Joel was yet another fantastic find on 500px. What I find fascinating is his love of black and white, he’s even on the hunt for some old film cameras to bring back that almost lost texture that is found in black and white shots when using film.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up mostly in Utah in the United States, backpacking in the Wind Rivers with my brother and father. My father thought it was heresy when I announced that I would not be carrying a fly rod on our next adventure and that I would only be carrying my camera. He changed his mind when he saw some of the images of himself casting on the gorgeous lakes and streams of the Wind Rivers range. I’m also an idealist. I think things like quality are most important, which is why I loved my latest read, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I think she nailed it when she said that you need to be true to yourself and your concept of quality and what you think is right. I wish I had two lives or didn’t need to sleep because there are too many things to do and too many great things to photograph!
What made you get into photography?
I did the usual high school photography class which I enjoyed. I shot on a Canon AE-1, which was an awesome little 35 mm camera. I didn’t really pick it back up again until a college course that I had at the University of Utah in composition. It wasn’t the ideal course in photography, so after the 2002 Winter Olympics where I made too much money in three weeks, I went out and purchased a Nikon F100 and a 20 mm lens, fixed. I just knew that I always loved photography and I thought the best way to go about it was to spend a little cash, get some good equipment, and then go to Europe with my buddies for five weeks and shoot. The experience, which only produced one image that I still use “Soccer Jerseys in Florence” (on Kodak Tmax), made me realize that it was going to take some time to learn, so I buckled down and continued to move forward.
How did you get started?
I never know if I’ve “started” because I always feel that I can improve. In the proper sense, though, I started when I decided not only continue to “try” but to really make an effort at the business side of things. A very influential friend of mine is a successful oil painter, and one day he simply said, “You succeed all these other things, why won’t you succeed in photography?” It was very reasonable, so I just started moved ahead with more direction than before.
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
I mainly do travel and outdoor photography and all the things that surround those areas, including the commercial work that is attached to them. Truth be told, I am always shooting for art’s sake and I continue to amass a portfolio in that direction. I distribute with Aurora Photos, which is a great group of people and they focus on these niche markets of travel and outdoor photography quite well.
What gear are you using?
I shoot mainly Canon digital with their lens, and I use the Gitzo/Manfrotto tripods. My video work is both on the XF300 and the Canon 5D Mark II and a video head on the 504 Manfrotto. I use Singh-Ray filters for a lot of landscape and commercial work with several b + w filters to fill in the gaps. I am eyeing some film cameras to begin shooting more black and white film again, as I miss the texture offered by that medium.
Whats your favourite lens and why?
When I shot 35 mm film on a pair of Nikon F100s, I loved the 28 – 70 lens. It was rock solid and felt bomb proof with the clarity and contrast to match. Since I’ve shot digital in Canon, I love the 24 mm TS II because of its versatility for a variety of situations and for its superb optics. It handles very well in architectural photography, landscape photography, and some commercial photography if you wanting to add creative selective focusing. It is sharp as a tack. There are many other lens which I also love, and I can’t walk away without saying that the 50 mm1.2 isn’t awesome. It is.
How are you marketing yourself?
I market myself much in the old fashioned way by personal contacts, email, phone calls. Social media is a lot of fun and does have some rewards, but I think the serious photographer will go to the sources. Your images will of course be your main marketing tool, another reason to edit yourself very tightly.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
Asking what favourite photo I have taken is like asking which child you like the best. As I don’t have children, I can’t totally say that I understand that analogy, but it seems like the best in this situation. Inevitably, a photographer’s favorite photograph is not one loved by the masses, but this is one of mine. “The North Face” is an image of the Grand Tetons taken from the north side, of course. This is not the customary angle for the mountains, but I found it to be very appealing compositionally. A storm was breaking that day, and it was quite bright out and the clouds were just mesmerizing. The new snow on the mountains combined with the jagged rock faces to make what I thought was a very appealing tonal gradient. A friend of mine bought the first print immediately, not only for her love of that particular mountain, but because she saw in it what I did.
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
My advice for new photographers is learn everything you can and study images that you love of other photographers. You can learn more about photography by studying and then going out and practicing than by any other way. Stick with it as it gets harder as you move up. You’ll start to get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t as you go and edit yourself tighter than anybody else does. Decide what is good and go for better.