Explore the World with Conor MacNeill

Conor MacNeill has been working as a photographer professionally for a relatively short amount of time now, but it hasn’t taken him long  to make a name for himself in the field, having amassed an impressive Instagram following and a series of clients, that include the BBC and National Geographic. Unlike many other travel photographers, Conor’s work doesn’t tend to feature particularly touristy locations, and looks to capture the more subtle locations in the countries he’s visited, bringing out their merits in his own style. We interviewed him about his travel experiences, work and background.

Tell us about your background. Have you always been a photographer? 

Conor MacNeill: My job for over a decade was as a front-end web developer; in fact, I still enjoying doing that today. Photography started as a hobby about six years ago and I really enjoyed it. It stems from a love of travelling and a desire to record my trips. I ended up being alright at it and a couple of years ago, after losing my job, I decided to become a full-time photographer.

unspecified PHOTO CREDIT: Conor MacNeill; IN PHOTO: Conor MacNeill

What is the daily routine of a travel photographer like? 

C.M.: I’m not too sure there is such a thing as a daily routine of a travel photographer. When I’m travelling for photography, I’ll tend to get up a couple of hours before sunrise, since I like to get there an hour before, and need to factor in the time it’ll take to drive or hike to a location. I’ll then spend a few hours shooting before heading back and getting breakfast. The rest of the morning and afternoon generally revolves around food and planning before heading to another location to shoot sunset. If the skies are clear at night, I’ll end up doing some astrophotography.



Much of your work is of wide expansive landscapes. Are these your predetermined destinations when you travel, or do you just stumble across them?

C.M.: This is about 50/50. Sometimes I’ll see something amazing online and think I must travel there and put my own twist on that location. Sometimes I’ll pick a country and discover something beautiful when doing my research. Other times I’ll be exploring an area and find something I feel is worth photographing.

"Sunset behind Mingalazedi Pagoda, one of the many temples in Bagan, Myanmar." PHOTO CREDIT: Conor MacNeill

Your capturing of color in your photos is stunning. How do you do this so well, and what goes into development to get those results?

C.M.: Thank you very much! I spend a lot of time concentrating on colour. This is something I feel I have to get right and can spend hours just working on colour and contrast. I’ll start in Adobe Lightroom and tweak the HSL of the image until things are looking nearly right. Then I’ll move into Photoshop where I’ll often do many layers dedicated to certain colours or particular areas of the photograph. I’ll also use the NIK Software plugins to give me some extra control.

For a full mindmap behind this article with articles, videos, and documents see #photography

Do you travel alone? 

C.M.: I often travel alone, as it means I can stick with my own schedule and change plans on a whim. That said, I’ll sometimes travel with some of my good friends who are also photographers. We are all on the same wavelength and know the perils of traveling with a photographer, which include (but are not limited to) early starts, standing in one spot for hours while waiting for the light to change.

"The sun strikes the bright orange sand dunes behind the skeleton of dead tree in Deadvlei, Namibia." PHOTO CREDIT: Conor MacNeill

In your opinion what is your favorite photo? Was there a moment where you took it and without even looking at how it turned out thought “this is perfect”?

C.M.: It’s really hard to pick a favourite photo. It sometimes depends on what mood I’m in. One that I’m still fond of after many years is of a sunrise at Mount Bromo in Indonesia. I knew it was a nice scene, but it was only when I converted it to monochrome that it really capture me.

You’ve visited a pretty extensive list of countries. Which was your favorite to photograph, and why?

C.M.: I think I’ve done roughly 60 countries which makes picking a favourite one rather tricky! Iceland is always a top destination for photographers and I’m no exception: it’s stunning. I’m also a massive fan of Myanmar, especially Bagan. I’ve recently fallen in love with Japan, so I want to go back and explore it more.

Waterfall of Light-X2 PHOTO CREDIT: Conor MacNeill


About the Author /

James is currently studying Psychology, with a focus in Neuroscience, at Stanford University. He is a member of the varsity fencing team there, and also a huge soccer enthusiast. Passionate about psychology, James is interested in the role it has in our everyday lives, and particularly the impact it has on marketing and advertising.

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