Pro Spotlight – John Rathwell


JOBY Pro Spotlight | 13 Questions for a Pro Photographer | John Rathwell

This month we’re featuring John Rathwell an action adventure photographer from Ontario. John consistently produces some amazing images. We’re fans of his work here at JOBY but also have grown to love the positive attitude John has. He’s a top level photographer who humbly calls himself a “pro button pusher”. At JOBY we’re proud to have John as an Advocate.


John Rathwell  |  Age: 27  |  Ottawa Ontario


Facebook: (John Rathwell Photography)

Instagram: (@JohnRathwell)

Twitter: (@JohnRathwell)


What type of professional photographer are you?

I like to consider myself as more of a professional button pusher than photographer, but to answer your question, I shoot action and adventure sports for commercial and editorial use.


Your Gear – What do you use regularly?

I use a variety of gear depending on the shoot but my go to is; Canon 5D mk III, Canon 8-15mm, 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. Lately I have also been using primes like the 50mm and 135mm a lot more. In terms of accessories I typically carry LumoPro Flashes, Pocket Wizard Plus III’s, GorillaPod Focus and ND filters. I love ND filters!



What would be your dream photography job?

Any job that keeps me traveling to beautiful places and working with amazing people and athletes. It doesn’t get much better than that! My bags are already packed…where in the World should we go?


Why did you become a professional photographer and when did you know you wanted to be one?

To be honest, I became a professional photographer by accident. I was kayaking full time when a chronic shoulder injury put me on the sidelines. I found myself in a situation where I was sitting on the banks of some of the greatest rivers in the world with the top paddlers in front of me. I had the thought “Gee…someone should take photos of this” and it all began. From that time on (about 2009) I have slowly grown and expanded my photography business to a place it sustains a living for me. I don’t believe I ever woke up one morning and said “today is the day I am going to be a professional photographer”. It just kind of happened…and I hope it keeps happening!


Did you study photography?

I did not go through a traditional college photography course. That being said, I did put my time in reading books, watching tutorials and learning off of local photographers that inspired me. I also spent a lot of time just shooting, editing and learning by trial and error.  Side note: The book the stands out the most to me, in terms of teaching crux skills for my career is Syl Arena’s Speedliters Handbook (I still have it…and if you want to learn to light you should get it to).



Do you carry a camera with you daily when not working?

Don’t we all these days (holds up phone)? I pretty much always have my iPhone on me, which for most situations on the fly, can capture the shot I am after…even if I have to work it a little more (but thats all part of the fun). I recently started carrying the Canon G1 X mk II around with me in certain situations, which has has been fun. I have been known to through a GoPro in my pocket as well when going on adventures with friends as a quick and easy way to shoot photos.


When you’re not shooting photos – you are?

Any of my friends can tell you, that at any moment I can be torn off the path we are headed down to start working any sort of photo that I think might have potential. Kind of like a dog and squirrel situations you could say. When we are on road trips, everyone knows if I am in the car it is going to take longer than average! Actually, I try to drive as much as possible so I can choose to pull over, as my friends have started ignoring me when I ask if we can stop for a photo.


If you couldn’t be a professional photographer you would be a?

Good question. I would be doing something else that I love and that makes me happy. My theory has never been to do a specific job because it pays well. It has always been to simply just be happy. So whatever it is, I can bet it will be doing something outside.



Have you ever dropped a lens? – Come on be honest!

A lens? As in just one? I wish I had a short answer for this question…but unfortunately I have dropped a lot of gear. To keep it down to my 2 scariest stories, last fall I was shooting sea kayaking on the rugged shores of northern Nova Scotia. I had climbed high onto a rocky shore line and   went to grab my camera to start shooting when the body came of the lens. The body dropped and tumbled off the edge of the rock and feel about 20 feet. After that it continued to tumble down the sloped rock towards the sea about another 40 feet. It stopped right before it hit the water. Luckily the camera still works great. I also had my entire bag fall off a rock and end up in the river once. I had to jump in in my clothes to fetch it out of the cold spring water. I ended up loosing one flash which is pretty lucky considering that my entire kit was in the bag at the time. When it comes down to it, gear is a tool to get the job done. I do my best to protect and take care of it, but in the end its about getting the shot, not making sure my gear stays in mint condition for ever.


If you could only have only one lens for a year what would it be?

My 24-70 is my workhorse, go to lens and has been for awhile. I think that catches a lot of people off guard, as sports photographers always go to their trusty old 70-200. I prefer showing more of the environment the athlete is in and is trying to conquer, which is why I prefer the wider lenses.


Name a famous person living or dead whose photo you would wish you could take.

There are several amazing action sports athletes on my list, past and present that I would love to work with, but I am actually going to say my father, who passed away last summer. As a photographer, it is sometimes hard to make the time to create a really good portrait of someone in your family, but it is something that is very much worth doing.

Dane Jackson - Action


The next piece of gear you’re going to buy is?

I have been eyeing up the 24mm tilt shift lens or the new Canon 100-400mm. I try not to focus on all the fancy stuff to much though. I find to be at your creative peak you need to have a few restrictions, which is why I think I have been loving the use of primes lately.


And finally what is the one thing you wish a professional photographer had told you before you became a professional photographer?

I feel like for myself, I misunderstand the need to always be learning. When I started getting into it I tried to learn all these techniques and thought “once I know all these things, every photo will be amazing”, but the fact is you always need to learn and push yourself. Photography gets boring if you keep making the same photos and using the same techniques. I have discovered that my “personal photography” has become experimental in terms of trying to do something new or different then mastering it. Once I master it, I bring that technique to my professional work.




Zach Settewongse

Author Zach Settewongse

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