Four years ago, Conor MacNeill, aka “TheFella,” did something a lot of creative minds out there daydream about: He quit his day job as a web developer, picked up a camera, and left his home of Belfast, Northern Ireland, to travel the world as a photographer. Since then, he has visited over 50 countries, cameras and iPhone in hand — believe it or not, he actually shoots 99% of the time with his iPhone. The final result? Jaw-dropping photographs in some of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet.
Why did you quit your day job and decide to embark on your global tour?
Well, I was already planning to leave but then my position became redundant, which just pushed my plans forward a month or two. I realized that I preferred more freedom to more money. I couldn’t sit in an office for eight hours a day anymore, and knew that working for myself, doing the things I love, was the way forward. So I bought my first camera and started to travel on my own – and now, I get paid to travel. Ever since, my life has pretty much revolved around trying to see as much of the world as possible. While it’s not as glamorous as many people think it is, that matters less when you are living out your passion.
Can you tell us how you pick locations for your landscape shots?
There are really two types of locations that I tend to shoot. The first type is an iconic spot that I have seen over the years, sometimes first shown to me by my photographer friends. I know these are photogenic and I can spend weeks or months researching them. I’ll find them on maps, look at satellite images, and then eventually travel there to spend a few hours or days scouting out the area. The second type of locations is the unexpected. On my travels, I’ll suddenly come across a beautiful scene that I’ll have to shoot. This could be spur of the moment, or I’ll file it away to revisit at the golden hour or night-time. It might be in the middle of a long hike, so I have no choice but to make the most of the light at the time.
What sort of aesthetic do you strive for in your photography?
I have a few goals I like to aim for, dependent on the medium I’m shooting with. For my main landscape and destination photography, I aim to inspire people to travel by showing them beautiful places the world has to offer. I do this by processing the images to evoke an emotional response. I try and make the shots look as close to reality as I can, perhaps with a few small artistic edits. I try to evoke the same feeling I had when I was there, experiencing it in real life. For my Instagram work, I only use my iPhone. I want to show people just what’s possible if they shoot with their mobile device. By taking and processing images on my phone, the final product ends up different than my fine art work, but I still love doing it.
If you could pick a dream partnership, what would it be?
Pretty much any tourist board would be a dream partnership. Since my goal as a photographer to inspire people to travel, this would be a perfect match for me (and them). This year, I’ve noticed the promotion done by Tourism Malaysia and Philippine Department of Tourism, so they would be great organisations to work with. I’m also pretty keen to visit the Faroe Islands, despite them being pretty close to my home country. Another dream partnership would be with airlines such as Emirates or Cathay Pacific, again due to my love of travel!
If there’s one thing people should know about TheFella, what would it be?
Probably that my life isn’t as fancy as people think. I don’t earn a huge amount of money from shooting and the jobs can be challenging. I’ve spent so much time already this year sleeping in cars and hiking knee-deep in snow — but if you want to get good shots, you’ve got to put the effort in!