Morgan Phillips: Los Angeles To Iceland by Andres Tardio
As beautiful as Southern California is, the awesome year-round weather can sometimes make one long for a change of scenery. Everyone needs to add variety to their lives, even those in 80 degree weather. For Morgan Phillips, this meant a trip to Iceland.
Iceland is impressive and incredible, so the experience was documented through photographs that captured the awe-inspiring essence of this beauty. Phillips took WeAreJuxt into his travels with an interview upon his return to California.
AT: Why did you decide to go to Iceland?
MP: Going to Iceland was a spur of the moment decision. I actually bought the ticket 6 days before I left! My friend Ravi(@Ravivora) was going out there to work with Trash (@Trashhand) and I didn’t wanna miss out! So I made the decision to meet them out there when they were done working. That being said, Iceland is the mecca for photographers such as myself. The assorted landscapes and scenery are just begging to have a camera aimed at them. I just had to experience it.
AT: Can you describe your thoughts as you were on your way to Iceland?
MP: Absolute excitement. I hadn’t been out of the country for a couple years and I was aching to see and experience a new culture as well as take pictures. At the time, I was looking for some different scenery and people to shoot. So most of my flight I was thinking about what I was gonna shoot and how to shoot it to capture it’s true beauty.
AT: What did you pack for the trip in terms of photography gear?
MP: Most importantly I packed my iPhone and Mophie power pack, there are no outlets in the middle of Iceland, had to stay charged! In terms of the “artillery”, I brought my Nikon D600, Zeiss 25mm lens, Nikon 35mm 1.4g, Nikon 50mm 1.8g, Nikon 24-70 2.8g, Manfroto tripod, 2 36” 5 in 1 reflectors, Macbook Pro (gotta edit on the go), mini JOBY tripod, and all the accessories I would need. All of this was packed in my Chrome Camera bag. In hindsight, I over packed. The Zeiss 25mm stayed on my camera 95 percent of the time. It is perfect for capturing Iceland.
AT: Once you arrived, what were differences you noticed between LA & Iceland?
MP: The differences between Iceland and Los Angeles are immense. LA has some beautiful landscape around it. This being said, it doesn’t compare to Iceland. Iceland is insanely beautiful. Every time we went around a turn there was something new to shoot, things that couldn’t be found in LA or the United States for that matter. LA never has snow; the northern part of Iceland was covered in snow and blizzarding most of the time! The population of the entire country is only about 350,000 people. To put this in perspective Los Angeles County has almost 10,000,000! That is 28 times the population of the entire COUNTRY! There were days where we didn’t see another person. If you are going to Iceland and hoping to eat American food, good luck. Most places will sell you a “hamburger” but it isn’t the same. The country only has 3 American restaurants that I saw: Taco Bell, KFC, and Subway. The Taco Bell and KFC were connected. [Laughs.] The most incredible difference to me was the age of the culture. Iceland was settled in the early 9th century, compared to the US, which was only settled by Europeans in the 16th century. I find this fascinating.
AT: What were your top 5 images you took in Iceland? What made each one special/stand out?
MP: All the shots [featured here] were taken with my Nikon D600 and edited in Lightroom only. They also have never been posted or seen. I have kept them under wraps until my new website is up and running! I hope you enjoy the sneak peek. The best part about Iceland is all you have to do is show up and shoot. Whatever you capture will be breathtaking.
Shot Info: Zeiss 25mm, F/6.3, 1/160th, ISO 140
This is the shot I had to get in Iceland. The iconic wreck of the United States Navy DC-47. This shot is special to me because I don’t know another place on the planet that has an untouched plane crash. The way the plane has become part of the landscape is breath taking. I am also just a sucker for shots that have a story behind them. Getting to the location is an adventure. It is on a black sand beach with no roads. We drove around for 30 minutes just looking for the wreck. We came over a sand dune and boom, there it was. Absolutely insane. It was perfect.
Shot Info: Zeiss 25mm, F/10, 1/125th, ISO 200
This is one of those shots you just come across. We were driving up a hill and as we came over the crest the entire car said “WOAH”. We had to stop. It is so rare you can capture so many different landscapes in one shot. I’ll let the viewer discover all this picture has to offer. I love it.
