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Episode #119

100 Rejections, Finding Fresh Stories, and Passionate Persistence with Jules Jacobs


UPDATED: May 25, 2023
ORIGINALLY AIRED ON November 29, 2022


Achieving success in conservation photography is simple as long as you have these three ingredients: curiosity, persistence, and a willingness to pivot. As Jules Jacobs proves, these traits help you make bold moves, open doors to opportunities you'd only ever dreamed about, and find surprising friendships along the way.


“You throw a rock at the moon, you don't think it's gonna hit it. And then oh my God, it does! What happens now?”

Jules Jacobs knows that success in conservation photography doesn't come overnight – or after a few weeks. Or even after a few months. But it DOES come and it's well worth the effort to make it happen.

That's because your success as a photographer doesn't affect just you. It affects everyone who's involved in the story, the project, the issue you've been documenting.

Your achievement in reaching an audience with compelling photos, in sparking attention and interest in a cause, in raising awareness about an issue that impacts our lives…

Well, ultimately that means we all benefit. And that is a HUGE driver for maintaining passionate persistence in your work.

As Jules notes, “Ego has to go out the door. When you see that red-tailed hawk, when you see the fish in the river and you know that a little bit more is known about what they're going through, that's the win. And that's what we have to aspire to every day.”

Jules has taken that perspective and run with it.

He uses his big inner why to take bold steps like:

  • knocking on the door of editors at major publications (even without a track record of published work to show them)
  • building meaningful relationships with characters to shape stories that touch hearts and minds
  • working on ambitious images for a local issue (even when he's days away from moving across the country and leaving it behind)
  • and using curiosity and a beginners mindset to identify fresh story ideas and angles while allowing characters to shape the path the story eventually takes.

This conversation with Jules and his infectious joy for conservation visual storytelling is sure to inspire you in your own work.

You'll Learn:

  • How a race to reach 100 rejections lead to a career-changing opportunity
  • Jules' philosophy on letting the story shape itself and what that looks like
  • How to find a new story or project when you've moved to a brand-new area
  • Why pursuing a story through to publication isn't about ego, but about doing justice for the characters
  • Strategies to get the most out of feedback and critique so you're always growing


Resources Mentioned

Episode 119: 100 Rejections, Finding Fresh Stories, and Passionate Persistence with Jules Jacobs

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/119

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:
[00:00:00] Jaymi: welcome to this episode of Impact, the Conservation Photography podcast, Jules Jacobs, this has been a long time coming. I'm so excited to have you on the show. Thank you very much for joining us.

[00:00:13] Jules: Well, I'm so excited to be here and it wouldn't have been possible without your mentorship and guidance throughout the last couple of years, so, yeah.

[00:00:20] Jaymi: That's, it's been such a joy to work with you. So we met because you are a student in conservation photography 1 0 1, and I have had the joy of watching your skills massively grow, your career grow. And we are gonna sit down today to talk about what that journey has really been like. But before we dive in, for anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to follow your work quite yet who's Jules Jacobs in this world?

[00:00:47] Jules: So Jules is. The kid who during baseball, would sit down and look at caterpillars on the field. He's the guy who spent his childhood growing coral and raising [00:01:00] seahorses and then, also a lacrosse player and going out and doing his thing. But I'm a conservation photo photojournalist focusing mainly on the underwater world in San Diego.

[00:01:12] Jules: But that's started as conservation photojournalist, focusing on urban birds and urban raptors. And the way that Jamie and I actually met was because I was a student in college and I was in Washington DC and , just going about my day to day, noticing how raptors were starting to use urban environments to their benefit.

[00:01:33] Jules: And that got me asking the question, you know, there's a story here. What do I do?

[00:01:38] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Nice. I never knew that you raised Coral and seahorses.

[00:01:44] Jules: Yeah, so when I was little we had, , goldfish, we did the whole thing and I really wanted to get into saltwater fish, but my mom is definitely afraid of like fish or she was, and she just hated like the fish shape. And [00:02:00] she said, Okay, you know, I don't love fish, but I know you're very passionate about the ocean.

[00:02:04] Jules: And like I was too young to really like take care of it myself. And she's like, Okay, like we'll do this, but I don't want it to look like a fish. And so we settle and sea horses and I remember, you know, we had these seahorses that we loved and it was amazing cause that's where I first got started with my camera.

[00:02:19] Jules: I was, I would take pictures of the fish tank and kind of get into it and it was my first foray into underwater photography without, , being in the water, but through the glass, kind of getting it. There was one time when like my mom was wearing like a dress for like a cocktail party and the seahorses gave birth and we had to transfer them out real quick and it was a whole thing.

[00:02:36] Jules: But I grew up around that and I grew up around coral and kind of learning about what happens when the salinity is off or the temperature and you know, how that affects bleaching. And then taking that back into real world applications of, okay, what's happening with global warming and, how does that affect the oceans at large?

[00:02:52] Jules: And so a lot of my childhood, while it was spent away from major oceans, I had this little slice of ocean right with me. And so I got a [00:03:00] chance to really observe those inner workings that I wouldn't have been able to because of just where I was.

[00:03:05] Jaymi: Wow, that's amazing. So did that really kind of solidify your now love of underwater and ocean photography, or was that sort of like, oh, happy coincidence.

[00:03:16] Jules: No, I think it was like the reason why I got so into. Birds in Maryland and in Washington DC was because they were the available wildlife. I think my great love, the through line of my life has been the connection to the ocean and I think now that I'm in a place to really experience it, yeah, it's become everything to me.

[00:03:38] Jules: It's the ocean is my home. It's my happy place. It's, , the place where I can get to be creative and feel like myself. It's, it's really become this amazing world and to be able to share that with others has been such an incredible experience. Very technically different than above water work, but been cool.

[00:03:55] Jaymi: Absolutely. So you are a CP 1 0 1 alumni and now you [00:04:00] are in Storyteller Accelerator, which is the group coaching program for alumni. And you are really amazing with continuing to put your work in there for feedback and you're so receptive to feedback and I think that that's been one of the reasons why, man, your underwater photography is getting better and better and better, but like lightning fast speed improvement and it's been really amazing to watch you just pursue that journey with such diligence.

[00:04:25] Jules: Yeah, I mean the oceans don't have a lot of time, so you kind of have to get fast in order for us to tell the stories that need to be told.

[00:04:33] Jaymi: Well, so how did you start to move into photography? Was that something that also was just always a passion for you or did you make a really distinct choice to start to pursue that as a profess?

[00:04:46] Jules: Yeah, I mean it all, I mean, it started out tinkering with the camera for years, you know, taking pictures of the fish tank kind of. Taking pictures of fungus and ants and stuff in the backyard kind of playing around. Nothing serious, but always having a camera in [00:05:00] my hand. And it wasn't until a family trip to Hawaii, , a little bit before the pandemic, and I fell in love with the birds and I, saw a na na for the first time.

[00:05:11] Jules: And I saw, you know, one of the, you know, hyper endangered honey creepers. And I, it really got me into thinking, wow, there is this amazing world of wildlife that we don't have to go to the ocean for travel to Africa for. Like, there's just this amazing resource here. And I was able to take that back and really get so into burning back in Maryland and spend hours in swamps and in, you know, forests and learning about my local pair of eagles and then back when I was in college to, yeah, the, the raptors that were using the urban environments.

[00:05:42] Jaymi: Wonderful. Well, that. Path that focus on urban Raptors especially has recently kind of come to fruition with a piece published in the New York Times World through a lens series. Now we met when [00:06:00] you were just starting to work on that story and really start to shape it, and so it's been incredible to watch you stick with it and to shape it and reshape it and really hone that story.

[00:06:09] Jaymi: And now it's in print, which is so exciting. Congratulations

[00:06:14] Jules: Thank you. Yeah. You know, I think what was really crazy about that was there were so many iterations of that story. I mean, when I, we were first working on it. It was wildlife, Wildlife, wildlife. And then as I was working, you know, the world came crashing down. The pandemic started and it took a total shift and it became, , who are the people still doing this work, even though the world has closed? and it really turned into, yeah, who are the people who are rescuing these birds and what's their connection to all of this?

[00:06:48] Jaymi: What was that like for you as a conservation photographer? A storyteller really journeying into being a storyteller, not only a photographer, but someone who's using visuals for storytelling. [00:07:00] What was it like for you to see your story shift? , the reason why I'm asking that is because sometimes it can feel frustrating when you start to pursue a story in one direction and maybe it doesn't go the way you want.

[00:07:13] Jaymi: Or maybe that's an exciting thing or what? What were some of the pivots like for you as you pursued this particular story?

