Welcome back to another Thursday Thoughts posting. This week, I am honored to have Rob Jones of Towner Jones Photography participating with the CB Series. You might recall, Rob was kind enough to ask me to guest blog for him a week or two ago at his site, so I thought to reciprocate with him here. (I got the far better deal as he clearly took quite a bit of time with the questions, and even was kind enough to share some of his work with me here at the blog.) Do stop over to his site and peruse through everything he has to offer – I find myself learning nuggets from him almost every day! So, without further ado, here’s Rob Jones:
Q: Everyone always wants to know some of the basics, so let’s get a few things out of the way at once here…1. How long have you been a photographer?
A: I’ve enjoyed shooting pictures since I was a kid. I was in engineering school when digital photography really started gaining ground (late ‘90s) and that’s when my passion for shooting really began. (The technical nerd in me realized that I could feed my artistic side with cameras that required computers… what a concept!!) Then in January of 2007 my wife and I turned our love of photography into a side-business and we haven’t looked back as the business continues to grow. Full-time someday is the current dream. Sorry, that was a little more than you asked for.
Q: Canon, Nikon, Sonly, Olympus, Pentax or some other brand?
A: This may not be the best place to admit this, but I’m a Nikon guy. I can, however, honestly say I’ve never participated in any Canon bashing, online or in person. I do enjoy a little rivalry though…
Q: Mac, PC, or Linux?
A: As I mentioned earlier, I’m also an engineer so it’s PC all the way. I can’t trust a computer that doesn’t get rebooted everyday.
Q: Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry?
Vanilla, with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. I may have a bowl after the interview.
Q: Moving into a little more granularity, photographers often enjoy hearing helpful and constructive critiques of their work, as we are aware of how much we can grow from it. However, we’ve also all had the “nice shot” and “cool” comments when we’ve shared our work. With that backdrop in place…what was the singular most useful critique or comment you’ve ever had on work you’ve shared publicly, and who said it (if you can share)?
One of my blog readers, a guy I know as “Emilio” regularly asks me, “Why did you…” or “What made you choose…” or the like about the photos I share on the blog. At first, I would find myself getting a little defensive, but later realized that being asked to express what was going through your mind when you took a photograph is a really powerful way to grow your photography. If you start to ask yourself those same questions BEFORE you take the picture, you’ll see the ratio of “keepers” increase.
Q: If someone was asking you for an honest critique of their work, what 3 factors would you look at most (excluding friendships or family relatives, we’re talking professional or fellow photographer-types here)?
A: Composition – Are you trying to create something artistic or are you just taking a snapshot? Either is fine, just know what you’re going for when you frame the shot.
Exposure – Are all of the areas of interest in the photograph properly exposed? Would a little artificial light make the difference between a good photo and a great photo?
Character – Coming from a guy who takes way too many pictures, I may sound like a hypocrite, but quantity does not lead to quality. Pictures with real character usually are the result of selecting a subject that interests you, and taking the time to put a little bit of yourself in each photograph.
Q: Got any war stories from field shoots or outings that you can or would be willing to share?
A: Here’s the one that still brings me the most pain when I think about it.
I had spent the whole morning walking the streets of downtown Toronto taking pictures of this beautiful city. Bundled, though I was, 19 degrees, was still cutting through my coat when the wind was blowing.
I turned a corner to find a homeless man, completely covered in blankets asleep on the sidewalk in front of me. Only a single, bare foot hung out exposed to the elements.
As I was lifting my camera to take the shot (which was pretty moving by itself) a brand new Lamborghini Murcielago turned onto the street about a block or so up the road. It was heading toward us, and would pass the homeless man on the sidewalk. Both would fit perfectly into my frame. I zoomed out to reframe the shot.
My heart pounding I waited for my moment… and squeezed the shutter release.
It is at this point that I noticed the ‘FULL’ prominently displayed in my viewfinder.
I have never let a memory card get below 20-30 remaining images since – you just don’t know when that amazing photo is going to present itself.
Q: If you had to choose between the gear or the software as the only way to create, which would it be and why?
A: Gear. I love messing around on the computer more than most folks, but I sit behind a desk too much of my time. The camera lets me get out into the world, and that’s where all the photos are.
Q: If you had to pick three pictures out of your entire portfolio to represent your approach to photography, or your artistic vision, which ones would you pick (feel free to share images here)?
A: Three pictures! There’s no way. Problem is, my artistic vision continues to change, and (I hope) my approach to photography continues to mature with time. Recently I’ve enjoyed continuing to develop my portrait photography, so I’ll share a couple favorites from that genre.
The first is a studio shot I did of a good friend of ours whose husband is a musician (that’s his beloved guitar) – we did this as a surprise gift for him. I love the photo as it really captured both her beauty and attitude.
The next is fairly recent, from one of my more exciting assignments. I had the honor of serving as the official event photographer for the White House Summit on International Development here in DC. With the distinction of being a part of the logistics team for the event, I was given access to the president – and was allowed to stand right at the base of his podium during his speech. I don’t care what your politics are, that was a blast.
Finally, out of the thousands upon thousands of photos I’ve taken, this one currently holds the most treasured spot in my heart. My blog readers will recognize this as the shot I posted on Thanksgiving this year, my two beautiful daughters Reagan and McKinley, on the first occasion I was able to get them in the studio (the day McKinley came home from the hospital).
Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share about the state of photography or any catch phrases that you keep in mind when shooting?
A: Let’s see. I’ve got a catch phrase that really stuck with me, from a conversation with the great Scott Kelby, about post-processing that I really like. When discussing what amount of “retouching” is acceptable for portraits (in context, a group of us were talking about a shot of a bride) Scott said, “It OK to make a bride look as beautiful as she should feel on her wedding day.” That kind of thing is why that guy gets book deals. I still think about that statement every time I’m in post.
Final thoughts on photography… I’m like many others, excited to see an expansion of the art form and enjoying an ever-growing community of folks who share my same love for photos.
Jason, thank you for the opportunity to ramble on such an awesome blog – it’s been a lot of fun and I really appreciate it. Take care and Godspeed.