Artist Interview: Jared Gunderson
Get to Know Jared Gunderson!
Jared Gunderson (@jaredqgunderson) is a Seattle based photographer specializing in nature and landscapes from all across the Western United States and Canada. As an avid hiker and backpacker, Jared gives a different perspective from the typically seen photos, casting a unique look into the raw beauty of the backcountry. Check out Jared’s work on his Instagram as well as his website.
Tell us a little bit about how you got into photography. How long have you been shooting?
I was first introduced to photography the summer of 2014. I went camping around Mt. Rainier with my girlfriend at the time, and she brought her mom’s DSLR for the trip. At first I wasn’t really interested, but after seeing a few photos that she took, I tried it out and was instantly hooked. For the few months after that trip I just used my phone to capture the beautiful places I was visiting. It wasn’t until March of 2015 that I officially purchased my very own DSLR. It was a long and slow learning process to figure out the editing, composition, and how lighting works - but I don’t ever see myself putting the camera down.
What crazy project do you want to tackle next?
I actually have quite a few projects I’m working on right now. My biggest one is converting an old GMC van into a camper so that I can move further into the “outdoor adventure photographer” stereotype. More photography related, I’m also working on a book with my brother about some of my adventures from earlier this year. In addition to that we’re both actively working to sell prints through farmer’s markets and coffee shops.
What message or advice do you have for young creatives just starting out?
The best advice I ever got when starting out was “just keep shooting”. Honestly, you should see my old work from when I first bought my camera. They’re seriously awful photographs. No composition, terrible lighting, over-saturated colors, you name it. But I asked for criticism, I found other people’s work that I aspired to, I learned more about the tools in Lightroom, and I never gave up. It took me about 2 years until I considered myself “good”, and another year until I found my style. It could take you longer, or you can find your niche right away. Either way, just keep shooting and you’ll get there.
What goes into being a professional photographer?
More than I ever thought. The saturation of photographers these days means that you can’t rely on your work alone to get new jobs. Along with keeping up your posts on social media, you have to interact with your followers, update your portfolio, send proposals to companies, plan trips, edit constantly, and find new job listings. Marketing yourself is the most important thing that you need to work on, and just continue proposing new ideas for companies. The more you put yourself out there, the higher the chance of landing your next client.
Who inspires you to create; where do you draw your inspiration from?
Going through life, friends have always been the biggest part of my life. That’s certainly held true through photography as well. My biggest inspirations have been my friends, and those that I go out shooting with. My best friend Raymond and I have been to countless places, across Canada and the US, and he still inspires me to push my creative boundaries. The camaraderie and adventures that we’ve shared together is such a special thing to have. The act of seeing the world through another person’s eyes can certainly help you to see it that way as well.
Is there a special place that you go for inspiration?
Whether for inspiration, or just a little mountain therapy, my favorite places to go are the forest roads around Snoqualmie Pass. There’s a huge network of rough roads all over the Cascades in that area, with incredible views right outside the car window. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven up there after work in the dark, just hoping for an incredible sunrise. It’s my safe haven - a place that feels like home.
Explain some hardships you’ve experienced as a creator.
I have certainly had my fair share of creative droughts. Whether I just didn’t want to get out of the car and start hiking, or I had no new inspiration for the edits on my photos, it can come in many different forms. But, like all droughts, it eventually ended. Sometimes the best way to break free of that feeling is to force yourself to do whatever you’re struggling with. Make yourself go out and shoot, or maybe even going back into your archives and re-edit old photos. Just know that you’re not the only one going through these hardships, and it usually just takes a little bit of time to get over it.
When shooting are you meticulously detailed or do you go with the flow?
I’m definitely a “go with the flow” type of person. With the ever-changing weather in the Pacific Northwest, it’s near impossible to rely on the forecasts to give you the perfect window for a certain photo. Even when I’m traveling on the road, I’ll have certain places that I want to check out, but I always learn of new places to see as well. By keeping my plans loose it just makes the entire experience less stressful, and more enjoyable.
If you were to give advice to a rising photographer, what would you say? What wouldn’t you say?
I would say don’t expect immediate growth. Yes, your friends and family will love your photos, but finding a larger audience takes time. Social media is a great way to get your photos out there, and to meet people with the same interests. Try to make genuine connections, and collaborate with those who live near you. Whenever I’m traveling I also like to find photographers there to shoot with - locals always know the best spots. What I wouldn’t say is to ever give up. Don’t feel discouraged if you’re trying to “make it big”. Photography should be seen as a creative hobby to get you outdoors, meet new people, or expand your comfort zone. Not a way to gain lots of followers, or earn those little red hearts everyone craves.
Do you prefer shooting as individually or with a group of people?
There are times that I go out alone to shoot, but 95% of the time I would choose to be with a group. The chance to meet new people, or collaborate in a new location is always a great opportunity to push your creative boundaries. You can bounce new ideas off of each other, and have extra sets of eyes to potentially see things you may have missed if you were alone. Especially with Instagram, meeting like-minded people is so easy nowadays, and I’ve even made some of my best friends through it.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done (or would like to do someday) to get the shot?
The most exhilarating thing I’ve done so far was getting jugged up a 30 foot rock face on a climbing rope. I wanted to get a top-down angle on my friends as they climbed, and I was just hanging off the carabiners at the top of the route as they worked their way towards me. I was terrified the entire time, but it was an absolutely incredible experience.
Focal Collective: Artist Interview Series
Focal Collective would like to thank our contributing artists! This recurring propensity to create and growing community continues to inspire us. Are you interested in sharing your story? Feel free to apply to our Artist Interview Series with your portfolio, IG, and a brief introduction via our contact page. We'll look out for your message!
Focal Points: Adventure, Tutorial, Gear
If you enjoy our artist interview series, feel free to check out Focal Collective’s other adventure, tutorial, and gear review sections from our blog section Focal Points! We also have free adventure and tutorial content on our YouTube channel!