Meet BTP Team: Interview with Photographer Brian Jannsen
Our activities at Better Travel Photos are not only about learning photography, getting more comfortable with your camera, and discovering new locations along the way, but also about people guiding the Photo tours. As photography instructors and guides, we do our best to teach you new photography skills and to make sure you enjoy this experience in our company. So if you are curious to know more about those people with cameras welcoming you in Paris and London, please meet one of our team members, photographer Brian Jannsen!
Brian has been teaching photography with Better Travel Photos since September 2012. While his permanent home is the US, Brian comes back to Paris every year to work with us. A truly passionate and tireless instructor, he leads half day, full day and especially early evening and night photo tours, which are his specialty. Born and raised in Oregon (USA), Brian learned early how to visualize nature's beauty through the lens. Now a seasoned veteran of travel and landscape photography, the world is his studio. When not guiding Photo Tours with Better Travel Photos in Paris, Brian is rambling the world with his camera and a trusty tripod in search of inspiring landscapes.
BTP: Brian, how did you discover photography and how long have you been doing this?
Brian: As a teenager, I loved the outdoors and spent many days trying my best to capture images that would somehow capture the feeling of ‘being there.’ I still look for ways to transport the viewer into each scene I capture. And wow, it’s been a long time – at least 40 years!
BTP: In your opinion, what makes a photograph convey that special ‘feeling of being there’? How do you build an image to achieve this effect?
Brian: The sense of ‘being there’ for a viewer of my style of photography is very important. I want the viewer to feel like they are walking the same path that I am on. To help achieve that, I look for ways to make photos as 3 dimensional as possible. I try to make careful use of both background and foreground which adds layers and will help give an image dimension or depth. I Look for ways to add foreground interest as well as leading lines – literally trying to create a pathway for the viewer to ‘travel’ down. Also, by keeping the image as simple as possible, getting rid of clutter and anything that doesn’t deserve to be in the photo, I can direct the viewers’ attention easier. With too much busyness in a photo, the viewer can get lost and not feel the impact of the subject of the photo. I find the simpler compositions most often work best.
BTP: As a landscape and travel photographer, how much time do you spend out in the field?
Brian: Each year is a little different, but generally I’m traveling a total of 6-8 months out the year.
BTP: What type of subjects do you enjoy shooting the most?
Brian: Powerful dramatic landscapes are my favorites, but I also love city-scapes and beautiful urban scenes (especially at night).
BTP: We have known you not only as a landscape and travel photographer, but also as a passionate photography instructor. How would you describe your teaching approach?
Brian: I try to approach my instructing in an intuitive way; less lecture and more hands-on display. First, asking some questions I’m able to find out what the students approach to photography is as well as what their ability levels are and what they may be struggling with. The basics of proper exposure are so fundamental to photography I will make sure the student has a firm grasp of that before we start adding more of the building blocks. Also, since photography tends to be equal parts technical and creative, I will usually connect the two by explaining a technical issue and then immediately move to its creative implications.
BTP: What photographic equipment do you use? Besides the actual camera and lenses, what else is always in your bag?
Brian: A sturdy tripod is vital for my photography. I also make extensive use of filters: CPL’s, a 10-stop ‘big-stopper’ and 6 or 8 Graduated Neutral Density Filters. Probably 70% of my photos are from a tripod, and 70-80% are made with a filter of some kind.
BTP: In all your years of experience, what has been the most challenging place to shoot?
Brian: Rocky seashores are gorgeous, but treacherous. Not to mention what fast-rising tides will do. After a few close calls, I now use a spotter if I can to watch for trouble while I’m making a photo.
BTP: What are your sources of inspiration? Which photographers most influenced you?
Brian: My biggest inspiration is simply being in the middle of it all. Whether walking through gorgeous landscapes or beautiful travel destinations, I’m constantly driven to capture a small slice of the beauty. As to other photographers; Ansel Adams was probably the first one that grabbed my attention – especially his work in Yosemite. David Noton and Tom Mackie are both travel/landscape photographers that have influenced my work. Tom for his simple composition and clear subject style, David for his dreamy soft landscapes that feel magical.
BTP: What’s the photograph that you are the most proud of?
Brian: My favorite photo is the one I’m planning to create tomorrow… I have a number of shots that I feel good about, but I always feel my best shot is the one coming up. It’s part of the drive that continues to push me.
BTP: What is your best advice for an aspiring travel photographer?
Brian: Like learning any other craft, it takes a lot of effort to be exceptional. Read tons, view other’s work, shoot, shoot, shoot. Then review and critique. Remember, it’s about training your eyes, not just acquiring gear. That’s a tough question that really doesn’t have a quick answer…
About the Author
Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.