Instagrammer: @alxpwl

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 Alex Powell, a 23 year old photographer/waiter located in Bellingham, Washington.

 What inspired you to start photography?  Are there any specific photographers on Instagram that inspire you? 

I was initially inspired by Instagram, as I’m sure many others have been, to pursue photography as more than a hobby. My father has also inspired me to pursue it since he used to shoot film a lot when I was a kid. More specifically, famous Instagrammers like @fursty (another Bellingham IGer), @scottborrero, @seandshoots, @ravivora, and @samelkins, have also inspired me with the incredible work they produce in so many areas of photography.

What is the most memorable hike you have been on when capturing photos?  How was it memorable?

The most memorable hike I have been on was my summit attempt of Mt. Baker. I’ve wanted to climb that mountain for years and finally made it happen. Although my friend and I did not get to the true summit due to lack of water and altitude sickness, I got some amazing photos of the milky way from basecamp and also some beautiful sunrise pictures of the north cascades that day. There was not a single cloud that morning and the view over the Cascade Mountains was unbelievable. Watching sunrise from high up in Washington is definitely the most memorable photo experience I can think of and the most exhausting.

What is the most favorite photo you have captured? Why? 

This is difficult for me to think of just because I have taken photos of so many different things. Portraits, landscapes, wildlife, etc... If I had to truly narrow it down to one photo it would probably be from last winter when I accidently stumbled upon an area along Boulder Creek where there were dozens of eagles living in the trees. By far the most bald eagles I have ever seen in one area. I luckily had my telephoto lens and got some photos of the eagles flying across the creek back and forth between nests. The images I got are not the best quality, but capturing wildlife like that was the coolest thing I think I have ever shot.

What is your favorite aspect of the Pacific North West when it comes to capturing photos?

The mountains are my favorite part of Washington, especially in summer. There is no way to describe the colors of sunrises and sunsets out there when the light is hitting the hills. Photos typically don’t do it justice, but capturing it is exciting nonetheless. It’s one of those things that needs to be experienced.

 You also like to photograph portraits as well. What do you think are important components to taking a successful portrait picture?

I’m still fairly new to taking portraits, but what I have learned recently by working with people is that you have to be comfortable and make the person you’re shooting feel the same way. That might be an obvious concept for some people, but it’s more difficult than you might think. It’s also often hard to describe what you want with a shot if the person is not familiar with you or is not used to having their picture taken. Humor is a great way to ease the tension. Ultimately, trying to have fun too just makes everything easier between the photographer and the model and usually results in better and more normal looking photos. 

What camera gear do you shoot with?

I shoot with a Canon 70D, although I cannot wait to upgrade to a full-frame camera. My main lens is a 24-70 mm f/2.8L lens for virtually everything. My other two lenses are a 50 mm and a 70-200 mm, but they are not L-series lenses and don’t give me the professional quality pictures I have with the 24-70 so I don’t use them very often.

What advice would you give to the starting photographer?

I am by no means a professional with a camera, but I’m working towards it. That being said, my advice to someone just learning to use a camera would be to get to know your equipment well and attempt all types of photography with it in all types of lighting. I’m still learning every day about how important settings are during different situations and it becomes especially vital when you’re in a time crunch. Also, asking for feedback and positive criticism is a good way to gauge what’s working and what’s not. 

 Lastly what advice would you give to the beginning photographer on Instagram trying to expose their work?

For Instagram and someone trying to gain popularity, as bad as this sounds, I would suggest posting photos that appeal to the crowd you’re going for. For example, fire, fog, and dog shots for the hipster northwest crowd will gain a lot of attention from the big northwest profiles and usually lead to a lot of features. I sadly have taken and posted photos for this very reason and have slowly steered away from it because I didn’t feel like I was taking pictures for myself and instead was for others. Instagram also usually pays attention to profiles that are unique, but have a lot of similarity in all their posts. The Instagrammer @fursty is probably one of the best examples. He mainly posts dark, green, and mysterious photos and because of this style he has gained an incredible amount of attention. It sucks that people are pigeonholed into these profiles, but that seems to be the nature of the app. 

To see more of Alex's work go here!