We sat down with Pacific Northwest adventure photographer, Tommy Blades to discuss his photography, Instagram tips and advice for aspiring photographers. Find out how Tommy captures the perfect shot.
Do you have any tips for Instagram photography or photography in general?
For the last three years I have shot with a refurbished Nikon D300 and a stock 18-55 mm lens that is worth about $150. This is all that I could afford when I was first discovering my passion
for photography. Through the years it has captured incredible moments and memories throughout the country, has connected me with some of the greatest people that I have ever known, and has also helped me earn opportunities to work with large companies around the globe. I get asked almost daily what kind of camera I use - and it has always been my trusted, old, beat up, Nikon. For me, it has always been about understanding and utilizing what is in my hands and available vs. dwelling on what I do not have. Whether that be an iPhone, a new or old digital camera, or something else... I firmly believe that you are capable of using it in a powerful and unique way.
Just last week I upgraded my camera for the first time since I picked one up. It is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and I was finally able to make it happen. I’m excited to utilize it in a whole new way and even more excited to continue to learn and discover more about why I love having one in my hands. Utilize what you have and be proud of your work! I'll always come back to this camera and remember why I picked it up in the first place and the feeling it has given me while shooting. In terms of advice for Instagram specifically - I would say be active and put yourself out there! Make an effort to attend Instameets and connect with other passionate and like-minded people in your area. Go out of your way to genuinely respond to comments and create unique content. Do not get caught up on your follower count - focus on your quality and connections.
"Whatever your tools may be - push them to the limits and do not let them hold you back."
What kind of camera do you shoot with?
So for the last three years all I actually shot with a refurbished Nikon D3000 and a stock 18-5mm lens. The set-up would probably cost like $150 and I used it to its fullest capacity. For years I had wanted to upgrade but I could never justify it - until about a month ago! I am now shooting with a Sony A7 ii full frame and a Sony 28-70 mm lens. It is a completely different world shooting with this camera and I am honestly so inspired all over again.
How do you choose the right lens to capture your pictures?
I’m not one to have a ton of different lenses. I love the versatility of my 28-70mm and typically roll with that - you can do just about anything with it. I am constantly learning and as my skill set continues to increase, my desire for more specific lenses/capabilities will probably increase as well. For now, this is working perfect for me!
"I’m all about the golden hour at sunrise! I love getting up early and climbing in the car to chase the sun and fog – nothing compares to it."
What is your favorite time of day to shoot?
I’m all about the golden hour at sunrise! I LOVE getting up early and climbing in the car to chase the sun and fog - nothing compares to it for me. It creates such powerful imagery and really brings things to life in a unique way. I love getting some sun flare, light beams, and playing with silhouettes. It is incredibly refreshing, calm, and quiet in the mornings too. I can often find myself places completely by myself when I am out that early - and it's awesome.
What is the best time of day to shoot certain shots?
Like many photographers, I am all about the hour after the sun rises and the hour before the sun sets. When you shoot at this time of the day you get such amazing light, and like I mentioned before, it brings things to life in a much different way. Shooting with harsh light can certainly be done, but it is much more difficult - especially for someone like me who is still learning!
Do you use Instagram to edit your pictures?
I will definitely do some light touches in Instagram - I usually add some sharpness to help tighten things up. I play with the shadows and contrast slightly. If I do make adjustments in the app, they are typically pretty minimal but are aimed at making the photo come to life in the small version that it is becoming (if that makes sense). I want the small version of my photo to be as powerful as it's larger version. I do not use any of Instagram's filters or anything like that though.
What programs do you use to edit your images?
I edit with Lightroom - both on my computer and on my phone. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to editing but am completely self taught by experimenting and trying everything that I can.