Togs & Tales

Orla Fleming

Orla Fleming

Landscape Photographer

My name is Orla Fleming and I’m from County Kerry originally. I moved to Limerick for college and ended up living in Castletroy for most of the time since. My husband, dog and I moved across the border into Tipperary two years ago, where I can still commute into Limerick to work but we are now living in the countryside.
I teach Design and Communication Graphics and Graphics in Castletroy College in Limerick (that’s what has become of Technical Drawing if you’re as young as I am and studied TD and TG in school.) Hobby wise I was always a book worm, love music, and fluctuate between being enthusiastically dedicated to a weightlifting regime and not setting foot in a gym for months. Balance is something I’ve never been good at. I don’t know if I could call photography a hobby, it has become more like a passion in recent years, I get so much pleasure from it and there is always so much more to learn.

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

I have no idea what my first camera was, I was eleven when I got it, I remember it had a cube like flash that you stuck on top that would rotate after each flash, so you had four flashes from each unit. I still have the photos I took with it, national school day trips etc. I started a photography course years ago, but when the teacher was talking about the exposure triangle, and I was there with my five auto modes on my digital camera it didn’t stick at the time. It was about five years ago, when my last dog got old, and walks become more about standing in one spot for ages that I started to take photos of details I liked with my phone. I joined Instagram around that time and was truly inspired by other peoples work there, and eventually invested in a DSLR and started putting time into developing some skills.

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

Probably my visit to Lake Louise three years ago. We only had two nights there before moving on and the forecast wasn’t great. I was driving back after an utter fail of a sunrise shoot when I noticed something moving along the side of the road opposite my car. It was a huge grizzly bear, just sauntering along with his eyes half closed and sleepy looking. It was amazing to see. I rolled the car along beside it for a bit, tried a few photos because I couldn’t resist even though it was too dark for me to get anything decent. We saw a lot of black bears in Canada and were so impressed by them, but the grizzly made them look like puppies in comparison.

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

Thankfully nothing springs to mind bar the usual events, soakings from freak waves, dropped and smashed filters etc. I’ve made every mistake you can imagine; arriving on location without an SD card/tripod/filters; happily shooting a scene not realising my setting were off etc. I think the worst was when I was trying to get a low angle handheld shot by a waterfall and literally jumped when I heard a splash behind me. Turned out my tripod had rolled down the bank and was irretrievable in the murky depths.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

Sunrise, no competition for me! I hate the getting up for it part, especially in the summer when you must set your alarm for 4.30am, but even when conditions aren’t ideal, you feel like you have the world to yourself. It’s so peaceful, just you and nature. When conditions are favourable there’s nothing more beautiful to me than morning mist or fog, especially when the sun starts to burn through it. There’s an untouched feeling to everything, if that makes sense.

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

I love our west coast, especially during stormy weather. I love a landscape that might have looked the same hundreds if not thousands of years ago, with as little trace of civilisation as possible. Killarney National Park is special to me for that reason and is beautiful all year round. Dingle has to be up there too. Basically you can’t go wrong with Kerry, (not that I’m biased).

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

A few weeks before our first lockdown I was in shooting in Doolin during a storm for the first time and took this photo. I lost layers of my face to the hailstones pelting down and could barely keep myself upright against the wind but it was incredibly beautiful. There’s something about the raw power of the elements, the pulsing of the waves, almost like a heartbeat as they pound the cliffs, that makes you appreciate that you are standing on a living planet where scenes like this have occurred for millions of years. As I was struggling to keep my balance against the wind I noticed the seagulls, such relatively small creatures, gracefully riding the winds, dipping and diving with seemingly little effort. I doubt the photo conveys everything I fell about it remembering the experience, but even though I hope to be out in these conditions again and capture better photos, I think this one will always be special to me.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Get out shooting as much as you can and critically examine your shots afterwards. You learn from making mistakes, so it’s never a bad thing to make them. Workshops are a great way to improve, especially when starting out, and there are some wonderful photographers running them in Ireland. Editing is important; your camera can not capture what your eyes can see but avoid overediting. When I first started and found the dehaze slider in Lightroom I committed some of the most brutal crimes against photos that exist, but I hope I will look back on some of the things I do now and shudder as well in a few years, it will mean I’m making progress. If you use an online platform like Instagram, try not to get sucked in to caring about ‘Likes’ and instead focus on developing your own style. Online platforms can be inspiring but also can kill creativity as people try to shoot what they see is popular or get their most encouraging feedback from. Never stop learning.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Get to your location early and give yourself time to stop and take a scene in, then consider what the best compositions might be before setting up your tripod and committing to a spot. This wasn’t said to me personally so I’m cheating here but it’s something Nigel Danson says in his YouTube videos that makes sense. I think we sometimes get so excited by conditions that it’s easy to become snap happy, taking loads of photos hoping some will be good, but you improve your chances of getting a good photo if you take your time to take in the scene first, decide what you like about it and how best to capture it.

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer?

I love the work of Rachael Talibart, Nigel Danson, Mark LittleJohn, Enrico Fossati, to name but a few.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment?

There are too many to mention and the risk of letting people out that deserve to be in is too great, so I’m chickening out of this one!

Where can we find you?

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Orla Fleming
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