By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Andy McInroy, who has captured some truly spectacular images of Ireland. See more here.

McInroy Fanad Lighthouse County Donegal

What’s your background?

I started using photography as a way of recording my hill walks and climbing during my time as a Physics student. It became a way of creating a visual diary of my time outdoors. The camera is the link between my interest in the outdoors and my training within science.

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Scientist. Photographer. Outdoorsman. How much time do you give to each of these things? And how do they cross pollinate and help each other?

My day work is within a research group for a major hard drive manufacturer. However, in the evenings and weekends my escape is the outdoors. Ireland has such a wealth of scenery and terrain that I am spoilt for choice as far as locations are concerned. Golden Strands, magnificent cliffs and soaring mountains. And what light ! Even when the weather doesn’t co-operate, a long walk along a deserted beach or windswept mountain is great for the soul and a sometimes provides an opportunity to think through some obscure engineering problem.

What do you like about Irish landscapes for shooting pictures ?

Ireland has such an excellent combination of light and land. The land is the canvas and the light is the paint. The weather in Ireland makes for fast changing patterns of light which in turn makes for interesting and varied photography. Although Ireland doesn’t have the vast tracts of wilderness of some countries, it’s very easy to see the power of nature here. The seashore and clifftops are particularly impressive when the storms approach.

McInroy Bruce's Cave

Your sea cave story / chapters is fantastic, is it still a work in progress – do you plan to photograph more sea caves?

I completed the Antrim sea cave project back in 2009 when I visited Bruce’s cave on Rathlin Island. My aim was to photograph all the sea caves on the north coast which were notable for their size or historical significance. Some of them were very challenging to get inside. Some required wading and some even involved using an inflatable dinghy. Dunkerry cave in particular had never seen a published photo and for that adventure I needed the help of one of Ireland’s top sea cliff climbers, Iain Miller. There are certainly many more sea caves to explore and discover. However, I am confident that my project gives a nice flavour of the range and history of these secret places.

Would it perhaps become a hard copy book?

I wouldn’t rule it out. The web is a powerful medium for this type of story but the detail within the photos do benefit from being printed up. I did host an exhibition on the project at the University of Ulster in Coleraine where many local people were able to see large prints. It was great to hear the reactions from many of the locals who had no idea these hidden places even existed.

What camera(s) do you use? Which do you prefer for which occasions?

I became heavily invested in Pentax K mount equipment many years ago. Thankfully Pentax managed to get their digital act together and produce the excellent K10D. This was an ideal camera for the cave project due to its weather sealing and rugged body. I usually paired this with my wide angle fast prime (14mm F2.8) to capture as much of the caves as possible. I have since upgraded to the Pentax K-3 which I am finding is much better for astrophotography and for chasing auroras!

What are your favourite shots, why?

The cave project has a special place in my heart because I know that it was something never attempted before. Nowhere in the world has such impressive natural features which are accompanied with such interesting historical material (etchings, paintings etc). It was a great feeling to be able to bring these views into the 21st century using the modern high dynamic range techniques. There is a quote by Constable where he said “I should paint my own places best”. I feel that about my own photography. I love photographing familiar places which I return to again and again in the ever changing light. By photographing them I make them my own places and they become more special to me.

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What gear do you use that helps you on location?

Warm clothing is a must ! As I get older, I find that a warm flask of tea is another essential. I also carry a few filters (Lee neutral density) which helps me balance my exposures in the camera. I use a heavy manfrotto tripod with a ball and socket head. When I’m camping high in the mountains, then I switch to a lighter setup. When the weather is good I have been known to photograph the stars from the comfort of my tent door, wrapped in my down sleeping bag and sipping hot chocolate.

Emerging tech, what new things are you using?

Photography wise, I’m fairly old school. The pentax K-3 has opened up new opportunities to me due to its excellent noise control at high ISO. That makes it a great camera for astrophotography. That’s something I’d like to get more into. The announcement of the new Pentax fullframe K-1 is very exciting. Its looks to have a very impressive spec at a very reasonable price point. With its weather sealing, in camera stabilisation, pixel shift technology and 36MP sensor. It is already being described as the best landscape camera ever built. Time will tell.

Have you used drones yet to take pictures, is this an area you might do more of?

I don’t have any plans to use drones for landscape photography at this stage. I like to keep my photography as simple as possible and I feel that this would take away some of the connection I have with the locations I visit. Sometimes I like to sit quietly waiting for inspiration or for the light to change. Sitting listening to the buzzing of a drone overhead would take away that experience. I’ve seen some incredible drone photographs taken by other Irish photographers. I have to say that they are very brave to send their equipment up into the blustery wind off these wild coasts.

McInroy, Sperrins and Park Village, County Derry

DSLR vs smart phones, pros and cons from your point of view?

As far as long exposure, tripod based photography is concerned, this is still very much the domain of the DSLR. The large sensors of APC and fullframe cameras still outperform the smartphone camera by a considerable margin. I still use a smartphone as a method of documenting or quickly sharing an image or idea. The rise in pixel count and zoom capability of the smartphone has been incredible. It will be very interesting to see how they evolve further into the future.

We take more pictures, we share more, do you feel sometimes we are over documenting and not being in the moment? What’s your take on this?

I’ve always felt that photographs become more valuable the longer they are kept. This is particularly the case with photographs of people or events. I think there is probably a balance to be struck between over documenting and living in the moment. If we don’t live the moment then there is a possibility that our photographs become the memory. Really, the photographs should complement the memory of experience and that probably means a few good quality photographs rather than a huge number of similar images.


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