Emphasizing the glorious colors and impeccable lighting of the planet earth is something Josh Elliott (@wecollectskies) does quite efficiently. Josh's gorgeous toning techniques give his images a nearly audible "pop"when paired with such incredible scenery. We had a most excellent time chatting with him about metal, Mextures, and moth-juggling (Okay. We made that last one up for the sake of alliteration.). Read our recent interview with him and let us and Josh know what you think!
Hello! I'm Josh Elliott and I live in Somerset, UK.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
In school I was generally more interested in art, skateboarding and music rather than paying attention to general school life. I guess I was pretty normal, maybe a bit distracted.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
I always wanted to be a stuntman growing up, or a survival/bushcraft expert. I lived in the country, so spent most days building dens, making bow and arrows, exploring with the dogs.
Now I am a graphic designer and work at a desk, so a bit of a change from the original plan.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD?
My favourite comfort food is pizza.
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
My spirit animal is definitely a dog or wolf.
WHAT TWO CELEBRITIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE YOUR PARENTS?
If my parents were celebrities, I would have Jim Carrey as my dad and probably Sharon Osbourne as a mother.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR INSTAGRAM ALONE?
My Instagram was very different before. A few ask me why it is categorized as Musician/Band (I need to update it). The name “wecollectskies” comes from a solo music project (not recommended listening now as the quality is pretty bad). When I first started on Instagram, it contained random song ideas, guitar videos, drawings and random photo edits.
I guess one of the interesting things people wouldn't learn is that I had the best few years of my life touring as a guitarist in a pretty successful metal band (well, we thought so).
WHAT WAS THE WORST JOB YOU EVER HAD?
As a teenager I found the need to replace broken skateboards led me down the dark the path of supermarket bag packing. Whilst the variation of occasional trolley herding was an excuse for some 'fresh air', eventually, the added requirement to work during school hours sadly cut my career short.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT KEEP YOU INTERESTED?
Art came first. I always drew as a kid; doodling and later graffiti. Whilst skating as teenagers we began making our own skate videos and attempting to take photos. I went on to study art in college which involved photography modules. We altered these to fit in with our love of skateboarding of course. Taking our photos into the darkroom, I began to experiment with manipulating the development process; from scratching the negatives, over exposing, double exposure and burning film. I then moved away from photography and focused on music for a while. Whilst the desire to own a camera remained, I bought an iPhone 5s and discovered the wealth of photo apps available which reignited my interest in photography.
I decided to branch out and buy my first camera this year, I asked my close friend, Liam (@liam.jnd), who has inspired and supported me to get out shooting, talked me through my camera options. I'm not going to lie, I brought my DSLR (Nikon 5300) on impulse to just get shooting. Liam and I took our cameras out on a massive hike up to Worbarrow Bay in Dorset for its first test drive which opened my eyes to the possibilities of landscape photography.
Since beginning to share my photos on Instagram I have been fortunate to have met, communicated with and been approached by fellow aspiring and successful photographers, from which I have gained a great deal of knowledge and have been offered opportunities to develop my skills. I'm always eager to understand the thought and design processes behind other photographer’s work and constantly aspire to capture my own vision within my photos. The creative communities I have discovered continue to inspire me and to push my own boundaries
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
Social media is a powerful platform. The role it has played in my work has mostly been forming a connection with other artists and being able to share my work with others outside of my normal life. It's inspiring to see how others create and share their vision. I've met some amazing people from social media and it builds confidence in my work and also others. I always take the time to talk to others and it really drives me.
(Rant, this is a bit off topic)
However, I feel that social media can also hinder visions and I sometimes wish that people posted for themselves rather than be fixated on followers, likes and trends. I've noticed a growing trend for social status by the use of bots and follow/unfollow. Whilst it may work for some, I'm a strong believer in organic reach. In the MySpace era, I had my own solo music released on a label when I had very little followers. It then hit an insane number, my way of writing changed to please others, it led to a terrible writer’s block and I wasn't doing it for myself anymore. Now when I create, I think, “what do I want to see or hear”. It's made it fun again.
IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR WORK?
I guess I try and create a sense of mood and tone. I love fantasy, science fiction, apocalyptic films, art, video games and books. I like to be taken away from everyday life. I like showing a vision that is not quite real. In editing I try and create a more painted look; something more out of this world.
HOW DO YOU GENERALLY APPROACH YOUR EDITING PROCESS FROM START TO FINISH?
Before I used to take a ton of pictures and pray that I had something to work with. It was a bit random and used to be all on the iPhone using VSCO, Snapseed and Mextures. Now, I try and plan my shots based on where I am exploring.
