John Mee is a landscape and portrait photographer from Co Mayo, Ireland.
Living alOng the rugged and beautiful west coast of Ireland he enjoys taking photos of the mountains and the ocean, although he likes to shoot any scenes that move or inspire him.
We spoke to John and asked him to tell us about his experiences as a photographer.
Ireland Calling: Why did you want to be a photographer and how did you get into it as a profession?
John Mee: I’ve always been interested in art but was never good enough to actually practice it. So I stuck to viewing it and reading about it! About five or six years ago, I picked up a cheap camera and was quickly bitten by the “photography” bug.
I spent a few years learning the craft and shooting everything that got in the way of my lens. It is only in the last year or two that I have discovered my preference for black and white photography, especially landscape and portrait.
IC: What training did you do?
JM: I did attend a full time professional photography course in 2013. However, I believe I am mostly self-taught and am constantly learning from the landscape around me and the people that live in it.
IC: What attracted you about your particular field of photography?
JM: I prefer the simplicity of black and white images. I believe they allow the viewer to “stay” with the image a little longer and impart a greater sense of the landscape.
It is only in the last year that I have discovered that I like to shoot people. It’s quite challenging but very rewarding when you do capture the character of that person.
IC: What would you say are the main challenges in getting the best pictures in your particular area?
JM: You may think that the weather presents a challenge, especially with the changeable conditions we get in the west of Ireland. But my main challenge comes from myself. I’m a bit fussy and no matter what others think or say, I still need to be absolutely satisfied before I can say, “yea, that’s the shot”
IC: How important to you are issues such as location, subject, lighting, time of day etc.
JM: We are spoilt for choice when it comes to locations in this part of the world, so that is not an issue. Of course the light is all important. Many photographer will only shoot at sunrise or sunset – the so called magic hours. While these are excellent times in which to get good photographs, I often find myself heading out during bad weather. I enjoy capturing the real weather we get here.
IC: What would say are the top two or three pictures you’ve taken and what is that makes them so good or special to you?
JM: I like “The Glowing Soul”. It is a shot of Croagh Patrick, the holy mountain at Murrisk outside Westport, county Mayo. It was taken from 40 kilometres away while the sun was setting behind. It’s difficult to say why a photo is special to someone – I believe that you have to “feel” it inside.
I also like “A day on the Hills”. I was out shooting in the wet weather, as usual. It was taken between Westport and Leenane. For me, this is a typical west of Ireland scene – the hills, the clouds, the rain and the sheep. I thought it was unusual for there to be just a single sheep grazing. That is what caught my eye.
A personal favourite is “The Vermeer Boy”. I’m a fan of the Johannes Vermeer, the dutch painter. I like the way he used light. Looking through the viewfinder on the camera while I was shooting this, the scene reminded of him and the photo title sprung to mind.
IC: What cameras and special equipment do you use?
JM: I use a Nikon camera and Nikon lenses. While good equipment will usually give a higher resolution and sharper image, it not at all necessary to shoot great photos. It’s important that people don’t get caught up in the technology.
IC: Everyone can have access to good cameras nowadays. What does it take to stand out as a professional?
JM: In my opinion, ‘professional” is a word that is bandied about quite a lot. There are good and mediocre photographers, both professional and amateur. I hesitate to call myself a professional – I’ll let others judge my work and decide for themselves.
People should look at art and other photographers work. they should read lots of photography related material. They need to slow down and look at and study the world around them. You need to then apply their own interpretation to the photos that they shoot.
IC: What tips and advice can you pass on to any of our readers who might be interested in photography, especially those in your specialist field?
JM: In no particular order:
1. Keep the camera steady so your photos are sharp.
2. Fill the frame. Whatever you are shooting, try to ensure there are no other distracting elements in the photo.
3. Use the rule of thirds. Look through your camera’s viewfinder or camera screen, and imagine it is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Alternatively, check your camera’s manual because often, this overlay grid can be activated on the display for you. To make the most
visually interesting image, place the main subjects on the intersection points of these lines.
4. If you’re photographing your children, get down on your knees so you are at their eye level. You’ll get a more pleasing photo.
5. Learn your camera – read the manual and shoot everyday.
6. Watch or wait for interesting light.
7. Ask someone else. There are many photographers that are more than happy to offer advice. Message me on my Facebook page if you have a question and I’ll try my best to help.
IC: What kind of projects are you planning next?
JM: I have a notebook full of project ideas. If something catches my eye or an idea pops into my head, I write it down. My immediate plan is to shoot more people, more people in the landscape.
IC: What advice would you give to people wanting to become a professional photographer?
JM: Work hard. Read loads. Shoot loads. Stay true to your own vision. Never give up.