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There's a lot to be said for beautiful imagery that can make you instantly want to visit a destination. For American landscape photographer, Joshua Snow, capturing the world in photographs is as much about inspiring others as it is a way for him to express his feelings.
This former mechanical engineer has turned his back on the field of science to teach others all about his craft all over the southwest of the United States, as well as in Moab, Utah. This month, we had a chat with Joshua about what fuels his passion for photography, how he plans his adventures as well as where he sees his work heading in the future.
Joshua Snow is a photographer from the USA with a passion for capturing landscapes. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
Hello Joshua, thanks for joining us today. Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from and how did you first get into photography? Do you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
Well, I am 32 years old, originally from North Carolina in the USA but spent most of my life in the northeast, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I am currently based in Moab, Utah, home of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and one cool place!
When I first picked up a camera in 2012, I was writing articles for angling magazines. It was my ‘thing’ at the time, and I spent a lot of time travelling only to fish. I was also pushing the scales at over 400 pounds and was sort of in a fight for my life. My partner and I began hiking the nearby gorges as a means of exercise. It was then that I was beginning to fall in love with taking pictures of the waterfalls and lakes.
By the spring of 2016, I had been taking trips specifically for photography and had mostly hung up the angling bit; after a week’s visit to Utah, I packed up my little family, walked away from my engineering career and moved here weeks later, set on creating art!
Nowadays though, after building a camper van this spring, I spend a lot of my time wandering, which has been really fun! I would say that I am self-taught in the sense that I basically just feed off of information. I spend a lot of time reading, watching, but most of all, experimenting with techniques in a never ceasing quest to refine my work. I focused mainly on just learning what and why the tools within Lightroom and Photoshop do what they do. From there, everything else has just been playing around.
Keeping the passion for creating was one of the struggles that Joshua faced early on in his career. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
What kind of struggles did you face early on in your professional photography career to get to where you are today?
Mainly just trying to figure out how to keep the passion for creating and not letting the hatred for business and industry get me down. Otherwise, it's really just been challenging dealing with all of the differences of opinions, of which there are many. Being creative is not everyone's cup of tea.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I used to have an easy answer for this question but over the years, I've started looking less and less at the work of others for inspiration and more towards just trying to do what makes me happy. Looking for nature to inspire me.
You’ve been guiding tours in the USA for a while now. What makes this region so special to you?
The diversity. There is just so much to see here, especially in the western part of the US. I moved to the desert southwest because it was so different from where I had grown up.
Planning a personal trip is quite different from planning a workshop. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
How do you decide where to go for a landscape photography trip and how do you organise it? How much planning do you put in before you visit a new place?
These days, I admit I have been lazy about planning, sort of just showing up and figuring it out when I get there. At least that's how personal trips go. I will first catch wind of a place from somewhere and that's what sparks the interest, then I do a little planning, research mostly, and then go. Workshops get a great deal more time and energy spent on this aspect. The recon trips or personal trips, I have to find that connection. It's important because if I don't feel it, I won’t want to return, and my work will lack that excitement.
Weather is one of the most unpredictable things about landscape photography. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
A lot of planning can go into a landscape photography project. Despite planning your shoots, have there ever been things that came up that you didn’t expect?
I think the obvious answer is weather, and I have definitely been caught in some unexpected conditions. Particularly snow, ha, it can come out of nowhere in the winter months out here in the desert. Last time I was in Iceland, a strong wind gust blew the RV I was driving at the time right off the highway. It was pretty scary.
Photography is more than just a passion for Joshua. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
Within your travels, has there been a specific situation where you may have gotten yourself into a rather sticky or dangerous situation?
I've been in some precarious places but I haven't had many occasions that have utterly terrified me. Although maybe this should have, it was one of my most memorable and special moments. Last year, in 2018 I was visiting Crater lake in the late spring, there was still some snow and the Milky Way was beautifully glowing. I was shooting a series of frames as I usually do in my night stuff and heard a noise as my camera finished exposing, dimly lighting the area around me. I looked behind me and there was a pretty large mountain lion, sitting like my dogs would, waiting for a treat. Not in a scary or aggressive way. It actually felt like I could have knelt and pet her. As soon as I moved, she took off but I wondered how long she had been standing there and what she was thinking.
Joshua uses Nikon cameras for landscape photography. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
What cameras do you shoot with? Have you had to make any changes to the kind of gear that you carry with you to capture images in each destination?
I have used Nikon since the beginning and today, I am using the D850, my 810 as backup. They're heavy, and with an array of lenses, my pack is damn heavy but as the mirrorless technology gets better, maybe I'll switch. Right now, I need the weather sealing and robustness of the DSLRs.
Post processing is more important to Joshua than taking photos. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
How important is post production to you? What are your go-to editing platforms on desktop and mobile? How long does post processing an image generally take you?
Probably more important to me than taking the photos, honestly. Sometimes it can take days, sometimes hours depending on my mood and what's going on. If I am feeling it, I can whiz through images pretty quickly but a lot of the time, it's a few minutes here and there.
Lately, I have been so out of the rhythm working on other things, I am rusty. I've been working on an image for two full days and will probably trash it! Haha! I am constantly trying to elevate the impact of my work so it gets tougher each time I process a new image. I use Adobe products in my workflow.
Joshua's work is an attempt to communicate his own feelings via imagery. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
What do you try to communicate with your photography and how do you achieve it?
When I look at the work of my favourite painters or photographers, I want to immediately feel wowed, breathless, reeling with many emotions. Then I want to analyse it more deeply for details and to kind of hone in on how it makes me feel specifically. I try to do this in my work, embedding my mood, my pain, my happiness, joy or whatever I am feeling at the time into the image. I want the viewers to be transported and feel as though they are inside my mind, seeing it as I do. An escape, really.
You have been quite successful in your role as a professional photographer. What is the thing that has made you feel the proudest so far during your career?
Thank you! I honestly don't know if I have a singular event or moment I am most proud of, I just enjoy being able to see my students improve as a result of time spent with me. Personally, inspiring others at all is a great achievement.
There are a few E-books in store in the future. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
Are there any other projects that you're working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
I am always working on crafting new workshops in cool places that work well as teaching environments and trying to find unique ways to shoot them. I am working on creating a series of tutorials and a few E-books too!
If you were to recommend five places everyone could visit, where would they be?
Ooof, thats a tough one. I don't know if I could narrow it down that specifically. Death Valley for sure, or the eastern Sierra region. The Columbia river gorge, or the Pacific northwest region. Utah and the Arizona border region. Patagonia. I really want to visit New Zealand, I think this should be on here even if I haven't been, ha.
Being creative is not everyone's cup of tea. Photo by: 'Joshua Snow'.
What’s your next adventure and when do you start?
I think my next adventure might be the Canadian Rockies! I spend a lot of time in the rockies of Montana and want to explore that area in the winter! It's shot a lot but I enjoy the challenge of visiting a popular place to try and show it in a different perspective.
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