Togs & Tales

Alan Hartigan

Alan Hartigan

Landscape Photographer

My name is Alan Hartigan. I am a 28 year old DevOps Engineer working for Jaguar Land Rover in Shannon (so I wouldn’t recommend buying one if I’ve worked on it). I am from Limerick and even though I’m living on the Limerick / Clare border at the moment I’m still claiming Limerick. By the time this is out my son might be born, and if not, it will be very close!

Like most people, I can’t stick to one hobby, I enjoy football (the foreign kind), adventure runs, hiking, bodyboarding, a bit of gaming here and there, as well as photography of course. There are other things that I would like to get into such as building a campervan so that I don’t have to get up at stupid o clock to take the camera out for sunrise, but that involves money, and priorities have to lie somewhere (even though I’m still fighting for it).
I’ve also got severe Deutan (Deuteranomaly) colour deficiency so it can make it quite difficult to edit images, or even see when skies are lighting up, it can be awkward when the people you are with are jumping with joy for pink or blazing oranges and all you can see is a light glow.

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

As cliché as it sounds, I have always been interested in photography. From an early age, photographs from around Ireland and further afield have always interested me. I never actually put two and two together that I could be the one to take these pictures that I find so fascinating, and it was only about 4 or 5 years ago that I decided to pull the trigger and get my first camera.
After little to no research, I bought a Nikon D3300 and an 18-55 kit lens. Maybe a bit more research should have been done as I quickly realised that photography isn’t just a case of getting a camera and you’re done and dusted. The more I started getting into it the more I realised I “needed”. There were tripods, filters, shiny new lenses. The list goes on as I’m sure several readers can attest to. It’s a pricy hobby.
I was living in Dublin at the time I bought the camera, and I can say with full confidence that the only thing I enjoyed about it was Phoenix Park (sorry Dubs). It was great for being able to float around for the day while getting to grips with the camera and shooting in manual without the pressure of needing to get something. We have all been there wherein we get up for sunrise, drive a couple of hours to a great location and the conditions are stellar, only to realise you aren’t even sure what to do because you have never been under time pressure to capture something before the light fades. Maybe that is just me…

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

That would have to be the day Myself and Gavin Sheehan took the day off work and went down to Dingle for Storm Dennis back in February of 2020.

We started off with a walk up to Dunmore head (I say walk, it was more of a crawl), and when we got to the top, we could barely stand up. We stayed for as long as we could, but it didn’t last very long as it was sketchy to say the least to have your tripod standing up in what felt like 100 km/h winds on the edge of a cliff. We took shelter in the hut while hail the size of watermelons pelted the landscape around us.
We then headed to Clogher Strand where we were greeted by some of the craziest waves I have ever witnessed in person. We walked as far out onto the headland next to the beach as it was safe to do so, and luckily Gavin had a GoPro in his gear bag. Just as he took it out and started recording, those same 100 km/h winds decided to pick up what seemed like all the sea spray along the Wild Atlantic Way and hurl it right at is. As a funny side note that video made the Virgin Media weather report after Gavin sent it in and we were on national TV for it!
To finish out the day we hiked up Sybil Head and got some amazing views. It was as wild as you can imagine being up that high in a storm but luckily there was another hut at the top so we could get some bit of shelter when things got really hectic, and they did. It was a struggle to get up and down the hill during those winds and rain, but it was certainly worth the effort. An absolutely epic day that will live long in the memory.

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

There haven’t been many poor outings, we all get bad weather and sunrises/sunsets that are a bust so those don’t really count, but this is an easy one for me. Like the previous outing described above, this will live long in the memory, but for a completely different (and more embarrassing) reason.
My younger brother loves all things art, movies, paintings, you name it. So when a friend of mine was selling his Canon something-or-other (I can’t remember the model, it was an entry level DSLR), he jumped at the opportunity to start making some art of his own.
Shortly after he got his hands on it, there were some clear skies forecast around West Clare, so I decided to head out for some Astrophotography at the Cliffs of Moher. I invited him along and he was happy to get out and shoot something new. We charged up our gear, packed our bags, and set off on the 1 hour 30 min journey to the parking spot at the cliffs, then the short walk in the pitch dark to the location we were planning on shooting at. Things were looking good, perfectly clear skies and no light pollution visible from where we were.
I helped my brother get set up and show him a few things about astro, what settings to use for the genre, explain star trailing with different shutter speeds at different focal length etc. He was happy enough to get going by himself, so I decided to get set up. Got the camera out, set it up on the tripod, all the usual stuff. I tried to turn on the camera to start making the most of the rare clear night in Ireland, flicked the switch, nothing. Hmm, that’s weird. I made sure to charge the batteries before coming out, and then it hit me. I left the batteries at home charging! I had brought all my gear but nothing to power it. A sad day for the parish, but at least I got to teach someone something about photography that day, it’s not often I get to say that.
From that day on I have always left the battery port open when there is no battery in it and double check that the camera turns on before leaving the house.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