[00:07:21] Jules: What was interesting was I was following along with the coursework of CP 1 0 1 while the story was being shaped, and so every day was a new experience because I brought a new lesson with me into the field, and so I think you can very much see at the beginning I wasn't. Understanding, you know, what the subject was, what I was trying to get across.

[00:07:41] Jules: And you know, I think I went back home and I put 10,000 post-it notes on my wall and I said, took all my lines and I went beautiful mind on it and you know, tried to figure out the through lines of the story. And then I came in having a shot that I did previ on and you know, that shot was the cover shot for the story.[00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Jules: And you know, because I went in and I did that shot 84 times and I played around with lighting and I used my dad and my dog to try to figure out some of the connections and everything and then going in the field and trying it again and again and again. And you know, eventually it works out.

[00:08:15] Jules: But I don't think I even knew about Previs before we started and kind of going through the course along with the course work. And our field time was, you can see throughout the portfolio how my work grew into itself and how the story kind of shaped, but it was really I came in with what I thought was the story and my collaborators in the field and the the non-profit that I worked with really said, Nope, we're gonna take you on an experience that's gonna completely change what you think we're doing here.

[00:08:45] Jules: And it was, and you know, I met Nancy McDonald who's this, , badass truck driving army veteran, and she drinks whiskey and she has a sleeve of hawk tattoos. And she just showed me what it looks like to [00:09:00] be so passionate about the work you're doing and the wildlife you're conserving and what it means to give your whole self to saving others.

[00:09:08] Jules: And it really, it completely changed the story. And even as I was pitching it, it was, it was never about them. It was always about the birds. And there was always something that lacked. And by telling the story through people, I think we got that connection that we needed in order to really tell the story of these birds, cuz the people and their care is, I think what draws people to this is, you know, if someone cares this much about these birds, that they're willing to spend every ounce of their free time working to save them, then like, Oh my God, I can too.

[00:09:39] Jules: And it was really a beautiful experience to see and to feed off of that passion that they had and then to be able to show it to the world.

[00:09:46] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. So there was the, the shaping process and then there's the pitching process, which is its own. Sometimes, you know, you might pitch a story and boom, an editor says yes right away. In a way you go, but [00:10:00] often that's not the case. Often you are pitching and not hearing anything back, or maybe hearing a maybe or a rejection, and you're reshaping and reshaping and, and taking that on.

[00:10:11] Jaymi: You are really persistent in continuing to work on the story. Like we went through several iterations of the pitch as the story was shaped and you were rewriting your pitch. We went through several iterations of that on our coaching calls. As soon as Nancy came up as a character, I was like, Where has she been?

[00:10:29] Jaymi: This is your hook. This is amazing. Um, And so you really like went forward with that. What was it like to pitch this story?

[00:10:37] Jules: Well, before we go into the pitch, it was, I remember I was driving home one night from a field session with Nancy, and it was like the middle of like the week. I happened to have the time and my phone was at like 20%. She's like, Hey, like get out to like this location, like an hour away.

[00:10:53] Jules: Like we just had Cooper's Hawk hit the. I'm like, Oh my God. She's like, Here's the address. Go. So I sprint it out an hour away, [00:11:00] my phone dies. I'm like trying to figure out like where this place is, like using paper maps, like getting real old school with it , it's pouring rain. We get there, I make images that I didn't end up being included in the story, but now you're still very special to me.

[00:11:14] Jules: And we just sat down, had this whole conversation about how emotionally affected she was by this hit. And, you know, bird collisions and windows in general. And I was driving home in the highway and it was pouring rain. And I'm like, she's the story, like the person that I'm working with, like the birds.

[00:11:29] Jules: Yes, they're the story, but like the conduit, like the way that we're gonna tell it is through her. And I think, it was this like eureka moment where it felt like the clarity was so there, and then from there on I was like, how do we make her the hero of this? And how do we. Make it feel like you're seeing the story through her eyes.

[00:11:50] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . I love it.

[00:11:52] Jules: when I was pitching, I have a mentor and a good friend Brooke McDonough, and she basically [00:12:00] challenged me to an a hundred rejection challenge. We had been saying, I'm like, When is it done? Like, when is it like ready to be pitched? And it was like, it was never done. Like there was, I could have gone more into Rod Genocides, I could have gone more into camera trapping and trying to get the birds, you know, feeding in the urban environments.

[00:12:14] Jules: And there were so many tensions. But I was up against this timeline of I was moving to San Diego and packing up my whole life and shipping across the country in order to start a new adventure. And so she said, You know what, At some point you're gonna have to start pitching it.

[00:12:31] Jules: And I'm like, Well, you know, I'm scared. I, I feel like I haven't been in this field so long and I don't know. Chi land, I feel like it's not good enough. And that imposter syndrome yeah. Really came up because who am I to, you know, pitch big magazines because I've never been published before. You know, I, She said, Well, whoever can get that a hundred rejections fastest wins.

[00:12:52] Jaymi: Nice. I

[00:12:53] Jules: that became, yeah, it became the imf. Just be like, All right. And so I said, All right, my [00:13:00] white whale, my first, No. And it's gonna kind of be like the Harvard rejection letter is I'm gonna pitch, you know, the biggest magazine that I know of, the one that I've dreamed about being in since I was a little kid.

[00:13:10] Jules: And I pitched them and I was like, All right, I'm just gonna, you know, give it a week and then I'm gonna move on to the next one, start to move on on my a hundred rejections. And I, I got an email back from the editor and it's turned into a relationship that's open doors today. immediately I went into like, Pseudo panic mode.

[00:13:31] Jules: I was like, Oh my God, like this is real. Like, what's happening? I just, I didn't know. And I think, like you and I like talked about it like a thousand times and I would give you like daily updates it

[00:13:39] Jaymi: I remember checking my email and seeing the newest daily update and I was like, Keep 'em coming, man. I keep, I wanna hear it

[00:13:45] Jules: Cause I was like, I don't, like, I never thought it would happen. It's like, you know, you'd throw a rock at the moon, you don't think it's gonna hit it, and then oh my God, it does, like what happens now? And so it, it, it didn't end up being a yes, so we, we took it to the desk and we pitched it and I, I had this [00:14:00] really amazing experience working with the editor and she really helped me look at the shots.

[00:14:04] Jules: And she helped me look at, you know, what the, the through line and what the actual story was and kind of talk about it and refine the pitch and didn't end up working out because there was a similar story happening at the same time. But what it did do was give me the confidence that number one, The only price of asking is, you know, the time it takes you to write an email.

[00:14:28] Jules: And two, having tough enough skin that if it's a no, you're saying, Okay, cool. But like what opportunities came out because of it? What did I learn? What relationship did I just form? What credibility do I now have with a person? Because they saw it, they gave it a thorough review, but then maybe it didn't work out Cool.

[00:14:47] Jules: And this happened a couple times. I mean, it happened a bit of the story wound up in American forests and I'm, , really glad that that piece digs, that was, you know, kind of wedding my beak, no pun intended, in getting [00:15:00] the story published and out there. But yeah, it was, it was always that I wanted to get the full story out and there was bits and pieces and some of the shots were, photography competitions and, but it was never the work and I felt so important to continue to get the work out. And so, I was out right before I went off to Japan this spring, and I was like, I'm gonna give it one last shot because I saw Ann's piece and I saw how, you know, she came in with a piece that she had worked on in the very beginning of her time in CCP 1 0 1 and it kind of had faded to the background, but then here it is in this major publication and I thought, you know, what energy, what motivation do I need besides that to say this piece hasn't found its home yet, so I can't rest until it does, you know, the same, the message that I wanted to get across, the same story that I think needed to be told. It, It didn't deserve to live in my hard drive it to be out there and to be with [00:16:00] people. And, and so I, I pitched it one more time and then I was gone for a few months but. When I was coming back and I was about to get back to San Diego, I heard they were interested and it then became this mad rush of, Oh my God, what happens next?

[00:16:17] Jules: That same feeling of, you know, I threw a rock at the moon and here we go, and now the game begins.

[00:16:22] Jaymi: Mm-hmm.

[00:16:24] Jules: from there it was waiting for them to pitch their big desk and get in the green light. And then in a week time it was, you know, silence, interest, silence. Okay, you need the story in 10 days. And so it was writing and pitching and consulting with the CP 1 0 1 group and kind of figuring it out and, and then it was a magical two weeks of this came out and I got some good award news and it was just, you know, this amazing experience.

[00:16:52] Jules: And now thousands of people across the world know about a Raptor Center and know about the urban raptors that live in [00:17:00] almost every city around the world and know about the amazing women who are working to protect these birds. And it's just, It was such a exciting week, and it was such like an exciting period, hearing how people reacted to it and seeing them say, Wow, like, I have a hawk in my forest.

