Togs & Tales

Paul Killeen

Paul Killeen

Landscape Photographer

I have always been good at art and creative work. Pretty much all I was good at! At school I excelled at art and then went to Art College at the University of Ulster, studying Visual Communications. Whilst I was using a variety of mediums for finished pieces of work for modules, as I got further into my studies I was using photography more often as my medium of choice, because I enjoyed it best. Looking back I don’t think I had a particular photographic talent but when you enjoy something I think it tends link with the work you produce.

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

My first camera I got was gifted to me by my parents for my 21st, it was a Pentax something or other. I still have it somewhere in a box to this day. I always loved the excitement of leaving the film into the chemist at the time to get developed. I remember at the time it was a decent camera but really I just used it on automatic to take snaps, not photographs. The interest was there though.

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

Trips away with my wife are always picked around where I would like to make images of, but two in particular come to mind. Our trip to Iceland in 2017 & Lofoten Islands in 2020. Two places that any photographer will see countless beautiful images of and want to shoot themselves. The trip to Lofoten was like a real adventure as it was a bus to Dublin, plane to Oslo, another plane to Bodo and then hired a car and get the boat over the Lofoten Islands. My wife will generally do all of the planning for our trips, which she is amazing at, and this is done around locations I will make images of. She really is the best, and probably should take credit for the images I make! Then there are mini adventures where I will pick a location that is a little further than what I would class as local to me and do an overnighter in the car with one of my friends who also shoot. I have done various overnighters in the likes of Donegal, Wicklow, Dublin, Connemara and Wexford. These can be eventful to say the least. There have been some funny moments over the years, one story in particular from Dublin comes to mind haha, but I have to stop talking now before I say too much!

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

1st March 2020. Lofoten Islands. Uttakleiv Beach for sunrise. Later that evening my beloved Aston Villa would also get beat 2-1 by Manchester City in the League Cup Final (whilst I drank the most of a bottle of rum, you will find out that it had been a terrible day). That morning was our third of our twelve day trip to the Lofoten Islands and I had just shot the ‘Dragons Eye’. Close to this spot I was in the process of making another seascape, and to be honest it was never going to be an image worth keeping, but I was caught down a rabbit hole of trying to produce an image. Waves were coming up and around me and I was making images of the waves regressing back to the sea. It didn’t appear unsafe in the slightest during my time at this particular area. As I was about to make my last image a freak wave came up and knocked both my tripod with the camera attached off our feet. I don’t know how but I managed to grab a leg of the tripod. When I got back on my feet the tripod had two legs, the filter hold and two Lee Filters were gone never to be seen again, and the camera never worked again. Almost five thousand pounds worth of damage, not insured. Tyler Collins happened to be running a workshop in Lofoten and seen something I had put out on my Instagram story and had other people coming out to him later in the week so Ricky Linton who was on the workshop was able to bring out my Dads Canon 5d MkII and Andy Coulter, who is now a good friend, and a very good photographer (check out his work) lent me his tripod, filter holders and two filters that I had lost. The camera never worked again but thankfully the memory card and all of the images from the first two days were able to be saved. Looking back on it now, if the wave had taken me out to sea there was no way I was coming back. It has taken some time to realise this because initially I was focused on my loss of equipment, naturally. Now I know that I was very lucky.

Sunrise or Sunset & Why?

Obviously both can but good to make images, but I have to say sunrise. Less people about, which makes me seem anti-social, but there is something about just being on location and having it all to yourself that is special. Of course the time of year dictates whether or not I am getting up at 3am or not! This time of year you can get up at a reasonable time, and still make it to a location for sunrise. I tend to think that the winter months are more suitable for landscape photography, and offer so much more in terms of mood.

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

You know I don’t really have one. I tend to want to say the locations where I have shot some of my best work would be my favourite. Coming from Belfast I have shot the North Coast frequently. Downhill Beach, Portstewart Strand and Mussenden Temple where my wife and I were married, are favourite local spots. Then there is Murlough Beach in Newcastle, or Malin Head in Donegal which are both fantastic. Like every photographer I have a long list of locations that I am ticking off too. Places like Connemara, Gougane Barra and various locations in Donegal. Dublin has some nice places to photograph too. I often long to photograph places in other countries but in Ireland we are so lucky to have such an amazing variety of locations for landscape photography. I am sure there are photographers all over the world compiling lists of places in Ireland to photograph. We are spoilt for choice.

