Jason Burnett

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Jason Burnett is an outdoor photographer, Steelhead fisherman, sport shooter, and nature lover, who comes from the Great Pacific Northwest. He was born in Portland, Oregon, where he has lived in the Sky Valley of Washington State in a small town called Gold Bar for the last 16 years. Before that he grew up in Lynnwood.

He is a semi-professional photographer, who’s got an actual business license under the name, “Sky Valley Photography”, but it doesn’t quite pay all the bills, yet. With the time he spends taking pictures, he could, refer to it as a full time job, though.

He lives directly on the Skykomish River in the foothills of the North Cascades, which affords him with all kinds of nature and wildlife photo opportunities. Vast landscapes, LOTS of birds in both Winter and Summer, and running water everywhere

He describes his category of photography as, “Anything that doesn’t feature man-made objects! Local birds of one sort or another make up about 90 percent of my work. Along with waterfalls, local critters, and landscapes.

To a question whether he has a pet, kids or a significant other, that he takes with him when he goes on his shoots, he replied with, “No kids, no pets. Although I would love to have a dog of my own someday. Black Lab probably. I have a girlfriend, but she’s not into photography. We take quite a few trips together and my camera is always with me, but she’s always got her own thing going on to keep her occupied.

When did you take your first photo?

I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, even when I was a kid. Capturing a moment or a scene.

It wasn’t until around 2002 or so that I actually got my first digital camera. A 3.2 mega pixel Sony Cyber-Shot, from work as a gift for winning employee of the year! I didn’t use it much in the beginning.

Then one day, not having a clue about what I was doing, I took it up to the hills and snapped a quick shot of a little waterfall along side a logging road. It was a dimly lit overcast day so the camera slowed the shutter speed accordingly.

I remember seeing the print of it for the first time and I said, “AH HA! So that’s how you get that fuzzy water look!” I’ve been taking pics ever since.

What kind of gear do you use?

  • Camera body – Typically I use the Canon 80D for my daily shooter. I still have my old Rebel XT that I bought back in 2005. I think it was that I use here or there while my 80D is in the shop. It’s happened three times in the last 4 years and its filled in nicely!
  • Lens – I’ve got a few L series lenses that I use.
  • Tripod – I’ve got three Benro Adventure series tripods. One is a heavy duty version for use with my gimbal setup. The other two are for light duty work.
  • Filters – I don’t use them too often. I do however use a neutral density filter here or there for some long exposure waterfall scenes, but even that’s rare.
  • Flash – Cant remember the last time I used a flash.
  • Camera bag – I still use the one that came with the purchase of my 80D 4 years ago!

When shooting birds I use the Canon 80D with the mark 2, L series 100-400mm lens. Sometimes I use the 1.4x teleconverter, but not too often.

Only if there’s a once in a lifetime photo op that pops up and I just got to have that extra little bit of reach. Then MAYBE I’ll use it.

I use a Benro Adventure Series tripod with the “box” style Manfrotto 393 gimbal head. And I ALWAYS carry with me a wired remote release.

Which is your favourite lens? Why?

The 100-400mm for sure. It gets me the bird shots I want and its extremely sharp at all focal lengths and all f-stops.

With super quick auto focus and an amazing image stabilization. But this can be said for any L series lens.

Do you have a favourite photo?

My favorite doesn’t appear to be the favorite of my social media followers, haha! I don’t know if I have a favorite.

My most popular photo, however, is that of a Short-Eared Owl in flight over a golden field taken last winter. It was the shot I was waiting for. Although I didn’t realize it turned out so good until after I got home. I edited it, cropped it, added my company name and posted it on Facebook.

Two weeks later it had racked up 50 thousand views, more than 5 thousand likes, and 700 shares. It’s won contests and its also been featured in several publications.

Among the gadgets that you own, is there something that you wish you hadn’t bought? Why?

I wish I hadn’t bought the mark III, 2x teleconverter. Anyone who has used them knows about how they mess with your images. Whether its softening them or slowing down your auto focus.

For me, I just couldn’t get a decent shot while using it. I put it on the shelf the day I bought it and haven’t touched it since.

How do you edit your photos?

I typically go VERY light when it comes to editing. Noise reduction and sharpening are a must for all keeper shots. Especially if its gonna wind up on social media.

I slightly deal with color in whatever way is needed and then I crop it accordingly using one of the better free applications that can be found online.

I use the Microsoft Paint program on my laptop to ad my, “watermark”, and that’s it. I’ve never even used Photoshop or Lightroom!

How did you learn the photography?

Trial and error, to this day, but especially in the beginning. I was a late bloomer as far as techno gadgets are concerned so I didn’t even buy my first computer (laptop), until 3-4 years after I started taking pics with my Cyber-Shot!

Once I outgrew the Cyber-Shot and bought my first DSLR, which was around the time I bought my first laptop, then I was on YouTube everyday.

Do you have a favourite photographer?

Famous bird photographer Arthur Morris is probably my biggest inspiration. I started following him about ten years ago. If nothing else, and this may sound trivial in the grand scheme, but he taught me the importance of cropping properly. Framing the shot so it looks pleasing.

The eye wants to see things a certain way. I feel its very important to give, “the viewers”, what they wants to see. Its such an easy thing to over look, yet so important to the finished product.

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

I wish I would have realized how much information was out there on the web when I got my first camera. As I mentioned above, I was a late bloomer in the technology realm.

I used my point and shoot Cyber-Shot for 3-4 years and never even went on the internet to learn what I was doing. I just started taking pics trial and error.

Thinking back, I remember countless days spend up in the heavily forested hills taking pics of a waterfall or something, trying to figure things out all by myself. Totally oblivious to that great bit world of information called the internet.

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