Tell us a little bit more about yourself.
I am currently a nationally ranked gymnast in the United States, and I surf and write music (guitar, piano, lyrics). Also, I come from a family of 5 kids.
Where do you currently reside in and where do you love to shoot at?
I currently reside in West Point NY, where I attend the United States Military Academy, but I’m originally from southern California. There is a certain location in Cornwall, NY with a bunch of ponds and open grasslands and few old run down residences.
What made you start photography?
My dad used to mess around with photography, and was helping me take pictures with my phone one day and got me hooked. I’ve always appreciated art and music. This creative outlet (photography) made sense because it allowed me to create a tangible product that others could appreciate while still at the military academy.
We understand that you are in the US Military Academy. What is your rank and how are your days like?
I am currently a Cadet (C3) but will commission to become a second Lieutenant next summer.
During the summer we have our military training, leadership details, internships, and military schools (airborne, air assault, etc). During the school year we have morning formation at 6.30am and proceed to academic, military, and physical classes. After this we have either military training, club, or NCAA sport training until about 7.00pm, then either do our schoolwork or deal with responsibilities from or leadership positions within the corps of cadets.
What made you start taking photos in the camp and how do you go about with it?
I saw all these interesting scenarios, and couldn’t help but cry inside that I couldn’t take a picture. That’s when I started using my phone. Phones are not allowed during most movements and training in the field, but you have to risk it sometimes to get a good shot, or only use the phone when it’s allowed.
What is your style of photography?
I like to shoot with almost a “travel journal” style of photography. I like to show the true story behind a scene or situation and communicate a meaning rather than just a picture. This is why nature photography is interesting to me, but I usually prefer human subjects in a natural scene.
Being in the military is tough for you I suppose, what motivates you to keep going?
The motivation is the knowledge that my life will help others when I graduate. From this the motivation stems to be the best I can for those who depend on me in the future. My classmates also motivate me. We help each other out and get each other through the difficulties of everyday life at the academy.
Any interesting experiences while you were in the academy?
Well, the most interesting story was when we were doing summer training and I got hypothermia after we had not eaten or slept for 3 days.
Do you sneak up on your fellow mates to shoot?
Usually I take pictures when people are distracted doing their jobs.
We really do love your portrait shots, what made you to decide to venture into taking portraits?
I wouldn’t call myself a portrait photographer, but I prefer to have a human subject in my photographs even if he or she is not the main focus. This is because people are interesting. Each unique person has a different story. This becomes evident in photography when it causes the audience ponder, laugh, cry, wonder, or admire, depending on the subject and composition. This is why glamour shots never interested me. Every person has a story, and I try to capture a small piece of that in each photograph.
Do you have any photography inspiration?
Frank Ockenfels (Hollywood/journal photographer). He acted as my photography mentor and let me photograph the Vampire diaries posters with him in Hollywood. He also taught me how to really use light to my advantage. His work inspires me.
Chris Burkard (surf photographer for surfer magazine). His pictures are unique and extreme in the way that he goes places where others will not (Snow storm surf sessions, arctic circle, northern lights, etc). His photographs really inspire me to create beautiful images for others to appreciate.
The Website 1x.com is one of my favorite photography sites that inspires my work
Currently, what equipment do you use to photograph?
I currently borrow a sponsor’s canon 1Dx, for higher quality shoots, but if I’m in a hurry, I grab my Nikon D90. However, with the time constraints on my schedule, I often prefer to shoot with my iPhone 5s because “the best camera is the camera you have with you” - Rocky Glenn. My favorite lens for the D90 is a 50mm F/1.8 fixed lens and for the 1Dx usually a 70-200mm f/2.8. This does vary depend on what I’m shooting, but these are usually my preferences.
What photo software do you use to edit?
When I shoot with my DSLR, I use Aperture for pretty much all my editing. I don’t really do hard editing, but if necessary, I’ll use Photoshop. However, these instances are few and far between. For Instagram photography, I usually use a combination of editing apps. My main go to app is VSCO cam, but occasionally I use Snapseed for the correction of minor details.
What is your current singer/band obsession?
What is something you cannot live without?
My family and phone
What is your most commonly use acronym when you text someone?
Would you rather live in a house made of Lego or duct tape?
LEGO because I could rebuild it to whatever specifications I want.
A quote that best describes you?
“Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” –Aristotle
Any tips for our readers?
I’ve been fortunate enough to get mentored and critiqued by some very successful photographers, and though their style’s and job description may vary, their advice remains consistent—focus on developing your eye rather than your ability to proficiently work expensive equipment. I started photography with an iPhone 3, and didn’t even touch a DSLR for at least a year. This helped me focus on the true composition and content of the photo. Although iPhoneography is useful because of its convenience, it also provides me an outlet to explore new concepts and further develop my eye. I encourage others to do the same as well. Here is a quote by my mentor,
“All great photographers can create great photography with an iphone and that’s it. No filters, editing, flashes, but just the ability to manipulate light. These are only tools to take photography to the next level, but the most important tool is your eye.” –Frank Ockenfels.
Lastly to conclude, what can we expect from you in the near future?
I am a senior now, so I graduate next year and earn my commission from the president to become a 2nd lieutenant (officer) in the army. I'll get more opportunities to travel, train, and possibly deploy to other countries which also provides additional photography opportunities as well. I’m excited not only to start working as an officer, but also expanding my military iPhoneography portfolio.