[00:17:16] Jules: But I never knew that when I drove into work in the city, that I could see one here too. I didn't know that rad poison was so bad. And you know, those were all those things that I had been talking to everyone about, like, how do I get these points across? And it seems like it did, and it seems like it resonated.

[00:17:30] Jules: And so this story of these local birds became this much bigger conversation about how do we treat urban wildlife and how do we interact and do our part as caretakers of not only suburban and rural environments, but you know, those that we share with wildlife too.

[00:17:49] Jaymi: you said a few things that really stood out to me. One of the things that you said was, you know, this pitch is never gonna be done. And that's the thing is pitches are never perfect and [00:18:00] ready to go out into the world because every pitch is unique to each publication that you wanna send it to because you're thinking about all kinds of things, like who's the audience?

[00:18:09] Jaymi: What, what are they already published, what are the angles that they like, and all these other things you had mentioned that you saw inside of. Our course group that Anne, who's a fellow student, had pitched the same publication and got it accepted, but after she had pitched it five other times, and you know, it's this idea of every single one of those five pitches were unique and honed to each of those individual publications.

[00:18:34] Jaymi: And then she's like, I'm just gonna go ahead and try it one more time with this other publication in a way We go and it happens. And so there, she's got these five rejections already on her T board. She's clo you know, if she were in on that competition that you

[00:18:48] Jules: Yeah, it should be closing in. Yeah.

[00:18:51] Jaymi: But each one is shaped in its own unique way.

[00:18:53] Jaymi: And I think that that's one of the things that I really admire about you and so many of your fellow students, so many conservation [00:19:00] photographers who you're really thinking about, it's not just. Oh, I wanna go ahead and tally up a win, or I wanna go ahead and just get this out the door and be done and move on.

[00:19:11] Jaymi: The story that I have has a purpose. It has a reason to exist. I want, like the world would be a better place if it knew more about this species, this person, this organization, this location, whatever it may be. And so that drives you to keep going no matter what and to always have that persistence to, to get it out there.

[00:19:30] Jaymi: Were there any moments in there for you where you felt like maybe, I'm just gonna put this on the back burner for a while and I wanna give up, Or any moments in there where you thought maybe this just wasn't gonna happen, and if there were, what saw you through?

[00:19:47] Jules: There were more than I could count. There were so many of, and I think, you know, there was the, Oh, this, this shoot didn't work out. This idea wasn't quite right. I did a lot [00:20:00] preparing for a shot with euthanized birds and it really. I think I was, I was trying too hard to make it make a statement and it, it didn't work.

[00:20:12] Jules: And I think I felt very down about the whole project after that. But it, it was such an important piece of the story to tell and to kind of show how, yeah, Humane Euthanization is a really big part of Raptor rescue because sometimes these birds just go through the ringer and, you know, it's not ethical to try to keep them alive.

[00:20:35] Jules: And the best thing we can do for them is to end their suffering. And people don't think that. They think, Okay, I see a squirrel and send it to a rescue. It's gonna be back happy chippy, little squirrel in a month or two. But no, I mean, sometimes the kindest thing we can do for these animals is to put 'em out of their misery.

[00:20:51] Jules: And it had that, that moment happened so many times. It happened with a bird name that we named Keen. The, the center did, and [00:21:00] you know, Nancy and I were fighting for, I was documenting her as she was fighting for weeks to find a home for it. It had suffered some psychological damage because her neurological damage, because it had crashed into a high rise in Baltimore.

[00:21:13] Jules: And because of that, when other birds would be in the enclosure with it, a Raptor enclosure is called a mu. So when they were in these basically big hospital rooms, it would perch on top of other birds that were, , being rehabbed. And we would step up to this bird and it would splay out, but it wouldn't have that a version to people or kind of physical barriers that others would, that, you know, most life on the planet kind of instinctually, knows.

[00:21:38] Jules: Cause it had this injury. And so yeah, it would get right up on them and the weight of this bird would just crack bones and wings and rib off feathers. And it was just, it wasn't safe to keep it with others and. We tried and tried and tried, and the answer that Nancy kept on getting was, this is just another Redtail talk, and this isn't, you know, the bird that we saw and interacted with and thought, Wow, this bird's so goofy.

[00:21:59] Jules: [00:22:00] And you know, we give it some human emotions here and there that aren't there. But this was a organism that could have lived and could have been an amazing ambassador bird that, you know, would've taught kids and adults and people from around the country that, you know, these birds need our help and here they are and here are the amazing adaptations that evolution is forged in them.

[00:22:19] Jules: And like, and it was another red tail talk. And that's the really sad reality that the only thing we could do to protect birds that had a better chance of making it in the wild was to put this one down. And, whenever I thought about, is the work good enough? You know, am I good enough to get the work out there?

[00:22:38] Jules: Does my voice matter? It was, I'm not the story. This isn't me. I'm, I'm the person trying to. Tell this to others, but I think why conservationists are able to get past that idea of these losses are getting me down is because at the core of [00:23:00] conservation photography, it's, I have unique access to something that's going on.

[00:23:06] Jules: I have sea turtles in an urban environment that they haven't been in, and this is a sign of, you know, conservation success. Or I have fish that are choking on plastic, or I have songbirds that are experiencing a malaria outbreak. Like it's just, and only you can tell that story I was in Washington DC and I saw. Raptors using skyscrapers as nests and eating rats off the street and forging in trash and, you know, interrupting people on their daily walks. And the, the wonder and the amazement that that filled me with that was part of something bigger.

[00:23:39] Jules: And that was part of a very human story of we are not doing our part to allow others to have space in our world. And if I had given up on that story and I had given up on telling people about why we need to do something before these animals get into these rehab centers and why we need to do something after they get out, [00:24:00] then I did my part to make sure that no bird is ever just a redtail hawk again.

[00:24:06] Jules: And no bird is ever thought of as a nuisance or a pest out there. And they're noted for the amazing marvels that they are. I mean, we live in this time where we still have the great megaphone of our planet around. . And I don't know if we're gonna say the same about future generations, but we have this incredible duty and it's, you know, the weight of Atlas on our shoulders, right?

[00:24:33] Jules: But we are some of the last people to make this change. And if we're not telling these stories, the people around us aren't gonna care. And that's the really sad truth. But every person can make this difference because no people see the story alike. And that's why I go to people for feedback all the time because I see the world one way.

[00:24:55] Jules: Everyone in CP 1 0 1 is, are gonna see it a different way. My mentors that have [00:25:00] so, graciously given their time to me over the years, see the world in a different way. And each one of these experiences then says, How can I shape this for the most amount of people to get this message? And so I don't think you can ever get down about your losses because they're not your losses.

[00:25:16] Jules: It's. It's the way that we can then forge the story to get out there so we can do the work of protecting those that we set out to protect. Ego has to go out the door, but when you see that red tailed hawk, when you see that fish in the river and you know that a little bit more is known about what they're going through, that's the win and that's what we have to aspire to every day.

[00:25:42] Jaymi: Well said. I mean, it sounds like when you have that at the core, when you know your why so thoroughly and you have that at the core of everything that you do, a no is just like, Okay, ready to go, rewrite that or try another one rather than a no being some sort of [00:26:00] a personal judgment on you and your story.

[00:26:02] Jaymi: It's like, okay, not right fit at this time. What's next? I have a reason to do this work. There's a mission behind it, a cool behind it. And let's just keep moving. You sound like you were so incredibly tied into not only Owl Moon, but also the issue of Urban Raptors. What was it like for you to leave that when you moved across country, and how did you dig your feet into a new area of passion once you got to San Diego?

[00:26:33] Jules: Yeah. I think it was, it was a big perspective shift. And so I said when I was about, I was like days away from leaving to San Diego and I sat down with Nancy and we, we went to an osprey rescue or a, a, a release

[00:26:50] Jules: They drove out and we let go of this bird and I was sitting there and I was, you know, watching the smile and I, I looked back and I.

[00:26:57] Jules: I think about these moments so much cause I've spent [00:27:00] so many hours looking at them in Lightroom and it's so funny to think like that this was years ago or whatever and I'm like, it feels so fresh. Cause I've just been staring at it for so many hours. And like I'll get a text from Nancy and she'll be like, Oh, like haven't heard from you in a while.

[00:27:14] Jules: Like, I was just staring at your face. Like, not in a creepy way, but like I just been sitting with at work for so long. I was sitting with her and I just, we were talking and she just kind of broke down and she's like, she was so happy that the Osprey was able to be released and so happy that things were moving forward on some legislation around fishing wires and things getting better.