Shot Info: Zeiss 25mm, F/3.2, 1/200th, ISO 220
This shot was taken at sunrise in Myvatn. We always had planned an overnight in Myvatn to catch the sunrise but you could never have planned for this. The sunrise was the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. I don’t think anything will ever compare. It is a rare shot where I actually had to desaturate because the real thing looked so unbelievably fake. I love sunrises, and I’ll remember this one the rest of my life.
Shot Info: Zeiss 25mm, F/2.8, 1/50th, ISO 140
This was the most difficult shot to capture of the 5 shots. The wind was gusting extremely hard, I would estimate 50mph. You can see the grass is almost completely sideways. To add to the difficultly it was getting dark. Real dark. So I had to shoot wide open with a low shutter speed to get enough light to keep the ISO in an acceptable range. I took about 80 shots here, because of the wind and slow shutter speed, only 8 were steady enough. Some times you just have to keep trying till you get it. This was a random house on the side of the road, not planned but a must shoot.
Shot Info: Zeiss 25mm, F/4, 1/200th, ISO 360
This was taken the same morning as the other sunrise shot. It was captured about 20 minutes after the road shot and you can see how colors changed throughout the sunrise. I have never seen a sunrise go from yellow to orange to red to purple to a soft purple. It was something I didn’t think was possible. I was shooting this lake and it was missing something. I asked Zach (@Zachpassport) to run out and stand on the small jetty. I think his presence adds to the scale of this incredible scene.
AT: If others want to go to Iceland, how should they prepare?
MP: It all depends on the time of year. Winter is pretty brutal there. I was there in the beginning of winter and it was 25 degrees Fahrenheit. So dress warm. Iceland is also known for its wind. The gusts were maxing out at almost 60 miles a hour in some places. We had an incident with a car door almost being ripped off our rental. It was a costly mistake. So make sure you get full coverage on your rental car! Also it is important to know things are a lil more expensive, not to much but it can be noticeable. Coffees were about 5 bucks at a coffee shop. It is easy to now know how much you are spending because the currency is crazy. 44 US dollars equals roughly 5000 Icelandic Krona. The most important way to prepare is plan your trip well. Know where you wanna shoot and at what time so you can get there. The Sunseeker App helped me with this. It shows you the direction of the sun and specific times of day. Nothing worse than getting to a location and realizing you are in a shadow and the shot is ruined! Also, if you are going to Iceland in the winter, the north isn’t the best for photography. It is generally snowing and hard to shoot.
AT: How would you describe your photo style?
MP: It is so hard to describe my own style. My goal with every picture I take is to capture the true beauty of a scene as I see it. Whether I am shooting a person or a landscape, I want the viewer to see what I see. I want it to be true and real. In my opinion, if I do my job right, the viewer will feel like they are there and feeling what I am feeling at the time of the shot.
AT: How long have you been a photographer?
MP: I have always owned a camera of some kind. About 7 years ago I got my first “real” camera. It was an Canon EOS something or other. It was film. I took a photography class or two at the time and enjoyed it. I never thought it would turn into what it is today. I sold the camera and bought a 1980s Canon AE-1 about 3 or 4 years ago. This is where my love for photography took off. Soon after I started an Instagram. Shot on the iPhone for about a year and finally bought my first DSLR. That started my professional photography career. At this point I have been a full time professional photographer for only a year. It has been a blast! Best career in the world.
AT: What inspires you about mobile photography?
MP: Mobile photography has changed the photography game. Billions of people now have access to a camera that 10 years ago would be out of reach. My inspiration for mobile photography comes from the ability to shoot at anytime, anywhere. I don’t have to lug my DSLR around to capture a shot. This allows us to shoot things that normally we couldn’t shoot. I love that. I also love the fact a cellphone with a camera has changed the way we all see the world. Daily we see pictures and video shot in places that normally wouldn’t allow photos to be taken. Places like Egypt, Syria, Libya, and more recently the conflicts in central Africa. We can witness things first hand with the people experiencing them as our guide. I hope this changes the world like it has changed me.
AT: What apps do you advise photographers to use?
