For photographer Tom Jones, planning the perfect photo is just as good as actually taking it. A graphic artist turned landscape photographer, his eye for balance, design and just enough pizzazz has allowed him to create an impressive portfolio that incorporates many of his favorite things.
“Farm fields, light houses – the sun, moon and stars,” says Jones, an Indiana native who devotes his free time to landscape and night photography. “But right now, this is my favorite time of year…when everyone’s out in the fields. You can hear the grain dryers in the background. It’s the sound of home, that’s for sure.”
Over the past five years, Jones has honed his craft, traveling between the farm fields that border his hometown armed with dozens of lenses, a drone and other assorted gear, hoping to grab the perfect shot. Some of them are easier than others: the warm blaze of a corn harvest; the weathered rusty red of a combine; clouds of dust dividing the horizon. Others are a combination of preparation and luck: the harvest moon punctuated by slim silver silos; the glitter of the milky way surrounding golden wheat fields.
It takes patience and plenty of practice.
“I’m a graphic artist by trade,” says Jones. “I feel like I’ve always been around photography, always had an eye for it, but it’s only really taken off for me in the last four or five years.”
Like most of society, Jones started off with just a smartphone in his pocket, able to capture images on the fly before progressing to a Canon DSLR camera using the automatic settings. He started to experiment with the manual settings several years ago, progressing slowly until he understood how to use the different F stops and shutter speeds, the nuances of light and shadow. While his initial test subjects were his kids (like every doting parent), he soon branched out into a variety of other subjects that ranged from freighters on Lake Michigan to sandhill cranes in mid-flight to the Chicago skyline.
He recently upgraded from his first DSLR to a Canon mirrorless camera and is having fun learning the new camera and how it works with his wide range of lenses – his favorite being the 100 to 500mm lens.
“If there’s a tractor half a mile away, I can still zoom on it from the road and grab a fantastic image,” says Jones, adding that he has several lenses that are so long-range he can grab clear images of the sun or moon behind a water tower or grain elevator from 30 miles away.
“The moon can take up half of the picture. It just depends on what you put in the foreground. People think I Photoshop those sometimes, but, no, that’s literally what you see with that big of a lens.”
While he definitely has a knack for capturing farm life in action, his other photography passion pursuits are out of this world. Literally.
Long exposures, plenty of planning and a touch of luck has allowed Jones to take mesmerizing photos of the International Space Station silhouetted against the moon or crisscrossing the night sky. Some of his favorite photos are of farm equipment against the Milky Way – and the skyscraping majesty of Michigan’s light houses.
While he hopes to one day make photography his primary occupation, right now he’s content with how far he’s already come.
“For now, I’m happy to keep it as a hobby,” says Jones. “It gets me out there – even when it’s cold – enjoying the world through the eye of my camera.”