Jesse Kincaid: How He Shot This Beautiful, Contest Winning Photo

All images by Jesse Kincaid. Used with permission.

“…this just goes to show you what is possible even when you don’t have the ‘PERFECT’ setup,” amateur photographer Jesse Kincaid tells us in our interview about how he got the lead image. Jesse is the winner of our recent Landscape photography contest with Tamron. After winning the 17-28mm f2.8 lens, Jesse is now making this his go-to lens. His beautiful image of the night sky was done with gear that he considers not ideal. And we’re excited to see what he can produce with something that he feels is even better.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Jesse: Growing up I was raised with an appreciation for all forms of art. My mother was an interior designer and painter while my father was a highly skilled French chef, but I never truly found my creative outlet until I got an Apple iPhone 6. While I was on vacation in Lake Tahoe, I had taken a few really beautiful shots with my new phone and I got totally hooked! Most of my learning came from the iPhone platform; initially from framing with the rule of thirds, and editing inside of Apple photos. I started posting to Instagram and talked to a few photographers; one, in particular, Alex Vy, his work to me was so inspirational. I reached out to him via Instagram and he couldn’t have been nicer. He was so encouraging and totally sold me on the Sony platform. The first camera I bought was a Sony a6400 with a 16-35mm lens.


Phoblographer: What made you want to get into landscapes and nightscapes?

Jesse: I was with a dear friend of mine, Enrico Spadoni, who happens to be a professional photographer, at the top of this dam in Healdsburg. It was a blue hour (I didn’t even know what that meant at this point), and with just a few snaps of my camera I saw the stars come out in my image, I was awestruck! I knew from this point on I wanted to do Astrophotography in combination with Landscape. I decided to learn more and signed up with the same buddy to do a Sigma lens workshop on Astrophotography. During the workshop, I tried out their range of lenses and I fell in love with the 16mm f1.4 on my APSC Sony.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you shot this photo? What were the settings? What was going through your head as you composed it?

Jesse: Frequently, I spend my morning prayer time in Big Sur, where the views are epic, and I knew I needed to capture just how magical it is. My plan was to get the Milky Way in a vertical position with the ocean and cliffs in the foreground. I purchased a Sony a7riii in July of 2019, and knew I only had a few more new moon nights to get the shot before the Milky Way would be gone for the season. The setup was crop mode with my Sigma 16mm (24mm in crop) at f1.4. I used the camera’s live view setting to compose the shot and focus peaking to make sure I got the stars pinpoint sharp. White balance was set to incandescent, and to minimize camera shake I put it on a self-timer for 2 seconds, IBIS was set to off, ISO 6400, and the exposure time was 15 seconds. I used my black diamond headlamp to light paint the foreground. The final result was this shot.

During the shoot the biggest thing that was going through my head was the fine balance of keeping the stars sharp without introducing too much noise or having them stretch across the frame due to long exposure time. Also, I knew I wanted the clouds lit up in the background so I had to time an oncoming car just right to so it’s headlights could illuminate it.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear you used: how do you feel it helped you get the shot?

Jesse: The Sony A7riii low light capability in combination with the fast Sigma glass is what made this possible. I would have loved to have used a full-frame lens but this just goes to show you what is possible even when you don’t have the “PERFECT” setup. It taught me that it’s not all about the gear, but more about the moment you are capturing.

Phoblographer: How do you plan on using the new Tamron lens?

Jesse: Well, I plan on using this new lens as my go-to portable wide-angle. The fact it’s so lightweight while still providing excellent image quality across its focal range makes it perfect for my backpacking setup. I have actually been eyeing this model for some time, so I am beyond grateful to have won it in this competition. It will take great advantage of my full-frame camera, and allow me to truly explore both landscape and astrophotography. I’m looking forward to using it to grow my body of work as I walk on this journey of photography.