Some of you will recognize the name Ben Moon from his heartstring-yanking ode to his dog, the short film Denali, which premiered earlier this week and has already racked up millions of views. He’s been travelling the world having adventures in the name of capturing epic video and photography of surfers, climbers, musician, and people living on the fringe for over a decade, and his Instagram feed is indicative of a life lived on the road. If you’re looking for a chance to escape the everyday and peer into the life of someone living theirs to the fullest, go and give him a follow. We caught up with Moon amidst the frenzy of press and excitement Denali has spawned to discuss his approach to the ’Gram. And please check out our own Instagram account, @thedailybeast, for Ben’s takeover this weekend.
How did you get started on Instagram?
When I first joined Instagram four years ago, I simply shared snapshots from my phone and tended to overuse the filters for processing. I think my first post was with an iPhone 4 while side-stage at a Modest Mouse concert, and I had no idea Instagram would become such a widespread platform and community for sharing imagery.
Do you see it as a separate creative endeavor, or more of an online portfolio?
I see it as a way to share the imagery and stories I feel connected to, and it’s a great place to get feedback on whether an image resonates with others as well. One hammock image I casually posted while in Maui became the cover of a collaborative photo book called Going Out Is Going In because of the positive response it received. I also enjoy sharing the images from my black and white “Faces” portrait series and telling the stories behind the individuals that inspire me.
Has having an Instagram changed the way you interact or look at photography and your subjects?
I definitely have become more in tune with those truly special moments and scenes that are graphically pleasing. I try to only post when I feel inspired to, and not while I am shooting so I stay present in the moment.
Are there any downsides to Instagram?
I think the hunger for likes and the expectation to stick to a daily posting schedule can sometimes lead to content feeling really diluted and similar looking.
What has been the coolest opportunity or situation you’ve found yourself in because of Instagram?
I’ve connected with several inspiring individuals over Instagram that have eventually become close friends. One example is Daniel Norris, the rookie pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays who lives in a VW bus in the off-season. I knew about him through his relationship with Patagonia, but we met on Instagram and I discovered he was really into photography and a fan of my work. When I switched from a Canon to a Sony camera system, I sold him my favorite portrait lens (the Canon 85mm 1.2 II) and it’s been really rewarding to see the images Daniel has captured with that glass and the interactions that have continued to happen for him because of it.
Any advice for someone who wants to take their Instagram pics to the next level?
Photograph and share what you’re truly passionate about, and not just what seems to be popular at the moment. Use adjustments in Snapseed or the advanced Instagram editing features to subtly polish your images, and try not to overuse the standard filters.
Who are some of your favorite accounts?
I have so many talented friends who inspire me that this list would be very long, but here are a few I appreciate:
@argonautphoto: unique eye with a talent for tackling difficult Nat Geo assignments
@taylorfreesolo: fantastic storyteller and adventurer
@63mph: VW bus dweller, writer and shooter
@forestwoodward: talented up and coming adventure photog
@jeffjohnson_beyondandback: traveling surfer, writer, photographer
@renan_ozturk - brilliant filmmaker with a phenomenal eye
@nick_lavecchia - surf photog from Maine, his check morning coffee series