Ever wondered where all of those sweet gear shots on our Instagram feed come from? Time to meet the man behind the lens, James Huston. James is a freelance photographer based in Prescott, Arizona. I recently took some time to chat with him about photography, music, travel, and his ongoing projects. Check out our full conversation below!
Can you talk a little bit about how you got started as a photographer?
My journey with photography started during college when me and my good friend tried to start a YouTube prank channel. It sounds ridiculous now, and it was then. When that didn't pan out for obvious reasons, I sold my camera at the time because I needed the money. A year or two down the line, I was able to afford a kit camera that was $500. I mostly bought it because I wanted to take landscapes of all the places I hiked and traveled to. Soon enough, this became my escape from the world. I fell in love with the entire process.
And what were some of your early struggles?
In the beginning, I am not too sure I encountered struggles knowingly. I have to admit; I was pretty out of touch with the entire art and craft of photography. I was just free and naive when it came to composition, color theory, and simple editing. Looking at my work now, though, I can see I struggled a lot with the simple 'rules' of photography. Aside from that, finding my style or niche was my biggest struggle. I think that struggle is something most photographers face but overcome with time and practice. My biggest advice for anyone struggling with anything photography related would be to do what you like. If you like taking photos of butterflies, then do that! Or if you want to take pictures of people eating ice cream, do that! Just do what makes you happy, and eventually, the struggles work themselves out.
Do you feel that being "out of touch" may have helped you to find your own style?
This answer might be the opposite of what people want to hear or expect, but I wish I would have been more self-aware of being out of touch earlier. Even though I have years of shooting experience now, I wish I could have started mastering this craft earlier on. I kind of feel like I lost a lot of time during that phase of my life. I often think that I would be much further along in my 'career' as a photographer. On the other hand, I'm proud to say my experience was very much self-made. I have to remind myself that there are still plenty of sunsets headed my way.
Who/what influences your work?
The first thing that comes to my mind is music. Then I would say it's nature and then people. Music has always been important to me. I think when it comes to photography, music somehow helps set up the scene or mood for me. Even when I am struggling to be 'creative,' sometimes changing the track is all it takes. Music is also my faithful hiking companion, and it is always with me whenever I am climbing a mountain or walking through the woods. I guess it just brings out the emotions behind each photo I take, which is important to me.
Nature is an easy one. I wouldn't be able to believe it if someone told me nature didn't inspire them in some type of way. In my case, nature influences my color palette, mood, and urge to discover. I will always love the feeling of capturing a great landscape photo.
I think it's hard not to be influenced by people nowadays. Every time I scroll down my Instagram feed, I become influenced by the people I am following and the people following me. Some people would see that as a concern when it comes to originality, but I see it as a gift we give each other.
What is some music that you really like right now?
Oh man, I hate this question! It is always so hard to pick. A few songs that I always put on while I shoot are 'Ends of the Earth' by Lord Huron, 'Rivers and Roads', 'Another Story' by The Head and the Heart, and 'Nowhere Man' by Bryce Vine. Some top artists that I am really diggin' at the moment would be Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, Noah Gunderson, Bryce Vine, A R I Z O N A, Kid Cudi, Christian French, Lord Huron and so many more!!
When shooting for Nomad, what are some typical challenges?
My constant challenge is finding cool props and different textures to shoot on. The internet makes trends move so fast. I am always out shopping for new items to pair with Nomad products such as small plants, old cameras, tile slabs, notebooks, etc. Sometimes I have a hard time keeping things simple as well. I can get super excited about an idea and try to do too much with that idea when all it needs is a simple theme to come to life and look good.
What is one place you’ve visited that you would like to return to?
London! For some reason, this place captured my liking. It feels like being in a movie the entire time with all the old buildings, roads, subway systems, and museums. The whole city is basically like walking through an art gallery, and every turn you take is just as captivating as the last. It is also a huge city, and I feel it would be hard to explore it all, which is always intriguing. I wasn't doing photography at the time I visited either, so it would be fun to re-visit and photograph the city.
Bucket List Travel destinations?
So many more places on top of those!
Tea of Coffee?
Coffee all day. Cold brew and Chemex. That is all.
What is your favorite camera to shoot with?
I haven't shot with too many cameras, so I will have to go with my Sony a7iii. This is my upgraded camera from my Nikon d3400. I did a lot of research and I think the Sony brand fits my style when it comes to how I shoot. I'm not a huge believer that one brand is better than the other, honestly. I think it comes down to what functions are important to the user. Although I would consider one of the new Canons coming out, those look pretty rad. Then again, Sony just released a giant megapixel beast. Hard to choose nowadays.
Favorite Nomad Product?
Hard choice. I would have to say my rugged brown case for my iPhone 11 Pro. Anytime someone catches a glance of the case, they always ask where I got it. It has been a super fun conversation starter, and it fits my everyday carry vibe. AirPods case might be the runner up, but the charging pack is great when I'm traveling. Can I just say all of them?
Are there any artists or photographers in particular that inspire you?
I have a few favorite photographers that have really inspired me over the last few years. Peter McKinnon, Thomas Heaton, Eric Floberg, Jude Allen, and Daniel Schiffer have all had a huge impact on my direction with photography. Peter McKinnon really was the biggest inspiration when it came to product photography and being a positive influence in the community. So, Peter, if you are reading this, fly me to Canada and let’s shoot! I am also inspired by every photographer's work. I think everyone has a different eye for detail and that’s super valuable to be aware of.
Do you shoot much on your phone?
I have never posted an iPhone photo to my Instagram. I have to admit, though, the cameras on newer phones are crazy good. I think the iPhone is capable of some crazy shots, including video. Maybe I should challenge myself and try to take a few!
Can you talk a little bit about the shirts you are making?
My good friend Cray, who is killer with design work, wanted to collaborate. I happened to be already thinking about offering a t-shirt to the photography community that would directly reflect our passion in a cool and unique way. I think it's great to meet people in public and be able to make connections you wouldn't expect. I thought it would be easier to do so with a shirt that was designed well and could spark up conversation. Also, I just wanted a badass T-shirt to wear when I'm out shooting!
Any closing thoughts?
Just one! I would like to give a massive shout out to my girlfriend, Brittney. She has been my biggest supporter throughout my whole journey. I'm not sure anyone could handle my crazy life schedule of continually being on the move. I owe her the world.