Roy Charles Tells the Love Story of DJI, Mamiya and No Photoshop

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My name is Roy Charles. I’m 27 years old and photography is one of my true passions in life; I’m just a hobbyist though. For a career, I work for my very small family business doing contract work for the major railroads here in the US. It’s a very hard, labor intensive job that requires me to work an insane amount of hours. I absolutely love my job though and I’ve always been someone that likes to have a job and hobbies and not make my hobbies my job. With this job also, I get to travel the United States going to small towns and to the middle of nowhere following the railroad.

My job is hard but photography (more so nature) is my outlet to destress from a difficult day. I couldn’t tell you what got me into photography I’ve been shooting on and off for over a decade now. I’ve consistently been shooting for about 3 years though. Nature has always been a powerful force for me in life. During my college career, I was a high adventure guide taking fellow students across the country to remote wildernesses making sure they don’t die. That experience really solidified that love of earth and nature for me. Now, with my career on the railroad I’m thrown back into nature and get to travel to places in the United States that I didn’t even know existed. This is definitely where my love for landscape photography, my philosophy behind my photography, and my evolution as a photographer began. 

The more I shoot, the more I learn and evolve, the more I travel, the more I find photography becoming important to me. Where I am thrown into wild remote places with the railroad I am more often than not seeing the world behind a windshield on an interstate or highway. When I first started to shoot and, as an ex adventure guide, I thought the only way to shoot landscapes was to get far off the beaten path and capture a site that few to no people have seen before. But the more I see behind my windshield the more I have found beauty all around me and have discovered we don’t have to go far to capture the beauty of nature around us. All the photos I submitted are taken outside a hotel, off my apartment balcony, on the shoulder of an interstate/highway, or within 30 minutes of the hotel I’m staying at. I don’t travel far anymore to take photos mostly because I don’t have time as I’m shooting in the evenings after work and I want to show that we don’t have to get lost in a forest or go on a week expedition to be a “landscape photographer.” 

I see myself as a documenter. I want to take a raw, pure snapshot of nature to take back with me and to show this hidden beauty that surrounds us all. I have two main pieces of gear that help me do this. The first one being my DJI Mavic Air. Drones are amazing and I wouldn’t be able to get half the shots I get without it. Not only does it allow me to get a different perspective of this planet it allows me to reach places that I would have never been able to reach before. I love this little drone. Sure, its not the best photography drone out there but it’s what I got. If you’d like to donate a DJI Inspire 2 to the cause shoot me an email. ☺ Even still, I don’t believe we need to best gear to capture good photographs. We just need to know how to use it.

My second piece of gear is a Mamiya RB67 ProSD. Yes, I do lug this brick of a camera everywhere around with me. I absolutely love this camera though. I have always seen film as the purist form of photography and a real showcase of your talent. I know I’m not the best yet or maybe not even that good at shoot film yet but it’s a difficult skill to learn. It doesn’t detour me though it only pushes me to learn more and evolve as a photographer. I have also only been shooting film for about 8 months now and there has been a steep learning curve. This leads me straight into my biggest influence.

If it wasn’t for Alex Burke and his eBook Film in a Digital Age I probably won’t have ever stepped foot into the world of film. Not only is his large format landscape photography incredibly beautiful and inspiring his transparency of knowledge and his process is truly a godsend to those of us who want to learn the craft. To me at least, film is overwhelming. There is so much to learn and so much that can go wrong but his book help relieve a lot of that stress and taught me so much. I still have an incredible amount to learn but he gave me the confidence to step into this world of film photography that I have always wanted to venture into. So Alex, if you are to ever read this, Thank you.

I wouldn’t say I have any special process or techniques when I go out and shoot now. When I shoot with my Mamiya I meter the light, add filters if needed, set my camera, make a wish, and hope I did everything right. With my drone, I set it off and fly around having fun until I see something that catches my eye. I also never go out just to take photos. I’ve had several fellow photographers ask me now how I deal with getting bad exposures or miss that perfect moment or just couldn’t get good framing.

To me, just being out in nature is enough, being able to capture a moment I was living in is a bonus. I don’t believe we can go into nature expecting anything to come out of it also. I mostly go out to destress from a bad day and if I’m lucky I get to capture a little piece of that moment and take it back with me to save for a rainy day. The same goes for my post processing. This whole series is about photographers that don’t use Photoshop. I don’t have any special process and I mostly don’t use Photoshop because I don’t know how to. Furthermore, I don’t believe nature needs to be edited. Mother nature is beautiful in all her glory. Why ever mutilate that? The only things I do in post process are crop and occasionally, I’ll change an image to monotone. You might have noticed I’m fond of the panoramic aspect ratios. I pretty much dream in this aspect ratio. It’s how I see a lot of the world. I love that you can get a scale of the landscape but still an intimate feeling of closeness. I absolutely love it and often take a shot knowing I’m going to crop it.

So, you ask what is “really cool” about my photos and why people will want to see them? Well, first, I can only hope people find my images as interesting and beautiful as I do but what I find to be “really cool” is just nature itself. I just do my best to capture nature for exactly what it is. Remarkably beautiful. It is what drives me, it is what motivates me, it is what keeps calling me back. I just want to share with people that we don’t have to go far into the wilderness to be close with nature and to see her beauty. Call me a romantic or a hippy, I don’t care, nature sure is neat.

All images and words by Roy Charles. Used with permission. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.