Togs & Tales

Kevin Best

Kevin Best

Landscape Photographer

Hi my name is Kevin Best and I am Currently living in Toome Co Antrim. I have been into photography around 6 years now, that’s when I got my first camera. I have always been into walks and Nature and I think I get this from my parents. They always took us out and about when we were younger and even back then I loved the excitement of exploring around beaches and mountains. My Parents always took us on Summer holidays around Ireland and especially Donegal … probably why I still have a soft spot for this beautiful rugged County.

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

Looking back now I suppose my path started when I was a child and being out with my parents and their love of Nature. As I got older, I got more into Hiking and I loved to head away for days even by myself as I loved the tranquillity and beauty of really remote areas like the Mournes, along the coastlines and further afield. This made me join the NI walking photography group, as I wanted to with like-minded people but didn’t have a camera just my phone but I was taking (what I thought) were good images. I then decided I wanted to learn more about Photography so Went back to College and done a GCSE class and done well and got a ‘A’ in this. This gave me a bit of a boost and then went on to do A two-year Diploma which I loved and really made you go out of my comfort zone and work with other people. We learned so many different styles and we also had to do a lot of research into other photographers and in a way, it was an amazing learning curve for me into the ‘Art’ of Photography.
One of the best things about joining the Class also was meeting some of the best people I have ever met and to this day I can still call my friends. I think in life you need to surround yourself with people who are into the things that you are into but also ones that are even better than you are and this always makes you want to push forward and excel in your craft.
The very first camera I ever got was a Nikon 3200 and looking back now I don’t really think I had it very long until I decided to get a Nikon 7100 and to this day, I still use this for a lot of my images along-side a D750. I started the first year with just an iPhone and I remember everyone in class had all these amazing cameras and there was me with the iPhone starting a Photography Course. You have to use what you have when starting out.

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

This has to be the time myself and good friend Mark Lewthwaite, went for a Recce hike up Carrauntoohil but I always take my camera to tell the story of the day and to also get cool images on the go. I will tell the story of this amazing day….
Carrauntoohil is Irelands Highest peak at 1,038m (3,407ft}. It was a beautiful sunny day in County Kerry and we knew there was snow on the peaks of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, but didn’t think it would be too bad.
As with every hike though you have to come prepared and so you have to make sure you are wearing a good pair of Hiking boots to start with and a decent rucksack to store extra clothing, extras and most importantly food and a flask if you think it will be really cold. Great for a coffee or a Pot Noodle if you are feeling the cold. We both had done a lot of walks around the Mournes but we wanted to try out something different and a new challenge so this is way we decided to do Carrauntoohil.
We Started the walk from Cronin’s Yard which is probably about 30 minutes away from Killarney and there is a carpark there and the day we went there wasn’t too many cars there. We knew this was either a really good or a bad thing. (most people were probably more sensible) lol
Although it was March it was actually a really beautiful day as we started the walk up the Valley along the Gaddagh River and really it is a simple enough walk up the Hags Glen and so beautiful until you get to the Devils Ladder part of the walk. This seemed to be the most popular route to take when looking online but I think there is another 2 routes you can take and depends where you are walking from also.
Just before you come to the Devils ladder you walk between two small lakes called Lough Gouragh and Callee and it was around here you really started to notice the air getting a lot cooler and crisp and you had to wrap up warm. You must make sure to always bring a hat and snood/neck warmer even in the summer in Ireland. You really wont regret it and they are light essentials. The area here is really boggy as well so remember to wear good footwear that is waterproof and warm. I wear Gri sport footwear which I find amazing and so comfortable but there is so many out there nowadays.
It was from the Devils ladder things were slightly more difficult as the walk up until now was pretty much a gradual climb and really quite flat and easy. Once on the Devil’s ladder though the rocks were very slippery and covered in slight snow and ice but we managed to get up not too bad and there wasn’t really much of a wind. This was until we got to the top of the Devils ladder and the gusts were crazy.
From here you turn up right to head up to the Summit of Carrauntoohil this is where it started to get really difficult… not really because of the actual climb up the Mountain but because we were starting to get hit with the ice cold winds which were also blowing snow and ice off the ground and into our faces, the gusts would have took you off your feet. I was really glad to have a snood on around this time. Although it was so cold, I was still walking around and trying to get photos and as you can see from the image’s I think most people were coming down. The main thing that I did find about Carrauntoohil was the ever-changing weather and how quickly it can change. You really have to respect the mountains when it is like this and just be careful and watch out for each other.
There was even points during the walk where we had to sit down with our backs against the wind as it was like glass hitting your face and along with the wind’s we were starting to get blizzards now and again. The higher you got as well if you weren’t walking on the rocky areas and ended up in the smaller ridges, the snow was nearly up to my waist in places… so that’s up to most people’s thighs lol
The higher you climb up Carrauntoohil you start to see the Cross at the summit and when you see it you really start to get exciting to think you are now the highest person in the whole of the Island of Ireland. It’s such a good feeling and an accomplishment to be able to do this and grateful for the fact you can do it. Even though we made it to the summit little did we know the hardest part of this whole adventure was about to begin.
As we made our way down from the summit we thought we would go towards Br O Shea’s Gully as we seen this online but I don’t think I would recommend going this way especially in the winter. The snow on this area was starting to get really deep and by the time we got to the Gully area there was a few different ones and had to make a decision to go back or to go down.
We decided to go down what we thought was O Shea’s gully but looking back now we think it was actually the Central gully as we were in between two others. Standing at the top of this was daunting enough as the image shows Mark standing at the top. This was so steep around this area and like nothing we had experienced before especially in this weather. Every foot was taking forever and I had to put the camera away until we got down the Gully. There was snow over the really loose rocks below and between the was about and inch of ice so the conditions were terrible in this part and it wasn’t a great experience at the time but amazing looking back at it all now and the fact we achieved it.
After the slow snails pace down to the lake which we were starting to think was one of the lakes we passed on the way up it was actually (or hoping) it wasn’t until we looked across and seen that we were still higher than the Hags tooth rock and this was Ireland Highest lake called Lough Cummeenoughter and this is still 707m high up. And from here we got our first views of the countryside below and everyone looked to be having a beautiful spring day.
Eventually we started to get to the Hags Glen side of the O Shea Gully and from here the conditions started to get a lot better although wet areas were already turning to ice, but seeing the path we came up brought a little warmth to our hearts after the painfully slow climb down the Gully. Once you get back down the Glen a little you get to the route that brings you straight down to the Cronin’s Yard car park and by this time the legs are thanking you for this. I’m not sure what this walk would have been like with no snow and ice but I’m sure it would’ve been a lot easier, but would it have left such a lasting memory for us both? If you are doing Carrauntoohil definitely bring a friend or two along just to on the safe side.
This was the Story of the day we had and I suppose, it’s what a lot of people don’t see or think about when Landscape Photography is mentioned. The hours of scouting places and sometimes not coming home with any images but It’s about the fun and adventure you make on the way also. So just enjoy the moment rather than thinking photography.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

