Corner Member Close Up: Gavin Johnstone

It may by "April Fools Day" but it's no joke that today's interview includes 30 photos. In our Corner Member Close-Up today, we meet a young photographer from the west coast of British Columbia, Gavin Johnstone. You probably better know him as a moderator here around the Corner, and by his username "ZHeng." Enjoy the interview, the 30 photographs, and have a great weekend!

Name: Gavin Johnstone
Username: ZHeng


Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Gavin and I am a 21 year old born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently I am in my 3rd year at the University of Victoria majoring in Psychology. My end goal is to become a Pilot in the Royal Canadian Airforce. When I do not have my head in the books (who am I kidding - I never really have my head in the books) you can find me enjoying the outdoors. I am an avid Sailer, Rock climber, Skier, Surfer, Hiker, Pilot, and Mountain Biker; basically a huge outdoor bum who loves to push the envelope. I work as a photographer year round doing small gigs such as portraits, engagements, events, and the occasional wedding. In the summer I work for a charter boat company doing maintenance and driving/sailing yachts.

What does your username mean?

Good question, I don't really know. When I first joined I had just gotten back from Japan and although ZHeng is not Japanese (I believe it is Chinese) I thought it sounded cool at the time.

How old were you when you took your first picture with a camera; any camera? Was it any good?

I must have been about, Oh I dunno, five or six years old and my mom (who loved taking pictures) gave me this bright red plastic 35mm point and shoot. I took a lot of pictures of the ground; they were all awful.

What was it about photography that made you want to become a photographer? Why do you take photographs?

Honestly, I have never really thought of why I became a photographer. It is something personal and intrinsic for me, although I cant really pinpoint it.

How long has photography been a passion for you? When, where and how did it start?

It was the spring of 2005. I had the opportunity to go on a month long exchange to Kyoto, Japan through my High-school. Armed with my mothers Canon A520 or something like that I really fell in love with the architecture, cityscape and landscape of the country. Perhaps because it was such a different place to me - I don't know. All I know is that I fell in love with taking pictures when I was in Japan. I haven't put down a camera since.

What is your background/training in photography?

I have no formal training. I have learned and continue to learn mostly through trial and error. I read the occasional article or book on editing and lighting to learn new skills or to harvest ideas. I big part of learning for me came from finding photographers who work I really liked and tried to replicate it my self. Things like DOF, lighting, etc.


What was your very first camera?

My very first camera that I purchased myself with my own money was a Nikon D70s for a whopping $2000 in 2006. Yikes! It amazes me how technology advances in such a short time and costs exponentially less for something 10 times more advanced. The first camera I actually used though was a dinky plastic Kodak 35mm point and shoot.

What equipment is in your camera bag now? What pieces of equipment will be added to the collection next?

I currently shoot with a Nikon D700. Most of the time I use a battery grip, although when I am out and about on adventures I don't bother with it.

I shoot mostly with my 50mm, Going to upgrade to the new 50 1.4g soon, then most likely the new 85 1.4G as well. I am a big lover of prime lenses.

You are asked to choose one lens from the following group: 14mm wide angle, 50mm prime, 200mm telephoto, 105mm macro. You could only use one of these for the rest of your photographic life. Which would you choose and why?

50mm hands down. It's my favourite lens of all time. I like to capture images as they appear naturally to my eye; the 50mm in my opinion does this the best.

Bonus Questions

Do you like your photos most of the time or dislike them most of the time? Why do you think that is?

Most of the time I hate my photos. Occasionally I will get one I really like but when I show it to others they aren't nearly as pumped as I am. Ironic yes, but that doesn't bother me. I am overly critical about everything I do in general; there is always something I could have done or payed more attention to when taking a photo.

Do you think that photographers take photos because they can't paint; or do painters paint because they aren't good photographers?

Well speaking for myself, I sure as hell can't paint, so I take photos. I wish I could paint - there is something very personal in a painting.

What are your favorite places/subjects to photograph? Why?

I really enjoy taking photos of people and culture; I love to be able to show emotions and interactions plus, people are just beautiful all around the world. My favourite places though would have to be those places untouched. You know what I'm talking about: the places that are so surreal and natural that when you are there no photograph could ever do it justice. It is moments and places such as this that I love to try to photograph. Aside from the previously mentioned, I am that guy that is always taking pictures when on adventures with my friends. I love documenting my friends, our ups, our downs, and the times spent together. Mostly for personal memories as well as theirs.

What was the most dangerous thing (or worst thing) you ever did to get 'The Shot'?

Well it wasn't so dangerous for myself but for my camera. I took it swimming in a lake up to my chest to get some photos of my friends puppy who, by chance, liked to try and jump on you when he swam... the camera almost went for a swim. I actually take my camera a lot of places I really shouldn't without the proper protection. Oh well!

The Corner

What initially drew you into Corner?

Good question. I'm not sure, I joined along time ago. Everyone was very friendly, encouraging and helpful. The contests were fantastic and there were a lot of very talented photographers who I thought I could learn a lot from.

What keeps your hanging around the Corner?

I love the atmosphere. Everyone is very friendly and well it is the best photography forum IMO. ;)

What section of the Corner is your most frequented or favorite?

I really enjoy browsing the people and landscape sections.

What advice would you give other members of PhotographyCorner?

Enjoy the simple things in life, don't be afraid to ask for advice and be yourself; life is to short to be someone else.

If you could meet any member of the Corner, but could ask them only one question, who would you want to meet and what would that question be?

Tim. I would want to know what led him to create PhotographyCorner.


What thing about yourself as an artist do you want to be remembered for?

I don't really care for being remembered. I take photos for myself and because I enjoy doing it.

If you knew it were your last day with your equipment, whether it be by choice or not, what would you photograph and why?

This is a hard one. I think would hang out with everyone who meant a lot to me and photograph them all in one day. One thing that I picked up from my mother is the love of photographs as memories. She documented my sisters and my life with copious amounts of photos until we were about 17 then put together a bajillion scrap books. All those times I hated my mother and was embarrassed for wanting to take photos of me and my friends I now appreciate. The memories are priceless and I really enjoy looking through my life in pictures; the memories will last forever.

Posted by Tim L. Walker on Fri, 2011–04–01 15:20