The past few weeks we’ve been conversing with our friend, Sean Jackson (@sean_in_307). The landscapes that he captures are absolutely jaw-droppping and we truly admire his method of editing with Mextures. His routine creation of formulas so carefully crafted to each photograph and so terrifically detailed is one of the things that we have most enjoyed about his work. Sean also has knack for photographing with a very distinct composition - often from an angle that manages to capture some incredible natural reflections. We’ve compiled the highlights of our conversation in our latest tuesday feature. You can check it out in the News Section of the app or, as always, online at news.mextures.com!
I'm Sean. Sean Jackson. I hail from a magical land called "Wyoming," where I employ myself as a writer. I blog, mostly, writing about a thing here and some stuff there.
A great aspect of my job is that I can do it in my underpants if I choose to do so. However, I'm not a work-in-your-underpants type of guy, but it's nice to know that I could become one of "those people" should the mood strike.
Another great thing about my job is that I'm free to go do cool things like hiking, camping, and taking photos of mountains pretty much whenever I please. My favorite spots to undertake these activities are here in my backyard - the Wind River Mountains, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.
Nature is not my only love, however. I love dogs, in general, but especially my dog, a 10-year-old lab named Guster, who is the most awesome dog ever to walk the earth. Apart from his penchant to stare at me while he poops, he's perfect.
My other likes include butterscotch pudding, baseball, British television shows, and sarcasm.
Several years ago I embarked on a mission to one day do nothing but travel. That day is still a long way off, but when it finally comes, I'll focus on taking a lot more pictures of amazing landscapes.
How did you first get in to photography?
I would say I first started experimenting with photography when I was 13 or 14. I distinctly remember lugging around my dad's ancient Canon 35mm camera when we visited the Grand Canyon. That's my first memory of being stoked about taking pictures of pretty things. I also remember wearing a fedora throughout that trip. I'm not entirely sure what that was about.
When I was in high school, I took photography and was part of the newspaper staff and worked on the yearbook as well. We worked in digital format, but we also learned the old school film ways, which was awesome. So naturally, that was the last time I ever used film.
I took photography again in college but was usually "studying" too much to ever actually do anything cool. I think I ended up with a C in that class, which is lame given how much I like the photographies.
I didn't do anything with photography for quite a few years after that. Then I got my first iPhone and wondered what that Instagram thing was, and, voila, here we are! I found that Instagram spoke to my creative side, so I found a lot of inspiration in the work of the people I began to follow. More importantly, Instagram also spoke to my lazy side, because who wants to spend all that time downloading photos to their Mac to edit them in Photoshop?!?!? So while it's become cliche to say it, Instagram is really what got me back on the photography bandwagon.
Your photos are typically edited in a way that really highlights the natural colors originally captured. What does that process generally look like?
My editing process is a little on the OCD side.
I use Mextures first. I usually roll through all the Guest Formulas to see how they look, because I don't want to miss out on one looking ever so slightly better than the one previous. I keep note of which ones I like the most, then check out the Landscape, Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall formulas, again, obsessively making notes about those I like. I eventually pick one, then end up changing it a little, if not completely. I adjust the opacity of each layer, then I make adjustments, my favorites of which are highlights and sharpen. After that, I save the formula (for sharing later!!) and put the photo through VSCO. Over there, I select a filter (again, after laboriously seeing how each one looks...) and adjust the opacity. As in Mextures, I make adjustments, although in VSCO I adjust temperature, contrast, shadows, and highlights. Then I sharpen more and finish with some fade.
Do you feel like Mextures offers anything to your editing process that other apps don’t?
I wouldn't say I've used a TON of apps to edit my photos, but in my experience Mextures offers the best fine tuning capabilities of any app I've used. I love that I can layer and layer and layer and adjust the opacity of each. And while I have gotten locked into using just a few of the textures over and over again, I like knowing that if I ever become more creative there are a bajillion options available. The same goes for formulas. I tend to use a select few (either those I've made or a few made by other people), but just knowing that there are hundreds of other possibilities makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
Would you mind sharing some of those formulas?
I recently created a formula (MDSAUAE) for a shot of the snow-covered mountains and a lake that was still as glass on a cloudy day. I wanted something clean and on the cool side temperature-wise, to reflect what it actually felt like being there. A touch of the Frosted texture gave the photo a bit of that bluish tone and also removed a bit of vignetting that was going on. There's a dash of Frozen thrown in there too, to help bring out a little more of the photo's cool tones.
