Meet Jason Tilikainen, a photographer/graphic designer from South Africa now residing in Finland: "For as long as I can remember, I have had a great interest in the way that our world looks and sounds. There is nothing that I enjoy doing more than using those sights and sounds to create my own works of art" - Jason

What inspired you to be a photographer?

So I'm originally from South Africa, where I studied to become a graphic designer as a profession. In my designs (usually promotional material for musicians), I would mostly use photos that I took, even though at the time I knew very little about photography and owned a really basic camera. About 5 years ago I moved to Finland. I had more free time, nature looked awesome, and ever since then I have been immersing myself in the wonderful world of photography. I also thought that it couldn’t hurt to develop new skills and that it might be a creative way of communicating with the people in my new country of residence. In short, I guess that living in Finland inspired me. I don't even know if I would call myself a photographer, I still have so much to learn.

What was your first camera and why do you choose the Nikon D7100 today?

My very first camera was just some incredibly cheap film camera that I got as a gift when I was a child. I remember enjoying my time with it and trying to get the most out of every shot. Maybe it subconsciously taught me about patience, as the film was limited and great moments were spread out. Most of my pictures that dwell online these days were taken with a Nikon D3200. I just recently upgraded to a D7100 because I managed to find a really good deal and I had read/heard that it was a great camera. I had also already owned some DX-format lenses, so that helped strengthen my decision. In the future, I intend to get a full-frame DSLR (if I would make money from photography), but until then I will use what I have to the best of my ability.

Who is your favorite photographer and why?

I don't really have one, but some names that come to mind would be Elia Locardi and Thomas Heaton. Locardi's blending of time and editing skills are spectacular, and I admire Heaton's determination as well as his great photos. Unfortunately, my historical knowledge of photography is poor, so I’m sure that I’m missing out on some big names. Feel free to school me this.

What is your dream location or dream subject to shoot?

There are so many incredible places that I wouldn't know where to start. I would like to go back to South Africa with my knowledge of photography now and see what I could do there. Maybe Namibia as well. The list of countries is just way too long. I also don’t travel purely for photography, so I usually just see what options are available at the location that I happen to be in.

Your most popular shots are very natural landscapes with very soothing colors and textures. Can you walk us through how you accomplished this, and any cheat notes for your followers?

So I often go out to take photographs just before the golden hour. I allow myself enough time to get to the location, plan a shot or two and then wait until the moment is right (you can get an idea from my Youtube videos). I usually take the shot when the sun sets on the horizon or a little later. I also recommend sticking around and being patient, because the sky can dramatically change after the sun goes down.

When taking the shot, I often do two different exposures, one for the sky and the other for the foreground. I do basic editing for each of them in Lightroom and then blend them together in Photoshop (google exposure blending). From there I do more adjustments according to what I think works best for the picture. Sometimes it becomes artier and sometimes I try to keep it more true to the moment. Just try different things and see what works for you.

Also when taking the shot, I try to get the whole image as sharp as possible, so I often will stick to an aperture from f8 to f13 and try to focus 1/3rd of the way into the scene. I check my DSLR’s screen after the shot to see if things are in focus (even though it can be tricky sometimes). I also often use an ND filter and wide-angle lens. Read up on these things to expand your options if you are doing landscapes etc.

Any tips for aspiring photographers?

Critique your own work (or let others critique it). Acknowledge your weaknesses, confront them and try to do better next time. Educate yourself on techniques, editing software, gear, and how things work so that you can do better along the way. Practice makes perfect, blah blah blah.

A decent camera will also help, but it won’t be walking out the door to take photos for you while you sleep on your potato chip-encrusted couch in your cola-stained PJs. Get out there!

Follow Jason so you do not miss any of his upcoming shots!