I met Jake Isham on Instagram. He is a talented travel photographer that is able to enrich the own photos with his dreams. Whenever I look at one of his pictures, I start travelling with my brain. That’s it, that’s travel photography at its best.
An image that tells a story. A photo that creates a dream. Few months ago I received a beautiful compliment from a lady somewhere in US, over 20,000 km from where I was. She told me “Thanks Stef, I am travelling through your images”.
Jake is absolutely a dream maker. Through his images you can feel Los Angeles and you can visit all the places he has travelled to. Fantastic.
I contacted Jake again for an interview. I wanted to get more tips on travel photography in LA, beside some suggestions on visiting the city. I also wanted to understand the financial side of his work; is it still possible to make a living as travel photographer?
We talked about gear and what to take on a trip. I was surprised, to say the least….of what? Read on and find it out
After all our messaging on Instagram, it is great to talk with you Jake. Could you tell us a bit more about you and your work?
Hey Stef, Thanks so much for reaching out. I am a filmmaker and a photographer based out of Los Angeles. I graduated at Chapman University with a BFA in film production and a minor in English. In my last year of school, I found a love for still photography in addition for my love of moving pictures.
I’ve been started taking photography seriously late 2014 early 2015. Since then, I’ve traveled to over 14 countries, and many cities around the US.
My favorite subjects are moments others aren’t able to experience. For example, if it is a landscape, a concert, a woman trying to catch the metro. I try to capture moments that others might not see or other might to be able to have. They then can experience those moments through my photography. It’s hard to pick a favorite because I love shooting everything.
You describe yourself as photographer and filmmaker “traversing the world with a camera in his hand and over 20 pounds of gear on his back“. Do you think it is still possible to make a living as travel photographer?
I do think it’s still possible. It takes hustle. It takes ingenuity. You have to be clever and work hard just like any other job.
You need to know who your public is, as in who is going to pay you for your work. I spend equal amount of time emailing and reaching out to people as I do shooting, sometimes even more time building connections and making myself known.
In this modern day and age, you can’t just shoot and expect someone to find you. You have to be pro active and reach out to potential buyers, clients and prospects.
Your website has some fantastic travel photos of places and people around the world. Being based in LA, could you give some tips to any traveller planning to photograph that part of the world?
Oh wow, well LA has so much to offer. I guess I am jaded since I am born and raised here so I always want to go somewhere else.
In LA, you can wake up drive to the beach surf in the morning, shoot in downtown in the afternoon and drive up to the mountains and snowboard at night (in winter).
There are so many different locations in LA which is why it is the filmmaking capital of the world. If you do travel to LA, RENT A CAR!!! You can’t access all of LA without one. Public transportation is ok and Uber’s will get very expensive.
What’s your typical photography day?
Since I shoot so many different things, it really depends on what I am shooting on how I organize myself.
If I am shooting a concert in Hollywood or West Hollywood, I make sure to bring cash for parking! I know to show up on time since I will have 3 songs in the pit before they kick me out.
If I am shooting the streets of DTLA I park wherever I can find thats cheap and walk around.
If I am shooting a model, I will have the location scouted before hand and know where the sun will be rising or falling depending on when I want to shoot.
Los Angeles, I feel, is like any other big city. Just be aware of traffic! It is deadly! Between the hours of 630-10am and 4-8pm are really rough. The Waze app is my best friend when it comes to driving in LA I get the best estimates of when I will be at a place so I don’t show up late.
What are your best tips for anybody planning to have a trip in Los Angeles?
Well, there are so many places to go to in LA, especially since it is so big, so I’ll split it up by area.
In downtown, I highly recommend Perch and Ace Hotel. They have awesome roof bars/restaurants. Definitely a great date spot at nights, or even during the day a cool photo spot.
In Hollywood area, I recommend Firefly (cool lounge and restaurant) and Sugarfish (sushi)!! Sugarfish is my favorite spot!
I suggest visting Malibu or Santa Monica, always beautiful down there. There’s some good hikes to do – Hollywood sign hike and Griffith Park hike. Avoid Runyon Canyon if you want to actually hike.
What kind of gear do you use?
I shoot with a Canon 60D, upgrading soon most likely to the Canon 7Dii. I have a Canon 24-70 2.8, a Sigma 18-35 1.8 and a Rokinon 8mm 3.5. I rent a lot the 70-200 2.8. I have a MeFoto tripod. It’s super light easy to travel with and a Lowepro bag.
