belief. Just trying to control breathing, while treading water only using your legs as you need your hands to hold / operate the camera is a task in itself. I find it ridiculously challenging and the hit rate of even getting a shot in focus without a wave washing over the lens is really low. But still I enjoy it. The first few times I did it I was concentrating that hard that I wasn’t breathing, it’s hard to describe but you are so focused and your brain is on overdrive that you hold your breath without knowing, so you have to tell yourself to relax and remember to breath.
What was your favourite Landscape Adventure Story since becoming a Photographer?
What was your worst in-the-field experience as a landscape Photographer?
Sunrise or Sunset & Why?
Where is your favourite Location in Ireland to Photograph & Why?
What equipment / Setup are you currently using?
Top Tip for anyone starting out?
Secondly, I would suggest shooting with other photographers that are better than you. I have found this to be very useful as you will learn so much from them and their tips, insight and honest feedback is invaluable. I often shoot along with Brian Maguire, Dermott Sweeney and Michael Byrne their work and opinions I respect and they keep me on my toes and don’t hold back when it comes to criticism.
Best Advise you’ve personally been given?
Invest in glass…. I can’t stress this enough. I might sound nuts spending €1k+ on a lens but you will have it for years. Some of mine are 8+ years old and I have no reason to sell them or change them. Camera bodies will come and go and you will change them but good lenses you will keep. Personally, I like 3 lenses, 10-20mm or 16-35mm a 24-105mm and a 70-200mm. For anyone starting out I would save to buy the best 24-105mm you can as you can cover a number of photography genres with that then move to wide or tele next depending on what the majority of your photography is. A fast 50mm prime Is also nice to have in the bag too for the odd portrait.
Who is your biggest inspiration as a Photographer.
This is hard as I follow so many different photography genres. In terms of outright photographers that I admire, it would be Robert Capa, Don McCullin and James Nachtwey. I have huge admiration for them and their work. I have read their books and watched interviews on their careers in war / conflict photography. War photography is an element of photography that is rarely discussed but there are some fantastic photographers in this field these days. Would suggest “War photographer”, “Only the dead” and “Hondros” as viewing for anyone interested in that area of photography, just note that some scenes may be difficult to watch, but the work that these men and women do is so important.
Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment?
Where can we find you?
You can usually find me on a beach or on top of a mountain at sunset, if not there then try: