If you want to open windows to undiscovered worlds or simply get a new perspective on the one you’re living in right now, Julius Kahkonen is your guy. Using his own photographs and a number of different editing techniques, this Finnish artist and voyager offers an invitation that’s hard to pass on.
And so in this week’s On The Spot, we’re letting Julius take us on a journey, as we follow his nature-inspired artistic ventures. You’re coming with us, no excuses!
You may be a globetrotter, but there has to be one place you call home. Where is it?
I love to travel and there are many places I feel very comfortable at, but Finland is hard to beat. It’s where I grew up, and no matter where I go, Finland always feels the most home to me. I also draw a lot of inspiration and motivation from photographing in Finland, and I happen to come from a very wildlife-rich area. I got into wildlife photography mainly because of my home.
Another place that feels like home, and where I probably have the most work from, is Lofoten. I love mountains and find myself at peace while hiking during summer nights in Lofoten. The sun never sets and in general, the atmosphere and landscapes are out of this world.
What inspires you the most?
For a long time, I was mostly inspired by nature landscape paintings. Nowadays, I’d say my biggest inspiration is my travels. Being able to see and capture so many beautiful places always opens my creative mind to new possibilities.
You are your own boss. How did you get to where you are now?
I started photography back in 2016 and first shared my images on my private Instagram profile. I never actually knew I had an entrepreneurial or creative side to me but when I picked up a camera and Photoshop, it just felt so right. I felt like I had found my passion. I would edit images and artworks every single day as part of a routine, without any specific goal.
It wasn’t until my Guiding Light artwork – which also happens to be a bestseller in my fantasy landscape collection on Displate – went viral on Instagram that I truly understood I wanted to turn traveling, photography and all the rest into a full time job. My advantage was that I was 17 years old and could put all of my time after school into this hobby of mine. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I kept an open mind and got further step by step. Though I made many mistakes on the way, the one thing that I always did right was posting actively. I kept art creation as my number one priority, and everything else followed.
You are very active on social media. How important do you consider the role of your online presence in your artistic achievements?
I didn’t set any goals at first, but once things began to pick up on IG, I started to focus more and more on the business side and strategies. I think I would’ve never gotten any business ideas or realized any ventures if it wasn’t for my social media growth. It motivated me and made me realize I want to build an art business. But also I think I would’ve kept on working even if I didn’t succeed online, simply because I really enjoy the routine of creating artworks.
Who is your social media community and how do you engage with them?
My audience is a bit divided since I do so many different things. I do photography in different styles, I edit composites in different styles, and I also create 3D renders. On top of this, I also teach my skills, so there are several smaller communities following me for different types of content. I engage with my audience through DM’s, online courses, my Discord server and in general through my social media channels.
One of the things you teach is photo editing. When do you know exactly that your work is done and ready for publication?
This is a hard question. I think that many artists can agree that it’s hard to stop editing. I’m not always happy with what should already be the “end result” and often find myself adding more and more effects.
What helps me the most is taking a break from a piece. Sometimes going away from the computer and coming back later lets you see your artwork in a different way. For me the image is ready for publication when I finally get that inner good feeling. Some days I don’t get it at all and ditch a lot of projects I start, other times I just nail things at one try.
What resources do you use? Are they mostly your own photographs?
Nowadays it’s pretty much only my own photos. I don’t remember the last time I used a stock image for a composite piece, and it makes me really happy, because that was my goal when I started. I wanted to be at a point where I don’t have to rely on copyright-free stock images – and that’s where I am now.
I also use my own editing tools like overlays and brushes which are created out of my own images as well. For my 3D renders I use A LOT of different sources, but that world is completely separate from my photography/composite work.
What is the key to taking the best photo?
Simply being in the right place at the right time. It doesn’t even always matter what gear you have with you. I have learned that the only thing you can’t change is the weather, and in my opinion, that is the most important thing when it comes to taking good photos. Knowing your equipment inside out helps with capturing moments when something cool happens and you have to act really fast, but after all I think it all comes down to weather.
Being a photographer is your job and biggest passion. What makes you happy when you’re not taking photos?
I grew up playing video games, so when I have time, I try to game here and there. I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and friends. Recently, I’ve picked up a new hobby – disc golf. I also slackline and go for runs every now and then.
If you could share a few tips with photography beginners, what would you tell them?
Don’t get frustrated with limited access to cameras, tools, and other opportunities. Try to create something every single day and keep an open mind for learning new things daily. Spend less time watching content on Instagram and more time getting inspired to create. Try not to compare yourself to others and have fun within your journey.
What are your biggest dreams as a photographer and artist?
I would really like to travel to more countries and I hope I can continue to do so with my girlfriend, who also creates art. I also want to get published one day and try to get to 100k students with my courses. I love to help and teach so anything I can achieve in that area will make me really happy.