Interview With a Photographer | Connor MacNeil

Where’s home?

I’m currently based between London, England and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

What is the favourite place you’ve travelled to?

This is always a very difficult question to answer. I like so many places for lots of different reasons. Recently I’ve been returning to Japan and always loving it. I’ve travelled from the south of Honshu up to the wintery north of Hokkaido, but still a lot more to see. I love the landscapes, the cityscapes, the culture, the people, almost everything about it!

I was also in Bhutan recently and it was spectacular. The people are the friendliest I’ve encountered, and the temples and fortresses are incredibly majestic.

How did you get started as a photographer?

I didn’t travel much in my younger life, so at the start of my 30s, I decided I wanted to see the world. Instead of trying to coordinate groups of friends, I thought it would be easier to travel solo. Feeling that I might have times where I’d be bored on my own, I bought a cheap DSLR and gave photography a go to document my travels, just for my own amusement. I ended up enjoying the picture-taking and photography changing from being a side-project to the main purpose of my travels. After a few years of doing it as a hobby, I managed to turn travel photography into a job.

What camera equipment / software / tech do you use? Any must haves?

I started off by shooting Canon. My first camera was a 500D, just to get me started. I then upgraded to a 5DII to reap the benefits of full frame. When I started to get more into landscapes and astrophotography, I changed to Nikon. I’m currently shooting with a couple of D810s. These are reasonably heavy, but most gear comes from decent glass and even if I went mirrorless, I’d want to use the same lenses, so I’m happy with my equipment choices now. It’s taken a few years to finally settle down with kit that I like and can stand the beatings I give it.

Here is my gear list:

  • Cameras: D810, another D810, backup D7000
  • Lenses: Nikkor 14-24mm, Nikkor 28-300, Nikkor 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 85mm 1.8, Irix 15mm Blackstone (for astro), Sigma 150-500mm.
  • Tripod: Currently a “Brian” from 3 Legged Thing, but it’s gotten quite broken over the years, so I’m shopping around to find a tripod sponsor.
  • Filters: Fotodiox Wonderpana circular 10-stop ND and polariser, Formatt Hitech / Lucroit 10-Stop ND.
  • Bag: F-Stop Tilopa. I’ve had this for many, many years, so It’s very battered, but still holding up. I’m hoping that F-Stop Gear will read this interview and offer me a new one ;)
  • Memory Cards: SanDisk. I’ve used these since I started photography 7 years ago and had great reliability.

What photographers have influenced you, how you think and shoot?

I’ve never really been into super famous photographers, perhaps because I’ve never really studied photography as a art subject or gone to many photography galleries. When I started, my two biggest influences were Dave Morrow and Greg Annandale. They are two good friends of mine and really got me into photography. I’ve admired the landscape photographer David Thompson for a while now. Again, we’re friends and he’s a fantastic guy, but he also has a real passion for the art and a beautiful editing style.

When I started to branch out and do a bit more editorial style for clients, my friend Dan Rubin really helped in guiding me about how to shoot for these, as it’s such a different mindset compared to landscape. For nature, I’ll stay on one spot for 3 hours and take 20 photos of the same scene. For editorial, I end up trying to capture all the angles and aspects and think about what a client wants, not just what I think looks good.

Any top tips for Instagram?

I think social media can be a slippery slope for a lot of bona fide photographers. They end up spending more time worrying about likes and how to ‘game the system’ instead of improving their composition or editing styles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to get likes online, but as long as you get them for posting work that you are happy with and have given your best to.

What are you trying to communicate through your photographs?

As the photography started as a off-shoot of travelling, all I really want to do is how people the world and inspire them to travel. If they’re unable to travel for whatever reasons. then I like to show them some amazing places they might not otherwise get to see. If my images make even just one person realise how beautiful the planet can be, then I’ve done my job.

What motivates you to continue doing what you’re doing?

It started as a hobby and developed into a passion. Maybe one day this passion will move onto something else, but right now, it’s still with photography. I have a plethora of countries and regions still to discover for myself, and even if I do all those, I have a back-catalogue of thousands of images to edit and release.

Are you a bathroom singer?

I’m more of a car singer. And by singer, I mean I shout a rough approximation of the lyrics as loud as I can.

Do you have any advice for young aspiring photographers?

Don’t try and force yourself. Don’t try and fit into a particular style that’s trending on social media at the moment. Shoot what you enjoy and edit in a way that excites you. All this will change over time as you hone your artistic arsenal, but you’ll end up with results that you love, and people can see that in your work.

What are your goals for the future, regarding your work?

At the minute, getting some work is my only goal, as it’s been a slow start to the year. Thankfully it’s coincided with the same time as I have a broken finger, so it could have been worse! Location-wise, Africa and South America are high on my list.

Conor MacNeilComment