Yuri A Jones – Discovering the Man Behind the Lens
Who is the guy behind that Nikon lens? Yuri A Jones of course! Yeah, okay, but who is Yuri? Yuri is a photographer, and beyond that, he is an artist. Labeling him only a photographer steals from the full scope of his craft. If you have seen his portfolio you’d understand because his photos evoke raw and deep emotion.
Yuri, however, was not always a creative; instead, for about ten years he was a numbers guy. Yuri worked at The National Bank of Dominica and subsequent to that, ran a local Fast-Cash Branch; a company with eleven locations across the Caribbean. While he enjoyed being in the financial world and the rapport he had built with the teams he managed, something was missing.
In fact, his love for photography happened accidentally. It began several years before with a pocket camcorder and the need to do promo videos for a few local artists for whom he produced music. Naively, he started creating visuals for these promo videos, but the pocket camcorder simply was not great at shooting moving images. So, he began using it to shoot still scenes around his home instead. Then, he began using it to take marketing pictures for one of his side hustles—a cupcake business. The response was phenomenal, and so the love story between man and camera began to blossom.
Yuri remained working as a financial professional while continuing to cultivate his photography skill on the weekends. He could not however get rid of a nagging feeling that had enveloped him; a feeling that he was not truly exploring his life’s passion. He pondered leaving his 9-5 altogether, but fear of the unknown set in. Leaving a steady income to explore entrepreneurship is not an easy feat. How many people would have left their secure finance job to venture into the arts? Skeptics may have asked why not do it part time? But can one fully discover and nurture a skill if only committing to it part time? So, Yuri decided to leave the finance world and explore his artistry in its totality.
Yuri’s niche is landscape photography; however, he is well rounded and can bring life to just about anything. Ironically, for a while into his new career, Yuri did not explore wedding photography. “I did not feel I was qualified enough to capture moments that were so fleeting. Except for staged poses, you cannot recreate the first kiss or the first dance. I did not want to mess up someone’s special day,” he reminisced. Now, Yuri is open to taking on challenges and does not avoid anything, plus no longer having a 9-5 made him less picky.
His versatility flourished from shooting everything, and that is the advice he shares with anyone new to photography. “If you are not sure what you would like to shoot, shoot everything! Soon, you will figure out what you are drawn to the most. Once you figure that out, double down your efforts,” says Yuri. He also added, “Don’t get caught up on the gear, use your phone. The technology on phones today is so advanced. Their only limitation is that they don’t have interchangeable lenses. Regardless, the quality from modern smartphones is much better than professional cameras from ten years ago. Once you have figured out your specialty, then invest in a camera system.”
So, what equipment does someone who found his forte use? Currently, his favorite lens is one of the most well-known lens types; a 24-70mm zoom lens which he uses on his Nikon Z6. It allows him to shoot a variety of different subjects and produces very sharp images. Buying new gear is always fun, but according to Yuri, “it’s easy to find yourself going down a rabbit hole of continuously acquiring new gear.” This is called the Gear Acquisition System. Every year a dozen professional cameras surface on the market with different lenses. While it is vital to have the right equipment to do your work, Yuri believes keeping up to date with technique is twice as important. He sets time aside weekly to read books, blogs, and explore tutorials on YouTube to continuously nurture his editing techniques and develop his personal style.
Living on an island as picturesque as Dominica, who could blame him for being drawn to photographing nature. Dominica is an island surrounded by dense rainforests, waterfalls that cascade from heights into refreshing pools of clear, cool water, and rugged mountains whose peaks kiss the clouds. Yuri’s goal when shooting nature is to convey a feeling. To accomplish this, he toys with different colors and techniques that may evoke different feelings from a person. This is where his artistry comes alive. He wants you to feel the sea breeze and smell the moss growing near the riverbank. For instance, one of the techniques he uses when shooting moving water is called a long exposure shot which makes the water look silky smooth.
Nature shots take a lot of planning. On an island like Dominica which markets itself as an Ecotourism destination, tourists are always buzzing around, exploring the natural habitats. Therefore, Yuri must plan accordingly. His initial visit to a site involves previsualization where he imagines his final product. Then, he decides what time of day is best keeping in mind the tourists who frequent these sites and the type of light he hopes to capture. The last aspect is postproduction or editing. With nature shots, postproduction is just as important because what we see with the naked eye is never captured exactly by the camera. Of all his shots, Yuri says his favorites are his nighttime shots. His all-time favorite being a lightning shot. One stormy night, he drove to Morne Bruce—a hillside enclave above the Botanical Gardens— and was able to capture a lightning bolt. The bolt itself was circular, and the sky glowed an eerie purple. In my opinion, the shot looks like a scene from the Little Mermaid when the villain Ursula attacks. But the picture is in fact real!
The man behind the lens whose photos are crisp and clean, who captures mother nature in an ethereal way— from sun drenched beaches, to the lush forests that envelope the beautiful island of Dominica—is quite humble. When I asked him what his most liked picture on social media was, he simply responded with, “I don’t usually keep track of likes” I did a little digging of course. Yuri’s photos have hundreds of likes and shares across his social platforms, and his photos have graced the likes of publications such as The New York Times—a publication with worldwide influence and readership. Apart from having his photos displayed on a world-renowned publication, Yuri cites his greatest accomplishment as being his coffee table photography book Majestic and Magical: Come Explore the Nature Isle. The book contains more than 120 images from around Dominica, captured over the course of 3 years, and is the ultimate expression of his art, with impeccable print quality and style.
Speaking of print, that is one of his specialties. He prides himself on quality durable prints that can be passed on from generation to generation. Aside from wanting to evoke emotion through his photography, Yuri’s goal is to bring back the photo album and print era to Dominica. In days of the past, folks would dress up in their best, and take family portraits to hang on their walls or to fill albums. Today, the camera roll on your iPhone or android has replaced a physical photo album. The sentiment however is lacking. Furthermore, while you can flip through pages on an album, there is an unspoken rule that you simply must not swipe left or right on someone’s phone. Yuri’s greatest joy is seeing the joy he brings to his clients. Most recently he was able to photoshop a client’s son into a family portrait. His client beamed with utter delight when she received her prints. Some gain satisfaction when the total assets equal the total liabilities on a Balance Sheet; and maybe that would have brought Yuri some joy a few years ago, but his joy now comes from spreading joy through his photography.
Yuri calls himself an artist, I call him a consultant. This self-taught artist is committed to bringing the visions of his clients to life. He has shot for the New York Times, he shoots for the average Dominican who wants memorabilia from their 60th birthday, and he caters to commercial clients who want to solve real-world business issues through pictorial and video marketing strategies. Now, that is true artistry!
If you take anything at all from this story, I hope it is this; chase your dreams fervently and invest in your passion.