HighlightMerek Davis


HighlightMerek Davis

It's certainly an impressive feat to capture and convert a certain mood with a picture.  At times it's even more impressive to be able to craft that mood from the ground up.  Blending insanity is certainly an attribute we've come to love from our friend, Ilja (@jqnv).  The sheer imagination required to construct such beautiful and innovative pieces is a wonder all to itself (such as the image above created using pictures from @radam2).  We caught up with Ilja recently and attempted to discover where he finds the inspiration to build picture upon picture in such an intriguing way.  You can read our chat below!

To start with, my name is Ilja and I originally come from Latvia. I was living in Denmark for a long time and most of what I do is Medialogy/Interaction design. I enjoy all kinds of creative activities but photography and graphic design are what I enjoy the most.  Editing and learning new and different techniques is also a part of my interests and where I prefer to be. I love to spend time with my family and my dog, Bentley.  However, I also love to see new places and learn about a lot of new cultures. I mostly listen to electro/trance music, but in the wider variety I enjoy all genres and can listen to all. 

How did you first get into photography and design?

I received my first camera from my dad when I was 12 and since then photography became my biggest interest. It was a film camera, so it was great to learn from those techniques where you can't delete the shot if you don't like it. Later on I turned to digital photography, mostly because the process became different and in some ways easier, but still I enjoy the film-processing techniques too. 

Design became an interest when I graduated from art school where I studied for 4 years and since then I’ve been interested in implementing my painting, editing, and graphic techniques digitally. 

I have been editing and post-processing my photography, while at the same time blending those techniques with some graphics and and other elements.  A lot of what I was learning was through tutorials and my friends, who have helped me a lot in learning and developing my style.

How would you describe your style?

In my editing process I prefer to keep up the moody and atmospheric tones, while adding a dreamy focus at the same time.  Some graphic elements are also a part of my editing style. 

In my editing style I prefer to use Lightroom, where I import the image, find a preset I am going to use and do some color corrections and adjust several settings depending on the subject and mood of the photo. 

Later on I use Mextures to create the formula with corresponding tones to the imagery I am post-processing. I prefer to use Intensity and Vintage Gradients packs to keep a great balance between the layers and also to keep the image looking smoother. 

When the image is done, I use variety of apps to blend images together, to add some effects and graphics to them (Union app, Lensdistortions, Skylabapp, etc). 

Sometimes I prefer just to import images directly to Mextures and edit them there since the app has so many powerful tools to achieve the best result. I find this to be a really great and professional approach from the Mextures team to focus on the quality of presets and different tools and also an interface that is really nice and comfortable to use. 

One great help in developing my style has been @mexturescollective, since I was not quite sure in the beginning how to focus on specific themes and not to 'overdo' the work. 

I find this to be a really great opportunity to get to know many talented photographers and designers who share weighty feedback and communicate with others.  That is the best part of this community. I am really glad that I have joined the community and am always looking forward to getting to know more interesting people who are all so talented in many different ways. 

How specifically do you tend to use Mextures in that process?

I use Mextures to add some moody tones via presets and also to do some adjustments during the process. I love crispy tones and vintage-moody atmospheres in my shots. Mextures helps a lot in adding a great touch to the imagery I am working with. It also makes a great combination for creating different moods with the help of several light leak overlays. 

What is it that you want to communicate with your work? 

I prefer to communicate the presence of the moment. The feeling that the person is there inside the scenery that I shot or work I have edited. 

In most cases I want to take the viewers away from focusing simply on one detail of the work I create, because it creates an inaccurate perception of the piece itself. I love to use some details as a sort of signature of my style such as different kinds of lighting.  Light leaks on nature scenes for example. That is not, in my opinion, distracting but helps the viewer to more easily identify my work. 

Can you share some of your formulas?

In order to start, I would say that I have many favorite formulas, but some of them I really love because they turned out crispy, not too heavy and I sometimes use them as a foundation for my edits - except the occasions where I need to create a new and fresh formula for a particular piece. For example, I enjoy @mexturescollective a lot, where you need to come up with a fresh formula every edit you create.  In those situations I prefer to create my formula patiently and sometimes I can delete the formula if I see there are some issues with tones or it's too heavy. 