[00:27:37] Jules: And you know, the Chesapeake Bay was getting cleaned up and, you know, getting better for the birds that live there. And it felt like I had done my part to tell their story and it felt like she was gonna be there to continue to do the work. , I went to my favorite swamp and I got on my waiters and I sat in the muck and I listened to the Pi build Grieves, and I listened to the red shoulder [00:28:00] Blackbird.

[00:28:00] Jules: It's kind of doing their thing and singing. And I knew that there were people telling stories where I was, and people looking out for these animals. And I knew that these environments were gonna be protected and I, I made my peace with my time there and with the ary warblers that were, you know, getting ready for their migration.

[00:28:19] Jules: And I'm like, I'm ready for my migration too, and I'm ready to start telling the stories that inspired me as a child and started to, get ready to take on this new role in storytelling, which was, what's happening to the California coast with climate change and what's happening with urbanization and you know, when we have.

[00:28:38] Jules: Multimillion dollar mansions sitting on cliffsides that are gonna erode and sea turtles living right beneath them. Like in what world can we have human and wildlife and this global issue all coinciding and someone not telling that story. And, you know, there's so many people who are, but I think coming off of a wildlife and an urban [00:29:00] environment story, I was so excited to start talking about those very near shore coastal experiences.

[00:29:05] Jules: I had made my peace with my home and I had told the stories that I wanted to tell it was, it felt really special to be able to give back to the place that I grew up and be able to now give back to this new home that I have and understand and learn who the new characters are and who this new story is and what needs to be done to keep this amazing place so amazing.

[00:29:28] Jaymi: Yeah. What were some of the steps that you did to figure out what stories were happening in your new home, and to start to kind of dig into that new place and people you might wanna connect with, or issues that you might find of interest? How did you really start to dig your feet in?

[00:29:46] Jules: It's, it's weird because you don't wanna like come to a new place and say, Aha, I have a story like this is it. This is my, I've been here for two weeks and yet I'm investigating a big deal that no one else has. [00:30:00] And so, I mean, I think a lot of when I first started into San Diego was, okay, how the heck do I use in underwater housing?

[00:30:06] Jules: And really dipp my feet into, I did not know how to assemble my strobes. I had them sitting and I had all these clamps and I'm like, Okay. Like, hey friend who's in underwater photography, How do I put this together? He's like, Oh, like how do you like do stroke power? I'm like, No, like physically attach it to the housing.

[00:30:24] Jules: See . And so it was a lot of. Yeah, I mean, it's a different physics of light. It's a different way of shooting. It's, I was used to bringing out the big 500 millimeter with me treking around the city, and now I'm maybe working with 16 millimeters at a time. It's, it was such a paradigm shift in my work, and I think something that we had talked about in my early work in the Raptor project was, Dude, these are all long lens shots.

[00:30:54] Jules: I'm like, Where's the lens diversity? How are you telling this story in different ways? And I was so [00:31:00] stuck with my 500, and I'm like, Everything has to be so sharp and so crisp. And now I'm actively pursuing very slow shutter shots that are intentionally blurred. It's just, when I was getting into this new story that I'm working on, it was, Okay, let me explore and learn about this new world.

[00:31:16] Jules: Let me understand what the seasons are underwater. You know, what migrations are taking place. You know, I can see. Birds come in and out. And that was something I had done, but I had never experienced a migration underwater. And seeing horn sharks migrate up from, you know, where they spend most of their year, which is hundreds of feet down.

[00:31:32] Jules: And we have this incredible canyon. And the reason that San Diego is so biodiverse, our little secret gem and engine that keeps this thing turning is we have this very deep water canyon cold water currents rise up from the depths and they bring these nutrients and it's this wall of life. And you know, last year I was pursuing some more advanced scuba certifications and I blew my eardrums out in this

[00:31:57] Jaymi: Right. I remember [00:32:00] that.

[00:32:00] Jules: Yep. And so I, we were going down. I didn't know I had a cold at the time. I push myself a little bit farther than I should have with what was happening.

[00:32:10] Jules: And yeah, I just, I had this diving accident and it was an opportunity where I could have said, Wow, I'm so scared. I'm never going back in the ocean again. But the day that I could first touch water again, I had one of the most incredible wildlife experiences in my life, and I had these thousands of pelicans, you know, swarming me.

[00:32:29] Jules: And I was in the surf with them and I was able to make this, this split shot that has recently gotten some attention of just these hundreds of pelicans. And then this, this king tide, which is our most extreme tide of the year where we're at our lowest and our highest. And it was so turned up and I just wanted to get in the ocean some, like, I've been waiting weeks to get back in the ocean.

[00:32:49] Jules: And I, I finally did, and I, I had this amazing, magical experience. And then my first scuba dive back was getting right back into the canyon. And, you know, being in this [00:33:00] environment that I could have said, I'm never going back to, but I figured I, I have to or else I'm never gonna be able to. And so this engine of life brings up these cold water currents.

[00:33:11] Jules: But you have fish that are seen nowhere else in the world. You have sharks that are seen nowhere else in the world. It's. This amazing machine that churns out these nutrients, brings it up and then feeds them into these very shallow coastal environments. So we have kelp reefs and we have seagrass beds, and

[00:33:28] Jules: we have one of the most critically endangered populations of giant black sea bass and top sharks, and it's just mobile mola, like everywhere. It's just, it's this amazing place. And recently we've had these sea turtles move up from Mexico and this's is a bigger sign of conservation success. But my infatuation for this subject again, is what said, Okay, I just want to shoot the hell out of this.

[00:33:54] Jules: Like, I just want to be in the water with these guys all the time. What, what can I [00:34:00] do to understand what they're going through? And so it was research and talking to nonprofits. And little did I know there's this whole story out here that. I'm now pursuing. And you know, we talk about those, those no's and why it's okay to get no's that the first no, that I got from my hundred objections, my big white whale, Like, because I got a know from that editor, I was able to establish a relationship that I'm, , working to tell that story today.

[00:34:27] Jules: And It, I feel like if people are afraid to say nos, they're afraid of like, yeah, like a door closes, but like it creeps back open, Right? And when you can sneak in and then you can make something out of that experience. I mean that's, that's what it's about. It's, you gotta have a thick skin here, but because you do, you, you get to tell the stories that you're seeing.

[00:34:50] Jules: And yeah, I wasn't the expert on San Diego when I started, but I've, I've been able to find the people who are, and I've been able to listen and incorporate their viewpoints. And [00:35:00] now we're getting into the meet again. And I think you have to. Be willing to be the newbie and be willing to make the stupid questions and kind of observe for a while, but when you're ready to say something for the animals you wanna say it for, then you know, gotta start digging in.

[00:35:14] Jaymi: Yeah. I love that approach that you took cuz I think there is a tendency, I think, to move into a new area and. Get really excited about what you see or start to spot things and think like, Oh, these are the stories that I have to tell. But if you take a step back and really kind of get patient with things and explore, you end up, I think, uncovering more unique, interesting, intricate stories because you're taking the time to really explore.

[00:35:40] Jaymi: And so I love your approach of, I'm just gonna get in the water watch migrations. I'm gonna work on my photography and just pay attention to things. Look at how things are changing over time. And then finally, you have this evolution of a story idea. And then you go back to, yeah, your relationship that you built, thanks to a no.

[00:35:59] Jaymi: [00:36:00] And start to say, Hey, I think I got something here. What do you think? How are we gonna shape this? What does this really look like? And I've watched you dig in and start to shape and shape and shape the story. You really are taking a WA clay, and every photographer who's a storyteller is doing this. You take that water clay.

[00:36:17] Jaymi: And the more you learn, the more you're out there, the more you are actually sculpting that clay into something. There is no magical like, Oh, here's a story with all the pieces in place. There's a here's, here's something that's happening. How am I gonna shape that into a story that people wanna see? And what you're building in San Diego I think is really cool.

[00:36:36] Jaymi: One of the things that you're doing. So not only are you pursuing stories in a way that I think a lot of people might be intimidated by, but you're taking this really big why or this driving force of conservation and allowing that to pull you forward and finding confidence in that to pursue stories.

[00:36:52] Jaymi: But you're also, I think, using that in pursuing underwater photography, that alone is really [00:37:00] intimidating. What are some of the hurdles other than like, how do I attach strobes to my camera housing? ? What were some of the hurdles that you were overcoming as you made your way into underwater photography and, and kept going despite any frustrations that you might have had?

[00:37:16] Jules: Just before we get off of the, the wad of clay, I mean, I think. There's this amazing, sorry. Um, There's an amazing photographer who's, who's out west at Dave. She, Walter, he's telling the story about, you know, the Colorado River ecosystem and how it's drying up. And he's, he's said so many times that, you know, we can, we can tell stories and we can brute force it in somewhere, or the story can speak through us.

