About me - jphelps2630

A bio about me should say something like "…prize-winning photographer with more than 20 years of experience.  His work has appeared on magazine covers, in art galleries, private collections and has been featured on travel websites. But while the recognition is interesting, I do this for the sheer joy of the creative experience. It's just for fun.

I live in Austin metro area between the Black Land Prairie and the Hill Country. It's a beautiful place with a wonderfully rich culture that continually provides great opportunities for pictures.

Photography has been my passion since college.  I once took a course from Nathan Lyons at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester New York.  He advised the class to never throw any of your work away because, hey, you never know… I took that to heart and now have a closet full of photos and a tote full of hard drives.

Book publishing was interesting a few years ago but is really hard work. I've put together 4 books, "Against the Asking Years" (2010), "Tom and Heather Get Married" (2009), "Blackland Prairie" (2008) and "Ruth Chatfield - In the Wind" (2007). They are available at blurb.com.

My work has been displayed in a couple of gallery shows at Texas State University as well as Riverbend Center.  The pics were printed big on canvas which looks great in galleries but costs a fortune. I love canvas prints but man, you've really got to be committed to the picture.

Next up is leading Workshops and Photo Walks. It's time to give back to the community.  I love going out taking pictures in interesting places and it's even more fun when friends come along. Check out TravelLight Photo Workshops for more info on what's in the works.

About my gear:

I've gone the route of the big heavy camera bag filled with a couple of DSLR bodies and every focal length from ridiculously short to crazy long. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I've learned that all this stuff kind of gets in the way. I would feel this crazy obligation to use every lens in every situation. Plus a big Nikon body with an 18-200 zoom on it weighs about as much as a gallon jug of water and is just about as much fun to carry. So I've become a firm believer in less being more.

Sony a6000 vs Nikon D500

My current favorite camera is a Sony a6000. I've got a Tamron 18-200 and a Sony 10-18. Both are outstanding. So my camera gear is pretty simple, lightweight and easy to carry around in a small messenger bag. Can't say enough good things about the a6000. It's a camera designed by computer guys. In contrast, my Nikon was a camera designed by camera guys. I could use the Nikon to pound tent stakes into the ground on a camping trip and it wouldn't hurt it at all. It's that durable. But the Sony just blows it away in terms of sophistication of the imaging engine. Built-in panoramas, HDR, simple bracketing, etc. Of course, the Sony isn't workable substitute for a rubber mallet and I'm sure I will eventually trash it banging it around and taking it out in the rain. But hey, it was half the price of the Nikon and when I finally destroy it, I'll just buy another one. Upgrade with a smile.

I've also got a Sony A7s with Sony 24-70 and Sony 24-240 zoom lenses. It has incredible handling characteristics. It's just a joy to use. The only drawback is that it is a bit big so I really only use it in low light or in situations where it's best to shoot silently like church, concerts, etc. 

About my computer:

I'm a computer guy working for a computer company. Since I spend a lot of time with Photoshop, and I'm not very patient, I'm a firm believer in having as much computer horsepower as you can afford. Nobody ever complained that their computer was too fast.

I'm currently using a home built system with an overclocked i7-2600k, 16 GB of RAM, 240 GB SSD boot drive and a couple of 2 TB hard drives along with numerous external drives. Yeah, it's fast. But the best part are the two Dell 27" UltraSharp monitors. Both are the high-end calibrated version that covers the Adobe 1998 color space - big, sharp, and the colors are accurate. Buy one. Got a bonus this year? Buy two. Nobody ever complained that their monitor was to sharp, too big or too accurate.

It may seem kind of crazy but I use ACDSee Pro instead of Lightroom for keeping track of my 80,000+ photos. Yeah, I own Lightroom because it's included with the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan.  But ACDSee is enough better to make it worth the additional investment. It doesn't require importing your pictures, it just reads you hard drive. That in itself greatly simplifies workflow. 

TravelLight Photo Workshops:

This is my next adventure!  We have put together a small venture to get people together for Photo Walks and Workshops. Photography is great fun and even better when you share it with others. Check out the website.!