When shooting, I am looking for colours, mood and depth and generally when I look through the viewfinder I can envisage the final edit (most of the time).
When editing, I shoot everything in RAW and also on the iPhone so I have options and a backup in case the shot didn't work and also to have more control when editing. I export everything to Lightroom and take away the bad shots (many). I have a quick scan of potential edits, and I tend to run them through a slideshow and turn off the computer. I always return after a couple days full of ideas and eager to edit.
Once in Lightroom, I'm looking for the colours I want to alter or enhance, the point of focus and general mood. I always start from scratch, generally correcting the exposure, crop, shadows and highlights, I try not to go too crazy here as I always do that in Mextures. I then move to the colours, I use the tone curves, HLS sliders and split toning. I generally do 1-3 edits and export to Dropbox to carry on in Mextures.
HOW SPECIFICALLY DO YOU USE MEXTURES IN THAT PROCESS?
Mextures is my mastering tool and final polish (secret weapon). Once exported, I import a picture to Mextures. I normal go through a few formulas that I have saved, most of these are a bit out there so I tend to start from scratch (I really need to save my formulas more often). I start with Radiance, picking complementary colours. I use ABALONE and LILY most of the time and then work on the adjustments and film presets (sometimes MISTY and VINTAGE). I then adjust the temperature, fade, shadows and then sharpen. Then I add a few more layers from Landscape Enhance or X-film. Sometimes I'll only use one layer and other times 5+. I play around with the blend mode on those until I land on my vision.
Some of my formulas (I need to rename these):
XEDVRVK - daynight
ILLMLKB - colour
HYDNEQN - YY
MRQPBUQ - Sea
LUSXQGM - winter
WHAT IS IT ABOUT MEXTURES THAT MAKES IT A VITAL PIECE OF YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
I think it's the ease of use and the clean UI that gets me straight into editing.
The creative possibilities are endless and it can suddenly transform an image into something completely different.
The tonal and texture options also spark new ideas. Sometimes I will go back to Lightroom after I have seen how Mextures created a different vision.
It takes me back to the experiments with film in Darkroom, with less mess and cleaner results.
I learned early on with the world of apps that less is more, it can hinder actual creation. The same in the audio world with stacks of instruments and plugins.
I need to limit my options so I can break, twist and experiment and set a focus. So now I exclusively use Lightroom and Mextures.
PICK TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE PIECES THAT YOU'VE CREATED: WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT MAKES THEM STAND OUT TO YOU?
I thought this would be harder, however, these images spark a personal achievement; moments in my life where everything was falling into place.
The 1st is Warminster.
This edit was a bit of a happy accident. I was experimenting in Lightroom. I wanted to bring out the strong tone and mood.
It was actually shot in the day on an iPhone 5s and was pretty bad in all honesty.
The edit just fell into place and as soon as I brought it into Mextures it all just worked.
When I uploaded it to Instagram I was happy that I was finding my tone. It didn't get many likes, but I was driven to do more edits like this.
It then got featured by @sombrescapes and 3 others and the feedback was unreal. I couldn't believe it. It sparked off my general editing process since.
The 2nd is Bristol.
Bristol has always been my home. I'd never been to this area and again, life was falling into place.
This was taken at an organised meet with @uk.shooters (which I was so grateful for and have met some amazing people).
The sun was setting and I knew I could add drama to the shot.
It took a number of shots and I came away a bit disappointed. Luckily I was able to capture my idea when editing.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
I'm always creating - from music to art and now photography. I am addicted to the sense of personal achievement. I love that feeling when everything clicks into place, but I also like overcoming creative blocks I suffer terribly from. And of course my friends and family are always supporting me so that always keeps me driven and passionate about my art.
IF YOU COULD STEAL CREDIT FOR ONE INSTAGRAM FEED, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
That's a tough one, but probably @kpunkka.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?
In all honesty there are so many, and I'm afraid of forgetting anyone (but they know who they are).
My good friend and mentor Liam (@liam.jnd). This guy has helped me out from day one of my photography. We share ideas, go on adventures and he's amazing at capturing and editing.
@shuttermayfire, @521gemini, @littlesquarelives, @merderich, @toim4woin, @euugenie, @viewfromalark, @_smurifious, @kris.avery, @josh.perret, @airpixels (and so many more). These guys seriously inspire me daily in terms of editing and vision. I love seeing their work appear on my feed.
Special mention to the @rsa_mextures (cozy) family. Kevin (@takes_picture) and Charla (@charla_yvonne). These guys have been supportive and really inspire me in my work. I love their work, soul and drive in what they do.
Be sure to check out more of Josh’s work here!