Shooter Spotlight: Tyler Jones

This is the first in a series of regular photographer spotlights. We’d like to showcase different shooters  from around the world, their stories, and their unique bodies of work. The first in this series, Tyler Jones, is a young professional photographer shooting for the University of Florida. He is one of the most passionate photographers we have ever met, and has compiled quite a thorough response to this questionnaire, so dive in!

Tyler Jones

Name: Tyler Jones

Hometown: United States of America.  Currently residing in Gainesville, Florida.

How did you get started? I decided to delve into photography as a hobby during my 3rd year in college at the University of Virginia.  At the time I was very active in outdoor adventure pursuits and was heavily into reading about outdoor adventure in magazines such as Outside and National Geographic Adventure.  An article on the ultimate outdoor digital camera inspired me to take up photography as a means to better document my own excursions more professionally.  Thus, I bought a Canon G3 digital camera as well as several old books on film photography and slowly began to teach myself the craft.  It was not until more than a year after graduation from college while living in southern China for a year that I began to commit myself fully to the pursuit and consider it as a possible career choice.

Lakota Skies © Tyler Jones

What do you shoot with? I am currently using two camera systems.  I have an almost complete digital Canon camera kit consisting of a 5D, a 1Ds MrkII, and a 20D with an assortment of fast prime and zoom Canon L lenses.  I use the Canons for the vast majority of my critical work, especially any work that relies on acting quickly and anticipating and capturing decisive moments such as weddings or sporting events.  For my still life, some nature, portraiture, fashion and the slower methodical work that I sometimes do, I’m utilizing the Canon gear as well as a Leica M8 digital rangefinder camera.  The M8 system is nowhere near as complete as my Canon kit though, so my resources are currently being diverted to build the Leica into a complete and versatile camera system.

Favorite subject matter? Right now, in a word, everything.  Between my full time job as a photographer for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the building of my independent brand/company of Exile Photography, I end up shooting agriculture, animal sciences, events, science publications, university related Associated Press news releases, weddings, fashion, culture and travel documentary/journalism and decorative landscape and art prints for sales.  Believe it or not, I can honestly say that I like to shoot all of the above.  Right now though I’m particularly interested in moving toward culture and travel documentary/journalism as my full time photography occupation.

Gene Knight © Tyler Jones

What’s your favorite photo? I’d have to declare a tie between two images. The first is entitled “Backward Glance,” and was taken in a Tibetan town in the far reaches of Western Sichuan Province, China.  It is of a Tibetan woman passing before a colorful Tibetan monetary and glancing back over her shoulder as she passes.  This particular photo was a very early success for me and best represents my heightened sense of awareness while shooting for the decisive moment that I utilize when shooting some subjects.  In this particular instance, I anticipated the woman’s movement and then waited in place for the moment before quickly shooting without drawing attention to myself.  The end result is a print that inspires me more than any other to this day by instilling a confidence in my work and methodology that keeps me constantly striving to better my product in good times and bad.  My other success major success is a very recent image entitled “The Last Endeavour,” and it is a time-lapse image of the final Space Shuttle nighttime launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  This image was a long time coming, involving a couple years of preparation and trial and error in attempting to capture previous shuttle launches.  On the final possible attempt ever (the shuttle program is being dismantled) I had to setup and shoot a shot that I’d previously envisioned, and as luck would have it, I was successful.  The image has also become very popular in my town and has easily been my best selling print to date.

The Last Endeavour © Tyler Jones

What is your shooting style? My approach toward shooting varies wildly depending on the subject matter.  Some of my University of Florida assignments are very repetitive and are dependent on replicating a specific style every time and in those cases I have a very formulaic approach.  If I’m shooting a wedding, documentary, or event, I will attempt to shoot very candidly in a heightened sense of awareness where I’m constantly analyzing the scene around me, anticipating people’s actions and reactions and trying to capture the precise moments and details that contribute to the whole of the narrative of what I’m documenting.  If I’m shooting nature or landscape, then I have typically studied the light upon my subject previously,
and I know exactly what I want to shoot and when to shoot it.  I’ll then methodically setup and put myself in the necessary place to get the shot at the right time.

What would you like to shoot more? In my free time I try to study as well as increase my reps in shooting fashion photography, particularly in the way of editorial fashion.  I’m very attracted to the art direction and the almost scripted nature of set and scene design that the genre can demand.  There’s something very theatrical and artistic to the practice that is extremely appealing to me and I’ll continue to shoot at Fashion Weeks, shoot for local designers, train with professionals in the industry and continue to build my fashion portfolio as often as my schedule permits.

Backward Glance © Tyler Jones

What does the future hold for you? In the future I see myself freelancing documentary stories abroad as I continue to build my reputation as a travel and culture photographer.  In my free time I will challenge myself by trying to maintain a reputation as a capable fashion editorial/commercial photographer while keeping my foot in the door of the wedding photography business by catering to a higher end clientele.

Advice to other photographers? The best advice I can give to fellow photographers would be to try and remain engaged and vested in every photographic pursuit that you’re a part of; continually study what has worked in the past; make time to shoot for yourself and do not follow trends.  It’s critical to stay interested and engaged in everything you shoot so that you are constantly giving yourself an opportunity to improve your craft and technique.  I meet an overwhelming number of shooters who mail in their effort, paid or not paid, if they are uninterested in the assignment and their output often reflects their attitude.  Adopting such an attitude is ultimately detrimental to your own ability and erodes your reputation as a photographer.  Instead, study how that type of photography is done well and challenge yourself to deliver a great product under any circumstances.  The challenge will keep you vested in the work and simply trying to better your images will continually improve your practice.  Study the work of the past, your own included.  There are general patterns to great imagery that can be learned and adapted to whatever circumstances you find yourself shooting in.  It’s cliche, but I do think that it is important to be well versed in the rules before breaking and adapting them.  This constant discipline of study and practice will make your imagery that much better.  It’s just as important to find time to shoot what interests you the most so that your interest in photography in general does not wane.  Personally, I make every effort to chip away at various projects and photography genres that I’m interested in my spare time so that not everything feels like a job.  Doing so keeps my enthusiasm for the profession at a very high level.  Finally, stay away from equipment or style trends.  Trendy equipment and keeping up with it only bankrupts you and impedes you at truly mastering a single type of camera system.  Instead, find a camera system that works for you and stick with it improving your technique to the point where you can do anything you or anyone else needs with it.  In terms of styles, stay away from trends because they are typically quirky diversions that do not lead to timeless photography and you’re better off without them in your repertoire.

Ayutthaya Head © Tyler Jones

View Tyler’s work here:

You can view my work and services anytime at www.exilephoto.com.  I maintain a network of photography websites that work together to keep the public informed of what my photography business is up to and the Exile Photography home page is the best place to start.  From there you may link to a current photography blog as well as to a portfolio of photo essays and prints that I sell regularly.

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