Would you mind introducing yourself? My name is Marcus Jew. Yep, Jew is my last name. It has Chinese origins, and was given to my great-grandfather when he immigrated to the United States–probably because of the phonetic similarities between his dialect and English. The rest is history! For a living, I work as registered nurse in a high-acuity medical intensive care unit. I love my job as a nurse, and my goal is to make a difference in my patients’ quality of life. The job can be tough at times, especially when you see life and death on a daily basis, but I can’t see myself anywhere else.
Marcus' Instagram - @whatwouldjewdo
Where are you from, and where do you currently live? I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I went to UCLA (Go Bruins!) for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Now, I work there! Even though it seems like I spend a lot of time away from LA, I love it here. I love the weather. I love my job. I love how everything is accessible. What I don’t love is the traffic, but you get used to it.
When did you first fall in love with taking photos? My love for photography began when I was in college. I actually had dreams of going to medical school back in college, so I would spend every waking moment studying for exams. When I wasn’t studying, I’d shoot random things outside or read up on photography tips. Obviously, my plans fell through, but I consider not getting into medical school one of the best things to happen to me. I’m able to invest more time in photography and travel. I’m really happy with where I am in life right now!
Do you have a favourite photography related memory, whether it be in front or behind the camera? I’d have to say that the Northern Lights are REALLY impressive in person. I was with my dad the first time I saw them. We were bundled up in a camper van near Lake Myvatn in Iceland—it was freezing cold outside, and the strong winds didn’t make the situation better. We were patiently waiting for the lights to appear, taking shifts so that the other could get some sleep. When they finally appeared, we were absolutely blown away. It amazing to be able to experience that moment with my dad!
What inspires you to take these wonderful photographs? I’m going to answer this question differently. As an ICU nurse, I see a lot of heartbreaking stories unfold at work. To family and friends, I describe my unit as a place where horrible luck affects good people. The youngest patient I ever took care of, who ultimately passed away, was only 19 years old. The next oldest after that? 22 and 23. I think a lot of us remember where we were or what we were doing in our younger years, and it probably wasn’t in-and-out of a hospital wondering if this hospitalization would be the last. I admire these patients—they cherish the time they have with family in spite of their illness. Whatever issues I have going on in my life pale in comparison to what they go through. It really puts life into perspective. I just try to live one day at a time and make the most of it. Sorry to dampen the mood! Back to photography!
What kind of camera do you use? I’ve been a Nikon user for the longest time now. I currently shoot with a Nikon D750. My primary lens is the 24-70 mm f/2.8. I also own a 70-200 mm f/2.8, 85 mm f/1.8, and a 15 mm f/2. My only issue right now is that the glass is getting a little too heavy for me. I used to be able to run all over the place with my gear! I am trying to get into film photography. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the subject, and it’s very cerebral compared to the digital format, that’s for sure. But I think that’s the beauty about film. Anyways, I’m looking forward to it!
Are there any tips you would like to give to anyone out there who would love to create similar style photos to yours? I guess you can say that I look for contrast in most of my images, but instead of using the Basic tab (in Lightroom) I play with the tone curves a lot. In my opinion, the three most important tabs in Lightroom are 1) Tone curves, 2) HSL, and 3) Split toning. I play around with those settings quite a bit when I’m editing. I also use the graduated filter quite a bit to over/underexpose parts of the photo. This is also important: a large part of post-processing for me actually starts with composition and getting everything right in the camera before I take it to Lightroom. If a composition isn’t the way I want it, I won’t be able to do much in post-processing to “save” the photo.
What are some of your passions/hobbies other than photography? When I’m not at work, traveling, or taking photos, you can usually find me on the tennis court or at the gym. I’m really not a fan of running, so the only way I get my cardio in is if you make me run after a ball repeatedly. I used to play almost every day, but with my variable work schedule, I’m lucky if I get to hit 2-3 times a week. I play in a recreational league (USTA), and I’ve been fortunate to play at Nationals for two years in a row!
Do you have any photography-related plans for this summer that you would like to share? I don’t really like to travel during the summer because it’s the high season for a lot places and the weather tends to be unbearable. However, I was in Iceland last June and it was perfect. I don’t have plans right now, but who knows? Maybe I’ll magically have an opening in my schedule for (another) trip to Iceland.
Are there any photographers here on Instagram that you love and wish more people knew about? Oh gosh, there are so many to name. I just love all of them. They all have their own distinct style and they do it so well! BUT, if you held a gun to my head and told me to name a couple, I’d have to say @eloineka and @luana.mglhs. I discovered their accounts within the past month, and the photos are absolutely stunning!
What would be your number one dream destination for a photography adventure? I’ve been fortunate enough to go to some pretty awesome places like Patagonia and Iceland. I guess tied for first now would be Greenland, Antarctica, and Norway. (P.s. What is it with me and cold places? I’m from Southern California where its sunny most of the year!)
Which time of year is your favourite for taking photographs? Oh, that’s a tough one. Each season has its own charm. Spring in Japan is absolutely beautiful during cherry blossom season. Southern California has some pretty awesome sunsets in the summer. I love seeing foliage turn color in the fall. And you can’t forget about the Northern Lights in the winter. I’m going to have to say all of them!
Do you have any upcoming photography trips/sessions planned that you would like to share? I thought you’d never ask! In March I’m heading back to Iceland (…for the fourth time) with some friends. If you get to know me personally, you’ll find out that I’m a fiend for Iceland. I often joke that I’m going to buy a vacation home there. I’m really looking forward to it—we’re going to see tons of waterfalls and glaciers, and if we’re lucky, the Northern Lights! It’s going to be an awesome road trip with some really cool people!
Don't forget to follow Marcus on Instagram! (@whatwouldjewdo)