The Photographer Interviews: Jordan Mcgrath

Girl in the Mountains by Jordan McGrath

What drew you to photography?

My actual passion for photography actually began somewhat accidentally. I never really had a strong desire to pursue such a field, I had mainly kept myself busy with more physical mediums, such as painting and drawing. The one thing that I was absolutely infatuated with creating was portrayals of nature, sketching the rugged peaks of mountains, or painting the soft surf blanketing a beach while the sun set. I suppose deep down I had a desire to travel to these places and see them in reality, and eventually I did.

When I was 16 I went on my first backpacking trip and from there on I was obsessed. All I could think about was getting out on the next big adventure, and naturally my passion went from drawing nature to experiencing nature. This is when I decided that getting a camera would be good to have for documenting my adventures in a unique, artistic way. I soon began to have a similar excitement holding a camera as I did holding a brush or pencil, in fact it progressed further and further until I was mainly going hiking for the photography aspect of it. So in essence, the grandeur of nature is what drew me to photography!


Flowers in a Field by Jordan McGrath

Where do you look for inspiration?

Sometimes I find that inspiration finds us rather than us finding it, but when I am in need of quick inspiration I tend to spend some time on instagram soaking in some of my favourite photographers work. The real inspiration comes when I’m out in nature. I find that it's peacefulness and beauty distills the inner workings of my mind, I feel as though I can see clearly when I'm surrounded by trees or mountains rather than being cooped up in my house.


Mountain Layers by Jordan McGarth

What type of camera and lenses do you use?

I use the Sony a7iii along with the gmaster 24-70mm 2.8, zeiss 16-35mm f4, G70-200mm f4, and the sigma art 35mm 1.4. My favourite out of these would have to be the 24-70, but I honestly use them all quite a bit for all sorts of different content creation. I used to shoot a lot more wide shots but lately I’ve been leaning towards the telephoto end of the spectrum as that narrow perspective has grown on me lately! 


Man Holding a Beer in the Mountains by Jordan McGarth

Are there any projects you are especially proud of?

One of my first Corporate shoots I did was for a brewing company, I didn’t really think much of it at the time but it was one of my favourite shoots, as they asked me to take some of their beverages out into nature and take photos of people enjoying it!

I’m most proud of the fact that I was able to capture the photos for a company in my own unique way, without it looking like boring stock imagery, it was when I realized that I could make a career off of doing what I love most without having to conform to a certain style or look.


Moraine Lake Shot Underwater by Jordan McGarth

What's your favorite image you've captured?

My favourite image has to be an image that I took of Moraine lake, which in essence is OVER-photographed like crazy, but I had never been so I wanted at least a few photos of it. At this point I had just recently purchased an underwater housing for my camera and I hardly had got to use it, so I figured that using it with this iconic lake could yield some interesting results. In my mind I had sort of bashed Moraine lake because of the thousands of countless images taken of it…. But it’s a whole different sight to behold while viewing it in person.

My biggest question to myself was “why have I not ever been here before?” So of course I snapped a few different shots, but was quite unimpressed with them as it was high noon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to diffuse the strong sunlight. So I thought “What the heck” and threw the camera in my underwater housing and prepared to do a polar bear dip in this ice cold glacier fed lake.

My main vision was using a wide dome attachment on my housing and getting an underwater split shot, where you have half the dome underwater and half above… I truly didn’t think it would be worth it given that it was the middle of the day, but when I got home and started editing my images I then realized that I had something special. The biggest take away was that my new favourite image of all time was taken in some of the most undesirable conditions for photography… and yet I loved it which makes it even more of a special image for me!


Woman Sitting on a Bench Looking at a Waterscape by Jordan McGarth

What subject draws you to take a photo of it?

I’ve always been drawn to simplicity in a scene, the single mountain peak, or lone tree. I always love to try and utilize a strong anchor point within an image, and quite often it’s also people who I like to have been the focal point in my photographs. Another thing that really draws me in is unique and dramatic cloud formations, I just absolutely love dark ominous clouds looming above, the way they change the whole lighting scenario is just so intriguing to me!


Purple Clouds Over a Mountainscape by Jordan McGrath

Can you share some tips on how you shoot your images?

Lighting and Location is key, the best way to up your photo game instantly is to take photos of beautiful locations and subjects in beautiful lighting scenarios. This is something any photographer at any level can do, it just takes some timing and usually a few tries to get it right. Learning to compose is also a huge part of this, and this one takes time and practice in order to achieve incredible looking imagery.

Another tip is to remember that there are no “RULES” in photography, just “tools”. For example most photographers will say that shooting with the lowest ISO and on a tripod is a necessity. I can tell you that it does help get you some better images in terms of a “pixel per pixel” quality standpoint, but that doesn’t mean it’s what you should do for every single photo, in fact I hardly ever shoot anything on a tripod unless it's a super lowlight scenario. I generally bump the ISO a bit and have a more run and gun style which I find helps increase my compositional creativity, flexibility, and overall takes far less time to do than using a tripod, and I find I can get much more pleasing photos in this manner that fit my style.

This leads me to my last tip. DON’T be afraid to be yourself and try new things. Finding your own style within photography is huge if you want to stand out and grow as an artist. Copying another style is only beneficial to a certain point, but taking inspiration from other styles and molding them yours will help you create unique and beautiful images!


Waterfall With a Starry Night Sky by Jordan Mcgarth

What’s the secret! Are there specific types of equipment for taking these kinds of photos?

The secret for becoming an amazing photographer has to be.... drinking large amounts of coffee! (Sarcasm noted) Coffee may help with those early morning sunrise shoots but of course it’s not the secret to taking incredible imagery. You want to know the actual secret ingredient that will kick your instagram game up a notch? Well there's actually two of them, I know two is a lot more than one! They are patience and consistency. These two things are the key to growing into a top level photo-taker, and quite honestly might be the most underlooked component to upping that photo game!


View from the Inside of a Plane Overlooking Mountains by Jordan McGrath

What has been your biggest challenge in pursuing a career in photography?

Self doubt, comparing myself to others, feeling as though my work is not good enough. These things have been the biggest struggles for myself. Of course getting over that initial hurdle of getting your first paid job and building your photography into a full fledged business is also a difficulty, but It can be done with determination, the challenge is keeping that determination ignited!

I’ve often found myself losing motivation over silly things, such as other photographers seemingly becoming successful overnight while I grind away at building mine up, but everybody's path is different and it’s important to accept that!

What advice would you give to someone starting a career in photography?

Being successful in any business is usually about getting the ball rolling, and that’s the hardest part when starting out, so I’ll give you some of my thoughts on how to gain momentum. First things first, you don’t have to be an incredible photographer to make a full time living out of it, of course it helps the better you are, but it's not a definitive rule, so don’t let your skill cap prevent you from trying! The big thing you must figure out is how to make an income from your photography, because you probably won’t make much by doing nothing more than posting some of your work on instagram.

Make a list of every possible way to turn your photography into an income stream. Building your portfolio by doing lots of free photos for companies (or even doing a trade of goods/services) is great way to start obtaining portfolio pieces, building client relationships, and just a great way to get your name out in your local area. If the area of photography you want to get into is a more difficult one (eg, landscape, travel) it might take some time to build that up.

A great way to branch into that without having to work a day job as well is to start by building your career in a high demand area of photography (eg, weddings, realestate) that way you can justify purchasing expensive gear all while learning how to build your own photography career and building a solid foundation for the less in demand career path you wish to work on!


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