Instagrammer: @lovedeathtravel

Every week I talk to a new photographer on Instagram.  They share their favorite locations, camera gear, and the best practices to have on Instagram.  This week is Ben Rooster, a production supervisor located in Washington D.C.

Ben Rooster

Ben Rooster

What sparked your interest for photography?  Any photographers that inspire you?  

I've been interested in photography for a long time.  My grandpa was a really good amateur photographer and hobbyist who used to have a ton of gear and even a darkroom in the basement.  He would also have these fantastic prints on the wall and I would go look at them every time I got to visit.  I think it helped to be exposed to creative outlets like that at an early age.  Nowadays, knowing my grandpa was this cool photographer is a source of pride and inspiration.  I've written on my Instagram feed that I still own and shoot with some of his gear, and I have taken some of his old prints for my own walls.  My grandpa has since passed, but one day I was at his old house where my aunt now lives and she gave an old box of stuff she had come across... field notes, tucked away in a leather folio.  It has a bunch of incredibly detailed notes regarding depth of field, exposure compensation.. on an on!  Things like this inspire me to be like him.. travel often, document the ride, explore your creative impulses!

As far as inspiring photographers, my visual tastes always flowed with my musical loves.  I absolutely love vintage rock and music photography... sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era.  Photographers like Henry Diltz, Gered Mankowitz, and Art Kane - these guys told the story of a generation and were witnesses to history.  

Photo taken by Art Kane (1962)

Photo taken by Art Kane (1962)

As far as Instagram goes, just a small random selection of some of my favorites... @ioegreer, @colerise, @michaelchristopherbrown, @fosterhunting, and @13thwitness

Your account is comprised of very bright and colorful images.  What draws you in too take these kind of photos?

I tend to go in phases with what I like to shoot and how I like to edit.  I think a lot of people would say the same thing.  I do like having the cohesive look and feel to my @lovedeathtravel account though so no matter what mood I'm in, I can still satisfy that desire to remain uniform in my style.  I do a ton of edits that never make it to account, some darker, more faded, etc.. As far as that bright style, it definitely originated (again) from my time in California.  Venice Beach especially was so bright and colorful - not just the location but the people themselves, the locals... I was shooting a ton of film, experimenting with lomography and cross-processing and getting these wild, bright exposures that screamed "California" and I think it's always been my go-to style ever since.  

What is your most favorite picture you have ever taken?  

Again, it is amazing how much I'll always credit those few years living near the boardwalk in Venice as kind of the 'formative years' for who I am today as a photography enthusiast.  It's also a good example of how my shots can have a darker edge as well.

This guy was a staple on the Venice boardwalk, one of the many who would set up in their assigned space to make money off the passing tourists.  Aside from the clothes on his back an his piano that had "Be Kind to Animals" painted on the back, I'm not sure he had many more possessions.  He wasn't just good at playing either - he was amazing.  Even a night like this when the tourists would stay home, windy and cold, he would stay out on the boardwalk and play because that's what he loved to do.  As for me, I knew it always made for interesting pictures when the boardwalk was deserted, so I headed out to finish off a roll of 120 I had loaded into my $20 Diana toy camera.  Of course, he was there playing.  I snuck up, snapped this shot, dipped a dollar in his jar, and slipped away.. I don't think he noticed me at all.  I was so happy when I got this processed and saw it for the first time.. it has that dreamy lo-fi quality that I love about the Diana, and you can see his hair blowing in the wind as he plays on.  A unique film shot that can't be duplicated.  I just love this one because of the time and place it takes me back to. (Photo below)

What is your favorite location to photograph?

It has to be the American Southwest... There is nothing like seeing that purple and gold sunset for the first time out on the desert for the first time, or seeing those rocks in Sedona glow red for the first time.  Canyons, cacti, and camping... mesas, monuments, and mountains... nothing like it.  You're almost guaranteed a beautiful day any time of year, and you can literally shoot around the clock (well, you know what they say about high noon in the Old West... just grab some lunch and back up your cards).  Sunrises, sunsets, stars... all phenomenal for shooting.

What camera equipment do you usually use?  If you just use iPhone, what editing apps do you use?

All of my posts, aside from a few random film shots, were taken with my Nikon D600 or iPhone 6 Plus.  I prefer to not to use zoom lenses, so most of the DSLR shots on my feed are taken on a few different primes from 24mm-35mm-85mm.  I usually don't worry too much about carrying filters or extra equipment, and a lot of times I will pick one lens and just go.  I know that most of the time, when shooting RAW at the maximum image size, I can recover or pull-out any details I might need and crop in if I need to.

As far as iPhone goes, I like to use the Manual app for taking pictures as well as Pro HDR X if it's a tricky lighting situation.  For editing, I like to make initial image adjustments in Lightroom Mobile, which I'm also using to sync DSLR shots from my MacBook and Lightroom.  I use VSCO Film in Lightroom as well, but once the image is on my phone or for mobile-only editing I like to use VSCOcam, Afterlight, and Faded.

What advice would you give to the beginning photographer?

I say this all the time.. experiment with manual controls if you own a DSLR or other kind of digital camera.  If you have a manual film camera, even better - use it!  Manual shooting makes you understand how the camera's settings (Aperture, Shutter speed, etc) are affecting one another.  As for film... film is just beautiful.  It makes you appreciate every single frame on the roll.  It slows down your process, makes you think, makes you plan, makes you compose more carefully...  Using a fully analog film camera is how I went from an all-automatic shooter to a manual-only shooter.

Also, try film and digital for the reasons not mentioned above.  Take your DSLR and ONLY shoot in B&W mode for a day.  Try instant photography - plenty of Impossible film out there.  Try lomography - Dianas and Holgas are making a comeback.  Try a pinhole.  Try a drone.  Try it all.  I know people who only shoot expired Polaroid film on original Polaroid cameras.  Find what inspires you and makes photography fun for you.  Find what speaks to you and the images you make will scream back.

What advice would you give to the photographer trying to get his work exposed?

If you're just starting out, keep pounding away at those hashtags and accounts that feature work that you're interested in.  That's the biggest way to gain quick and broad exposure in a short amount of time if you're in it for the numbers.  But... Instagram is the only social media platform I actively use because of the positivity and collaborative creativity flowing through it on a daily basis.  Make meaningful connections.  Do your best to remain active with a good base of friends and followers while steering your feed where you want it to go.  Leave meaningful comments, check out friends of friends, give thanks for the comments you receive, and you'll notice your numbers will grow.  Also, take part in a FreeForAll, check out both users in a Collaboration, and ask others to Collaborate.  Use the incredible Instagram support system to your advantage - you'll get out what you put in.

To see more of Ben's work, go here