MP: In terms of mobile photography, VSCO Cam is by far my most used app. 85 percent of my most recent photography is edited completely in that app. I cant express how much I love VSCO Cam and VSCO Film for Lightroom. I also use Snapseed and Filterstorm. They can accomplish the things VSCO can’t. Things such as spot editing, layers, masking, and fine tuning an image. I also use Touch Retouch from time to time to remove those pesky imperfections in an iPhone shot. For DSLR editing, Lightroom and Photoshop are my go to apps. VSCO Film is a must!
Twenty20’s CEO Matt Munson speaks with We Are Juxt about creating a creative community for artists and mobile photographers by Andres Tardio
As a warm sunset blankets Santa Monica, California, mobile photographers fill a gallery space eagerly. Smiles, laughs and art can be seen and heard throughout the room as canvas pieces hang on white walls.
Rappers Evidence (@mrevidence) and Slug (@atmosphere) have work featured in this gallery, shots they have snapped in their travels as photographers and artists. Skater Tony Hawk has pieces here as well. Evidence and Hawk are on-hand to shake hands, smile next to fans and discover work from other like-minded artists.
Twenty20, then known as Instacanvas, put together this event to bring photographers and photography lovers together for a “Night Out.” The event worked to symbolize how great Twenty20’s reach has become. To think it all started from a basic impression of what mobile photographers needed and wanted.
“We started with a pretty simple idea,” Matt Munson, the company’s co-founder and CEO says in an interview with We Are Juxt. “To let Instagram users sell their photos as canvas art.”
The canvas print adds a layer of surprise to many. “That was shot on an iPhone?” a gallery viewer says as she walks by a piece she admires. “No way!”
This type of reaction is commonplace for Twenty20 pieces, says Munson, who co-founded Twenty20 with Todd Emaus and Kevin Fremon.
“If you see our product in person, it changes your appreciation for that piece of work,” he says.
Still, the mission Twenty20 had as Instacanvas was modest, but that mission would evolve.
That’s because the basic idea ballooned. It overwhelmed the start-up’s core with demand growing within the mobile photography community. Today, the company houses thousands of photographers in more than 30 countries. That type of growth was hard to predict. And since the demand begged for a pivot in the company’s strategy, Instacanvas became Twenty20.
A new strategy formed. A new mission developed.
“Twenty20 is a marketplace allowing users to buy and sell Instagram photos as beautiful physical art pieces, and we’re one of the fastest growing start ups in Southern California,” Twenty20 says on its site.
“We have grand visions for empowering photographers and artists across the world and changing the way people everywhere discover and purchase beautiful design objects.”
That’s different from the mission the company began with. That change had to come.
“It became less about selling a particular product and more about being a platform for a generation of photographers, artists and creators,” Munson says to We Are Juxt. “Our mission quickly changed…The mission became a lot bigger than we ever anticipated.”
Still, Twenty20’s focus lies in its artists and their ability to share their work.
“We think photographers deserve to have work alongside articles in the New York Times,” Munson says.
“This is about creating an ever-expanding platform for work to be exposed and enjoyed by more people.”
Munson believes this because he and the Twenty20 team believe in the power of mobile photography.
“Mobile photography breaks barriers,” he says. “It allows people with a wide range of skills to unleash their creativity in different ways.”
So the ever-expanding platform Munson speaks of is a helpful one for artists looking to share their work and learn from others. Though Munson does not describe Twenty20 as a social network, he is also clear about what Twenty20 means today.
“We see ourselves as a creative community,” Munson says. “I would say a social network has the expectation that I need to connect with everybody that I know in the real world. But we view ourselves more as a creative community of artists and photographers. We build features that deliver a sense of community because we believe there’s a reason that artists have always worked together in communities that come together for support and idea sharing. You may see features come up from a social network, but for us, it’s more about community building than it is replicating what’s happened in other social networks.”
Matt Munson can be found as @mattmuns on Instagram.
Dan Marker-Moore flies.
Check his Instagram account (@danorst) for proof. He pretty much skies over every city he visits and takes out an iPhone like, “That looks good.” He shoots an incredible city skyline or a beautiful landscape and then lands on the ground to edit the images for his followers. Then, he does it again. And again. And again.