I also always carry my DJI Phantom 3Pro. I have a hardcase from them also. I like to also bring my Polariod camera. It’s a fun one from Urban Outfitters, but it does the job. I also have a Canon G9X. Finally, I have a Pentax K1000 which shoots 35mm to keep me on my game.
Do you have a favourite lens?
My favorite lens was the 24-70, but recently I got the 18-35 1.8 and that might be my new favorite. It all depends on what I am shooting.
When you go for a travel photography holiday, what gear do you usually take with you?
I am the guy who brings all his gear everywhere I go. My friends make fun of me because when I travel I have 3x more gear than clothes.
Every trip I go on I bring my Canon and lenses AND my Drone. I try to always be prepared because you never know what you are going to shoot, especially in the field I am and the style I shoot. I would rather carry it and have it and not use it than not have it and want it.
Is there any piece of gear you bought but almost never used?
Hmm. Good question. I got the blackmagic 2.7k camera. I didn’t end up using it that much so I ended up selling it to my friend and which he then shot his first feature film on it. So it went to good use.
If you would buy today new gear for your travel photography what would be your choice in the current market?
That is the constant question/battle I struggle with! But it’s a fun struggle. Depending on price range – the 1Dxii is the mouth watering camera for me. It shotos 4K video and amazing photos. It is huge but it’s built to last. Now it’s quite expensive. So I’ve been looking into the 7Dii or the 5Diii.
Lenses wise I know my soon future investment is in a 70-200 mark 2 and most likely the sigma 50 1.4.
What software do you use for your post-processing?
My post workflow is pretty simple.
- I have a folder that I download my photos in.
- I label it by date of downloading the card.
- I then import it into Lightroom.
- I select my favorites
- I color them and do some basic retouching in Lightroom.
- If it is a model or something that needs more retouching like Liquify I open it in Photoshop.
- Then export it into a different folder all labelled by project.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
To learn I shoot. I shoot a lot. I also watch other photographer’s work. I am privileged to have a lot of friends who are extremely talented so we talk shop a lot and I learn from them, they learn from me.
Otherwise I scavenge the internet for forums, videos or whatever to help me learn something specific. But most of the time it is looking at other’s photographs and attempting to duplicate them.
Among your works, which one is your favourite?
Oh that’s hard. It’s like asking which child is your favorite. I have so many favorites. It’s true but I fall in love with new photos after every shoot. I know I get better and better with every shoot, so the lame but truthful answer is the shots from my most recent shoot.
The other reason this is hard for me because each photograph has a story connected with it. What I was doing right before the shot, or right after. Traveling with friends or by self, each photograph is a special moment for me. I do have some photos from early on when I was first shooting that I absolutely still love.
One is from London when I was learning what white balance was on my camera and I was on the Tube. I was testing different settings and I took a shot of the train and a man looking out the window. It was tinted blue. The photo is untouched, unedited. I love it because it looks awesome just the way I shot it.
Another favorite was on the same trip and I was in Paris and I caught a woman running to catch her Metro train. The light fell perfectly on her and illuminated her. Again, it was just the right place at the right time. Those two photos remind me to keep shooting.
Who are the photographers you are taking your inspiration from?
Everyone! A lot of my inspiration is in movies I watch actually. I love cinematographers – like Roger Deakins and Emmanual Lubezki. They are unbelievably talented whether they create the lights or are shooting in natural lighting. I try to emulate them in my photographs, making everyone of my photos look like a scene from a movie.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started photography?
How to promote myself and who to promote myself. Taking photos is easy. You just keep shooting and you’ll get it, but the business of photography now that’s a whole thing separate from the art and is an art in itself.
I met you through Instagram few weeks ago. What do you think about this social environment?
I think it’s amazing! It is such a great place to connect and to get inspiration from. There are so many talented people around the world.
I enjoyed so much my talk with Jake and I had a big laugh thinking about his travel bag full of heavy gear. It’s always so interesting to exchange ideas and tips with other photographers, especially when on the other side of the world!
To read and see more of Jake photography work have a look to any of the links below
Instagram : @jakecapturedthis
All of the photos in this post are property of Jake Isham. Please contact him directly on his web page for any question