Togs & Tales

Brian Campbell

Brian Campbell

Landscape Photographer

Hey! My name is Brian Campbell and I am 31 years old. I am a photographer from the beautiful coastal fishing town of Killybegs, Co. Donegal. Growing up on the coast I have always had an interest in nature, the outdoors and activities based around the sea. As a kid I would always be outside in the fresh air rather than sitting in playing video games or watching tv. I think it was this baseline love of the outdoors which eventually drove me towards landscape photography down the line.
Once I finished secondary school I went to NUI Galway where I studied Marine Science. After spending much of my 20’s living abroad I returned home over 2 years ago and I am now a full time photographer/ framer. I launched my photography, print & framing business ‘Fine Eye’ just over a year ago. My two main passions are surfing and photography but I love anything that will get me out in nature among the elements.

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

I mainly got into taking photos when I finished college and I knew I was going to move to California. Initially it was more about capturing new fun experiences with my friends and having the memories to look back on. I had opted for a GoPro just for its convenience but I was not thinking of photography at that point. I was really just snapping everything without really giving too much thought about the results. Over time though, I grew to really enjoy when I would get a good photo so I started to take the camera everywhere with me. I started seeking out those good opportunities.. It wasn’t until I returned to Ireland two years later in 2016 that I started getting into photography properly. I started using a small entry level camera that belonged to my younger brother for a few months and really enjoyed it, so then it was time to get my own. My first proper camera was a Canon 6D.

Your passion for photography has also inspired you to go into the printing/framing business, can you tell us about your background in those and why you decided to do it full time?

Once I actually bought my first proper camera I absolutely fell in love with photography from that point on. I loved seeing my images printed, framed and on the wall. I would buy the cheap prints and frames and assemble them myself but they always lacked the quality I was after. My images at that point weren’t anything to be proud of but I always wanted to have them framed and displayed as best as I could afford at the time. I tried selling a few framed prints unsuccessfully at a local cafe during that first year with my camera.
After 2 years at home I wanted to go travelling again so I moved to Waikanae, New Zealand in 2018, this time with all my camera gear.
When I started to get a small body of work based in the local area I wanted to see if they would sell. I was lucky that the stretch of coastline I lived on had a big island just offshore called ‘Kapiti Island’ and it was a selling point among artists so I based my work around it. I used to shoot it everyday and from different angles along the coast and it was nearly always in the image. I went to a local framer and got some prints framed up, but this time no expense spared. I absolutely loved the results. I had them displayed in the local gallery and interest grew for my work. The framing studio owner was also a photographer and had a number of his prints done up on the wall and I thought it was a great addition to a photographers business. I returned and asked him if he would take me under his wing and show me how it’s done. I told him that I would happily work for free but he refused. This was where the idea for a printing/framing business was planted in my head.
Fast forward to the start of Covid when I returned home from New Zealand and I was back in my hometown. I did the same thing with the local framer Eugene Mc Hugh, and he was more than happy to pass on his knowledge. With all businesses closed and restrictions in place I had plenty of time to learn. The framing studio was less than 1km from my house so it was very convenient. Over the next year I learnt the trade, planned my business and went for it!
As happy as I am framing my own images for the wall, I also love printing/framing other photographers and artists work too. I love helping where I can and I am happy to share my knowledge. I always encourage people to get their work printed and off the screen to really appreciate it.

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

I am not sure if this is my favourite but definitely the most memorable. Some friends and I set off at 5am to attempt the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand. It was dark when we started so the plan was to be well up the path to get a nice view for sunrise and get that nice morning light. As it started to get bright you could see how bad the visibility was ahead and conditions were far from ideal. The mountain was completely closed in but we were hoping for the conditions to improve as the sun came up so we powered onwards. As the hike went on conditions were very slowly getting worse and we were going one marker post at a time. I think we just accepted the conditions were bad and we powered on while being fully wrapped up. It wasn’t until we stood behind a big boulder to reassess the situation, take off our hoods and hats that we basically walked into a full-on blizzard totally unprepared. With gear you would normally go hiking in Ireland, we weren’t ready for -13c windchill, no crampons or ice axe. I only took about 5 photos the full trek with fear of the camera breaking. Conditions change so fast in the mountains over there so it was the best learning experience to have. There was no laughing or messing around when we realised just how bad it was. Just get down safely! Humbling experience to say the least and definitely memorable.

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

I was shooting some long exposures on a beach using a Joby tripod since it was all I had at that time. I secured it to a small log that was lying on the beach just to give it slightly more elevation off the ground for a better angle. A larger wave rushed up the beach and I grabbed the log planning on lifting it all together but the tripod slipped and my camera and lens went for a swim. While the camera was fine the lens was ruined. An expensive silly mistake!

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

I love both really, if a great sunrise works out it feels more rewarding. Crisp winter mornings in Ireland are so beautiful but usually if I am up at sunrise I am going surfing so I have to choose sunset for photography.. Living on the north west coast I feel there is more opportunity for the type of coastal shots I am after as the sun sets.

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

I still have so much of Ireland to explore so hopefully I am yet to find it. For now, Slieve League in my home county of Donegal is up there. The sheer size of the cliffs gets me every time. The weather and light is always different and changes throughout the year. During the winter months you might be the only person on the cliffs and that adds to the experience.

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

Surprisingly I think it might be a portrait shot I took a few years ago titled ‘Sapa Girl’. Taken in a small village in northern Vietnam of a young girl in a bright local gown and beautiful head piece. Unfortunately in this area the parents take their children out of school to help gather money for the family. Even though this young girl didn’t have any English she was still symbolising money with a hand gesture to the passing tourists. When everybody moved on I looked back and she was completely distracted by something, gazing off into the distance. This was when I took the image. I always wondered what it was that caught her attention and what she was thinking about. It has always been a personal favourite of mine and my parents.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Practise, practise, practise. Nothing beats hands-on experience. There is a wealth of online learning material and youtube videos that can help guide you when it comes to photography. When you learn something new, get out and give it a go. Shoot with purpose, analyze your images after a session, decide what does and doesn’t work and see if improvements can be made next time. Like anything, it takes time to progress so enjoy the learning process.
Also don’t let the number of ‘likes’ you get on a post dictate on how you feel about your own work. Post what you like and enjoy shooting.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Shoot what you enjoy, invest in glass and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Most photographers are more than happy to help!

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer.

To be honest most of my inspiration comes from ocean photographers rather than from landscape photographers. I find myself drawn to these images over and over along with nature photography. I love Warren Keelen, Ben Thouard, Paul Nicklen, Ray Collins, Tom Way and Rachel Talibart.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

My favourite Irish based photographer is George Karpus. For me photography is all about the experience and he is experiencing something most ocean lovers dream of. I went to university to study Marine Biology for my love of animals, nature and the outdoors to someday work in that area. Obviously my career choice has gone a different direction but I would love to combine the two some day and start shooting marine wildlife. That is why I love his work and I can only imagine the buzz I would get being in his shoes for a day. 

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Brian Campbell
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