Togs & Tales

Mark McGuire

Mark McGuire

Landscape Photographer

So the name is Mark McGuire and I’m a Kildare man or more specifically I hail from the sacred land of The Curragh!!
I used to do a lot of wedding photography but the commercial and repetitive nature of photography-for-profit made me fall out of love with the art. Past year or so I’ve reignited my passion for the art by merging my love for the mountains/outdoors and photography-for-hobby rather than for-profit. It’s funny I could spend two hours happily studying and editing a landscape shot but 2 seconds with a commercial/wedding shot makes me want to die inside!
A soppy cliché I may be, but my favourite thing in this world is my family – my wife and 2 kids. Closely followed by nature spots that are free of the modern world or crowds – so no buildings, pylons or boardwalks trampled with tourists. I also love finding ancient sites around Ireland, megalithic tombs, stone circles, menhirs, ruins, or old sacred lands. When I visit those types of places my imagination gets to run free coming up with theories of what people used to do in there and I genuinely believe there’s a positive energy you get from standing on sacred land – to help people understand that point just think of the negative energy you’d get if you stood in Auschwitz.
Career-wise I’m a Psychotherapist and spend a lot of my week working with clients suffering from developmental trauma, so extreme trauma experienced in childhood. Tough, but rewarding job that requires you to take good care of yourself which is where the outdoors and photography comes in for me.

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

I always had an interest in landscape photos from my teen years probably and from an artistic perspective I think. As noted above, my current love of landscape work comes from merging my outdoor hobbies with a want to really capture the amazing scenes I see. It’s a creative outlet. I also use landscape photography and the outdoors as a way to balance myself. As I’ve mentioned, I spend my 9 to 5 listening to highly traumatic childhoods or other psychological difficulties people suffer with, so the outdoors and creativity of photography helps ground me I suppose. And weirdly, there’s nothing quite like being out on your own in nature – nothing beats it.
First camera was a polaroid camera when I was 11 I think. I still have pictures from a school tour we were on in 5th class that I took with that. Was a great thing to have. I always think I had an interest in photography and always remember being drawn to the camera shops if we took trips to Dublin City as a kid. Got a small point and shoot Fujifilm camera in my teens and still have it in the house here and then bought my first DSLR when I was in my early 20’s..

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

Ah it has to be trekking the 4 provincial high peaks in 4 days for charity. My god, that is some experience. There’s the obvious adventure of hiking the high peaks of Lugnaquilla, Slieve Donard, Mweelrea and Carrauntoohil, but the craic touring Ireland over 4 days with the lads and seeing so much of the country on the road is unreal. It’s actually hard to put words on how enjoyable an experience it is. It’s tough don’t get me wrong and it’s both physically and mentally draining but there’s so many moments that you take from the experience that I’ll no doubt carry as vivid memories to my death bed. I mean there are scenes like watching the deer prancing around the Wicklow Mountains, the low clouds quickly rolling over the Mourne Wall like a scene straight from a Hollywood blockbuster, sun rays bursting through the low clouds illuminating the Mayo valleys from the saddle on Mweelrea, and waking to the sun rising over the silhouette of Carrauntoohil. But one memory from that adventure that vividly sticks out to me is lying on my back on the beach in the dead of night at Silver Strand in Mayo, staring up at the heavens, and nothing obstructing my full range of view (think iMax theatre), leaving me with a view of the most crystal clear night sky with zero light pollution. Coincidentally the Milky Way core was visible that evening and we just lay there watching billions of stars glistening, shooting stars whizz by, while the Milky Way formed a star filled rainbow spanning the entire sky directly above us, all with the soundtrack of the ocean crashing on the shore. Never experienced anything like it in my life. Pure bliss and talk about being teleported to another world.

Then there’s the sense of comradery that comes from the adventure with the lads and the natural shite talk and laughs that happen on the trip. You hit a come-down when it ends that is nearly depressing because you’ve been so high (both geographically and emotionally) for the whole experience. If anyone reading this has ever considered doing something like it and is on the fence, let me tell you to jump off the fence and go for it. Rain, hail or shine you’ll have the best adventure ever!!

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

Jesus that’s a tough one. I’m kind of strange and even enjoy when the weather turns and we get battered by rain and hail. It’s a different perspective on the scenes I normally see in sunshine. But it’s probably something silly like breaking or losing a material object. Oh actually I remember spending €500 on a filter set and dropping them in to the flooded river at Glenbarrow on their very first outing. Bye bye. I had to climb in and get saturated to find the filter holder and by god that took my breath away. The filters inside were smashed to pieces. But I rescued the holder. That was fairly shit but I laugh at it now!

