How bad do you want it?

Though this is a blog about photography, “how bad do you want it” is a question that applies to just about anything and everything, but I digress…

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Austin, Texas under a clear starry night. This shot made it all worth it.

You may be thinking, Jason, what the hell are you talking about… well. “How bad do you want it” is a question I ask myself just about every Friday before my head hits the pillow. For those of you who don’t know, much like many many other landscape photographers, I have an “adult” job. Not adult like an adult film star or anything, but a full-time job that has nothing to do with photography.

After working over 40 hours a week, at times away from my lovely wife and all the comforts of home for several days, there is nothing more I would rather do than sleep in, relax and marathon Walter White as he Breaks Bad. So,  I have to ask myself, “how bad do you want it“? And for me, “it” is that one banger shot that makes you smile when it pops up on the back of the camera after hearing the shutter click. It could be vivid colors of the Milkey Way arching over Enchanted Rock or a beautiful smile beneath piercing eyes in dramatic black & white.

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The beautiful Austin, Texas skyline from the boardwalk along Lake LBJ.

Being a photographer in a digital world is, in many ways, so much easier than it was when I started shooting film. In an instant after freezing time, you can know if you captured your vision. The leaps in technology have, for sure, brought with it benefits that I can’t imagine living without. However… with all those wonderful leaps forward there is bound to be an equal and opposite reaction, according to some guy that goes by the name Issac.

Social media is without a doubt a huge part of what I do as a photographer, as it is with just about every business these days. It is still possible to do well without social media, but when you can reach 100K plus people with one banger image, well,  that’s a large audience and you would have to be a little crazy to pass that up. But,  with social media, there is a constant pressure to produce great content. That could be a single image, a video, tutorial, or a blog post like this one. And, contrary to what some people think, pumping out content and posts that will actually catch the attention of an audience is a large dedication of time not to mention a lot of work.

My office for the night

One Friday night, a few weeks ago, after a very busy week at my “real” job, I had to ask myself “how bad do you want it“? The weather forecast that night called for zero clouds, which can be great if you’re into shooting nightscapes like I am. It also called for temperatures in the upper 30’s. I know what you’re thinking, upper 30’s isn’t cold. Well if you live in Central Texas and are going to be standing lakeside on a breezy night, its cold.

For several weeks that I had been waiting for a clear night on a weekend so I could get what I hoped would be Star Trails above the Austin, Texas skyline. But that meant waking up at 3:30am, driving for over an hour, walking for about a mile with 38 pounds of camera equipment on my back, just to stand in 39° temperatures for several hours. Gotta want it pretty bad to go through all of that after the week I had.

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This is a combination of 24, 2-minute exposures. There are very faint star trails in the upper right corner showing the rotation of the earth.

So it was cold… really cold… But I think I mentioned that. My fingertips and toes were numb and the filters I was trying to use kept getting condensation on them, which really sucked because it ruined the shot I wanted so much. Originally I had a grand plan of making a video out of the trip with some great aerial B-role as the sun broke the horizon and illuminated downtown Austin. Though I did piece together the video below, there isn’t any epic drone. I couldn’t feel my fingers by the time the sun started to rise. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. But, the video doesn’t do it justice and I loved every minute of it.

So, that brings us full circle. How bad do you want it? What are you willing to do to get the thing you want most? Next time you think you would rather sleep in or not get out and make it happen, ask yourself that.

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You’re not going to get it every time…

There are a lot of Great photographers out there, a few that I follow regularly on YouTube for inspiration. Professionals like Thomas Heaton, Nick Page, & Brendan van Son are putting out some great content, if you haven’t heard of them, I would recommend checking them out.

One of the downsides of following top-notch landscape photographers is they can unintentionally make it seem like getting an awesome shot is as easy as hopping in the car and going to the park, and well, that just isn’t the case. One reason I enjoy the three photographers above is they share the bad along with the good, so you don’t just see that epic hero shots.