[00:37:41] Jules: And I think part of letting go of your ego as a storyteller is being there for like, like, this is something that I've noticed now that I'm becoming more involved with diving, is you, you can't ever control where you're at. The current is always pushing and you can course correct and you can change where you're [00:38:00] at, but so much of it is letting yourself be taken and finding out where you end up.

[00:38:06] Jules: And that's I think, the approach that we have to take as storytellers. Yeah, you, you can course correct, you can change and you can alter and you can go in with a plan of what you generally want to do, but in the end of the day, the current's gonna take you where it's gonna take you. And you just have to be willing for it to do that.

[00:38:20] Jules: And when you are beautiful things happen.

[00:38:23] Jaymi: Yeah, well said. And Dave Schal is just an exceptional conservation storyteller and having that philosophy of I am more of the vehicle for a story and I'm gonna let the story take me where the story needs to go, is at the heart of, I think, some of the most powerful work that he's done as a conservation storyteller.

[00:38:43] Jaymi: But the most powerful work that we all really do is just saying, It's not about me or what I want. What's the story telling me that it needs? I love that. Love that well said.

[00:38:55] Jules: But yeah, I, I think getting underwater, [00:39:00] It's different. It's when I was working primarily with birds. There's, there's a separation. There's, I had a hunk glass in front of my face, and I'm so dialed into every motion. My hand is constantly on the back button focus. I'm, I'm so focused on tracking and the technicals and the everything in the moment that you, you lose so much of your ability to, I think, compose an image, but also just be in there in the moment.

[00:39:28] Jules: And like, it's, it's crazy to think about, but so much of underwater photography is, my eye isn't at the viewfinder. I, you know, have checked my settings. I'm good to go. I know what's going on, but I'm physically trying to, you know, dive down and I'm trying to angle with the light and I just can't get my face in there. I know how wide I am or how tight I am.

[00:39:51] Jules: I know where I'm placing my light and I'm doing it before I'm going down, but I'm not looking at the actual viewfinder. I'm just [00:40:00] placing the dome where I can in order to make that shot happen. Right? And that's just based on the physics of being underwater. And, , so many other underwater photographers have done this as well is, , if you can kind of imagine the viewfinder in your mind and where it's gonna be when you have your camera at certain angles, that's the shot.

[00:40:16] Jules: And I was talking 40, 50 feet something up in the air when I was doing bird work, but now I'm face to face with the sea turtle. I've got a bull sea lion tugging on my regulator. I have. Garra Baldy clicking away trying to make sure that I'm not getting too close to its nest. And it's just all of these things that I was so separated and detached from when I was working with birds.

[00:40:39] Jules: I'm now surrounded by, and I'm, I'm in this different medium that takes me completely outta my zone. I'm no longer the master of this domain. That sea lion is infinitely poor, powerful than me in the water, than I will ever be. And that's because I don't have flippers, I don't have increased lung capacity.

[00:40:56] Jules: And so

[00:40:57] Jules: I'm a visitor and I'm, I'm a visitor who's [00:41:00] trying to be a good, a good visitor, not overstay my welcome or not, you know, get too close to anybody, but it, it, it humbles you and it, it really, it gives you the ability to get so creative. I, I had never had the ability to control light.

[00:41:15] Jules: It was always, you know, what was available. And now with strobes, I can be very intentional about, okay, what is my light placement adding to the story? How can I make this image dramatic? Or how can I make it more light and airy? And how can I, you know, focus on this and how can I use all of these amazing characteristics about being underwater to my advantage?

[00:41:33] Jules: But also, you know, how do I have it so that I am not lighting up every piece of back scatter, which is the particulates in the water that your strokes are lighting up? Or how do I not, overexpose or underexpose. And there's, there's a lot, there's a lot to think about when you're doing underwater photography and it's so different than anything else you'll over experienced.

[00:41:49] Jules: But it feels like such a, a spiritual journey because we walk around and we build these cities, but we get in the water and we don't have the [00:42:00] dexterity of even like a newborn baby, sea lion. Like it's just, we are visitors and we are newbies, and we will always. Be a step behind. But I think as long as you're giving the creatures that you're with or respect, you can have these experiences.

[00:42:16] Jules: Cause they, they didn't grow up around, they didn't evolve around people being in their world. I mean, scuba diving is only, I don't even think a hundred years old yet. And so very recently, humans have been able to go into their world and now they're seeing what divers can do and you know, how to be a responsible diver and what does that look like and getting close.

[00:42:34] Jules: But you can have these experiences with animals that are unlike any that have ever happened above land. a lot of what I've learned to do is be more like a fish. And that's made my images so much better because when I was bombing up and down and trying to dive and get back and forth, the images weren't good because you didn't get that connection.

[00:42:53] Jules: But when it was dictated by the creatures that I was taking pictures of, those I think have been some of my strongest [00:43:00] work because. You can see the personalities coming through and you can see the curiosity that, you know, I'll never look at a piece of sushi the same because I had a five foot long kelp bass follow me around like a little puppy dog my entire dive.

[00:43:14] Jules: And I'll never think of fish as, you know, being lifeless. And I would, I would encourage everyone, even if you're not bringing your cameras underwater, just like, just get underwater in some form because it changes everything and it's a magical experience.

[00:43:28] Jaymi: Wonderful. Love it. You know, you have dedicated so much time and energy into your craft as a conservation visual storyteller into what maybe your career one of these days. What has it been like to really schedule yourself in such a way that you can commit this because you were in college when we met, now you have a full-time job, but it still seems like you are dedicating a massive amount of time and energy to your craft.

[00:43:55] Jaymi: How do you stay committed to something that is ultimately. [00:44:00] outside of like that necessary known work schedule,

[00:44:04] Jules: So it's hard. So um, my, my job makes it very difficult to have, not only time, but also energy outside of it. It's a, a service kind of related career, and it just, it means that I have to give a hundred percent of myself at work. and then also give a hundred by started myself at home.

[00:44:23] Jules: And it's, it's, it's really tough and it's, it's really been a struggle because I know that these stories are out there and I know that I'm working on them and I know it has to be done. But there's also a component of, I'm I'm burning the candle at both ends and I'm getting home from work and I'm, you know, finding the time to exercise.

[00:44:43] Jules: And then I, and I'm listening to, you know, this podcast while I exercise , and then, getting back home and editing for four hours and going to bed and waking up and doing the whole thing again the next day. And yeah, it's, it's been harder even, you know, times [00:45:00] when I'm away from San Diego and I'm away from San Diego for a long time and, you know, what does that look like for family?

[00:45:07] Jules: What does that look like for me? And the work, But I think. You know, I've been able to find time to tell stories at work through photography, and I think my human images have gotten a lot better because of it, because I'm really trying to work, okay, how do you be a photojournalist when it's not just about conservation?

[00:45:25] Jules: How do I, you know, expand those horizons and then bring those back? And I think those have really improved my, my people portraits and the way I understand, and I work with people when I'm coming back to the project. And as to how I stay motivated, it's, I, I have a, a duty to do my job at work, but I also have a duty to tell these stories and as someone who's so racked by Eco Anxie and worry about what these next, 20 to 50 years are gonna look like for our planet.

[00:45:55] Jules: It's, this is my way to give back and I know. [00:46:00] Maybe I'm not the guy to draft the policy statement in dc. Maybe I'm not the guy to invent the new technology that's going to revolutionize how we use cars so that we don't need gas or whatever. But I'm the guy who can empathize with these creatures that don't have a voice, and I can try to tell their story, it's a sense of, this is my way of doing something and this is my way of giving back.

[00:46:25] Jules: But then at the end of the day, living the life that I've always dreamed of, You know, watching Jacque Cuo, watching Paul Nicklin, like seeing how people have been so affected by environmental storytelling and the careers they've created because of it is, the dream of so many people's lifetimes.

[00:46:42] Jules: But it's the dream of mine too. And I don't ever wanna lose sight of that. Cause I feel like the second that I lose sight of working towards that dream, I've, I've lost myself and I've lost my, the drive to do better. And, but I mean, also it's, it's my peace. It's my, you know, home that's not [00:47:00] my physical bed. It's, it's this ocean is now so important to me and it's, it's the way that I can, I can make those get home from work at, you know, eight o'clock days and then go into editing until 1:00 AM Like it's how that can, that can happen.

[00:47:18] Jules: But I think a really cool part about conservation photography is, yeah, we make the most of our three or four hours in the field every, you know, couple weeks or, you know, if you have a field session with scientists and you make that. Most of it, but then I'm emailing and I'm shaping stories and I'm editing and I'm, there's so many pieces of the background that this job kind of has to be that it's not all field time.