So here they are : 

CUXCVXB -Awaken Force - This formula was created as a collab for one of the MxC rounds where I have used the tones corresponding to the atmospheric scenery and I stuck to my style where I prefer to use a mix of Grunge textures combined with some Dust and Dirt.  This way I can create the atmosphere I need. In this particular formula it is important to mention that you’ll get smoother results if you use textures on a lower opacity. Usually I prefer to adjust them in the range of approximately 40-45%. To make layers more smooth I use Grit and Grain textures and in most of the cases it works great for me. 

NMMWZJI - Towards Unknown - Here I have worked primarily with deep and dark tones and it helps to achieve dark purple tones  in the sky and also, with the help of moody textures, it can give a nice and smooth moody edit. I like this formula and think it can be used for some nature sceneries where you have some mountains for example and your focus is to highlight the sky in more dramatic ways. 

WJNQVTS - In this formula I focused on a better highlight of the sky and making the main theme of the shot - vortex and movement - look powerful. This particular formula is great for you to have a clean formula with dark purple and blue tones with heavy shadows. 

ANWSUZJ - Nightwatch - This formula was created as a part of the MxC and it was meant to highlight the theme of a night sky.  Cold tones are present in this formula to make it look dark and smooth at the same time. I love this formula because it's light at the same time and it can be used for a variety of night shots where you need to highlight your night skies. To make the starry mood even smoother I used several adjustments. 

Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process? 

Mextures has unique textures that come directly from real film scans and give the best result and save all of the tones so that photos look as if they were shot by great film cameras. This fact makes me feel  closer to the editing process since it has all of the necessary tools for a great result as if it was processed in a real film lab. Some time ago  I worked a lot with film.  So when Mextures was launched it was truly a gold mine for me and I involve the app in every single work I create. 

It also offers a lot of different tools for finalizing your work and polishing it as well as sharpening, changing tones and adding fade. In my opinion, Mextures is a really great app for those who enjoy creating and developing their style since it offers the best film presets and textures to make your work unique.  Every formula you create is different and that is what is great about the editing process. 

What has been your favorite piece to create so far?  

There are several pieces I really love but there is one that I particularly love - it was a collaborative work and edit I made with one of @sage_jonesy’s shots during a Mextures Collective round.

I took two of his shots and blended them in Union to create a scene of the man standing on the top of the mountain with a light in his hands under the starry night sky. In this edit I tried to show the person's soul and how he was waiting to see that particular moment in the stars appearing.  This piece helped me to develop my style further and I am once again thankful to the Mextures team for making this dream of mine alive.  Without Mextures I couldn't achieve many of my goals and or be able to create further. To finalize the piece I used Aliensky to make the starry sky look more crispy and sharp. This allows the viewer to see the depth of the sky and to feel as if they were standing on the top of the mountain and waiting for their favorite star to appear.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece memorable?

In my opinion a memorable piece is when you are able to follow your imagination and step-by-step try to visualize all of your inner thoughts. In all of the edits I do there are some dreamy aspects and and thoughts behind the piece. I realize that it's not always a great idea to create a long story when you post your work on social media because it makes some users shy away from the piece. That is why I try to balance the text and visuals I am posting. Memorable pieces are always the ones you have invested some feelings, expressions and passions in. 

Who are the people that have most inspired your work?

There are always many people who are close in style and process and who have become a great support in all sorts of ways.  Those values of sharing experiences and processes they’ve attempted are the ones I highly appreciate. 

Since there are many different styles I personally enjoy it's hard to mention just a few because every person is unique in some way and that makes the development of their style even more interesting.

In my particular case I would mention @eleathar, @sage_jonesy, @_cantus_, @521gemini, @guardiansoftrance, @lvnatikk, @arclesscurve, @mya.alive, @boco_blondie, @shadowboxer, @j_swaine and @tim_hf.  This list could go further and further but those people gave me inspiration and also the confidence to believe that I can create.  There are always times when you feel you are kind of lost in ideas and it's difficult to make a great balanced piece. 

Just to add some to this answer, I would also mention the fact that communication is really important.  If you would like to connect or learn in some way do not hesitate to drop a line to those who really inspire you. Focusing on numbers doesn’t tell the whole story.  The most valuable piece is how you are able to understand what was behind the piece created by that particular person.  Every one of us is unique in some way and it is always great to get to know different and talented souls. 

It is a great pleasure to me to know so many supportive and creative people who enjoy what I do and every word being said by them has kept me motivated.  Best of luck to you in your creative process!

Be sure to view more of Ilja’s outstanding work here!