When he isn’t flying, he’s hiking to great heights. One day, I saw him drive through the blur of white fog up a winding road towards Mount Wilson, a short drive from Los Angeles, California. We hiked through a tunnel, a rocky, dusty road and saw the fog below us as Moore set up his tripods. It was like his backyard, the way he knew where to turn and where to shoot.
Beyond flying and hiking up mountains for great views, Dan Marker-Moore also has a different identity. @danorst is @payphones.[instapress userid=”payphones” piccount=”10″ size=”90″ effect=”0″]
Through this effort, Moore has documented the nearly forgotten art of #payphoneography. Though many payphones are disappearing from existance, Moore has found a way to keep them alive through photography, shooting the payphones he finds, whether they are still working or simply a payphone carcass of what used to be. The #payphoneography tag has also inspired others to document the relics of the streets and the tag has taken off with close to 8,000 images on Instagram.
Through @payphones or @danorst, Moore has been able to document his life and art with great dexterity. On or off his iPhone, he’s crafted work that inspires the viewer to find the beauty in the ordinary and the magnificence of exploring the unknown. Whether he is flying, hiking or running around a concrete jungle, Moore is a photographer whose talent soars.
A. Everyone seems to have either a defining moment or a series of minor moments where they fell in love with their art form. What was this process like for you? When did you fall in love with photography?
D. Instagram. I took photos before Instagram, but I didn’t have a place to share my photos. With Instagram I was able to share new photos everyday with people. I got so wrapped up in it I made a second account, @payphones, so I could share even more photos. It was that daily schedule of publishing photos that really taught me a lot about photography and gave me a lot of hours of practice behind the lens.
A. How about mobile photography? When did you realize this was going to be something you focused on?
D. Mobile photography is awesome! It’s astonishing how advanced these pocket cameras are, and with apps the possibilities are endless. Having a camera in your phone gives you constant access to photo opportunities… and for the first year or so on Instagram I took all of my photos with my iPhone. This January I got the Olympus EM5, a micro 4/3 camera, that is much like a DSLR but much more compact like a rangefinder. This camera is like an iphone on steroids, it has super powers like the ability to see in the dark and optically zoom across town. It lets me take the photos not possible on an iPhone. I feel there is no reason to limit yourself to taking photos on your phone. Most of my newer photos on IG are taken with the EM5.
A. You’ve done a great job of using the filming feature on Instagram. How do you think this feature adds to the app in general?
D. Video is fun. It opens up another dimension to the visual experience of IG. You are limited to the iPhone camera and IG’s software but you can make the most of it by shooting only in excellent light, like golden hour. I’ve had fun playing around with time-lapse video on IG. I’ve recently purchased a kitchen timer to help me time out intervals.
A. You also alternate between the mobile photography and add a different camera to your feed. But this is sill instant. Can you explain to readers how you use an SD card to make it instant?
D. I have the Eye-fi SD memory card which has it’s own ad-hoc wifi network that syncs your photos from your camera with your phone. All the newer cameras have this built in and some of the newer cameras have apps and let you run Instagram right in your camera.
A. Do you edit those images on your phone as well?
D. When I post a photo on the spot I’ll do some adjustments on my phone. Usually PhotoForge2 and Afterlight. The rest of my photos get sorted and edited in Lightroom on the computer, I also store my archives of iPhone photos here. You definitely have access to another level of control working with a computer.
A. As a part of the Los Angeles community of Instagram users, what are three of your favorite Los Angeles locations?
D. I take a ton of pictures of the L.A. skyline, so I’m always looking for new perspectives, but time after time I return to some classic spots. The Hollywood hills has many vantages, one of the best being the Bowl Overlook. From the top at night you see the US101 traffic as a river of light flowing right into downtown. The bridges downtown are another great view. On the East side of the Whittier bridge there is a low fence with a hill on the other side. From that hill in the Summer you can watch the Sun set right behind downtown. Warning this area can get sketchy. City Hall has the best view of downtown, it’s open to the public, just register with security and ask to visit the Tom Bradley room. At the top you find an amazing 360 view of LA.
