Photography by J.D. Magers

Who inspires me photographically?

Added on by J.D. Magers.

As I really begin to buckle down and get back in to writing here on Focus The Frame, I have been thinking a lot about inspiration and what moves me photographically.  I just counted, I have 52 photography books, 7.5 years of Outdoor Photographer magazine, 7 years of Photoshop User magazine and 2 years of National Geographic on the book case shelves in my office.  Wow, lucky for me my wife supports my book buying wishes, as I'm sure that's quite a bit of cash.  I guess it's not bad though when you consider I have been shooting since that family trip to Thailand in 2006.  That's only six per year, so that isn't that bad right?  

Anyway, I love books for many reasons.  I have a nice mix of teaching books and coffee table books, and everything in between.  If I am feeling unmotivated, I will sometimes open up one of the coffee table books and just start looking at the photographs.  Usually that's all I need to become inspired.  So speaking of inspiration, here are the top ten photographers who I currently get the most inspiration from.

10.  Art Wolfe - Art Wolfe is a legendary photographer.  I had read his work as a contributor to Outdoor Photographer, but I really started to follow him after accidentally catching an episode of his public television TV show, Travels to the Edge.  I found myself transfixed.  And I couldn't turn it off.  The images that I was seeing were stunning.  Last year, Art put 40 years of his best work into a gorgeous book called Earth is my Witness: The Photography of Art Wolfe.  It's admittedly a little pricey, but what could I expect from 400 pages of some of the most beautiful photographs you'll ever see.  I bought if for myself for Christmas, and I don't regret it for a second.  

9.  Colby Brown - I'm a big fan of Boulder, Colorado based photographer Colby Brown.  He is a landscape, travel, and humanitarian photographer.  I recall first finding Colby through that humanitarian work, when I found some of the photographs he took after the Haiti earthquake.  I remember being moved by the photos, and was interested in learning more about the plight of most Haitians.  I always knew it was a poor country, but I didn't know it was that poor.  After seeing these images, I started following his career a little more closely.  He is one of the foremost experts on social media marketing on photography and building your brand.  In full disclosure, I am using some of the techniques I have learned by following Colby's career in how I am approaching this blog and finally trying to launch my photography business.  Colby Brown is definitely someone to follow.  The fact that he is in Boulder, and I work in Boulder means I should probably contact him and offer to buy him lunch, maybe see if he has ever thought about mentoring.  You can see more of Colby's work here:

8.  Moose Peterson -  Up until a couple of years ago, Moose Peterson was THE photographer to follow if you wanted to be a Nature Photographer (which I did).  With over 30 years of experience shooting "critters", Moose does an extraordinary job of being able to translate his knowledge into inspirational images on his website, and classes on KelbyOne.  Part of what really drew me in is his ability to identify birds.  I am also interested in birding, but trying to learn to identify species can be downright frustrating at times. Moose makes it look so easy.  Today Moose is after a new challenge.  The majority of his photography these days is geared towards vintage aircraft in flight.  

7.  Tom Till - Growing up in Western Colorado means I spent a lot of my youth in Eastern Utah.  I often comment on pictures from the Moab area that Utah is my mistress.  I love Utah.  Particularly Arches, Canyonlands and Lake Powell.  When I think of photographs from Utah, I immediately think of Moab based landscape photographer, Tom Till.  His compositions are stunning, and he has been shooting long enough that he instinctively knows how to deal with that famous Utah color: red.  The best part of living in Moab is it is so close to Arches and Canyonlands.  Tom has an innate ability to be able to predict a glorious sunset, and he knows the parks well enough that he can get to a location with a composition already in mind so he can make the shot at just the right moment.  Truly awesome.  Check out his gallery here.

6.  Joe McNally - The master of flash himself.  Joe McNally is the ultimate freelance photographer.  He has shot for National Geographic for over 30 years.  He has books that are very easy reads.  He has training videos on KelbyOne which are some of the best and most informative on the entire site.  And I have seen him live in person twice.  These seminars taught me more about off camera flash in one day than I could get in weeks of watching youtube videos.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a more passionate photographer and teacher.  The only thing I wish Joe did more of is post to his blog.  But when you travel 200+ days a year, I can see how that would be more a little bit lower on the priority list.

5.  Shawn Reeder - I first learned about Shawn Reeder while reading about him in the October 2012 issue of Outdoor Photographer.  After reading that article, I just had to find the video that was being written about and see it for myself.  It absolutely floored me.  This video is absolutely gorgeous, and I still watch it whenever I find I need a little bit of inspiration.  Check it out yourself below:

4.  Chris Burkard - Another photographer learned about in Outdoor Photographer, this time October of 2013 (Hey, maybe I should check the October 2014 issue to see if there's a theme!).  From the moment I read that article, I could tell that Chris Burkard is the absolute real deal.  If you go to his website (, you'll see picture after picture of extremely dedicated people.  That's an understatement, because that's what you have to be to go surfing in the coldest oceans on the planet.  The cold water doesn't faze Chris though (just watch the TED talk below).  He manages to pull off image after image.  I enjoy viewing his work a great deal, and come back often to both his website and his Google + page.

3.  Zack Arias - These next two photographers are really 2a and 2b.  I find myself inspired by both of them a great deal.  I'm convinced that Atlanta based photographer Zack Arias is one of the coolest people on the planet.  He is brutally honest with who he is, and where he's at as a photographer.  If you want proof, just Google Zack Arias "Transform" and see for yourself.  This video is so very humbling, and I actually have a reminder on my phone to watch it at the first of every month.  Over the last couple of months, as I have been planning for the rejuvenation of the blog, I have been watching this video a lot.  It's a monthly kick in the butt to get going, to just start, and to see where we can take this thing.  Zack's not much of a blogger, but his book is a great read, and he also has a training class on KelbyOne.

2.  David DuChemin -  David DuChemin's photography is just wonderful.  But it's his writing style that I find myself coming back to.  David's blog is a weekly read for me, and I have two of his books.  David is really big on listening to your muse (which is another way of saying to follow your heart) and living the creative life that we all so desperately want.  Photography is so much more than taking photographs.  It's about the ability to See, and to Experience, and to be a Living part of this World.  David helped to craft these ideas, and when I read his words, I can't helped but be moved by them.  Seriously, check David out.  You won't be sorry.

1.  Scott Kelby - Scott Kelby has been mine and a whole lot of other people's main source of inspiration for a number of years.  He is the #1 selling author on Amazon for photography books for something like 10 years in a row.  The books are great, and as you can guess I own a lot of them.  But it's the business this man has built that I really admire.  The first few issues of Photoshop User magazine were distributed to only a few people within a 30 mile radius of his home in Tampa.  To take those beginnings, and transform them into the the business he runs today is awe inspiring to me.  He does it all, from portraits, to fashion, to sports, to the occasional landscape.  The foundation of everything about KelbyOne though, is the emphasis on teaching.  Without that, there would be no training videos for people to watch, no books for people to read, and no training seminars for thousands of people to attend.  Scott Kelby is a teacher (and one heck of a business man).  Plain and simple.

There you have it.  These are the 10 photographers and visual artists who are most influencing to me right now at this moment in time.  The one thing I noticed as I was writing is that the list is all men.  That is in no way intentional, and I'm not sure why there are no women on it.  I think it has a lot to do with the books that I have purchased over the years and the magazines I read.  I don't own many books written by women, and there aren't many magazine articles in OP, Photoshop User or my other magazines that are written by women either.  I think I'll take it as a challenge for another post to find some influential women photographer's and start to follow their work.  If you know any that I should look into, please leave a comment below.

That's all for today.  Thank you for reading.  More later...