Another recent favorite (XNGZLLE) of mine was created for a photo of a sunset. The original picture was pretty dramatic, but this formula increased the drama. The bit of Ice Sunrise darkened the sky and boosted the saturation of the clouds. I added a bit of Winter Skies as well to open up the foreground a little bit because it was pretty dark.
Since I usually opt for cool tones, I went out on a limb and warmed things up with a formula (EGZIWAF) that really highlights warmth. The biggest impact comes from an overlay of Fore at 52% opacity (I very rarely have the opacity so high on any given layer). I took the photo in fall, so I wanted to give it that feeling by drawing out the browns and yellows in the photo.
A final favorite is another fall-ish formula (FRSIVWZ). It was overcast, but sunlight was peeking through the clouds onto the mountains in the background. In the foreground was grass that was a mixture of green and yellow. I wanted to accentuate the brightness of those two areas, so I used Neutral Density to darken the sky. I used Vintage and Soil textures to give the formula a little vignette for some added drama as well.
What’s your favorite pack to play with in Mextures?
I'm a big fan of the landscape enhance pack. Go figure since all my photos are landscapes. I dig the radiance pack as well. I generally use textures from one or the other on every photo I edit.
What has been your favorite photograph to take so far and why?
In terms of a favorite subject to photograph, obviously I'm a landscape guy. More specifically, mountains. Even more specifically, the Tetons.
If I had to choose, I'd say my favorite photograph is one I took last fall at Schwabacher's Landing in Grand Teton National Park. There are beaver ponds along the Snake River that make for a perfect foreground for the Tetons, and, in particular, the Grand Teton. That late in the year the grass and leaves are starting to turn so there's this bright yellow that contrasts with the dark green of the pines. That particular day there was absolutely no wind, so the water in the beaver ponds was like glass and made for a brilliant reflection of the aforementioned grass, trees, and mountains. It was just an ideal moment to take a pretty good photo from my favorite spot in the park. It also helps that I managed to be there alone, which for such a popular tourist spot is quite rare.
Is there anything that you hope to accomplish through your photography?
Geez, that's a deep question! I'm not sure that I think about accomplishing anything when I take a photo. It's really self-serving if I'm honest. It's just something I enjoy doing. It's cool to look back through my Instagram feed or through my personal collections and remember each photo and what the day was like or what crazy people I encountered that day or how many times I've split my pants (I'm up to two!) while kneeling down to take a photo. I suppose when I go out shooting I just want to have a good time and capture some of the beauty of my surroundings!
Is music typically a part of your editing process?
I'm a music guy in that I listen to music. As far as making music, I'm not sure that my drunken tambourine exploits in college (yes...for real) qualify as being a music guy.
So, having said that, I always have tunes on when I'm editing photos (and most other times, for that matter). I have an eclectic taste in music. I have a particular affinity for oldies - Doris Troy, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Stevie Wonder...stuff like that. I also really dig awesomely bad 80s music (Rick Astley, anyone?). And, of course, 90s one-hit wonders are a favorite - The Wallflowers, Blind Melon, Semisonic, Crash Test Dummies, and Marcy Playground come to mind. I may or may not have the complete collection of Hanson as well.
As for my favorites that stand the test of time, Guster is at the top of the list. Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Nine Inch Nails, Alt-J, Beck, Alanis Morissette, Katy Perry, The Verve, and Ben Folds are other artists I can listen to all day long!
who are the people that have inspired your photography?
Unsurprisingly, I've been most influenced by fellow landscape lovers who post photos that have been simply and cleanly edited. From the outset, Christoffer Collin (@wisslaren) has been quite inspirational. I love his approach to composition and editing. I remember when he followed me and asked to collaborate - I was so excited some poo came out. Another early favorite is Jordan Herschel (@jordanherschel), whose use of vibrant colors as of late has inspired me to be less afraid of saturation. And although he's not necessarily focused on landscapes, I'm always blown away by the work of Ravi Vora (@ravivora). The dude knows how to take a photo and is one of a handful of my Instagram friends that posts stuff that literally makes me gasp in disbelief because it's so good.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Chase Natale (@cnatale9), who is one of my oldest friends from Instagram and who turned me onto Mextures in the first place. He's not afraid of grit, grain, light leaks, and texture, and I like the way he utilizes those components in his photos.
Make sure to check out more of Sean’s glorious photography here!