Photographer in Focus: Ryan McDonald

30th October 2018 by David McIlroy Share

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Each month, we showcase a Northern Ireland-based landscape photographer and go behind the scenes to find out what makes their photography click. So let’s hear from Ryan McDonald of Ryan McDonald Photography

1. Tell me a bit about yourself, Ryan.

I am 30-something-year-old husband to Aideen and father of three, Anna, Luke and Mark.

After school, I went into engineering, doing cad work and toolmaking. I enjoy fell running, good music and photography.

READ: Trassey Track to Hare’s Gap

2. Where did you grow up?

I come from the rural countryside known as Aughlisnafin near Castlewellan.

3. How did you get into photography?

I was late to the photography game at the ripe old age of 24 before picking up my first camera. I then realised I had a natural understanding about the rule of thirds and how to break them. I would visit my local park with my little Sony Cybershot with a whooping 32mb memory card at hand and take photos of absolutely anything and everything.

READ: Doan: Panoramic Prince of the Kingdom

READ: Slieve Gullion: trekking Armagh’s mysterious high point

4. What do you most like to shoot?

Landscapes were my first love and I still always try to find time for them, but it is now weddings that I would favour more. These are much more difficult and come with a lot more pressure, but I enjoy that.

5. Would you say you have any influences?

Social media can have a positive and inspiring effect, but sometimes it can have the opposite effect and can leave you thinking “whats the point, I will never be that good.” The best thing to do is to keep at it and find your own style, and keep shooting.

6. Does social media ever influence you into comparing yourself with other photographers?

Social media is to be taken as it is. People post the pieces of their life they want you to see (me included). Everyone wants to live the awesome Insta life, shoot at awesome locations, do destination weddings, be in high demand and have a super happy life. In truth, even the most successful photographers have bad days, make mistakes, do jobs they would rather not and feel like they will never be good enough. Use social media as a tool for good and be kind to others doing the same. Photographers can and do help each other so much.

7. What was your first camera, and what do you use now?

Well after the Cybershot I moved up the line to a Fuji finepix s9300 point and shoot. This got me more serious about photography. I then moved to Nikon and now shoot with the D800s, but I’m considering the Sony mirrorless system as my next step.

READ: Hugh Annett: Why the Mournes are special to me

8. What software would you recommend for editing?

For bulk-editing like weddings, Lightroom is awesome, so fast and consistent. As for Landscapes, I will bring a single image into Adobe Camera Raw and give it a bit of time to achieve the effect I was after. Editing is so difficult, finding the right tone could make or break an image.

9. What are you working on at the minute?

I have just finished an exhibition and I am getting ready for the Christmas craft fair in Castlewellan. I have a lot of post production to work on and I’m in the middle of building a new web page.

10. Any future projects planned?

A few, but its all under wraps at the minute – you will have to watch this space!

11. What do you enjoy most about photographing in the mountains?

The changes. Nothing is guaranteed, but everything is achievable. Being blessed to be able to hike up them is enough on its own.

READ: Cuilcagh Mountain from Gortalughany Viewpoint

12. What’s your absolute favourite landscape spot in Northern Ireland to shoot, if you had to pick one?

The Dromara hills (Slieve Croob area) is full of hidden treasures and for me has much more character than the Mournes (the sheep image here is taken on Slieve Croob) The problem is most of the land around there is privately owned and getting access can be difficult. If you are honest with the land owner about what you wish to do, park sensibly by not blocking anything, and treat the land with respect, there should be no problems.

13. Give us your “golden rule” for photographing the great outdoors!

Hard work will always pay off. Getting up on a cold dark winter morning to hike up a mountain may seem like a good idea the day before, but at silly o’clock you might just wanna hit the alarm and go back to sleep. But drag yourself up – get out and you will be rewarded. Well most of the time…

You can follow Ryan McDonald Photography on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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