A local photographer, known for his landscape photos of Oxford, recently added wildlife to his growing list of subjects.
Jim Hendrix has been shooting and selling prints of his city and landscape photography for years, but as he began to run out of nearby places to shoot, he turned his eye to the wildlife of Oxford and surrounding areas.
“It’s something around us I haven’t been shooting, and it’s challenging. It’s totally different,” Hendrix said. “You’ve got to learn the ways of your subject matter: where to find them, what time of day.”
According to Hendrix, he started taking an interest in wildlife one day while searching Google maps. As he looked at images of Sardis Lake, he discovered a road between Coontown Crossing and Hurricane Landing. At the end of this road, he was surprised to find a waterfowl wildlife reserve. Hendrix loaded up his truck and set off down the tiny road. When he reached the end, he saw a large wooden observation deck. Before Hendrix could even step out of his truck, two cranes flew overhead.
Since then he has begun spending an hour at a time out at the reserve, photographing geese and other birds during the prime hours of lighting for photographers near dawn and dusk.
Hendrix said his hobby of photography began in 2012 when he bought his first camera to take with him on his walks around Oxford.
“I’d shoot squirrels and more squirrels,” Hendrix said, chuckling, “anything that would pop its head up.”
Hendrix quickly filled his camera and phone with pictures and began looking at other artists’ work online. He became fascinated with high dynamic range or HDR photos and thought, “why can’t I do that?” He began pouring his time into learning all he could about equipment and techniques from YouTube tutorials.
“A lot of people get formal training for what they go into, spend a lot of time and a lot of money being told how to do something,” Hendrix said. “I’m a person who’s always just jumped in. That’s just the way I am.”
He displayed his work for the first time at The Frame Up, a custom framing shop on The Square, and they quickly drew attention. He began selling bigger and bigger prints of his photos until he finally decided to invest in a giant printer for himself and began printing canvases as well.
The fine art printing, Hendrix said, changed the economics of his whole operation. Instead of spending $30-$40 online to print something that may or may not turn out the way he wanted, he was able to do his printing more frequently in his own studio at a much smaller cost averaging about 50-60 cents per square foot.
“I can make mistakes and throw them away, and it doesn’t hurt as much,” Hendrix said. “My time is free. It’s just the cost of canvas and ink.”
As he mastered the art of printing, he began hiring himself out to other local artists to reproduce, digitize and print their work while perfecting his own artistic style. By using high contrast, high color and high detail, Hendrix produces photos that often look like paintings.
“All these scenes are around us, and they’re beautiful, but not the way we see them normally,” Hendrix said.
For his city and landscape photos, Hendrix uses a complex method of stitching together multiple photos taken of the same scene with different exposures to create one high dynamic range photo. This skill, though he got the basics from watching online tutorials, was largely self-taught through trial and error.
“That’s the thing with photography. You’ll be figuring for years, but don’t give up. All the work you put into it is worth it,” Hendrix said.
By selling his work and hiring himself out, Hendrix is able to finance his hobby, upgrading his equipment to be able to take more diverse and better quality photos.
“Whatever [photographers] make we plow back into photography equipment,” Hendrix said. “I’m still playing the game the others play. You see a better camera and think how it’ll improve your technique and the quality of your work.”
According to Hendrix, he plans to eventually stop buying new equipment and let his bank account grow. Though opportunities to go national have presented themselves here and there, Hendrix said he has no desire to make a career of photography.
“I’m too old for that,” Hendrix said. After 20 years in retirement, Hendrix said he prefers to keep his hobby low-key, “doing his own thing at his own rate.”
“If you turn it into a real business, then you’re locked down,” Hendrix said. “Late in life you don’t want to be burdened.”
Hendrix does not see his hobby as a means to make money, but as a way to connect with other artists and to enjoy and express himself.
Mary Cloud Taylor is a senior print journalism major at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media and an intern for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.