Togs & Tales

TJ Allen

TJ Allen

Landscape Photographer

Hi, my name is TJ. I’m 30, and come from a town called Lurgan in Northern Ireland (the good part of Ireland).  I’m Married with two dogs, Archie & Gizmo. My day job is plumbing which can be a very stressful at times. So I use photography to escape from the week past and reset for the week ahead.

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

As an avid dog walker I was always out in nature and constantly taking snapshots on my mobile. Then last year I decided to invest in the canon 200d and that was me hooked.

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

I don’t really know what my favourite adventure would be, it would either be the Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal to Mayo or Killarney. Ah I’ll go with Killarney as I didn’t get any good shots form WAW, as it was back at the beginning of my photography days. Killarney happened in September 2020, I’d heard so much about it from a certain Conor Finnegan, that I made it a must see. So I bought myself a roof tent for my pickup truck and took myself and the wife to Killarney to camp for 5 days. It was a long boring drive over 5 hrs with not much to look at along the way. But, after about 4 hrs or so you could start to see these mountains appear! The closer we got the bigger they got and I started to say to myself this is going to be nice, I know it is. We arrived in Killarney about 6 that evening and the light was just kicking off, kissing the mountains perfectly. I was super excited to get out, but by the time we got sorted at the camp site the light had gone. I wasn’t to annoyed as this was only day one and we had only arrived. The next morning I got up to bright sunshine and blue skies which for anyone who knows me knows I hate so much. Again, I wasn’t to annoyed as I took this and a opportunity to explore my surroundings, first stop was the Gap of Dunloe, which nobody had ever warned me about! This road is built for horse and carts not pick up trucks! The first time I drove around this road I don’t think I seen anything as I was to busy trying not to crash and avoiding all the little boy racers. I made it out ok and made my way to Ladies View but the day was still blue skies and was a bit hazy so I didn’t stay long.

I continued to explore more of Killarney waiting for nightfall, as we all know the only good thing about blue skies is astro. So that night came and I parked up at a random lay-by beside the lake, stuck on my head torch and headed down to the water. After I setup my gear, I turned of my head torch and looked up. I was blown away id never seen anything like it before! I could actually see the core with my naked eye and millions of stars, I just stared at the sky for about 10 mins in complete awe. Then I heard someone else pull up and down came a local photographer called Goran, we chatted and shot astro the rest of the night. Before I left, he told me to meet up at a spot in the morning for sunrise. I set my alarm for 5am, which came up you have 3 hrs until your alarm, not a nice sight indeed. Anyways, I went to sleep and what felt like 5 mins later my alarm went off, now I’m not sure if my 2nd alarm is the reason I got up or if it was the fact my wife was about to hit me. I got up anyway, got changed, put the roof tent away, went to open the truck and nothing happened the keys wouldn’t work. At this point it was around 5.30, my wife and I where standing out in the freezing cold absolutely shattered, I continued to try and open the doors I took the key from inside the fob and tried that still nothing. Suddenly, my alarm started going off at 5.30 in a campsite, this was not good at all! Then out of the blue the keys worked and the truck opened, I later found out my battery was dying and it didn’t like the cold. By this time it was near 6am, and the sun was beginning to rise but the mist had came down, at the point I knew I was in for a special moment. I got to the Map pin Goran had sent the night before didn’t even bother to put on my walking boots or wellies. I soon regretted this, jumped out grabbed my bag and started to run down a path. I soon seen about 10 other photographers so I knew I was in the right place. I headed towards them and quickly realised I was beside a lake and this was a swamp I was walking through, but I didn’t care, I was in the moment nothing was stopping me. I made my way to the shoreline where I was greeted by mist rolling over the lake small fishing boats as a subject and the sound of stags in the distance it was perfect. I continued to shoot there for the next hour or so talking away to the other photographers Goran made it to which was nice. After about an hour my feet were like ice and I called it a day.

