By Rebekah O’Reilly
When former University of Galway student, marine scientist, and photographer Felix Sproll first picked up the camera while studying at university, he never imagined the moments and memories that were to come.
Felix studied Marine Science at the University of Galway, graduating in 2015.
However, when the opportunity came up to travel along the stunning western coast of Ireland, from Donegal to Cork, and even explore international scenes in Scotland and Norway, Felix grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Felix has received many accolades for his work, including the World Landscape Photographer of the Year in 2021 for his image ‘Atlantic Winter Storm meets Ireland’.
Speaking with Galway Pulse about how he first got into photography, Felix shared: “I properly took up photography when I was in NUIG when I got an entry-level DSLR for Christmas. But my interest started much earlier than that when I think back.
“My parents had a SLR that came out for special occasions but was only ever used in automatic (they still have it) and I always had an interest in the camera and how it worked.
“I then got a small cheap film camera for my confirmation and used to for some time but getting the film development wasn’t cheap, I didn’t really have a plan, but I was interested in it.”
Felix’s interest in capturing the best photos possible only grew over time, until he finally gave in and made the big spend for his first DSLR camera.
“I got a GoPro when they came out first and used it to film any of the outdoor activities I did and the odd timelapse, but it wasn’t enough,” he said.
“I wanted to get pictures like I saw in magazines with the milky way or long exposure pictures of milky water, or car trails, so I eventually got a DSLR that had a manual function.”
Trial and error
The marine biologist’s interest in photography led him to spending hours online trying to find the best techniques for capturing the perfect shot, as well as many more hours putting those techniques to practice.
It was a process of trial and error, but eventually Felix got to the point where he felt pretty confident in his skills.
“I ploughed through YouTube to pick up as much useful info as I could and get out with my new camera whenever I could,” he said.
“But the shots didn’t turn out like I had hoped or how I remembered the scene so I watched more videos and experimented more.
“I eventually got into the post-processing which was another big step up. As time went on, I refined my processes, picked up bits here and there, found new things myself and just got out shooting every spare minute.”
Felix shared his biggest tip for getting an amazing shot is simply to get out there and shoot as much as possible, noting that “no one sees” the bad shots anyways.
“It can come to me fairly easy if conditions are right, and other times, I feel like at the start where nothing looks right.
“I’m not the most talented photographer but I try to get out as much as I can, the more you get out the better your chances are of catching something amazing are.
“I also do a lot of preplanning, either looking for new locations on Google maps or keeping an eye on the weather for something interesting and try and get out when conditions look great. But most times I head out I might not get anything, but no one sees them.”
The wilderness of the West Coast of Ireland
On the topic of finding a muse in Galway, Felix shared that he feels there is no better location in Ireland to shoot than the wilderness of the West Coast.
“Galway is perfect for landscapers, it’s right in the middle of the West Coast which for me is the most photogenic part of Ireland,” he said.
“Within an hour you’re either in Connemara or the Burren, two absolutely stunning areas that have some of the best mountains, forests, lakes, and coastline in Ireland – if not Europe.”
The photographer even showed his appreciation for the unpredictable weather conditions that Galway offers, noting that sometimes the rain and wind can lead to a more exciting shot:
“Another factor is the weather, I know its rainy and windy but that can make for some fantastic changeable conditions with changing soft light which is ever landscape photographer’s dream.
“We also have some of the darkest night skies in Europe being right on the edge of the continent which brings me back to my earlier point of wanting to photograph the night sky.”
As for the expectations that the award-winning photographer puts on himself, he says he tries not to overthink it too much, opting instead to head out with the intention to capture whatever comes along his path.
“Most of the time I don’t have a particular aim when heading out to take pictures,” he said.
“Expectations can ruin the experience when it doesn’t work out as planned and you end up being down and missing what’s there, so I try to just head out and enjoy myself, put the experience first and if I get a nice picture out if it it’s a bonus.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but it took me a long time to get to that point. And it still happens that I miss a planned shot because cloud pulled in at the last minute and I’m sickened but it happens less and less.
“The camera is a great reason to get, I’ve witnessed some amazing things and met some great people that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
For Felix, photography isn’t just about capturing a beautiful image, but rather a moment or a memory: “It gives me a reason to sit under the stars for hours (…) which I wouldn’t do if it wasn’t for the pictures. (…) The great thing about pictures too is you can look at them and relive the amazing memory.”
To find out more about Felix’s work, visit https://www.felixsproll.com/. Here you can purchase the award-winning photographer’s newly released 2024 calendar which features stunning images of Irish landscapes.