Taken at Bob Hall Piel, Padre Island, Corpus Christi Texas
Taken at Bob Hall Piel, Padre Island, Corpus Christi Texas

Getting discouraged or stuck in a rut is a pretty easy, it happens to me about the same time every year as a matter of fact. It’s really important to remember that landscape photography isn’t just about getting that shot. And that isn’t just my opinion, a lot of the great landscape photographers out there have said the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I want and almost expect to get a somewhat decent shot when I go out, but its also just getting out there that is part of the overall experience. For me, it’s the clouds, the river, trees, stars and so many other things that you just can’t find in a studio. Something I think a lot of people forget or just don’t understand.

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Canyon Lake, Texas

For instance, when was the last time you enjoyed a sunrise or sunset? And I don’t mean enjoy seeing an image of one on Facebook or Instagram. When was the last time you got up before the light starts to silhouette the clouds just to drive to a location, have a hike with 30 pounds of gear so you could be at a specific spot that in your mind, you think would be an EPIC place to watch the sunrise? By the way, sunrises & sunsets can be just as epic in your backyard, sometimes even more enjoyable if you change out the 30 pounds of gear for a cup of coffee or a frosty cold margarita.

Just off the top of my head, I know of 6 times just this year that I have done just that, and not even taken the camera out of the bag due to weather or conditions that can’t be controlled. And you know what, I don’t regret a minute of it.

It is important to remember how often exceptional photographers, that you & I admire, are out making images. The more you put yourself in the environment you want to photograph, the better the chances that the sky with light up, the bird will look your way, or the clouds will clear on a dark night…

Having realistic expectations is extremely important in anything you do, especially when there are so many factors that are out of your control. So even if you have triple checked the forecast, planned your route on a map, prepped all your gear…, know that you may just have to enjoy being outdoors and making the effort. Starting out with that frame of mind really helps me appreciate the entire experience and leave me with a smile on my face.

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Taken in Driftwood, Texas

Whats in my Camera Bag?

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Have you ever seen a photographer, tripod in hand looking for a composition and said to yourself “I wonder what is in their camera bag”? I know I have, just about every time I see someone with a Peak Design or even when I see a great image taken by some of my favorite shutterbugs.

Over the past year, some great things have happened and a few of my images have gotten some great exposure, and I have been blessed enough to have gained a lot of new followers. Several of which have asked me about what gear I use while out photographing.

So, below is a list of almost everything I use. I have included links to everything I can find that is still sold, some of the links will take you to Amazon. These Amazon links are “affiliate links” which means if you click on it and buy it, I make a small 3% – 8% commission. Thank you for your support.

Cameras and Lenses

Canon 5D Mark IV– This is to date my favorite camera body. Superb image quality and excellent dynamic range. The on-screen zoom in allows for sharp focus and the overall ergonomics will be very familiar to Canon users. 
Canon 7D Mark II – This is a wonderful crop sensor camera body that I used for years before upgrading. 
Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens– This may be my favorite landscape lens. Great quality and not terribly expensive. I would venture a guess that 75% of my images have been taken with this lens.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens– Though I don’t shoot in this range a lot, this is a wonderful lens to have in the bag for those in-between ranges. Not too pricey and great quality. 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens – This was for many years my number one go-to lens. Fantastic quality and very diverse. 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens– This is one of the most versatile lenses in my kit. It is exceptionally sharp and just as good for landscapes as it is for wildlife, sports, and portraits. 
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L USM Lens – This is a quality lens but is I am honest, the Sigma version may be as good or better for half the price.
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens – For the price, this is one of the best wide aperture/angle lenses I have had. Great for shooting nightscapes and the milky way. 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens – This is perhaps my favorite prime lens to shoot with. Great for portraits, street photography, and nightscapes, it is ultra sharp and the bokeh is exceptional. 
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens – This is an ultrasharp macro lens that is also perfect for portraits. 

 

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Support

Manfrotto 190go! Carbon Fiber Tripod – Currently my favorite tripod! Not too big, not too small, not too heavy… Quality construction and very durable.
Manfrotto XPRO Magnesium Ball Head – Compact, precise and dependable. Everything I look for in a tripod head. 
Benro Long Series 3 Mach3 Carbon Fiber Tripod – WHen you need something with a little more girth and stability, this is what you want. 
Benro G2 Low-Profile Triple Action Ball Head– This is a bit more than I need, but a solid, quality, and reliable tripod head. 
Really Right Stuff Pocket Pod– A wonderful pocket-size support that allows incredibly low supported shots.
Peak Design SlideLITE Camera Strap SLL-1– By far the best camera strap I have ever owned!
JOBY GorillaPod Action Video Tripod – Used primarily for the GoPro and Vlogging.
black lowepro belt
Photo by Garrett Morrow on Pexels.com

