Each month, we’ll showcase a Norther Ireland-based landscape photographer and go behind the scenes to find out what makes their photography click.
Christine McIlroy of Christine Jennifer Photography is first up!
1. So Christine, tell me a bit about yourself…
My name is Christine. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and a supporter of Liverpool FC. I also play for my local club, Dromara Village Ladies. I’ve trained and worked as a secondary school R.E. teacher, and came to love photography through photographing nature. I love spending time with family and friends, but am just as comfortable drinking a cup of tea and reading a novel (my latest one is Game of Thrones), or playing video games.
2. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little village called Lisbellaw – it’s just outside Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. Despite being pretty far (in Northern Irish terms) from everywhere else, I loved growing up around the lakes. While I desire the sanctuary of the mountains, I crave the stillness of the lakes. I wish I had taken more time to enjoy them before I moved away from home.
3. How did you get into photography?
Growing up, I was always the designated family photographer. Experiencing events behind a camera was grating as a teenager and young adult but now, I find that I crave viewing and capture social events behind a camera more and more. When I was teaching full-time, there was little time for anything else. Once I had the opportunity, I decided to do a part-time night course in photography. It was through this that I learned from other enthusiasts, and it opened the door to wedding photography. I haven’t looked back since.
4. What do you most like to shoot?
Photographing weddings is my main passion. I love being part of one of the most important days in a person’s life, and capturing all the emotions that go along with it. But it was landscape photography carved my path into this profession, and I love the exhilaration that comes with chasing the perfect shot; the ecstasy when you get it and the disappointment when it doesn’t quite work out. In recent months, I have spent most of my time in the Mournes – this year I’m selling a calendar based entirely in that mountain range.
5. Would you say you have any influences?
I feel every photographer has a style, and I would be remiss to say that my work isn’t influenced by others. Having followed a number of photographers based in Northern Ireland (Hibernia Landscapes, Steven Hanna and Alistair Hamill to name a few), I will usually want to visit a place after seeing an image they have put up.
6. You mentioned you have a Mournes calendar coming out…
Yes! I have a 2019 Mourne Mountains calendar out at the minute. It features twelve high-quality photos from around the Mournes, with descriptions. It retails at £10 and 75% of the proceeds go towards the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an organisation that works in over forty countries to stop the exploitation and poaching of animals.
7. How can people buy your calendar?
They can be bought on my website; they are also in stock in Made in Mourne and Holmes Poundworld, both in Kilkeel. I will also be attending a number of craft fairs around the area in the run-up to Christmas as well, so you can maybe grab one there, too.
8. What was your first camera, and what do you use now?
My name DSLR was a Nikon D3200; while it was only a starter camera, I shot one of my favourite images of my hometown using it. Now, I use two Canon 5D Mark III’s along with a host of lenses. My go-to is my 24-70mm f4 which is very rarely out of my camera bag!
9. What software would you recommend for editing?
I keep my editing really simple. I like an image to be as close to the RAW file as possible. I recommend Lightroom because it’s easy to use and allows me to get the most out of my images.
10. What are you working on at the minute?
I’m photographing the last of my weddings of 2018 in the next few weeks. I’m particularly excited for one of my autumn weddings that is having its ceremony in the QFT!
I have been trying to marry my portrait and landscape photography by visiting some beautiful places in Northern Ireland at sunset/sunrise with some awesome couples. In the next few weeks, I’ll be heading to Cavehill, the Mournes, and some wind-farms in Fermanagh at sunset to capture some beautiful couples.
I’ll also be doing my Man’s Best Friend dog mini-shoots, just in time for Christmas. I really love the variety that comes with being a photographer – it’ll be a busy few weeks.
11. What do you enjoy most about photographing in the mountains?
I love exploring different parts of the mountain range, be it the central, western or High Mournes. I find that I am constantly compelled and amazed by the beauty of the mountains. More and more I crave being up in the mountains, where CS Lewis was inspired to write Narnia and countless others have been inspired to do other things.
12. Give us your “golden rule” for photographing the great outdoors!
Be prepared for any weather conditions. Having been atop Bearnagh for five minutes before being engulfed in a rainstorm, I have learned to expect the unexpected. You should as well!
Many thanks, Christine!