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

Has to be sunrise. There’s something literally magical and calming about watching a new day spring to life. It’s also the most peaceful time of day I reckon because less people get up for a sunrise and more are out for sunsets due to naturally being awake at that time. So you usually get beautiful places largely to yourself. Also if you hit the mountains for sunrise the trails of people haven’t scared the herds of deer and other wildlife away from the main routes yet so you get the gorgeous morning light coupled with scenes of nature and wildlife that just aren’t available at any other time of the day.
I might come across as overly sentimental with this one but I genuinely pause for a moment when I’m out by myself for sunrise and bask in the feeling of peace and appreciation that I’m watching this magical moment unfold when so many others have left the world in the previous 24 hour spin we took as a planet in front of the sun. It’s humbling and makes you appreciate the moment and your life all the more I feel. I honestly think there’s no other time of day that can produce such a natural level of happiness or contentedness as sunrise. Oh and being on the East Coast of Ireland our seascape shots naturally lend themselves better to sunrise as well.

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

I don’t think I have a favourite specific location that I’m locked down to. I think my favourite place changes regularly but there’s usually a theme of it being an ancient site I reckon. So I’m usually drawn for periods to sites like Clonmacnoise, Seefin Passage Tomb, Lough Crew, Old Kilcullen, Glendalough (despite the crowds – it’s great there early or late). It’s not a specific answer for you but I genuinely don’t have one specific place, although if a gun was put to my head and I had to answer I’d answer with the entire Wicklow Mountain Range (covers so many amazing places).

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

Jesus, that’s tough one. I like a lot of my own pictures cause they all capture moments that are memories for me so they all give me something. But I took a nose through my insta grid there to see what one jumps out from it and probably a shot I have up of my 2 kids at the end of what they call “the mountains” in The Curragh (it’s just a high placed mound to stop stray bullets from the military firing range) with the sun setting probably does it for me. We often walk up there and sit on it staring out at what’s locally called Braveheart Hill to watch the sunset. While it’s not my favourite place to photograph, it’s my favourite place in the world to sit and watch the sun go down and having a shot of my kids up there and the way they give the image scale really makes it jump out for me.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Do a course or at least pay for some quality tutorials and invest time in learning how to process and take images well. Too many people just bang up HDR pics from their phone, which I was guilty of myself so I’m speaking from experience here. But they’re torture to look at now that I feel I’ve progressed further. My god they are a steroid induced shortcut to a dopamine hit on Instagram that have no real substance or quality. So I suppose what I’m saying is learn how to take and process a proper piece of art that is of high enough quality that you could print it on a large canvas and not just display it on a 5 inch iPhone screen through Instagram. When you’ve nailed that you’re sucking Diesel, what you produce then is completely down to your own taste and preference.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Bracket your shots! It’s that simple.

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer

I don’t really fanboy on people to be honest. I was asked on the Tripod who my favourite photographer was and I was stumped and who came to mind for me was a guy who we all know to be hugely talented, Mr Mark O Brien. Most importantly to me, not only does Mark have great photography skills, but he comes across as a seriously decent person from a moral perspective and he isn’t commercialised or doesn’t come across as being in it for financial gain. I suppose I like him because he reminds me of why I do it, which is for the genuine love and passion of the hobby (That’s not to say I’ll never change head space and decide to sell my own stuff one of these fine days). So Mark is someone who I greatly enjoy watching do his thing and he’s a pleasure to spend time with out in the field.

I suppose when I was getting in to photography I was inspired by the likes of Aaron Nace from Phlearn and his PS skills, Sean O’Riordan’s talent knows no bounds so he’s one to watch for the pure gifts he possesses in terms of composing shots and processing them, Also, his commitment to wild camping to get the perfect shot is fairly impressive. I suppose I don’t really have one biggest inspiration but rather take bits of inspiration from people I choose to interact with in the photography community.

To take it more global I really like Nick Page and Max Rive but with them there’s aspects of how they roll that I like rather than saying they’re my inspirations.

Indecisive answer I know but an honest one.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment?

Jaysus that’s the million-dollar question. Can I say me?
Vain as that may seem let me explain first. I like all of my own photos regardless of how they are received by the public or others cause as I’ve said before, they are all capturing memories of my own. So each one of my own photos, even those not within the golden ratio, are a joy for me to look at because they take me right back to a moment I probably enjoyed if I chose to snap it. While I’m my own worst critic and think everyone else’s technical abilities are far better than my own when it comes to the actual art of capturing a photo, that doesn’t really matter to me. Because your photo that is probably so much better composed, so much more appealing commercially, and so much more likeable to the masses, doesn’t bring me as much joy as my own shot of a broken old ancient stump with shitty lighting that reminds me of a moment of pure bliss I had while at that location.

But if I can’t choose myself I’d have to say there’s a few. Sean and Mark as already mentioned are ridiculous talents. I like Max Molly’s stuff too and the guy Keith Walsh, who I’ve never actually met, takes some ridiculously stunning photos. Michael MacGillycuddy snaps some of the finest works of art you’ll ever see, his whole catalogue could form an independent art gallery. There’s loads to be fair. I have to say there’s an abundance of ridiculously talented Irish landscape photographers about today.

Where can we find you?

At home, in work, or wandering around the mountain tops and valleys!! Ha ha. Ah no, the only social media platform I really spend time on and that you’d catch me on is Instagram.

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Mark McGuire

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