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

It’s funny, in my head I always liken producing new work on a year by year bases, like it is for a band releasing a new album. You will have the stronger songs released as singles, these would be the portfolio images, and the album tracks would be the good images. Picking out images for Togs & Tales is a bit like releasing a greatest hits. I am not sure I have a favourite photograph that I have taken. To be honest I am very rarely satisfied with the images I make. I am known for being a harsh critic when it comes to images and a few have told me that I have a reputation for that, but I am very harsh on my own work. I always want to be better and produce better. When you look back over the last few years there are some really nice images of course, but mostly I try to look forward and plan for new work. If I had to pick out one image I guess I would have to say ‘Downhill At Dusk’ because it made it into the Landscape Photographer of the Year’ Collection 10 book. That was always an aim when I first took up photography. That competition is always filled with the work of photographers that truly inspire me.

What equipment / Setup are you currently using?

I shoot with a Canon 5d MkIV. I mostly use 16-35mm, 24-105mm and 70-300mm. Lee Filters are my filter of choice and have been since I took up photography. I consider them to be the best in the business. I am not big into gear or technology. In fact I would say I am the opposite. I am a big advocate for practising and working to get shoot an image correctly in camera. This is the most satisfying thing for me personally, and that gives me such a buzz.

You recently won Nigel Danson's World Landscape Photographer 2022 photography Competition. Can you tell us about your image and what winning this competition has meant to to you?

Winning World Landscape Photographer 2022 is such an unbelievable feeling. The competition is full of absolutely stunning work each year, and I am very much aware that on another day the judges could have chose another image as overall winner. I have received other awards in the past but this is my greatest achievement to date. It might mean an increase in print sales, or more people contacting me for photography workshops! Those that know me personally, will know how much winning this competition means to me. They will know of my passion to continue making images to please me first and foremost. For others to resonate with my work genuinely means so much. Its not really about any prizes, for me it is more about gaining recognition from people who I consider to be world class in the landscape photography field.

Top Tip for anyone starting out?

Spend as much time out on location shooting as possible. Time invested practising and honing your skills is more important than money invested on gear. Trust me, a fancy camera does not make someone a photographer. I can still produce very bad photographs with a good camera!
Shoot for yourself first and foremost. Aim to please yourself with your images. Don’t shoot for social media. Take social media with a pinch of salt. Compliments are always lovely to hear, but not always genuine on social media, and I find it to be very transparent. Find people who will give you genuine feedback on your images. Listen to those photographers who are willing to give you their time in providing any suggestions or tips on how to improve your photography. This is what I did myself when I first started making photographs. You know it is much better to get feedback from someone when they look at one of your prints, and not from a mobile phone screen. I joined a local camera club when I first started making photographs and I will always say this was a major part in my photography improving. People took me under their wing when I first joined and they seen that I had potential. I now mentor a few photographers in the club. Anyone in Belfast wanting to join a club feel free to send me a message for more detail.
YouTube is also great for learning little things too. It is also good to see other photographers out on locations that I still have to make it too. Everyone and their dog (literally!) is on YouTube now. I am not great with technical things, so I really hope our little dog Reni can learn how to vLog for us both someday!

Who is your biggest inspiration as a Landscape Photographer?

There are a few photographers that really inspire me. People who I consider to be a class above the rest. Names that spring to mind are Maria Svarbova, Rachael Talibart, Dave Fieldhouse, Leigh Dorey, Neil Burnell, Simon Baxter, Kai Hornung and the long list goes on. I know I have missed loads of photographers whose work I am in awe of, but we’ve not got all day. When I look at their work it’s just on another level. I guess we all aspire to be as good as those that inspire us.

Best Advise you’ve personally been given?

Shoot in all kinds of weather. It doesn’t always have to be a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Some of the best images will be made in challenging weather. This is so very true. Sometimes the most rewarding images are made in the most challenging conditions, when you have a real battle on your hands to make an image. If you manage to make the image it will probably have a more dramatic and stronger impact.

Who is your favourite Irish photographer at the moment ?

John Miskelly immediately comes to mind. Do look for him on Instagram, although he puts very little up there. I think you’ll find a link to his website in his bio though. I have seen John’s prints in person and they are simply stunning. I would recommend his work to anyone. He is a top photographer.

© All images are copyrighted to Photographer Paul Killeen
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