A. You’ve done some traveling as well. What have been your favorite places to photograph around the world?
D. Favorite is a tough call. One time I rode on a helicopter with my girlfriend (@fattymcfattersonmcgee) into the Grand Canyon at sunrise and landed for breakfast…that was pretty fun.
A. How has photography altered your life?
D. I definitely catch a lot more sunsets, climb more mountains, and fly around more cities than before.
A. Your Moonrise Time Slice got a lot of attention. How did that project come to fruition?
D. Lately I’ve found myself tracking the moon and following its path. I’ve taken several time-lapses of the moon rising and setting. This particular rise I managed to line up with downtown and have the moon come from behind the skyline as an orange pumpkin and rise up through light clouds morphing into a glowing white ball. I posted a video of this on my site HERE along with a still collage and a looping animated gif. That was my most popular blog post to date with 150k+ re-blogs including the Huffington Post and Gizmodo.
A. Where did you shoot that from?
D. I shot that from the roof of a building I was working at in Fairfax village.
A. What apps do you consider to be the golden, most important apps for mobile photographers to use? Why?
D. My go to app is Sun Surveyor. This app lets me use a map or 3D compass to tack the sun or moon at any time or date. It’s real helpful to plan where you want to be and when. A lot of my moon rise / sun set photos would have been a lot tougher with out it.
Ravi Vora & the Instagram Generation by Andres Tardio
Is this an Instagram generation? Ravi Vora thinks so.
Vora, a filmmaker, photographer and creative director recently released “An Instagram Generation,” a 3-minute-long film documenting a recent Instameet in Santa Monica, California. The short clip is also a commentary on how a simple app is creating unity among like-minded strangers. It’s a view into what has made Instagram a popular destination for all kinds of people, from creative mobile photographers to selfie-making experts.
Whether you love or hate Instagram, it’s hard to dispute truth. The app is now home to over 100 million human beings. With over 45 million photographs posted daily and a billion likes tapped into existence daily, this is looking like a generation that loves Instagram as much as it loves touchscreen mobile devices. For this reason, Vora’s film is an important one that illustrates the enthusiasm, togetherness and creative spirit that allows some users to explore.
Beyond this, the film and app have opened doors for Ravi, as he explains in this interview. These doors were not only unlocked by the app but by his talent, one that has proven to be an inspiration to that Instagram Generation.
A: Everyone seems to have either a defining moment or a series of minor moments where they fell in love with their art form. What was this process like for you? When did you fall in love with photography?
R: To be perfectly honest, when I was in high school I thought photography was hardly an art form. This, of course was before I understood what it took to make a great photo. I imagined you just pointed a camera at something already beautiful and hit the button. What kind of art was that? A photographer, in my mind at the time, was not a creator – but a documenter. When I was in college my father bought a camera for me and once it was in my hands there was no going back. I took it out in my rural backyard (I lived in a part of Michigan you’ve never heard of at the time) and took photos of the fresh layer of snow. I found icicles and was mesmerized at how I could capture the different ways the light spilled through them. Since then, I’ve never had a camera far from hand. Whether it’s film work or stills, I learned that the art is in crafting a story through an image. Every decision you make as a photographer can lead to a completely different story.
A: How about mobile photography? When did you realize this was going to be something you focused on?
R: This happened for me in October of 2012. Before that, I had used Instagram like most people, taking pictures of things I was interacting with on a daily basis. Then, in October, I took a trip home to visit my father in Michigan. While there I realized a lot of the beauty of my hometown and wanted to share it with people. Especially during Autumn, Michigan is an incredibly beautiful state. I had my iPhone with me and I started shooting in an aesthetically pleasing way and people responded to it. Once it sunk in that mobile photography was a way for me to share my experiences instantly and in a way that would make me push myself, I was hooked.
A: Obviously, you enjoy meeting with likeminded individuals who share this passion for photography. Can you recall your first instameet? What was it like? What were you feeling before, during and after it?
