Each month, we showcase a Northern Ireland-based landscape photographer and go behind the scenes to find out what makes their photography click.
So for this month, let’s hear from Raphael Mason of Raphael Mason Photography.
Raphael, tell me a bit about yourself…
I left school at 16 and spent 40 years working for two of the top weekly newspapers in Northern Ireland. I worked for 25 years as a page compositor with the Mourne Observer based in Newcastle and 15 as a full-time staff photographer with the Down Recorder based in Downpatrick. I am married to Martina, with two sons, Stefan and Karl, and a step-daughter Mairead. I work as a full-time photographer covering weddings, portraits, events, conferences, real estate, etc. for a number of clients. Some of my distinctions include LBIPP with British Institute of Professional Photography, CPAGB with Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, and LIPF with the Irish Photographic Federation. I’m also a member of Catchlight Camera Club.
Where did you grow up?
I have spent all of my life in Ballykinlar, a small village in East Down. It is roughly two miles from Tyrella Beach, once of the best beaches in NI.
How did you get into photography?
As a teenage when I worked in the Mourne Observer I always loved to nip into the photography department and watch prints developing. Over time I started doing photography on a casual basis for the paper, covering events and taking sports photos. I suppose that is when it all started for me a long time ago. Now I have to pinch myself as times as I feel so fortunate to be doing something I love as my job.
And it’s your full-time gig?
Yes, very much so. No two weeks are ever the same and I get to travel quite a bit on assignments. Over Easter I had two weddings in three days in Wicklow and Carlingford and will soon be heading off to Poland to do a wedding in Gdansk. I also do portraiture, school and event photography as well as media/PR work for agencies and councils. I photograph property for clients too which sometimes involves a bit of travelling as well. Am I a one-trick pony? I guess you could say no to that question.
What do you most like to shoot?
I don’t really have a favourite genre as I love every aspect of my photography and feel so lucky to be working as a photographer. However, I do enjoy getting away for some time with myself walking along the coast and taking landscape and seascape photography. I suppose working as a press photographer has given me an appreciation of the many different aspects of photography which means no two days are ever the same for me. A bit like when I worked in the Down Recorder, every day was different and I guess that is what I liked so much about the press work.
Would you say you have any influences?
I have a passion for landscape photography, particularly around coastal areas. One of my favourite photographers is John Hooton who lives in Mallow in Cork but who loves taking coastal seascapes along the Dingle peninsula – I attended one of his three-day workshops back in 2014 and have been to a couple of his talks over the past few years where i purchased his books capturing images of sunrise and sunsets – of all the landscape photographers out there I draw a lot of my inspiration from John.
What was your first camera?
Not sure of the exact model but I can remember buying a slimline Kodak camera when I was about 18 from a chemist shop in Newcastle – I suppose that’s when my photography journey began.
And what software do you use?
There are many unbelievable pieces of software available for enhancing images and like most photographers I stick with the tried and trusted ones such as Photoshop, Lightroom and Color Efex Pro. I occasionally use Snapseed if I happen to take an image on my iPhone. The scope of these pieces of software is amazing – I am no Photoshop guru but know enough to get what I need to enhance my images to what i want.
Are you working on anything at the minute?
At the moment I am busy preparing for my next landscape photography Walks, Talks and Workshops event which is taking place over four days in June. It involves getting people out and about with their cameras to meet socially and enjoy a bit of exercise at the same time while capturing images during the day.
Any future projects planned?
Nothing in the pipeline at the minute but if the chance came for a photography trip to Cuba with the right people I’d give it serious consideration.
What do you like most about photography in the mountains?
I suppose getting into the car to come home!!! Only joking!! Seriously, I enjoy the mountains on the rare occasion that I do venture into the Mournes. I tend to stick to coastal routes as that is where my landscape passion lies. At the minute I am trying to build up a library of soft minimalist type images with a view to applying for another distinction – excuse the pun but it’s seascapes that rock my boat!!!
Give us your Golden Rule for photography…
There are a few rules that I try to obey when out doing my seascapes. I make sure I tell someone where I am going and when I expect to come home. The coast can be a dangerous place especially when you are on your own and walking over rocks etc. I always check the tides before heading out and bring a whistle, torch and spare clothing. A good pair of boots and the proper clothing for the conditions are also essential. Once back home I make sure my tripod gets washed down and give my camera body a clean as well – salty air and sea spray don’t mix well with cameras.
You can follow Raphael on Facebook.
* The cover photo in this article won Raphael the 2019 British Institute of Professional Photography landscape Photographer of the Year for Northern Ireland in February of this year. *
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