An Interview with Jason Friesen

Eye See You

This month, we sit down for an interview with Jason Friesen, from the United States.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jason Friesen and I have lived in the Willamette Valley located in western Oregon for the last three years. Previously I’ve lived on the East Coast, grew up in Seattle and was born in Canada. I have a wonderful wife and two wonderful kids currently ten and seven.

What is your occupation?

I am a physician. Specifically I’m an allergist dealing with asthma, environmental allergies, food allergies, etc. It’s a good job to have here because the Willamette Valley is the grass seed capitol of the world. If you live in the United States, there’s a 50% chance the lawn you have in your yard came from seed grown here.

When and how did you get into photography?

My very first memory of a camera was a little Kodak Instamatic I got for my 6th birthday, but I didn’t really fall in love with photography until I was in college. I got a Canon Eos Rebel and enjoyed goofing around shooting all sorts of weird stuff. I look back on some of the picture I have from that time period and laugh at how bad they are, but I was exploring and back then thought it was great!


Canon Beach with fire

This picture was taken on Cannon beach in 2006. I remember it was the first week I had my 5D (moving up from a 300D) and I made the trip out to shoot the sunset. I had packed up gear up and was making the trip back to the car when I saw this campfire positioned against Haystack rock under the stars. I didn’t want to, but I forced myself to pull out my gear and shoot them. There is no HDR involved in this (I didn’t know how to do that back then), but it works because the fire is only reflected off the people and not shown itself. It’s a good example of having the human element in a picture that is otherwise a landscape. It would not be nearly as strong if the fire wasn’t there with the people enjoying themselves around it.

Have you entered you photographs into any competitions?

Yes, I’ve entered a fair number of shots over the years. I probably first started entering photos on a now defunct website who’s name I can’t even recall. It is somewhat comical now because you were limited to 490 pixels on a side. Really small. Then I found DPChallenge and was hooked on the concept of the “contest”. Since then I’ve entered stuff in local photo contests (for example, a Portland camera store, an outdoor school, the University of Oregon), and other websites (JPG Magazine, Sometimes I have success, other times, complete failure.

On which websites can our readers find your photographs? Do you have a personal website?

I do have a personal website, but currently it is password protected. I haven’t figured out exactly how to approach the issue of things being stolen on the internet. In 2008 it came to my attention that a large daycare company in Australia was using a picture of my daughter on billboards and other advertising material. A graphic design company had swiped the photo from DPChallenge and never let their client know that they didn’t have rights to the image. Two separate people in Australia, who knew the shot from DPChallenge, notified me within a week of the billboards going up and asked if I knew about it. It’s a small world. I was able to come to terms with both the daycare company and the graphic design company, but I’m not sure how best to display my photos now. People can, however, see lots of my stuff on my profile on DPChallenge:

What type of camera equipment do you own and why? (Nikon, Canon, other)

I’ve always shot Canon. Not because it is superior to Nikon, but just because I’m used to it. I currently shoot with a 5D Mark II. I’ve lost two 5D’s to water accidents (thank God for insurance). I love this line of cameras because of the full frame sensor. The noise control is great and I’m not limited on the wide angle end. For lenses I’ve tried to cover the range with L-lenses (I’m a glass snob!): 16-35 f/2.8L, 24-105 f/4L, 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L. I also have a 50mm f/1.4 for low light and a 180mm f/3.5L macro. I own a flash somewhere but literally use it a few times a year. I hate flashes. Finally I just picked up a Panasonic Lumix LX5 and am excited to try it out as a point-and-shoot for family pictures. I hear good things about it. As far as other equipment, I’ve always said the best piece of photographic equipment I own is my pair of waterproof hiking boots. I’m sure many, many good shots have been lost through the ages because people didn’t want to get their feet wet.

Autzen Omens


What software do you use to edit your photos?

I made the jump from CS2 to Adobe CS5 and love it. I used to use Neat Image a fair amount, but lately have just been using the noise reduction in the ACR RAW converter. I’ve dabbled with some NIK and Topaz filters, but don’t use them that much. And while I have Photomatix, I tend to blend all my HDR manually rather than through a tonemapping program. It seems to give a more natural look.

Do you have a favourite lens?

The 24-105 is really a great walkaround as long as you don’t mind the f/4. I probably shoot 75% of my photos with that lens and then switch to another if I need something specific.

What type of photographs do you enjoy taking the most?

