My name is Jon Grall, and this is my photography portfolio site. I grew up in England and France, before moving to the U.S. in 2001 to pursue a Computer Science degree at MIT. After college I spent 10 years living and working in California, much of it in Silicon Valley. Nowadays I now live in quiet Montclair, NJ with my wonderful wife, Eva.
Most of my career has been spent designing and building games and apps – using software to try to improve the everyday lives of millions of people. While I found some measure of success working in technology, I realized that I wanted more from my work life than sitting at a computer all day. Now that I’m taking my career in a different direction, my background in engineering and video game production has helped me get a headstart in photography.
I shoot a bit of everything, but these days I’m most interested in photographs of people. When nature doesn’t cooperate, my technical brain enjoys the challenge of using artificial light and clever tricks to create magic from nothing.
About My Photography
Like many people, I began taking snapshots at an early age. Mostly vacation and family shots, at first on film, and later digital. All the photos I took were unremarkable because I put very little thought into the images, and never bothered to edit them. Likewise, I was always interested in cameras as gadgets, but I never really took the time to learn how they worked, or to understand how to control an exposure.
It wasn't until college that I got a bit more interested in photography upon taking a class on high-speed imaging at MIT's Edgerton Lab. I learned some basic theory of optics and imaging, and got some experience using specialized high-speed cameras and strobes to photograph speeding bullets, water droplets, and so forth. I also learned how to develop negatives and make prints in the dark room, though I cannot claim to have been any good at it – I was just happy to not totally botch the print.
After college, I put down the camera, and it took another 13 years for me to get interested in photography again. For years I resisted carrying a camera whenever we traveled. I didn't want to spend time or money capturing mediocre snapshots that I knew were unlikely to get a second look. I abhorred selfies and food snaps. I also hated seeing myself in pictures. I still do.
Even in 2010, when I was working on my first startup in San Francisco, and for months literally sat next to the founders of what eventually became Instagram, I still didn't care much for photography. Only relatively recently, beginning in late 2016, after a bit of a struggle with depression, did I finally get it. Photography became my escape. In particular, landscape photography, where I could spend precious time out in nature, became my therapy.
Being someone who never does anything halfway, I've since become obsessed with photography, and I love it. It's introduced me to a new community of creative and curious people, and has taught me to see and notice things I previously took for granted. Travel is more enjoyable and fulfilling. I've spent many unforgettable hours outdoors, often alone in the wilderness, in the pursuit of better and better images. Related to my photography has been a strong interest in hiking and camping, which has helped me to explore some hard-to-get-to locations, and has had a positive impact on my health.
While landscape photography is the genre that first got me hooked, as time rolls on I've become more broadly interested in nature photography, and also in portraiture and street photography. Photography is a broad and deep field, and I consider myself at the start of a lifelong journey.
The Gear I Use
Photographers love to talk about their gear, and to ask and be asked about it. Gear is the tangible part of making pictures, the instruments with which we create and express ourselves. The equipment we use is a personal choice, and itself an expression of our tastes and goals.
As a computer nerd my own natural inclination is to be a gear geek, but the more I practice photography, the more I realize how little the equipment matters. The best camera in the world can't make up for a lack of vision, skill, light, composition, story or subject. The best photographers can take great pictures with any camera – it's the person behind the camera that matters. With that disclaimer out of the way, here's some of the equipment that I use:
Fuji XF series zoom and prime lenses. I generally prefer primes to zooms for the best image quality and portability.
Flashpoint studio strobes, speedlights, and radio triggers
Breakthrough Photography filters
An Eizo 4K monitor for accurate color while editing
An X-rite printer calibration system for creating custom paper profiles
I process my photos on a custom-built hackintosh using the following software: Capture One Pro; Photoshop CC; Affinity Photo; Lumenzia; Topaz DeNoise AI; Helicon Focus; PTGui; Starry Landscape Stacker; JPEGMini; and FastRawViewer.
I'm constantly inspired by the work of other photographers and artists, especially the new generations of photographers who are displaying their work and teaching others online via YouTube and other social platforms like Instagram and 500px. Some of my favorite photographers and educators include:
I'm also a member of two brilliant camera clubs here in New Jersey, that have won national, and even international photo competitions – the Camera Naturalist Photo Club, and the Livingston Camera Club.
Copyright & Licensing
If you wish to use an image for a purpose that is not permitted by the above license - for example, if you wish to use an image commercially - please contact me about licensing options.