This is a question I have asked myself time and time again and you really have to question yourself at 01:30am when the alarm goes off in the middle of the summer to get up for a sunrise.
But…This will be my answer and my reason why – Once you initially get up and try to waken yourself up and hit the road, its amazing to have the roads and countryside all to yourself. Standing at a location, not a sound and watching as a glow starts out to the horizon as the sun starts to rise. Along with the Stunning beauty of the sun rising with magnificent Colours, (if you are lucky) what I also notice is things start to waken up around myself. You can see and hear the birds starting to sing, Cattle and sheep start moving about, the soft sound of the waves crashing against the coastline if you are along it and just the feeling of being at one with nature is really good for the body and mind. I don’t know another photographer who doesn’t enjoy these moments and even if you don’t go home with an image you go home with the amazing memories of that morning and a good frame of mind. Once the Sun has rose and you are past the Golden hour it is a great time to Scout the area for another time, like trying out compositions or another time when the sun will be in a different position or Wild weather for a completely different look.

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

This is another really hard question as there is so many for me. I would have to say locally It would have to be either the North Antrim Coast or the Mourne Mountains in Co Down. Where I live (Toome) is only an hour’s drive to either of these areas and I can’t really say an exact location, as there is beauty around every Corner along the Coastline. Although you don’t get the Sun around that area in the winter months, I find the Mountains are better around that Season. My soft spot for Donegal will always be with me but the whole way along the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ is just simply stunning! I do have to Say Co Kerry though as well as I have been down a few times in recent years but, unfortunately I didn’t get enough time to do a proper photography project around Kerry. I just love the Ruggedness of the Wild Coastline of Kerry, but along with that you have the amazing Macgillyguddy’s Reeks Mountain range with Irelands Highest mountain Carrauntoohil, really sets the scene.
Hopefully when restrictions start to ease, I am going to be planning at least a ten day trip to this area as the long 6 hour drive and more to this area is definitely too long even for a couple of days stay.

