Golf course Photographer: Mel Maclaine

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20 enero 2021
min. leer
Ruben van der Zaag
Have you ever browsed Leadingcourses.com and stumbled across golf course pictures that made you excited to hit the links right away? Big chance these pictures were not made by your average Leadingcourses user, but by a professional photographer. Time to speak with the people behind the pictures. We spoke to talented golf course photographer Mel Maclaine from Ireland.
Mel Maclaine at work at Royal Dornoch

Tell us a bit more about yourself

I'm 44 years old, I live in Dublin and I’ve been a corporate golf photographer for around 8 years. I have photographed different Pro-Am tournaments and corporate outings in Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the USA.

I play myself and I really enjoy a round with friends. I’m a member of Corballis and Elmgreen both located in Dublin, playing off 18. My favorite golf course is Waterville, Co. Kerry in the west of Ireland.

I never really classed myself as a course photographer as I rarely had the time to photograph courses but since Covid-19 hit, I’ve had some spare time on my hands. I got my commercial drone licence and now offer both drone photography and videography, as well as the ‘normal’ ground photography that I had already been capturing when I could. I have about 15 golf courses in my portfolio. 
Mel Maclaine posing during a shoot at Royal Dornoch.
In general, I  love being on a golf course and just want to capture the beauty each course offers, as they all do in their own way. I relish the scope a golf course offers for a wide variety of shots and love to capture an image or angle someone hasn’t captured before.

In that light, which is the best course you ever photographed?

Spyglass in Pebble Beach, California. I was in the U.S. for the Carr Golf World Invitational Father & Son tournament held at Pebble Beach and Spyglass. The tournament players were first off the tee so I got there as early as possible and took a buggy around the course at 7am. It’s an amazing course and I felt privileged to be out by myself capturing a few images and even got to hear a bagpiper on one of the holes, not sure what the neighbours thought but I thought it was brilliant!

On which course did you take your best photographs?

Waterville. I’ve been covering the Carr Golf World Invitational Father & Son and Father & Daughter tournaments for a number of years. As you can imagine, the West of Ireland offers quite the mix of weather but come rain or shine I just love it there.

As I mentioned before, much of my work has involved capturing images of golfers themselves and I actually enjoy taking pictures in the rain. Ramping up the shutter speed and capturing raindrops within a shot makes for some cracking images.

This year I had the drone and a bit of time as there weren’t as many competitors; I managed to get a couple of amazing sunsets. I’ve spent so many days on that course and the drone just gave me a different perspective which I loved. I’ve had a number of images in my head for years which I wanted to capture and thankfully the weather worked out and I got them.

What is your best photograph?

There’s a sequence of 3 images I took in one of my first years photographing the World Invitational Father & Son in Waterville with Carr Golf. I love it because it’s not staged, the guys didn’t know I was there and it just captured the pure emotion of holing a great putt. The guys have it hanging in their house which is great because I do want people to enjoy the images I take.
There goes the putt...
Aaaaand it's in!
How do you like that boys?!

And of a golf course?

My favourite course photograph is one I took at Tobiano Golf Course in British Colombia, Canada. I love it because of the contrast between the course, green, water, mountains in the background and even the clouds.
Mel recently took a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary. On the journey, he had time to photograph Tobiano and Banff Springs; the scenery was simply out of this world.

For the equipment geeks amongst us, What equipment do you use to take these amazing photographs?

I have two Nikon D800’s, one with a 24/70mm lens for wide angle shots and the other has a 70/200mm zoom lens. I also have a Mavic 2 pro for my drone work and do the majority of my editing in Lightroom. 

What makes a picture of a golf course great?

I often get asked by ‘amateur’ photographers what makes a great photo. The first thing I always say is that if you love a photograph you have taken then it’s a great photo, don’t let anyone tell you different.

It’s a bit different when you are being paid to capture golf course images because you are there to showcase the best of that golf course. Everyone probably knows about the golden hours, an hour or so at sunset and the same at sunrise, depending on the time of year. If you have a relatively flat course then you are waiting for the shadows to appear to capture the undulations of the fairways and give a true representation of how the course plays. If you take the same image at midday it’ll look like a flat fairway and the visiting golfer will get a shock when they turn up.
Light and shadows are very important for a golf course photographer. (Golf course in image: Waterville)
Composing a picture whether it’s of a green or fairway at ground level or with the drone is a major factor. It’s always best to do some research on a course and know where you want to take a picture. Before I go out, I have an idea in my head of what I want to capture as time is against you as you only have a short window for all of the elements to be perfect. Having said that, the beauty of being on a golf course early in the morning or late in the evening means you can turn around and just see a cracking photo because of the way the light and shadows are hitting the course. Get all of these right and you are on your way to capturing a great photo.

How can golf courses benefit from having professional photos of their course?

Potential visitors consistently research courses online on platforms like Leadingcourses.com prior to making a booking. Every guest has different criteria for booking, whether it's cost, location or whatever but the #1selling point is the course itself.

It’s vital that the course imagery is not only a visual representation of what shots a visitor can expect to play but an aspirational slideshow of the experience that awaits. Hole-by-hole drone footage takes the virtual visitor on a bird’s-eye tour through the course, whetting the appetite for the unique game that awaits. This imagery, along with sunset and sunrise hero shots, provides an inimitable cinematic journey through the course that is simply impossible to convey in any other manner.

Supplementary shots of the Pro Shop, clubhouse and the greenkeepers provide images for a golf course whilst also giving the online visitor an augmented taster of the uniqueness of each club. Professional images are not just for the website anymore but given the importance of social media, a golf course that has a bank of professional images has content to showcase their course in the best possible manner on a regular basis.

I feel every course should have professional images of their course and highlight what they have to offer in the best possible light. Not every course has a ‘budget’ for professional photography but if a golf course manager found that they were getting an extra 100 rounds per year simply from the images that visitors viewed, then their professional photography has paid for itself so I see it more as an investment for every club.

Is there a certain characteristic, which you can recognise your photos by?

Colour is something that fascinates me and the various seasons provide scope for captivating backgrounds of nature. The more exciting the colour, the more eye-catching the picture is so that’s always what’s inspiring me.

Are there other photographers you look up to/respect?

I’ve been following different golf photographers for years and the ones that really stand out are Evan Schiller, Patrick Koenig, Brian Oar, Channing Benjamin and Jacob Sjoman. Every time I see a post from any of them I just know that there’s going to be a cracking photo which is the aim of this business.

What will your next project be?

I have a number of projects in the pipeline which - fingers crossed - get the green light; I’m hoping to capture as many of the world-class links courses this little island has to offer.
We would like to thank Mel for his time! For more of his work have a look on the Momentum Golf Photography website or follow Mel on Instagram or Twitter! We will be back soon with a new golf course photographer.

Ruben van der Zaag

Ruben van der Zaag

Marketing & Communications @ Leadingcourses.com. Loves sports, music and good food, in no particular order.
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