Bags & Cases

Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW – Best camera backpack I have owned. It may be a little bit depending on what you are doing, but it has enough space for what I need while allowing extra space for hiking or camping gear. Very durable and comfortable. 
Lowepro Flipside Sport15L AW– A wonderful compact bag great for day trips and light travel.
Pelican 1510 Case With Padded Dividers
Lowepro S&F Filter Pouch 100– I don’t know if this is the best, but it has worked well for holding my filters. Easy to clean and keep dirt from scratching up all my expensive filters. 

Video & Drones

GoPro HERO5 Black– I use this a lot for my Vlogging and time-lapse video. Small, lightweight and great for documenting. 
GoPro HERO5 Session – Even smaller and lighter, this is used primarily doe vlogging and documenting photography outings. 
DJI Spark– This is an amazing little drone that I honestly don’t use enough. The compact size is great for my bag and for what I have used it for, it is pretty cool.
Movo Photo MTP-11 Motorized Tripod Head – Used for time-lapse panning in videos. 

 

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Filters

I use a range of graduated ND filters, ND filters, a polarising filter. All of these are used with the Lee Foundation Holder. The quality of the filters are second to none. The polariser causes minimal vignetting even at 16mm. 
Lee Filters Foundation Kit / Filter Holder
Lee Filters 105mm Slim Landscape Polarizer 
Lee Filters Little Stopper 6-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Lee Filters Big Stopper 10-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Lee Filters Supper Stopper 15-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Lee Filters 2 Stop Medium Edge Graduated Neutral Density
Lee Filters 3 Stop Medium Edge Graduated Neutral Density
Lee Filters 1 stop Soft-Edge Graduated Neutral Density 
Lee Filters 2 stop Soft-Edge Graduated Neutral Density 
Lee Filters 3 stop Soft-Edge Graduated Neutral Density
NiSi 100mm Natural Night Filter 
Lee Lens Cap Pack 3
photography of laptop computer camera smartphone headphones and mug
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Post Processing

LaCie 4TB Rugged RAID External Hard Drive – This holds all of my media, Lightroom Catalogs and Adobe Premier Project files. This system allows me to seamlessly switch from laptop to desktop without ever having to sync folders or re-edit images.
WD 4TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive – This is used exclusively as a backup drive.
Adobe Lightroom– Yes, all my photos are edited. I use Lightroom to make minor adjustments to shadows, highlights, contrast, color, sharpness, and clarity. The majority of the time my post processing is minimal and I try to keep the final images as I saw them when taking the image.
Adobe Photoshop– For more in-depth adjustments such as removing a power line, street signs, or just clutter, Photoshop is great. I probably only use 3% of what the program can actually do.
Canon PIXMA Pro-100 Printer – This is a great printer for the price and can print up to a 13 x 19 inch print with exceptional quality. 
brown and white dome tent at nighttime
Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

Outdoor Gear

Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Watch– For those of you that tend to get lost in the great outdoors, this is a must-have. It also has alarms for the approaching sunrise and sunset which I use a lot.
Vallerret Photo Gloves – It doesn’t get cold that often in the Texas Hill Country, but when it does, these are the only gloves I will wear. They have wonderful grip and allow the tips of your thumbs and pointers to poke out.
Foxelli Trekking Poles – When you have to hike a few miles to get to that perfect photo spot while hauling 40 lbs of gear, these give that added stability and support while adding minimal weight.
VITCHELO V800 Led Headlamp – If you intend to shoot nightscapes, this is something you are going to want to invest in.
LEATHERMAN – Signal Multitool – For those moments when you need an all in one tool.
BANSHEE 200 – 2 Person Tunnel Tent – This is a great, lightweight, 2 person backpacking tent with large openings so you can view all that nature has to offer.
Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow – So much better than using a shoe and takes up minimal room in your pack.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Air Mattress – Not only is it comfortable, this compact and lightweight pad insulate you from the ground temperatures keeping you cooler or warmer. 

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