[00:47:39] Jules: And so I don't always feel like I'm in this crunch to always be out in the field because when I'm in the field, I'm locked in. I have done the previs visualization, I have thought about the story, I've thought about the angles. I know the shot I need to get, and then I bust my butt to get that shot. But if you go into like, if you really maximize your field time, [00:48:00] you can make this work.

[00:48:01] Jules: I mean, you can. If I can do it with the job that I'm in, like, you can do it with yours too. Like everyone can make the most out of their field time to get all the ideas they've been working on out. And then when you get home and you plug it into your computer, you're like, Okay, that worked, that didn't you Write it down.

[00:48:19] Jules: Like, I write down a notebook and I say, Okay, I needed to direct my strokes more. If I wanna freeze, you know, emotion, I need to work on how do I make this more dramatic? Or how do I make this less dramatic? Cause now it's too like dark and spooky. So it's, it's going in and doing the work when you can't get out so that when you can, you're ready to fire off and go.

[00:48:40] Jaymi: Mm.

[00:48:41] Jules: efficiency over all is what I think makes this possible.

[00:48:46] Jaymi: Yeah, that brings up a lot of really great points about how, as you are pursuing this, as a pastime, as a hobby, or as a career. Either way, there's. A whole lot more of the behind the scenes stuff than [00:49:00] actual shooting that goes on. The, actually being out with the camera photographing is ultimately a very small portion of what we do, especially if you plan on doing storytelling because you're thinking about, yeah, you're pre visualizing shots.

[00:49:11] Jaymi: You're figuring out what shots do you even need for the story, how are you gonna get them? Making the network connections, sending off emails, all of these other things to make the shots happen in the field. One of the things that I've noticed about you that I think, and you can tell me if I'm off on this at all, but I think is really effective is.

[00:49:28] Jaymi: So inside Storyteller Accelerator, we have like, what's your one big thing this week? Every Sunday there's a post. What's the one big thing you're gonna focus on this week? And not only do you engage in that, but you have set your own goals. Like you always seem to have a clarity of what it is that you are going to accomplish that week that will move the needle forward with whatever you're working on.

[00:49:48] Jaymi: And you're clear on whether that is something for your story and what kind of backend work that might need to be. If it's emails, if it's post-processing, if it's curating images, whatever it may be. But you also have goals that [00:50:00] are based on am I gonna go ahead and enter this competition? And if I am, what do I need to do to get my images ready?

[00:50:06] Jaymi: Or who do I need to talk to? And, and actually that leads me into, I was gonna go in one direction with scheduling, but instead I wanted out in another direction with you because we were talking about this before we hit record. When you are thinking about like, what do I need to do to kind of get this ready?

[00:50:21] Jaymi: Who do I need to talk to? Who do I need to bring in? You are a master of. Collaborating with other people and saying, We're all working on this one goal. Why don't we make a group effort out of it? Or, let's talk and do this other thing. So what role has community played for you in being able to, like you said, you are burning the candle at both ends.

[00:50:40] Jaymi: I really wanna talk with you, like, outside of this, I wanna go into coaching ever for scheduling and all that, but you, you are maximizing every moment of time that you have and scheduling things out, but then also making sure that you're leaning on community. And what has that been like for you? How have you shaped that [00:51:00] and how has that been kind of part of your success inside of this journey?

[00:51:05] Jules: I mean, community is everything. It's, we do really hard emotionally taxing work and conservation and to sit with that alone and not feel like you have this amazing, like very vibrant and beautiful community behind you. Like, I don't know how anyone's ever done that. I mean, when I was sitting with the weight of, we, you know, back to the album moon stories we had a bald eagle come in and it was mangled and it was, you know, just the worst of the worst that could happen to it.

[00:51:36] Jules: It got. Caught in fishing line and then like ripped by barbed wire. It was just like a mess when it came in. And, you know, I saw it and it was this emergency rush and then, you know, the bird didn't make it. And you know, you see bald eagles and you're like, Oh my God, what this majestic animal? And you see, you know what someone did to it and you know what lack of care did to it.

[00:51:56] Jules: And you're like, Ah, wow. And it, it hit me in all the fields, right? [00:52:00] And I was coming back and I, I leaned on the community that we had in CP 1 0 1 and I leaned all my mentors and I said, How do you get through this? And, you know, I remember someone saying to me like, This is the story that needs to be told and how you fix this and the action you can take from these very intense, very human emotions is how you get through and how you keep on pushing forward.

[00:52:23] Jules: But I mean, I wouldn't, I wouldn't have pitched without community. I wouldn't have created the story without community. I would've never known how to proceed. and to think that there aren't other people out there doing this work is the biggest misconception. I think anyone can have a conservation cause I think there are so many engaged and active and vibrant storytellers that are trying to make a difference through their images.

[00:52:48] Jules: And they're doing an amazing job and people are learning about things that are happening around the world and they're, experiencing what they're seeing through their eyes. And it's their literal point of view is, you know, presented to them. And,[00:53:00] I think there's a lot of platforms that have become very inorganic.

[00:53:03] Jules: You know how Instagram is feeding you a lot of different things and the algorithms always pushing people out, whatever. But what there is is a direct line to, you see someone's work and you're like, Wow, how did you think about this story in that way? Or how, wow, like what you know was your thought behind how you lit this or.

[00:53:24] Jules: How are you even, you know, perceiving this or, Wow, this work is amazing. Like, and just supporting the other people who are doing this because, yeah, I mean, positive reinforcement isn't everything, but yeah. When you have a hard day, whew. Getting a compliment about your work feels awesome. And just creating that organic community of people who are out doing what you're doing, it makes you feel less alone.

[00:53:45] Jules: And I think there's this tendency to work in silos and I mean, especially like we talk about the awards, like, yeah, hey, I wanna win this, or You wanna win this. That's the wrong thinking. Like we're all, we're, we are entering a conservation shot in a mostly [00:54:00] wildlife focused competition. If you get that to a higher platform, you're doing the same exact thing as you are if you publish a story.

[00:54:08] Jules: And I think it's hard because we're always working, like I love to have something to work away at. And if it's not a story, I love to have, you know, the competitions because. We're still pushing that message and that work to a bigger audience and a very, you know, big visual audience. And a lot of times these competitions get picked up by newspapers and magazines and it still gets out there and you can still tell that story and by connecting with others and getting their feedback and 'em saying like, Hey, I'm sure you have a lot of emotional connection to that shot, but I don't think it's the right one.

[00:54:37] Jules: Like, that's helpful because your, again, your perspective is so narrow and you spent 80 hours trying to curate this, portfolio that you're gonna submit for a competition. And then you lose that ability to discern like how great it really is.

[00:54:53] Jules: And so it's, it's nice to be able to say, Hey, you know, is this worth itself?

[00:54:57] Jules: And they're like, Oh my God, yeah, that's [00:55:00] gonna win. Or hey, maybe not. And you know, sometimes the right sometimes are not. But it's, it's a good way to get that feedback and added, and I think there's never bad feedback. You're always learning a little bit about how someone sees it. I'll show it to my friends at work who know nothing about conservation photography.

[00:55:15] Jules: And if they're like, Oh, alright, that's a good image. And I'm like, What? I dove for like 80 hours to get this image. If it doesn't have that connection with the public, it's not gonna have a connection with a magazine reader or a newspaper reader. And the goal in which you're trying to get across isn't gonna get across because they're like, eh, like cool.

[00:55:32] Jules: And I'm like, What? This is the only one of its kind. If you didn't do your job and if you didn't like tell the story without a caption, you didn't tell the story. And so getting that feedback from people who are very intimately connected with conservation means everything. But also getting feedback from people who know nothing about this, where just like, Hey, we know that you're, you know, do this outside of your day job.

[00:55:53] Jules: Like, what's that like? And kind of just know a little bit about you doing it. Like they're a really good resource too. It's, you need the [00:56:00] normal people cuz that's who we're selling this idea to in the end. It's why should a normal person care about these creatures?

[00:56:06] Jaymi: I think I already know the answer to this question because of what you said previously, but I'm going and go ahead and, and ask it anyway, because I'd love to hear how you phrase it when you are getting feedback.

[00:56:18] Jaymi: On your work. This is emotionally delicate territory. You know, we all put a lot of work into our work, and so it can be really hard to hear critical feedback. How do you separate out your yourself and your personal emotions from what's being heard so that you can really hear that feedback and implement it because you are, I think, really exceptional in hearing feedback and accepting it and figuring out how you wanna integrate that and improving.

[00:56:45] Jaymi: And, and I think that's one of the reasons why your work has just improved dramatically. You were already very talented coming into CP 1 0 1, but watching where you've grown and how, and how quickly has been really amazing. And I think a lot of that [00:57:00] stems from your willingness to hear feedback and to go and implement it.

