About me, my photography, my gear, and the other photographers that inspire me.
My name is Jon Grall, and Low ISO Photography is my personal photography portfolio site.
Outside of photography, I'm an entrepreneur and software engineer, and my passion is using technology to improve the everyday lives of millions of people – something that I've been lucky enough to do three times.
I grew up in England and France, before moving to the U.S. in 2001 to pursue a Computer Science degree at MIT. After college I spent 10 years living and working in California, much of it in Silicon Valley. Nowadays I now live in quiet Montclair, NJ, with my wonderful wife Eva. If I could afford to spend all of my time traveling the world, I would.
About My Photography
Like many people, I began taking snapshots at an early age. Mostly vacation and family shots, at first on film, and later digital. All the photos I took were unremarkable because I put very little thought into the images, and never bothered to edit them. Likewise, I was always interested in cameras as gadgets, but I never really took the time to learn how they worked, or to understand how to control an exposure.
It wasn't until college that I got a bit more interested in photography upon taking a class on high-speed imaging at MIT's Edgerton Lab. I learned some basic theory of optics and imaging, and got some experience using specialized high-speed cameras and strobes to photograph speeding bullets, water droplets, and so forth. I also learned how to develop negatives and make prints in the dark room, though I cannot claim to have been any good at it – I was just happy to not totally botch the print.
After college, I put down the camera, and it took another 13 years for me to get interested in photography again. For years I resisted carrying a camera whenever we traveled. I didn't want to spend time or money capturing mediocre snapshots that I knew were unlikely to get a second look. I abhorred selfies and food snaps. I also hated seeing myself in pictures. I still do.
Even in 2010, when I was working on my first startup in San Francisco, and for months literally sat next to the founders of what eventually became Instagram, I still didn't care much for photography. Only relatively recently, beginning in late 2016, after a bit of a struggle with depression, did I finally get it. Photography became my escape. In particular, landscape photography, where I could spend precious time out in nature, became my therapy.
Being someone who never does anything half-way, I've since become obsessed with photography, and I love it. It's introduced me to a new community of creative and curious people, and has taught me to see and notice things I previously took for granted. Travel is more enjoyable and fulfilling. I've spent many unforgettable hours outdoors, often alone in the wilderness, in the pursuit of better and better images. Closely related to my landscape photography has been a strong interest in hiking and camping, which has helped me to explore some hard-to-get-to locations, and has had a positive impact on my health.
While landscape photography is the genre that first got me hooked, as time rolls on I've become more broadly interested in nature photography, and also in environmental portraiture. Photography is a broad and deep field, and I consider myself a beginner. I'm at the start of a lifelong journey of learning about and exploring photography as a creative outlet, hobby, and perhaps one day a profession.
The Gear I Use
Photographers love to talk about their gear, and to ask and be asked about it. Gear is the tangible part of making pictures, the instruments with which we create and express ourselves. The equipment we use is a personal choice, and itself an expression of our tastes and goals.
As a computer nerd my own natural inclination is to be a gear geek, but the more I practice photography, the more I realize how little the equipment matters. The best camera in the world can't make up for a lack of vision, skill, light, composition, story or subject. The best photographers can take great pictures with any camera – it's the person behind the camera that matters. With that disclaimer out of the way, here's some of the equipment that I use:
- A Fuji X-T2, and occasionally a Fuji X100F
- Fuji XF series, Mitakon Zhongyi, and Rokinon lenses
- Really Right Stuff and Gitzo tripods and ball heads
- Breakthrough Photography filters
- A Really Right Stuff L-bracket and nodal slide
- A Desmond leveling base and Sunwayfoto indexing rotator for panoramas
- Flashpoint speedlights with Fotodiox, Cactus, Impact, MagMod light modifiers, and a Vello macro flash bracket
- An F-stop Mountain Series camera bag
- A Synology NAS for on-site storage and backups, Backblaze for off-site backups
- A Datacolor Spyder5PRO display calibration system
I process my photos on a custom-built hackintosh using the following software: Capture One Pro; Affinity Photo; Adobe Photoshop CC; Lightroom Classic CC; Starry Landscape Stacker; Topaz DeNoise; Lumenzia; Iridient X-Transformer; and FastRawViewer.
As I learn more about photography, I'm constantly inspired by the work of other photographers and artists, especially the new generations of photographers who are displaying their work and teaching others online via YouTube and other social platforms like Instagram and 500px. Some of my favorite photographers and educators include:
- Edward Burtynsky
- Ansel Adams
- Steve McCurry
- Michael Kenna
- Irving Penn
- Vivian Maier
- Simon Baxter
- Mads Peter Iversen
- Tony & Chelsea Northrup
- Thomas Heaton
I'm also a member of an incredible camera club here in New Jersey, that has won state, national, and even international photo competitions – the Camera Naturalist Photo Club. I'm continually inspired by the stunning nature photos exhibited by other members of the club, some of whom have been making pictures for longer than I've been alive.
If you want to get in touch with me regarding photography, the best way is via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to know more about my work outside of photography, my other website is jgrall.com.