Togs & Tales

Derek O’Bryan

Derek O’Bryan

Landscape Photographer

A little about me, i am 41 years old and living in Kildare where i have spent most of my life. I am a member of the Defence Forces for almost 21 years now (i really cant believe how the time has flown in the job). I am an outdoors person through and through. Ive always, through my life, been either fishing, camping or hiking and especially over the last 2 years I’ve hiked my legs into the ground. Now i just tend to carry a heap of camera equipment with me.
I have always wanted to travel as a kid, especially since i seen Michael Palins shows “Around the world in 80 days” and “pole to Pole” and the lore of that has carried through until present day. Life does tend to get in the way of dreams but I do hope to do a lot more travelling in the coming years. It also doesn’t help when I hate to fly…

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

The path that led me into photography was my outdoor life style, I suppose that lifestyle of being outdoors constantly planted the seed. I would be out camping somewhere or out with work and would be up and about and see beautiful sunrises or sunsets and thought to myself, i would love to be able to take a picture of that. I’m still trying to figure out how to capture them by the way.
My first camera was a Panasonic G LUMIX DMC. The only features i can remember from it were it was very difficult to access and then control settings like aperture etc. I soon moved onto Canon.

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

I’m not sure i would have a favourite adventure as a photographer per say but around the first time i had gotten the photography bug i was over in Africa in a place called Fishtown and we were settled down for the night. I had picked up a bridge camera somewhere along the line and had that with me and during some down time one night, i was looking at it trying to figure out what the settings and hyroglifics that represented settings, actually meant.
As it wasn’t a holiday i was on and in that part of Africa there is not much light around after the sun goes down, the head torch is about as good as it gets to lighting your tent. Sitting there looking into the darkness that is deep Africa, i could see lots of little lights flashing way way in the distance. Almost like 20-25 torch beams, turning on randomly for a second or too and then turning back off again, but really far away. It was getting closer and closer and it didn’t take long for me to realise that it wasn’t torch beams but in fact a massive lightning storm.
Now I’ve witnessed lightning in a number of different countries and a good storm is always impressive but to see it in Africa, in monsoon season with absolutely no light pollution, is both awe inspiring and seriously intimidating. Up until that night i had never seen green and/or red lightning bolts. Huge bolts of green and red lightning lit the sky for about 15 mins as the storm swung away from where i was staying and headed off to the right and eventually out of view. It left an irreplaceable mark on me. I may as well have been trying to take a picture of the lightning that night with a carrot and had i used a carrot it might have gotten me a better picture, as I hadn’t a notion of what i was doing. It did stoke my interest enough though to really make me go and learn!

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

Probably my worst experience so far has to be a loss of equipment. In loss i mean smashed to bits. I’m not going to name any equipment here but i had recently gotten a new tripod head and had headed up a nice bit of a climb up a rock face on a mountain here in Ireland. It was a trigger grip type tripod head. I set the camera bracket snugly into the tripod head, composed the shot holding the camera with both hands and let go to get something from my bag.The camera fell right off, hit the lovely spongy grass in front and cartwheeled over the edge about 25 metres or so down onto some very unfriendly pointy rocks which duely made 1 million pieces of it. Have you ever heard a camera and lens explode? It’s a horrible eerie sound that gets worse the morse expensive the equipment is. I had not used the tripod head before and after i set the camera in on top, i had not tightened a latch on the back of the tripod head against the bracket on my camera and as soon as i let go it fell forward off the head and obliterated off the rocks. To this day I’m not sure who screamed the loudest, the camera or me as it went over haha.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

Definitely a sunrise. I’m a morning person. I always have been. Ive not had any problems ever with getting up early and making journeys. I prefer morning light and getting shots early, freeing me up for the day. After 8pm i can barely stay awake, so going out for a sunset, during the summer can turn into an ordeal.

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

I think anywhere in the West of Ireland for me. It’s hard to say i prefer this area over that as there is so much to see along the wild Atlantic way and the light conditions are so dynamic and changeable that i would just say the whole of the west coast. Mayo is a great place along that route.

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

I definitely don’t have a favourite photo although i took one recently, the shot of the spiral in the moss on a rock that i really like. It’s shots like that, that are unexpected and not planned that i really like. I had seen maybe 1 year ago or even 2 that someone had put a spiral into moss along that same bit of water as the spiral photo and i had completely forgotten about it. I was randomly bumbling about there recently and came across this second and bigger spiral that i photographed and as it was Autumn , there was plenty of colour around and lots of fallen leaves. The photo to me just said Ireland.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Currently i use a Canon 5d MKIV with a 16-35mm lens for landscape and i bring a 70-200 along for those not so wide shots. I never leave without it anymore. The camera body itself is great, it has a very good dynamic range and i like the touch screen ability of it. The 16-35 is a really good wide angle lens too. Costly but worth it. I also have a DJI Mavic 2 pro that is also never left at home anymore. Drone technology offers a whole new perspective on photography and i would find it had to go shooting and not have it with me or utilise it in some way.

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Make the mistakes. The more you make the more you learn. You will always be learning with photography. Light is a hard teacher

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Slow down. I personally for years would go somewhere, say a waterfall. Bound up to it, have the camera on a tripod, shoot 500 shots, get home and look at them and go, ah god… Slowing down at a chosen spot will definitely help with your images and especially your composition. I have found so so many new compositions in locations where i have been numerous times, purely due to slowing dow. Taking time to walk around a location and let my creative mind show me where to take the photos from.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

I would say definitely Mark Duffy. Great shots and his videos are pretty good too. Always liked his work and his promotion of County Louth

Where can we find you?

I’m only really on Instagram at #Irishmantravelling . I had set up a YouTube channel but i need a bit more time to give it the attention it needs and the same with a website. There is one on the way!
© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Derek O’Bryan
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