Togs & Tales

Conor Varley

Conor Varley

Landscape Photographer

Dia dhuit, I’m Conor (Crothúir). I enjoy expensive hobbies I can’t afford and have a passion for all thing’s outdoors and nature. Im also partial to a nice bit of grub and a pint. I grew up in Dublin but moved west to Mayo at 8. After school I hit for Dublin again to UCD, but I’m happy back in the west again playing rugby, golf, some music and roaming the landscape with my dog Loki.

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

Since I’ve been knee high to a goose, I’ve been fascinated by all things nature and the natural world. As a child I would watch endless hours of wildlife and nature documentaries with mum and dad, either about animals and their environments or about landscapes and the earths natural processes. Needless to say David Attenborough was and still is one of my biggest idols. I think it was watching these shows that sewed the initial seed and spurred that curiosity in me. As I got older then like most other togs I realised the phone pics weren’t cutting it so I made the jump to get a camera thinking It’d automatically be getting signed up by NatGeo.

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

My best landscape photography experience was actually on a recent weekend trip to Achill as part of a Seán O Riordan workshop (nice plug for you there Seán, you can get me a pint again) I’ve become good mates with Sean so the weekend didn’t even feel like a workshop it was just so chilled out and mighty craic! We hit Minaun cliffs on Friday eve for sunset and after hanging around till the last minute we were treated to some amazing colour in the sky as we looked out over Keel bay. After that we headed for the pub for a pint or two, we had a great laugh and a bit of craic and that’s what it’s all about too. I was “too tired” to shoot Astro that night but the rest of the lads did. The next day we hit for Keem bay at sunrise, we met a few interesting characters that morning including a lamb we christened the cotton bud cause he was just frozen in place all morning, we were half wondering was he a statue or something but he scurried off after a while again. The light that morning was fantastic and I think I got 4 or 5 keepers. After that it was on to Ashleam bay where we got some lovely atmosphere with dapple light dancing across the landscape on a sunshine and showers type of day. Later that evening we hit for Benmore cliffs which are nestled in behind the iconic Keem bay. It was a tough enough pull up to the top having just recovered from the old you know what, but the views were worth it. We hung around at the top for sunset after scoping out a few different compositions, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky but the golden light on the cliffs was just amazing, I left the cliffs a happy man that eve. As if all that wasn’t enough we then set our alarms for stupid o clock again the next morning to hit for Keem bay once again and shoot some Astro. It was my first time properly shooting the milkyway but I learned a lot that morning and couldn’t wait to shoot it again. Overall it was a jam packed weekend of hiking, shooting, having a pint or two and a lot of laughs some good mates. What more could you ask for, there’s more to photography than just taking photos.

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

Apart from the usual dropping a new lens half way down a cliff, forgetting memory cards or accidentally shooting at mad high iso, the worst/funniest experience actually occurred before I even owned a camera, I was roaming around Yosemite nation park thinking I was great shooting random stuff and sure every mountain looked epic anyways so I thought I was great. That eve when we were settling down for the night in the tent we woke to a commotion of rummaging, sniffing and growling at our feet. Petrified we were about to be eaten by a bear we turned on the light only to see a raccoon scurry out the door on two legs with a banana in one hand and backpack in the other. It was traumatising but hilarious all at once. We were sure it was the end haha!

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

I’m going to say both, from a personal enjoyment perspective without a camera I prefer sunrise for all the stereotypical reasons, you feel like you’re the only one up and experiencing the new day dawning at that moment and there’s no doubt there’s just something special about being in the landscape and seeing the golden light hit. However from a photography point of view I prefer sunset. Firstly, I’m lazy and in summer sunrise is just way too early for my liking, If I’m not up after 3 alarm snoozes forget it. Practicality wise I don’t have to worry about tumbling over myself in the dark or trying to find a composition even tho I can’t see 2 foot in front of my face, then before the sun actually sets I can get to a location good and early to scope out a comp with good light in advance and even if I don’t get any colour in the sky I can still shoot a scene with some nice dapple golden light.

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

Apart from all the cliché locations such as, Connemara, Wicklow or Kerry, I’d have to go with my local woodland in Cong or the mayo coast. Woodland is my favourite genre of photography, I love the mystical, ethereal feel in the woods. It can either feel enchanting or haunting depending on conditions, Cong wood is 5 mins from me and I always hit for there if I feel like I need to clear my head or relax. In saying that I’ve been shooting quite a lot in Donegal lately and must say its just epic and I have a tour guide to boot! (Thanks Amy and Caoimhe for putting up with some awful nonsense)

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

I don’t think anyone is ever fully happy with an image, apart from Conor Finnegan! I think if we were 100% happy with every image we took we would only be codding ourselves because there’s no such thing as a perfect image, then again an image doesn’t have to be anything spectacular for us to be very happy with it. So mine is probably my very first post I shared on insta of the milky, I was very new to photography at the time and Felix Sproll brought me out to shoot Astro for the first time, not a bad tutor I had for the evening considering he’d go on to win world landscape photographer 2021, I’d strongly advise anyone to check out his website, congrats again man! Anyways, the milky image itself is very average but I learned a lot that night and it was the moment I knew I was hooked on photography.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Firstly just enjoy it and shoot what interests you, don’t get too hung up on what’s on the camera and forget to appreciate the scene in front of you. Shoot with other/better togs. Be patient and over time you’ll naturally develop an eye for a composition. The biggest thing that helped me was learning how to predict different weather conditions and then figuring out what type of scene would lend itself best to those given conditions, generally if it looks cool it should make a good image. After that becoming proficient in post processing is a must. YouTube is your best friend here.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

You’ll never get the shot sitting on the couch

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

That’s a tough one, I admire all the Irish togs out there and their level of talent is outrageous at the minute. If I had to pick it would be Orla Fleming, Sean O’ Riordan and Michael McGillycuddy. Orla can just do no wrong, landscapes or wildlife, Mike’s images are very unique and super pleasing to the eye and Seans work is just next level, he’s the hardest working tog I know and his work proves that, not a bad golfer either but he’s yet to take money off me!

International togs it would be Will Patino, Simon Baxter or Michael Shainblum

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Conor Varley
Scroll to Top

Get in Touch

Leave us a Message

If you would like to contribute to the site or see an issue within the site, then please contact us through the form below