R: My first instameet was in November of 2012, with @jebo88. He was the first instagrammer to feature my work on his feed and he lived in Belgium. Luckily, he’s dating a girl in Los Angeles and came to town for a brief visit. I got to meet up with him and we went into the mountains for a foggy sunset. My father was in town as well and it was great to get out, even for an hour or so to see the beautiful landscape. We took photos of each other, exchanged stories, photo tips, and were good friends almost immediately. When you have so much in common with someone, it’s hard NOT to find something to talk about. After that first meet I had an itch to meet more instagrammers on a one-on-one basis and in groups. People I followed or had never heard of, it didn’t matter. It’s just a great experience to meet people who like creating.
A: What has been your favorite instameet experience? Why?
R: Favorite? I don’t think that’s the word I’d use. Each meetup is memorable in it’s own way, from the locations we visit to the people I go with. My favorite kind of meetups are when we arrive somewhere and either the weather or an idea or something magical happens that changes our expectations and we walk away with amazing photos to commemorate our adventure.
A: I know you’ve done a lot of film work and you also do some great stuff with your SLR. However, I know you keep the Instagram app for sharing exclusively iPhone shots. Why do you feel that’s an important facet of the app?
R: Because that’s the medium. I don’t particularly care if someone only posts iPhone or not. But, for example, if you hear of someone who was poor and made themselves a success, it’s much more impressive than if someone had their parent’s money. Similarly, if someone can capture a moment and make it impressive with a phone, then it’s doubly impressive to me. It shows people that photography isn’t about how much money you put into it, it’s about how you explore and see the world. The ideal world would be if we could do away with cameras entirely in the photographic process. Using our eyes and our imaginations without the technological limitations would free people to create however they choose.
A: You and @lolameyers have been on several adventures, which you guys have captured in your feeds. What’s been the most interesting adventure you guys have had over the last year or so?
R: Either our trip to Colorado and Arizona over the holidays, our day trip to Sequoia National Park, sunrise over the clouds in Santa Barbara, or most recently our trip to San Francisco. All of them were exciting and I like to think of our adventures as a continuous rollercoaster of finding new places to explore, coming back home, then planning our next adventure.
A: As a part of the Los Angeles community of Instagram users, what are three of your favorite Los Angeles locations?
R: Downtown Los Angeles has slowly grown on me. I’m not very good at capturing urban photos, but I do my best. Malibu has some gorgeous beaches which I love to shoot in different kinds of weather and times of day. Finally, my very favorite has to be the mountains surrounding Los Angeles. They are otherworldly when there’s bad weather and I love getting away from the city for awhile and just enjoying the outdoors.
A: I know you also travel and shoot in different locations. What’s been the best place for you to shoot in outside of California?
R: Anywhere that has unique landscape. Like I mentioned before, Michigan has a lot of natural beauty to offer, especially during Autumn. Another great place is Colorado. It’s gorgeous and showcases so many different looks with varying weather.
A: Who are other artists that inspire you in your work (they don’t have to be photographers or Instagram users)?
R: Christopher Nolan, Bruno Aveillan, David Fincher, Emmanuel Lubezki, Darren Aronofski, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Crewdson, Danny Boyle, the list could go on forever…
A: I think it’s important we discuss An Instagram Generation. How did this idea come about?
R: The instameet was a collaborative effort between @christianflorin and @projectlife365. They reached out to me to be a part of it and we decided there should be a video. I then took it upon myself to use the instameet as a vessel to showcase what meetups were like. My friends don’t really understand instagram or the culture of it, so I wanted to — perhaps slightly selfishly — have a reference point for people to understand this world of instagram meetups. Between making real friends and going on adventures, instagram meetups have had a very positive impact on my life and I wanted people to see the potential of these meetups and how they could be involved.
A: What did you hope to convey with the video? What has the response been like so far?
R: I hoped that more people would meet up, see how a meetup could make a real difference in their lives, and hopefully lead to some real friendships. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People contact me about the video almost every day and it’s even been picked up by PBS. I’ve noticed more meetups happening, whether that has anything to do with the video or not, and it makes me immensely happy every time I see two random strangers getting together to take photos.
A: How much has mobile photography changed your life?
R: It’s given me a passion for adventure, led to job opportunities, friendships, career advancements, honed my creative eye, and I’ve even been interviewed!