Peter McCabe is recognized as one of Ireland’s leading landscape photographers. He has an amazing portfolio of images that showcase the beautiful Irish landscape. Peter leads workshops and also does some speaking and writing.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Peter, and he was gracious enough to take the time to answer my questions. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the interview and the small sampling of Peter’s images that are used throughout the interview.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with photography.
I was born in Belfast during the height of the troubles, and moved south to the Republic of Ireland at an early age. At school, I had an interest in art, but never had the chance to use photography as a medium.
I got into photography when my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) bought me an Olympus OM10 as a present. I loved it, and was instantly taken by the feel of it.
Mind you, I had no idea how to use it. So on a whim, I called round to a local B&W photographer called Pat Burns, who took me under his wing. At the time he was planning an exhibition, so I managed to assist him in the darkroom, learning how to develop film, learning the printing process, a process that put my passion for photography into overdrive, a passion that hasn’t diminished since.
As someone who is recognized as a leading Irish landscape photographer, can you tell us some of the ways that you have benefited from specializing in Ireland?
Like most photographers, particularly when bitten by the photography bug I felt almost compelled to travel, capturing images of far flung places to fill my portfolio. That urge, took me to places as far away as the Maldives, in the pursuit of images. Many of the images I captured on my travels have been published, however, none of those images really appear on my website. Why? you may ask.
If I am honest, it is because none of these images really stir something inside me like many of my Irish landscapes do. Specialising in the landscapes of Ireland feels natural, it is home, a land I have a strong connection too. That connection, allows me to revisit locations over and over again, seeking those elusive magical moments that uses mist, wind and waves, rocks, colour and the dawn and dusk quality of light, to record the energy, the space, the silence, the sense or feeling of a particular location.
To this day, I have a few locations on the West Coast of Ireland that haunt me, places I have attempted to photograph more times that I care to count, only to come away empty handed.
Where do you find inspiration?
That is a hard question to answer, inspiration comes in many forms, I love to get out in nature and simply explore, sometimes sketching compositions with my iPhone. Visiting new locations always sends my mind into overdrive, so I suppose the short answer, is my inspiration comes from being outdoors.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received from another photographer?
When I first started to in photography, I use to think I needed a mountain of gear to get the best image. However a good friend once told me that your best lens is your legs. Use them to explore a location, to frame the composition before tripping the shutter. It is advice that has carried with me, and I use it to this day when leading photographic workshops. Too many people, simply turn up at a location, drop anchor, fire a shot, and move off too the next location, without ever really getting to know a place.
What is your typical process for planning and scouting?
I don’t really have a set process. Sure, I use apps like the Photographers Ephemeris to look at the terrain of new locations I may be visiting, or to check what way the sun will fall at certain times of the year. However, my default position is digging through the detailed ordnance survey maps of Ireland that I have. Over the years, as I have travelled around Ireland these maps have become well marked with locations of interest, laden down with field notes on what time of the year I should revisit the location. You simply can’t beat leg work at a location to get a feel for the place.
Some of those maps are years old, and it can be years before I actually get back to marked locations, but it is a nice inventory of off the beaten track locations, which comes in very handy for the photo workshops I run.
Guests on my photo workshops regularly comment that the locations I get people too are different to locations they may have visited on other tours they have been on.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work as a landscape photographer?
Time, with a young family, time is precious. They grow up quick and balancing their needs with my own creative needs is always a challenge.
For those reading who have never photographed Ireland, what locations would you suggest for a first trip?
If travelling to Ireland for some photography, my answer is very simple, head North West to County Donegal.
The landscape here is less travelled than many of the other trails that photographers and tourists tend to flock to. With a coastline that is both dramatically wild, yet peacefully beautiful, it has everything a photographer could want. In this part of Ireland, it is very easy to drop on to a remote stretch of coastline and not see another soul for the day. If your time is brief in Donegal, and I had to pick one or two locations, I would choose the Gweedore region of Donegal, and South West Donegal around Glencolmcille where the coastline is spectacular.
Do you have any current (or future) projects you’re working on that you would like to share?
I don’t really have a current project on the go. I have some ideas that I will hopefully come to fruition. Right now my focus is getting up to speed on video and video editing programs like Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere Pro. Hopefully learning these programs will help improve the quality of the videos on my YouTube channel.
What tips or advice do you have for new photographers?
Don’t get caught up too much in the gear side of things. Yes, it is important, but never as important as the final image. Spend time looking at the images you took that didn’t work, figure out why they didn’t work, and if possible, return to a location time and again until you get the image that works.
Aside from photography, what hobbies do you have, or what do you like to do for fun?
Outside of photography I like to spend as much time as possible outdoors. With a couple of young kids, getting out on to the beach or into the hills with them is a great way to have fun, make them realise there is more to life than Playstation and iPads. It also helps them build an appreciation for the outdoors, most importantly, it tires them out, allowing me to catch up on my photography. 🙂
Connect with Peter
If you’d like to see more of Peter’s work, learn more about his workshops, or contact him, please use the links below:
All photos used in this post are © Peter McCabe, used with permission.