[00:57:05] Jaymi: How do you separate out that, Oh my gosh, but the, I, but I care so much about this, or, Oh, I, I think that you're wrong about this image. Or you don't know anything about, like, how do you really take a step back? And and hear what's being said and say, Cool. Thanks.

[00:57:21] Jules: the big answer I'm gonna give, and then we'll kind of get into the, some of the smaller thoughts I have on this is the work isn't about you, it's never about us yet. It's, it's so intimate because it's literally the perspective that we're seeing and we're saying, Okay, this is how I view this moment. And someone's like, Eh, not that great. And it, it's never, ever, ever about us. And like yeah, you could, someone could give you feedback and you'd be like, Yeah, like.

[00:57:51] Jules: I see what you're saying, but I don't agree that's super important cuz that means that you've reaffirmed your connection to that image or you've reaffirmed your connection to that technique. Or you of [00:58:00] now understanding, you know where it is. But every time someone adds into your perspective, you're widening yours in this very narrow sliver of life that we've etched out can become seen and heard and influenced by others and those experiences.

[00:58:16] Jules: I was like, that's why I think, like Jamie, you talk about reading a lot, you talk about how, you know, reading books is one of the greatest tools in our toolbox, even with our gear as conservation photographers. But it's, I love reading books about what I'm shooting and what I'm working on because you get to take the distilled life experience of someone who's a lot better at this than you are, and then put it through the filter of every day and minute you've ever lived.

[00:58:40] Jules: Right? And with that, you then, Get to change your perspective in a way that years and years and years of life experience and changed circumstances made them. And you're now saying, I can take a sliver of that implemented into my life without having to go through trauma and all these things. And [00:59:00] so when you're getting feedback, you're, you're widening that perspective.

[00:59:02] Jules: And even if you don't agree with it, and maybe it hurts, but what it does is it, it shows you, okay, here's how other people are thinking about my work. Here's how I can improve. Here's how maybe I, you know what, Yeah, that hurt. I'm, I'm focusing on that hurt and I'm focusing on why I really love this image, but now I know why I love it.

[00:59:18] Jules: And then I'm gonna strive to refine that in other images. You know, I've been, I've been doing, that's, I said earlier in the, in the, when we've been talking, that I've been really focusing on slow shuter. Cause I think showing motion underwater is something that we experience so much. And you can't do that in a two 50th of a second.

[00:59:37] Jules: You can't do that super fast cuz you. We, we steal these seconds of light and we create these images that are unrealistic. And that's true when you're getting a burden flight at one 5,000 of a second. It's also true when you're getting, you know, kelp waving at one two 50th, it's never gonna be how you see it.

[00:59:54] Jules: There's always that flow and it's been a big learning curve. And there was an [01:00:00] image that I was really excited about that someone said, Hey, that's not sharp enough. And I thought to myself, Okay, I need to work on getting it a little bit sharper, like I need to work, but I also really love how not sharp it is.

[01:00:13] Jules: And because I was able to double down and I took that feedback and I figured out what I really loved about it, I was able to go back and get another image that then worked that then worked with the community. Because I can break that rule intentionally and I can break that wor rule in a technically proficient enough way that it works within our realm.

[01:00:34] Jules: Right. And. It's, you gotta just say every time you're getting feedback that it's just the way you react and the way others react are just gonna influence you and make you get better. And every day we have to eat our humble pie and say, I'm not the best in the world this, and every single day I'm working to make the best image of this creature habitat [01:01:00] scientist that's ever been made.

[01:01:02] Jules: But until you get that image and until you're standing on the stage of wildlife photographer for the year and they're like, Yep, you're the best. Like you. And even then, like you're, you're still not, and you have a moment and you have these things, but you always have to, you know, say, How can I get better and how can I push forward?

[01:01:18] Jules: And I think that's been so helpful to me cuz it's, it never feels stagnant. It always feels like we're moving forward to something new and something better.

[01:01:25] Jaymi: That's great. So your approach is kind of, It's not about me, it's about data collection that I can then use and be grateful for. I honestly think that the way that you're, And so this is really for, for anyone who is feeling nervous about getting feedback or potentially defensive about getting feedback, which is a very real and legitimate feeling as well.

[01:01:47] Jaymi: But when you're getting feedback and you're feeling kind of shut down about it or even scared about getting feedback, one of the reasons why I wanna talk about this element of being open to it and receptive of it and how [01:02:00] you can use it is because I often as a coach will adjust my approach to feedback based on where someone's at and, and give just enough push to get them to the.

[01:02:11] Jaymi: Place, but not so much of a push that they feel they've been thrown over a cliff . But I feel like with you, you are so receptive to feedback that I can be very, very honest. Like not brutally honest, I hope, but really just to the point with feedback. And you give me the gift, and I'm sure this is true with all of your peers who you work with in your communities as you guys are doing feedback.

[01:02:36] Jaymi: But you give me the gift as someone who's trying to provide high quality feedback as someone who genuinely wants to only provide things that make you better. Who someone who wants to see you succeed in every way. You give me the gift of the space to do that in. And the gift of being able to be honest and the gift of being able to be upfront and the gift of being able to dig into details.

[01:02:57] Jaymi: I think that that's a really important [01:03:00] element of reciprocation when it comes to feedback groups. Like if you are a photographer who's in a group of people who are all giving each other critiques, or if you sign up for a portfolio review, I've had people sign up for portfolio reviews, pay me money, and then refuse to listen to anything that I say cuz they're justifying their images and I'm like, I thank you for your money.

[01:03:21] Jaymi: I feel really bad that you're not gonna grow from this because you refuse to hear anything. And so I wanna just say, I think that that it's really amazing that your perspective on hearing feedback actually allows other people space and opportunity to provide their honest perspective on something. Cuz you can tell when someone's shut down and doesn't really wanna hear what you say and then you're like, That looks nice, honey.

[01:03:46] Jaymi: Hang it on the fridge and walk away from, and nobody's the better for it.

[01:03:50] Jules: Yeah, it's, You are a busy lady. I'm a busy guy. Like, it's just, What a waste of time to give someone something that's gonna make 'em feel good for [01:04:00] 20 minutes and then their work is crap. There's a lot of people that, that want that, that just want to be seen and to feel like their work has meaning.

[01:04:07] Jules: And for those people, putting on the a little bit less harsh gloves is really nice. And I've, I've had to learn that because I'm so used to ripping into people's work to be like, Yeah, now you're gonna get better. Like, here are the things to focus on from what I'm seeing. Go get better. And I, I think there's some people who are like, Man, I just wanted you to say hey, cool image or whatever.

[01:04:26] Jules: And so it's been a big learning curve for me because I'm, I'm trying to get there and like kind of learn when people really want the feedback or when they just want you to say, Hey, nice job, bud.

[01:04:36] Jules: But I, I think what would a gift to give your time and your effort to saying, Here's how I very critically think about your art and your storytelling and here's how you can grow from it.

[01:04:47] Jules: And from my experience and from all, it's like, it's, again, it's like reading. It's like all this life experience that I had with this piece of equipment. I'm now saying, here's how all the stuff that I've done can [01:05:00] now influence what you did. And you can get over some of the learning curves that I had, and you can instantly integrate that.

[01:05:06] Jules: And I think learning and asking underwater photographers when I was just, just starting out like, Okay, what does this do? What does that do? How do I make this happen? Why is this bad? Why is this good? Every data point, as you put it it builds into this beautiful canvas. And that canvas is the road forward and that way to grow.

[01:05:28] Jules: And it, it's nice to say this is a nice thing, but to really rip into someone and I I say all the time, Please rip into my work. Cause I, I love when you rip into it cuz I've got so many things to improve on and I think you get a lot of these echo chambers of, wow, nice shot.

[01:05:43] Jules: Wow, sharp, good colors. And that's, that's what, it's useless. That's, to me at least that, that doesn't help me grow. And so I love when I get those really harsh critique cuz then I got some stuff to work on.

[01:05:54] Jaymi: Yeah, I think it's a great idea to also preface a critique with what it is that you're [01:06:00] seeking too, where it's like, Hey, I really want you to rip into this. I wanna hear everything that you have to say. Or if you're like, Hey, just tell me what's working with this. I still feel really connected and emotionally like into this work.

[01:06:12] Jaymi: I'm not ready to hear about improvement. I just wanna know, is it working? Is it not? What do you like about it? And then I'll come back for the harder critique later, like, But to, to really know what you wanna get out of feedback and to preface it, I think could be really helpful as well. Jules, how do you.

