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Jim Livingston – Finding Light in the Darkness

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Where is home?
I grew up in Wichita Falls. I’ve traveled all over the United States but now live in Amarillo.  But I get back to Wichita Falls regularly.

If you could live anywhere else where would it be?
In an RV traveling all over the United States doing photography.  My favorite window is the windshield.

How long have you been a photographer?
I started film photography as a teen and did some professionally in college but I quit in 1988 and didn’t start up again till 2010. In 2013 I decided to go back to school to learn the digital aspect and have been doing commercial photography since 2014.

How did you get started?
My sister gave me a camera as a teen. I burned one roll of film and I was hooked. There was something so magical about seeing something amazing like a sunset and capturing it so that I could look at it over and over.

Is there a certain style that you favor?
I am passionate about shooting night landscapes, storms and rock and roll concerts. All three subjects are usually low light. I love highly contrasted images where light and dark play against each other.

_MG_1683moon over taos

What is your most commonly used setup?
I use a Canon 6d with a Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 lens for 80% of my shots..

Who do you use to print your work?
Metro Photo in Wichita Falls. In fact I haven’t found any one nationwide to match the quality control or their metallic prints!

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
I am thinking hard about switching back to Pentax.  Originally I shot with a Pentax k1000 and Pentax 645. I love Pentax’s 24-70 2.8. It’s a very rugged lens. That zoom range covers most of my work.

How important is Photoshop in your final images?
My goal in creating an image isn’t about you seeing what I saw but rather I want you to experience the emotion I felt. Capturing the image in the camera is only half of what I do. Bringing out the emotion of the image often happens in Photoshop.

What is your most used Photoshop tool/plug-in?
Topaz de-noise which I use a lot to help reduce the noise of the high ISO images I shoot.  Geek speak… The images I take push my camera’s limits and often I get grainy images.  The topaz software helps me clean up that grain.
What will be your next piece of new equipment?
The Pentax k1

A photographer who inspires you?
Locally there are any number of incredible photogs. Ben Jacobi is a local storm chaser and landscape artist who constantly pushes me to do better. Of the classics, a French photographer called Brassai is one I look at a lot for inspiration.


A website or blog that you visit often?
I look at Pinterest a lot for inspiration not only of things to shoot but to look at the old masters.

Is there anything you would like to photograph that you haven’t?
I used to live in the pacific North West. I photographed a lot of it in film but would love to go back and do it digitally.

What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue photography?
Learn as much as you can about marketing and business. I know a lot of great photographers who are hungry because they have poor business skills and I know a lot of medium skilled photographers who do well because of great business skills.

Something you’re still learning?
Photography in general. I know that seems crazy but every day I realize new things about my camera or the way light dances on an object. Everyday I learn a new way of looking at something I have seen a billion times. Photography is easy to learn but hard to master. It’s a balance between understanding the technical aspects of your camera and then seeing and capturing each frame in the most artistic view possible.

Something that is overrated?
People all the time tell me they want to learn photography or they want to be a photographer. I’ll ask to see their work and they tell me they don’t have a camera. I have to delete photos all the time from my cell phone as I am constantly taking photos with it. The best camera is the one you have in your hand. Sure you might get better shots with some wizbang gizmo but the only way to get better at photography is to take photos! The camera you don’t have is over rated.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
I hope sometime between now and 5 years I get to take a 49 state road trip to photograph the night skies in every state and add portraits to my “I am project”.

How did you come to shoot night skies so much?
I was shooting a windmill near Childress at sunset. The sun set and I had a lot on my mind so I just sat there for a while as the stars came out.  I was far enough from any city that the Milky was easily seen and I wanted to catch it. Night photography is different and I had a whole new skill set to learn. I was hooked at my first good image.

Where can people see your work?
Facebook!  Jim Livingston Photography. July 15 at the Chalice Abbey in Amarillo.  2717 Stanley, Amarillo 79109.  This show will feature my photos and time lapse videos on Palo Duro Canyon and on September 17 at Process Art house, 700 S. Van Buren, Amarillo 79101. Also, I am currently in the Armstrong County Museum in Claude, Texas.