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

Another hard one. I do think it would have to be one that I have took the past year and looking back I would say it would be one that I got along the North Antrim Coast at the Whiterock’s. This is a stunning area and in the summer months if you get to the right location you can see the Sun Shimmer over the Limestone rock, along this amazing area. The thing that I loved about this area was that because I was out on a head-land I was able to get two amazing images in the one night. One was shooting away from the sun and getting the Golden light over the ‘Wishing Arch’ area and then if the Sun was going to play ball I planned to get another shooting towards the sun and towards the Whiterock’s Beach – Portrush direction. This doesn’t always work well especially in Ireland as we all know you can’t even predict the weather even an hour beforehand sometimes. On this night things just seem to work… I got the shoot I wanted of the wishing Arch and literally only had a minute to get over to my other location to get the sun right. The colours of the sky, Along the shoreline and the Ocean were amazing and as Hannibal said in the A Team “ I love it when a plan comes together”.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Believe it or not I am Still using my Nikon 7100 and A Sigma 10-20mm for a lot of my Landscape stuff. This camera has been through the wars and I honestly don’t know how it is still working. Its been soaked and it been Froze and still keeps and you could say it was really my first proper camera but I’ve continued to get better using this set up. I also have a Nikon D750 which is another great camera and I know there is a shift now more to Mirrorless but these will do for now as I progress myself.
The other lenses I use are the Nikon 24-70 2.8, 70 -200 2.8 and I sometimes like using a wee 50 1.4 sometimes if I am out and about and I feel like shooting nice candid stuff. It really depends where I am going and what I am looking
I have just bought myself a new tripod by Benro (Mach 3 S3 Carbon Fibre) and it looks an amazing job and it is replacing my old Manfrotto and have to say with sea water and drops it has seen better days. I do my best to look after stuff but things just happen when out. Lol
The Filter system I use is the Lee one and I now have the newer Holder and Polariser, Various big stoppers, Grad and NDs.
The bag I use is Manfrotto and the different bits and pieces that I have in this are extra cloths for cleaning the camera and filters, extra Batteries, A USB charger and an adapter for the camera batteries if I am going to be out for a long time, as this can be one of the best things you can buy if you are out for a long time. The Charger I got was a PNY one and this charges the phone quicker than in the house so for me an essential piece of equipment.
Another essential bit of gear you will need is a good head torch as I find myself walking a lot in the dark especially after sunsets or to sunrises so this is a must for any landscape Photographer.
Always wear good clothing to suit the seasons and where you are going and good comfortable boots to walk in.
The three main Apps I would use for planning would be Weather & Radar, which is really good to see where the rain and cloud is. It gives you real time movement in the clouds and rain and it has been really good for me. I also use The Photographers Ephemeris (Normal and 3D) and PhotoPills Apps for planning for the Sun, Shadows, moon etc. Always check online for your tide times so you don’t get caught out and to plan for hopefully the right movement in the waves.
I have recently upgraded my camera system to the Nikon z6ii with a 14-30mm lens.

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

I would say don’t get too focused in thinking you need the best of the best equipment when you are first starting out and invest more time in actually getting out and about. This way your photography will get better, you will get to know areas better so when you go back you will know where to go and being consistent is better than having good gear. People seem to think that it’s an expensive camera will make you a better Photographer, when in fact that part is all about you. You make the decisions, you change the settings, you choose the area and you do the editing. Another thing is don’t focus on what other people are doing as everyone is on different paths and doing their own Journey. So… go out, have fun, make mistakes, learn from them and repeat… Landscape photography is all about having fun and freedom. Learn to plan stuff also using the Apps mentioned.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

The best advice I was given and one that stuck with me was “you will never stop learning in photography and if you think you know it all. You may give up” and the more I have been doing photography the more I have started to learn this. You never stop learning with so many new things to learn all the time, not only with the actual photography but with the editing, gear, new locations, thinking of new ideas, learning about prints and calendars etc. Nowadays, the actual photography part is only a small percentage of being an actual photographer.

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape photographer?

I really can’t say just the one photographer because I think any photographer gets inspiration from looking at anyone’s photos and I even get inspired by Artist paintings. I would watch you tube to relax and I really love to watch stuff by the likes of Thomas Heaton, Peter McKinnon, Michael Shainblum, Evan Ranft, Mark Denney, Nick Page, Jacob, Charlie Waite and Nigel Danson are just a few. You constantly can learn new tips and tricks and I really think You Tube is as good as anywhere if you are wanting to learn stuff. If you really enjoy something its not like learning it more about evolving and making yourself better. Its just amazing some of these locations to get to see when some of these guys are out especially the Americian guys as its just such a vast Country with so many amazing locations. Although for all the size of Ireland it is one of the most stunning Countries in the planet.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment?

Again… a very hard question to answer as there is so much amazing raw talent out there in Ireland and I can’t just mention one. I would have to say Steven Hanna though as I have always loved his work from when I was first starting out and just how natural they look and the details he has in the images. I went to one of his workshops as well a couple of years ago and he was such a nice guy and I remember we stayed behind to shoot stuff in Portstewart after the sun had set and everyone else had gone and we got a good chat and some really cool images. I also love the videos that he does as well on You Tube. Another I have to mention would have to be Bernard Geraghty. I have watched Bernard rise to where he’s at now in all that he does with his Tours around the world, funny posts and stories on Instagram / Facebook and if you haven’t checked it out yet, his amazing Podcast. He gets in guests every few weeks and just listening to the stories and banter really is a great time to grab a coffee and learn from the masters in their field. There is so many amazing Irish photographers about though and just too many to name here but ones that come to mind would have to be Explore Light, Ruben Fields, Six miles, Alistair Hamill, Kieran Walsh and loads load’s more… sorry can’t mention everyone. Lol If I follow you on socials you are a good photographer or just a nice person. Lol

Where can we find you?

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Kevin Best
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