I probably describe myself as a landscape photographer, but I love other genres as well. Macro would probably be next (mainly bugs and other small critters). Capturing the small, invisible world we tend to ignore can be as awe inspiring as capturing a majestic waterfall. I’ve lately been trying my hand at sports photography and have had the chance to shoot the University of Oregon Ducks football team as well as some track and field events. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert yet, but this type of photography is fun because you get to live vicariously through your lens. Sometimes your camera can also be your ticket to places you wouldn’t otherwise be allowed.

How do you balance work, family life & photography?

That’s always a good question. I try to have my family life take precedent over photography, but often I am able to mesh the two. Luckily my family enjoys the outdoors and hiking. I can then take my gear along and try to snap some pictures while we are there. However, nobody seems too interested when I get up at 3:50 AM to make it to the coast by sunrise.

Fourth of July fireworks


This is one of my favorite pictures of my children. They are the two on the left. We were at a friend’s house barbequing on the 4th of July. In the evening we set off some fireworks. The kids were all lined up like this watching and the shot is not posed at all. I stood on a chair so I could shoot down at them trying to get the point of view of the fireworks. They are actually lit from some phosphorous burning on the ground rather than by anything bursting in the air. I enjoy the varied expressions from awe on the three kids on the left, to Caden’s unsure expression, to Laine’s expression of joyful terror.

How often do you take photographs? (ex: everyday, few times a week, once a week, etc)

I shoot in spurts. Sometimes it’s every day, but lately it’s on the weekends. As we talked about in the last question, life does get in the way and my time is occupied by more mundane tasks such as mowing the lawn.

What camera mode do you usually shoot in? (Av. Tv, Manual, Auto…)?

80% Av, 10% Tv, 10% Manual. Av has the most control over how the picture via depth of field and that’s why I am usually most interested in shooting in that mode. HDR bracketing also works best in Av mode. Tv gets used when I’m handholding a big lens or shooting something fast (sports or insect). Truthfully though, I take a dozen shots that are over a second long for every shot less than 1/500th. Manual gets used when I’m trying to do something unusual.

How much influence does a person’s local environment have on their photography?

Well, as a landscape guy, I guess it would have quite an impact. Still, there are always interesting things to be found. For example, if you can’t find the powerful vistas, you can usually find something interesting on the macro scale.

High Jumper


Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?

Take full advantage of the immediate feedback digital gives you. There is no cost associated with mistakes these days. With film it would cost you money to process the film and unless you took careful notes, you’d never remember what settings produced what image. Now you can shoot and chimp. Shoot and chimp. You can learn a lot but figuring out what the histogram is telling you and how your image changes when you adjust the various settings on your camera.

What areas do you think you can improve on?

While I think I have the technical aspects of photography down enough, one can always improve on adding meaning and depth to a photo. For example, I previously tended to like it best when my pictures didn’t contain people. Nature was the subject and people were an intrusion. But now I see the power of displaying the interaction of people and nature. We respond to the human element and it lends power to the image. While I am learning this truth, I still have a long way to go to do this in a natural and organic manner.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I am at that point in life where ten years may not change a lot. My kids will be older, but may not be moved out. I will likely have the same job. In 15 years, however, I will be an empty nester and hope to have time to do some real travelling to shoot the magnificent world we live in. There are so many natural wonders to see, I would like to catch as many as I can in my lifetime.

Shore Acres Waves

This was shot on New Year’s Day during a storm at Shore Acres State Park in Oregon. The rocks are perfectly positioned to cause the large waves to burst into massive sprays. What you are looking at is likely to be literally 150 feet tall. Again, the human element makes this image much stronger as well as helping the viewer understand the scale of the wave. The sky was tinted blue in postprocessing (versus the homogenous gray it was previously).

What do you love most about photography?

When I get up early and shoot a pre-dawn scene I am often the only person around. I feel a distinct communion with God and nature in those moments. It makes you feel very small and insignificant, but that is oddly comforting. There are so many ephemeral moments of wonder. Sometimes you can capture one and say, “Look, I saw this and nobody else did, but I can share it with you now!” That’s what’s special to me about photography.


Thank you very much for taking the time to participate in this interview Jason. Best of luck in your future endeavours!

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2 Responses to “An Interview with Jason Friesen”

  1. Yo_Spiff says:

    Nice interview with the Doc. He’s one of the first people I noticed after I started on DPChallenge. I found it interesting that people shots were difficult for him to learn to do.

  2. roz batten says:

    brilliant interview … a totally enjoyable and informative read .. :)