I’ve always been drawn to landscapes, the wilder and more rugged the better. My early interests were tied up in the outdoors – in my teens I pursued endurance sports and at college I discovered rock climbing and mountaineering. My decision to pursue a career in photography hinged on the chance discovery of The Art of Adventure Photography, a book by the late American photographer Galen Rowell, in a little bookshop in Pokhara, Nepal, in 1995. At some level I was already looking for a way to make a life working in the outdoors, and that book revealed a world where you could combine adventure, artistry and athleticism in a single career.
Rowell’s images and writing on photography were a big influence on my development. With no formal training in photography, I picked up a second hand Canon SLR and a few rolls of Fuji Velvia, and set about learning how to translate my love of landscape and adventure into meaningful photographs. I was on a climbing trip to Australia at the time, and had no shortage of beautiful landforms and interesting light to photograph. I travelled for several months, sleeping in the back of a 1970s Ford station wagon with a copy of Rowell’s Mountain Light for company. Another chance encounter gave my early career the launch it could so easily have missed. I began working as a hiking author for Lonely Planet guidebooks in 1998, a twelve-year relationship that allowed me to travel widely and develop my portfolio of images.
Since then I’ve supplied imagery to many of the world’s most prestigious editorial titles, including National Geographic, Time Magazine and the New York Times. My work has been used in commercial advertising by corporate clients including Microsoft, Warner Bros and Air New Zealand. I’ve also enjoyed a long-term relationship with Tourism Ireland, shooting stills and video content for their advertising campaigns for almost two decades.
I transitioned from film to digital in 2006. Having the embedded colour response and palate of Fuji Velvia removed from my workflow was an unsettling experience. Understanding the new photographic language of digital was a steep learning curve, but one that was, and continues to be, extremely rewarding. Digital imaging technology has opened doors of creative possibility that weren’t even imaginable twenty years ago. Despite the digital revolution, my style has remained consistent: I love to shoot rugged landscapes with dynamic compositions and striking natural light. I also love to shoot people exploring the outdoors.
Since the introduction of the Canon 5D Mark II in 2008 I have also shot video commercially, contributing footage to numerous TV documentaries including Secrets of the Irish Landscape (RTE), 4000 Year Old Cold Case: The Body in the Bog (BBC/PBS), Chronicles of Mourne (BBC) and Great Lighthouses of Ireland (RTE). I also now work on commercial video shorts and content, and have adopted a full 4k workflow including a high-end drone system.
In 2013 I also started to offer a limited number of photography workshops. My aim is to help enthusiasts of all abilities develop their technical skills and creative vision, whether that means taking the camera off auto for the first time, or tweaking compositional and post processing aesthetics. Landscape photography can be a lonesome occupation, so I enjoy the opportunity to spend time in the field with others. Not only is it rewarding to share my knowledge, but I find it’s a two-way street: I’m constantly surprised by the individuality of the photographic eye. No two people do quite the same thing at a location. Teaching is also an education, and in photography as well as life, learning and extending ourselves is what keeps things interesting.