How long have you been a photographer – how / when did you take it up, and what cameras have you used over the years?
I was fifteen years old when I experienced a moment of epiphany. I was sitting in a fast food restaurant called “Nevada”, in my hometown of Westport in Co. Mayo, when I engaged with a poster reproduction of Ansel Adams’ photograph Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada hanging on the wall inside. The image spoke and stirred something within me, and the experience changed the course of my life. I remember this experience vividly, and little did I know at the time that this image would change the course of my life.
It was my first encounter with a photograph from a long-established tradition where images of nature evoke strong emotional and spiritual response in the viewer. During my leaving cert year I produced a portfolio that gained me entry to Letterkenny IT where I studied visual communications. Following this I worked as a graphic designer for a few years in Dublin and joined the Dublin Camera club. I have been working as a professional photographer for the last 16 years. I have used many cameras over the years from an analogue 5×4 field camera which I still use. Also a Mamiya 645, Nikon D1, Nikon D2x, Nikon D3X and currently Nikon D800. I am hoping to purchase a Sony A7R II.
And the IPPA Photographer of the Year 2015 is Michael McLaughlin! #ippaawards
— IPPA (@IrishProPhoto) March 8, 2015
Congrats on your successful year in 2015. Tell us about the 4 awards you won, which images won you the awards, and how did they come to be taken?
The first two Awards were the BANK OF IRELAND PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR AWARDS 2016, here I picked up the Chairmans Award for Best Single Image of the Awards 2015. The image is entitled “Ode To Weston” which was taken at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, Nevada. The images that I won Irish Landscape photographer of the year were taken in Death Valley and Yosemite National Park. I also won 1st Place – Outstanding Achievement in the Architectural category of the Black and White Spider Awards for an photograph that I made in Page, Arizona, entitled “Coal Burning PowerPlant” and also received an Honorable Mention in Architectural category with Miners Shack under The MilkyWay, made in Rhyolite, Death Valley, Nevada.
— IPPA (@IrishProPhoto) February 21, 2016
I was really delighted with these awards, there were 7,686 entries were received from 74 countries, certainly an achievement. The big one for me this year was the Bronze Camera trophy in the landscape category at the FEP European Professional Photographer of the Year Awards 2016 which were held in Porto, Portugal. I was delighted with this win as the competition of entrys is always of a very high standard. I have been a finalist in previous years so it made winning the Bronze Camera trophy all the special.
What tips would you give to people starting out now hoping to be photographers?
Follow your dreams no matter how hard they may seem at the time. Many times I have felt like throwing the towel in on my career as a professional photographer and many times along that journey I have questioned myself and my ability. There is nothing in this world that comes easy especially trying to make a living as an image maker where everyone has the ability to make images. Where more images a year are created than there are stars in the MilkyWay. My advice to people starting out would be to keep learning, you never stop learning and striving to make better images. The resources for learning online nowadays are endless. Master your craft. Follow your dreams with conviction. It will work out.
What camera(s) do you use now?
Nikon D800, Hasselblad X-Pan, Tachihara 4×5 field camera, D2X Converted to infrared, iPhone 6 .
What makes a great picture?
First we have to have a few basics, like a main subject, composition, lighting & exposure and focus. A good photograph generates an emotional response with the viewer, a great photograph or any work of art is made from within, emotion and mood.
How do you feel about smartphone photography versus a dslr / fullframe sensor type cameras?
I’m not fussed by camera porn. I love smart phone photography it is an art within itself. A bit like the Polaroid movement of yesterday. It all has its place in the choir. I don’t get to caught up with the equipment or the process, it either feels right or it does not, a good photograph is one that communicates or stirs something in you. For me It is all about the finished image at the end of the day. Cameras are just tools that allow us to visually communicate our inner experiences with the outside world or viewer.
You are now using drones. What type of drone do you use (would you like to use) and what type of camera to capture your images?
I use the DJI Inspire it shoots 4k film and 12mb RAW, I wanted it mainly for film making purposes as apposed to stills. I would like to get an S1000 at some stage and rig with a Sony A7R II.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?
I am having my second solo exhibition on The 5th of May to the 28th, In The Custom House Studios, The Quay, Westport, Co. Mayo. This exhibition is the fruits of a photographic journey to the American Southwest. I planned to make my own images in the very places that I was so greatly influenced by and influenced the master photographers before me. The photographs in my exhibition “Out On A Western Plain” represent a year and a half of planning and three weeks of non stop photography, to connect with the landscape that first influenced my journey as a photographer. The 4000 mile journey took me across four states, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California to make photographs in the great American Southwest, a place I had only seen in books and had had been such an influenced on me. America is such a great country and such a diverse environment and landscape. I will be back, as the south west is such a vast place I could not get to all the places that I would have liked to in the limited amount of time that I had.