Has to be sunrise for me. There is nothing better than the peace and tranquillity of getting to a location and feeling like you are the only person in the world. The early mornings during summer are a killer, however. Being in Limerick is a blessing and a curse as you are almost in a central hub. You are never to far from anywhere, 2 hours to Wicklow, the same for Connemara, less than 2 hours to the Burren, just over that for Kerry etc. But in saying that, you aren’t really close to anything. There isn’t much in Limerick that you can just go out and explore. You have the Ballyhouras but I feel like Sean will come after me if I try step on his turf. Anyway, back to the question.
I do also like sunset of course, depending on where you are it is much more beneficial, and not needing to get up at 3 am is always helpful. But if I had to choose one (which it seems I do) I am picking sunrise every day.

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

That is a tough one, all along the Wild Atlantic Way you will find gem after gem. From West Cork up to Donegal you could spend 6 months travelling and not have to visit the same place twice.
Personally, I love the Burren. It feels like another planet when you are roaming around the untouched landscape. There is so much history there, from the pine trees that were once thought to be extinct until they were found here, Martello towers, forts, to the limestone pavements that we all learned about in Geography class. It looks different every time you go there, which might explain why it is so different to get a good shot from there. When it does come off though, it’s a great feeling.

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

That would have to be the drone shot of Sheeps Head at sunrise taken a couple of years ago.
Myself and (you guessed it) Gavin Sheehan took to the roads for a weekend of camping around West Cork. Our first stop was Sheeps Head to camp the night and get up early for sunrise. I had just bought a drone so I was itching to give it a maiden voyage. We poked our head out of the tent, and it was tempting to stay in the warmth of our sleeping bags but we decided to brave the cold and make the most of the morning.
As terrifying as it was, I threw the drone into sport mode and flew 1.5 km out over the ocean. Each and every slight breeze had me traumatised, but I was well rewarded when I turned the camera to face the headland again. Absolutely blazing skies mixed with some dark clouds just to give some atmosphere. The editing was minimal on this image because it looked so good out of the drone. To say I was giddy flying it back after seeing those raws is an understatement.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

I swapped to full mirrorless over the last year, which I am very happy with. Camera gear can get heavy on your back so I’ll take all the weight savings I can get!

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Don’t copy what you see online. It’s always tempting to see a shot of a cool place, go to the location and try to find exactly where the person was standing to replicate their shot. While it’s better to get out even if it is to do that, rather than not get out at all, I would highly recommend trying to find something different when you are at a location. You could take a couple of steps to the side, find a different foreground interest, use a different focal length to try capture something original. Or do one better and try find different and original locations that might be off the beaten track!
Another thing I would have to say is don’t let social media take control of your love for photography. Seeing people only going out with the sole intention of “creating content” for Instagram and not experiencing being outdoors, taking in some beautiful scenery and enjoying the moment is kind of sad if I am being honest. People need to learn to live life rather than chase likes and follows.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Make sure you get up off the couch and get out to take the shot. Even if it’s a bust you will be glad you got out.

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer.

Not that he inspired me per se (because I didn’t know he did it before I picked up a camera!), but I would say If it wasn’t for Gavin Sheehan, I would have sold all my gear a long time ago. I am awful at planning and if the opportunity is there I will tag along with Gavin on his outings and get out with the camera as much as I can. He’s thought me a lot about photography, and timelapses, and still continues to teach me to this day.

In saying that, Gavin has a curse in which he only seems to get mushy grey skies, no matter the forecast. Hopefully he breaks the spell soon, for all our sakes.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

I don’t want to give him an even bigger head than he already has after the success of his recent Dolomites video (masterpiece by the way), I would have to say Sean O’Riordan, his style is very unique, you know it’s a Sean O’Riordan shot as soon as you look at the image.

Along with Gavin, he has been a fountain of knowledge for me. I will never forget the time I was just starting out and I edited a photo, sent it to Sean for some feedback, and he wasn’t sure how to tell me that the sky was a bright green! (he didn’t know I was colourblind at the time). In my defence it looked like a lovely golden sky to me. But anyway, he has taught me a lot about photography and I never tire of looking through his gallery.

Where can we find you?

I pretty much only use Instagram for my social media. I will link whatever I am on, but you have the best chance of reaching me on that (not that you will want to talk to me after this).
© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Alan Hartigan
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