[01:06:29] Jaymi: Open these conversations because you are an extraordinary networker. You are not afraid to reach out to people and to say, Hey, I'm Jules, I, this is what I do. I really love what you're doing. How did you do like to ask these questions? And I think a lot of us can be really shy about doing that or be hesitant about reaching out.

[01:06:47] Jaymi: How do you form the conversations or how do you get conversations going? If there's like a piece of advice that you could give to someone about starting conversations, even if you're hesitant, what would that.

[01:06:59] Jules: Everyone [01:07:00] in this field is a person who loves the environment and wants to tell stories and has had so many mentors and peers that have done this for them. And when I was first starting on, The Raptor story and I was reaching out for some mentors and I was kind of just like, Hey, you've did this before.

[01:07:21] Jules: Like I just want perspective. And then people invest in you. It's because someone invested in them. And if I could give one piece of advice to anyone, it's reach out and just ask. It's a hundred rejection challenge. But for peer advice, like the worst thing they can do is, yeah, they ghost you. Or they say, Hey, I'm so sorry my schedule doesn't allow for this right now, but if I have time I'll get to you.

[01:07:42] Jules: And the only thing that that hurts is maybe your pride, maybe your ego, but it's never bad. So many people want you to succeed cause they want the planet to succeed and they want this amazing wave of motivation and energy to continue, [01:08:00] you know, when they're gone or when they don't have time to get to Botswana, to do a story on lions.

[01:08:05] Jules: Cause they're focusing on salmon in Alaska. Like I think beautiful part about C was. Storytellers were able to hone their skills where they lived and tell their own stories. And I think that had to happen because of international and interconnected networks of mentorship. And you know, the people who might not have other conservation photographers in their neighborhood, but they do on their phones and they have this infinite network of people who are working on these things out there.

[01:08:35] Jules: They're saying, Here's what I'm doing, Here's a story I'm trying to tell. And they're incredible stories. And they've been noted in awards and magazines around the world in these, this collective effort to do a more homebound approach to conservation work. And it's been this incredible renaissance. And that's all because of the power that social media and the internet gives us to reach out and connect and mentor.[01:09:00]

[01:09:00] Jules: Like it's, it's such a different field than I think a lot of professions in, if we don't have people growing and rising the ranks to do this work, it will disappear and it will disappear to the disadvantage of every living creature on this planet.

[01:09:15] Jules: I'm not gonna say that conservation photography is the bl end all of how we can help, but dang does it Sure. Inspire people, right? And for every little kid that's looking at a Nat Geo or looking at a, something on Instagram when they're just starting out and they see someone who's willing to invest the time in them.

[01:09:35] Jules: That's someone who's gonna invest time in someone else. And then that creates a cycle and this beautiful wave that will ensure protection of species for generations to come. And if we can have people out there at their homes telling the stories that need to be told, then I still have hope for this very bleak situation.

[01:09:54] Jules: We're in the moment we lose that in the moment that we stop mentoring and inspiring and investing in others is [01:10:00] when that glimmer of life that we have on our blue marble dance. So

[01:10:06] Jaymi: Well said. I feel like you have a lot of those like mic drop moments in, in our conversation. One last question for

[01:10:14] Jaymi: you, So I'm curious. As you've moved forward into this career, you, you do so much that is of your own initiative and your own drive to really make things happen, but you've also invested in education to really get yourself from one ar like one level or one tier to the next tier.

[01:10:34] Jaymi: How do you think that that kind of structured education plays a role as well? So there's kind of our community driven education, you know, learning from asking other people, and then there's the education that you really seek out that is a very structured education. Has it benefited you?

[01:10:49] Jaymi: And if it has, how so?

[01:10:52] Jules: It's benefited me tremendously. I wouldn't know what steps to take without this. And you know, I think [01:11:00] there is a world in which you can do that. There's a world in which you can take 10,000 magazines and you can rip them apart and you can dog your each page. And you know, I've done that with some of my favorites where I've dog erred and said, Why does this shot work?

[01:11:12] Jules: And I've drawn circles and sharpie of, okay, the light's here and here's the focus and here's your foreground background maybe. That is a very time intensive way, and it's a way that you need to do it. That's your homework, right? That's your personal study. But when you have a structured education, that's a fast track to this.

[01:11:29] Jules: And I think I would attribute, you know,, a lot of my growth and storytelling to having, every week I have a goal. Every week I'm getting a lesson, I'm doing this, I'm, I'm reading that book, I'm doing whatever. And, you know, I think it was nice that I came off of my time as a student in college to being in CP one oh ones.

[01:11:48] Jules: I had those, those study habits and that mentality of being a student. And it was really nice because I could say, yeah, like I, I remember I would literally have structured into my day when we were in a little covid at [01:12:00] home bubble that I was on my computer, this, this, and this. And another one of my classes was CP 1 0 1, and I was practicing it and producing work around it, like homework, just as diligently as I was for any other of my classes because, I knew that I had a lot to learn and I still have so much to learn.

[01:12:16] Jules: But now, instead of taking the 1 0 1 level approach, I'm taking, you know, the 3000th level course with our alumni accelerator and us getting very dedicated feedback and kind of those little nitpicky things that are gonna make us get to the next level. Or I'm reading books, or I'm seeking mentors that are gonna push me that much further.

[01:12:35] Jules: Or I'm seeking opportunities like applying for fellowships, opportunities that are, I know will get me in the realm to push me further. But having that dedicated place to make all of that happen off the get go and getting in the mindset of, this is the way that you tell conservation stories. And maybe you're gonna break those rules later and tell it in a different way, but here's a roadmap that was the [01:13:00] basis for everything here, and that's the basis for what I do every day in the field and how I approach my previs and my shots.

[01:13:06] Jules: And when I'm doing my big post-it sessions, when I'm. Taking over my entire, you know, wall. And my partner is like, What are you doing? Um, She's so supportive, but I mean, yeah. But it's it's, it's the roadmap. And if you want to drive onto a dirt, gravel road when you're farther along in the roadmap, great.

[01:13:28] Jules: But this is the highway that you gotta take to kind of get in the right area. And once you're there, yeah, do what you want. But, you know, turn on the tunes, get on the highway, and just start racing forward and you know, you'll, you'll see where you end up.

[01:13:41] Jaymi: Yeah. Jules, you have been such an inspiration to work with as, as just an instructor, seeing someone who takes what resources you put out there and then not just runs with 'em, but flies with 'em and swims with them and really puts everything to use and [01:14:00] sees successes.

[01:14:01] Jaymi: Incredible. And I think that the heart and soul that you put into not only your craft, but our field, you are gonna be helping the planet in ways that I can't even imagine at this point. There's, it's a rare thing to find someone who is this dedicated in an altruistic. Open way, and I cannot wait to see the stories that you create and the waves that you make, no pun intended, and the, the things that you do for species.

[01:14:31] Jaymi: I just, I, I can't even express how much I admire you and how grateful I am that you're doing this work and that we've crossed paths. Thank you for every day that you push yourself to create work and to get it out there for the world.

[01:14:44] Jules: and I mean, and you know, not just saying this for the recording, but this, this wouldn't have happened without you and without the network that you created. And I, I say it a lot, but.

[01:14:54] Jules: It, it, you have changed my life and I owe the basis of all of [01:15:00] this to you. And you know, the little bits and pieces that I record on my phone and when I'm at sea and I feel like lot is changing and loss that I can remember that I still have this purpose outside and this world that is in dire straits, I feel like I have this path forward.

[01:15:18] Jules: So know that you are creating a, an army that is ready to be unleashed to help save the planet. And that's because of the work and time, effort and energy and love that you've put into making that community. So thank you. I I really do appreciate it. I'm excited to work with you for many years to come.

[01:15:39] Jaymi: Oh, that makes me so happy. Very, like it makes me very squidgy. But I really, I appreciate hearing that. But once again, thank you for your time, your energy, and if anyone wants to go check out your work, your extraordinary work that is now published many times over and will be published again and again and again. How do they connect with you? How do they see [01:16:00] your.

[01:16:01] Jules: Yeah, so you can find me. I'm most active on Instagram. It's Jules Jacob's photo and my website that I update with some behind the scenes stuff that I maybe don't wanna give over to the meta algorithm. But yeah, and it's a great playlist to reach out to me. And like I said before, there's been so many people who have mentored me and you know, I don't have the most time of anyone in the world, but if anyone ever needs someone to talk to about their work, I'm always available to help inspire the community.

[01:16:26] Jules: This community can only grow if we invest in others. And I'm. Willing to invest. So please don't, don't be shy.

[01:16:33] Jaymi: Ah, you are so awesome. All right. All of that will be linked in the show notes. Jules, thank you. A million times over and folks will talk to you again next week.


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