Posted by Lucia LoTempio, Managing Editor for 3.1
We were (and still are!) thrilled to have Jason’s photo “Star Trails Around Maytum Hall” feature as our cover for our spring 2014 Gandy Dancer. Jason is going to be a sophomore at SUNY Fredonia in the fall and is studying Video Production. Preceding a very important exchange of stickers via Facebook chat, Jason took the time to talk with me about his art for all of you Gandy fans.
Lucia LoTempio: First, what kind of gear you use? What is your favorite lens to use? What kind of tools do you use for post processing?
Jason Zimmermann: I use my Canon T3i DSLR camera just about all of my shots. I’ve had my T3i for about two and a half years and it’s safe to say that it’s one heck of a trooper. It’s never broken on me and it’s been dropped, scratched, rained on, and hit with molten steel, but yet is still my camera of choice. My favorite lens that I use for it would have to be my fisheye lens that I acquired recently, the Bower 8mm F3.5 Ultra Fast Fisheye Lens. It allows me to capture extra wide shots that simply look more fun and seem to really pop. For post processing, my go to program is none other than Adobe Photoshop CS6. It has all the tools I need to edit my photos. However, I mostly use this program to perform simple edits such as cropping, brightness and contrast adjustments. But when it comes to creating star trails, it can get a bit more complicated and time consuming. Sometimes I also use a program called StarStax that simply stacks my photos and does all the other work for me when I don’t have to make other edits to the photos.
LL: Jason, can you talk about your interest in long exposure photography?
JZ: Long exposure photography is by far my favorite form of photography. I think it’s a very unique way to capture light and other objects with a DSLR that is not possible with other cameras, such as smart phone cameras. It’s also just a lot of fun! However, it can require a lot of patience sometimes, especially when capturing star trails. But in my opinion, the more work put into taking the picture, the more rewarding it is to see the finished product. Long exposure photography is also where light painting comes in, where you literally paint a photograph with a light source, such as a flashlight or glow stick. Now you’ve taken the art of drawing and combined it with photography to create incredibly unique and fun pictures!
LL: How has your style photography style evolved since you first started?
JZ: My style of photography has evolved tremendously since I first started. I didn’t take any classes on how to use my camera, nor did I ever read the manual. I just picked it up and began to play with it. Through the process of experimenting, trial and error, and the help of several YouTube videos, I soon got to know my camera inside and out. Just about everything I know about photography so far was self-taught and I am still getting better to this day. I’d say about 90% of what I’ve learned was through trial and error. I learn from my mistakes and fix them the next time. Doing this continuously for almost three years has taught me quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t.
LL: What do you personally think makes a memorable photograph or piece of art?
JZ: For me, what makes a memorable photograph is the story behind it. Whether it’s the mood I was in, the people I was with, or where/when it was taken. Although not everyone who views the photos may see them that way, it’s my personal stories behind them that really make me admire them.
LL: When you are take photographs, is it based in instinct or chance, or is it more planned?
JZ: It really depends on the type of photograph I’m aiming for. If I’m out shooting some long exposures, a majority of them are well planned due to the time they take to set up. However, if we’re talking about something like a sporting event, it’s pretty much the same rules as the sport itself: keep your eye on the ball. I am always looking through the viewfinder to be sure I get the best shot. Other than that, there are of course a ton of times where I will just be minding my own business and all of a sudden an unexpected photo-op appears and I whip out my iPhone and snap a shot as quickly as possible and hope it comes out well.
Jason was kind enough to share his two most recent photographs with us:
LL: You are majoring in Video Production at Fredonia—can you talk about what this entails? How does your style differ with this medium? What are your current interests with video recording?
JZ: I decided to major in video production because, similar to photography, I have a passion for it. Before I even got into photography I was in my basement with my parents’ old camcorders making a bunch of home videos just because I enjoyed it so much. But although photography and filmmaking can both be done with the same device, they both require much different techniques and skills. Films take much more time to plan due to scripting, rehearsing, and cinematography coordination, whereas photography is more of just taking a single shot, as oppose to millions of frames. My current interests in video recording are drama films and TV studio shows. I’m still not sure which path in particular I wish to follow, but hopefully it will become clearer to me down the road.
LL: What is your current focus/obsession right now?
JZ: I’d say my current focus is to create more professional looking shots. I’m beginning to do this because they are more challenging and are likely to teach me more about photography. I also wish to start selling some of my photographs one day. So far, I’ve been doing photography solely for fun and have only had one or two gigs. But I feel if I am able to step up my game and find a way to appeal to more of an audience, I’ll be able to become better known and maybe shoot at more weddings or sell blown up prints of my work.
LL: Who/what would you say influences you the most as an artist?
JZ: That’s a tough question. I think I’m going to go with life experience. Whenever I come across another milestone in life, whether it’s a new year in college, new job, relationship, etc., I begin to look at things a little differently and it changes the outcome of my work. Depending on the change, my work can begin to develop a dark theme if I feel I’m in a bad position or upset, or bright and colorful if I’m happy with things. It’s really interesting to then go back and look at the photos I took in different states of mind and compare them to each other and have memories brought back.
LL: Are there any works of literary value (books, poems, movies, graphic novels, etc.) that have influenced you greatly?
JZ: It’s more of real life experiences and other people’s artwork that spark my ideas.
LL: Is there a contemporary artist we all should check out?
JZ: I follow this guy on Instagram who goes by the name of xtoofur. His photos are absolutely gorgeous and they make me jealous and inspired at the same time. I like to consider him the true master of long exposure photography and hope to someday be as good as he is.
Jason’s self proclaimed mission is “to capture what has not been captured and make it mine.” His passion for the camera is apparent.