I went back to the camp site made some breakfast warmed up a bit and made tracks again. The atmosphere that day didn’t change it was misty and moody all day, my favourite type of conditions. I went back to the Gap of Dunloe, took some moody shoots, then headed too the Back Valley. I spent the rest of the day shooting the mood all over Killarney. The rest of the trip I just explored all the must sees like Ross Castle, Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, Ladies View, Torc Waterfall etc. On the 2nd last day, I went to Dingle where my wife insisted on doing the Fungi tour, it was good fun and we got to see Fungi. After the tour we went for a bite to eat at the Fishbox. I would honestly say id drive the 5 or so hours just to go there again it was the best feed I’ve had in a very long time. That night back at the campsite a storm blew in, it wasn’t to bad at the start but by the time 2am came we had to call it and pack up and head home. Packing a roof tent away in a storm is not fun at all. But it was a good way to end our Killarney adventure!

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

I decided to spend the day driving the Causeway Coastal route, in Northern Ireland,  something I’d never done before. I hadn’t my camera very long at this point, so I wanted to test my skills. I spent all day taking what I thought were “bangers” form Dunluce Castle, to Ballintoy, I made all the stops. Once I got home I was super excited to get them onto Lightroom. My excitement quickly turned to sadness once I realised not only had at shot everything JPEG but also at 1.8 so nothing was sharp!

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

Sunset because after Killarney, my wife would simply kill me if I set my alarm for sunrise!

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

The Causeway Coast is probably my favourite place, there’s so many amazing places to stop along the way. You have the world famous Giants Causeway and Dunluce Castle, but my personal favourites would be Ballintoy and Kinbane Head. It doesn’t matter when you go to either location you will always find a shot. I personally love both in stormy weather, the waves at Ballintoy are some of the best in Ireland during a big storm. You have elephant rock and the secret beach within 5 mins walk of Ballintoy carpark, both make for some really nice photo opportunities. Then we have Kinbane Head, with its castle ruins it makes for an excellent scene, after a good storm is a good time to visit as you will have a very nice waterfall as well. You can walk out to the edge of the head, I wouldn’t recommend this on stormy day however, as it can be treacherous! There is one downside to Kinbane however, the steps those dam steps dam they are a killer on the way back up.  Just ask Julie Hepburn!

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

Oh, this is a hard one as to be honest, I don’t think I particularly like any of my own work. If I had to pick one it would probably be my waterfall shot from Killbrony, I like how the greens turned out in it and the yellow leaf on the mossy roc really pops out. A leaf I can’t promise I didn’t place.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Currently I’m using the Sony A7riii which I absolutely love. My lens setup consists of the Tamron 17-28, the Sony 35mm1.8 and 85mm1.8. Filter wise I use the Kase wolverine magnetic filters which again I absolutely love. The CPL really makes the greens pop and being able just to pop filters on and off or stack NDs one a top is a real benefit compared to using square filters or screw ons. The tripod im currently using is the Novo T20 a carbon fibre with built in spikes so its very sturdy, it also has the added benefit of being able to remove the centre column which means it can go right to the ground. The drone I’m using is the Mavic air, that’s if it still works as the time of writing this it has had two dunks in the lake and I haven’t been brave enough to try and fly it again.

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

I think I have few tips, number 1 would be don’t get overwhelmed! You will make mistakes and you will continue to make them long into your photography journey. But don’t let that stop you, I heard a saying once im not a better photographer than you I’ve just make more mistakes. Another tip would be YouTube is your greatest ally but also your worst enemy. What do I mean? Well basically there’s nothing you can’t learn on YouTube if you put the time in, but and this is a big, but they make it look easy and it isn’t. Learning Lightroom isn’t easy, Photoshop really isn’t easy, even learning your camera isn’t easy. Photography as a whole isn’t easy, but in the end its so rewarding, and worth the effort. Once you get your first shot that you just know is good you will be over joyed. By the way it took me well over a year before I got that.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Think I basically answered that already, I’m not a better photographer than you I’ve just make more mistakes

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer

Oh this hard you have the obvious ones like Marc Adamus, Albert Dros, Ken Geiger people like that then you have the F4 Gang Nick Page, Gavin Hardcastle, Adam Gibbs and Thomas Heaton. Or it could be Nigel Danson, Mark Denney or Jimmy Mclntyre. Oh I don’t know if I had to pick it would prob be Nick Page or Marc Adamus… or Adam Gibbs

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment?

3 that spring to mind Conor Finnegan, Chris Trainor and Shaunas Flanaganas

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer TJ Allen
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