Tyson Wheatley (@twheat) is the perfect example of a guy who gets what’s coming to him. Provided, of course, that guy is friendly to a fault, positive, creative, and down for just about anything.
After cutting his teeth as a journalist at CNN, Tyson moved over to work as a part of Instagram’s community team, the core group who maintains, and cultivates Instagram’s holiest of holies: their namesake, the community of users. Community is everything at Instagram, and to many of the app’s core users. It’s a mantra he’s kept with him even after heading off on his own for what is proving to be a successful, and visually stimulating path as a freelance photographer. This dude can rally any ragtag group, find a common glue to hold them together, and turn any day into an adventure.
It’s only natural that he’s one of our favorite feeds.
We caught up with Tyson just before he commandeered our Instagram account for this weekend.
So what got you started with Instagram? Tell us a bit about your history with it.
I was working as a web editor for CNN in Hong Kong at the time and aggressively sharing photos of very tall buildings. I organized a few local photo walks, and the community team at Instagram noticed what I was doing and put me on the suggested user list. That kinda kickstarted a newfound obsession with trying to make images.
What are the biggest upsides to doing what you do?
I’ve had some opportunities in recent months to travel to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting. Japan was next-level amazing. I just returned from an incredible week in Cambodia. Another upside is the amazing friendships I’ve made through Instagram. There’s something about a visual social platform that makes it easy to connect with people who share your interests and values.
What is it about Instagram that keeps you engaged with it, as opposed to other forms of social media?
By far, the support and love from the Instagram community. It’s unmatched. I’m consistently inspired by what other people are doing. That’s what keeps me coming back.
What other apps do you use a lot?
I’m really digging on PHHHOTO. It feels super fun and creative but doesn’t carry the pressure of having to always produce something amazing like it does on Insta, nor does it feel like a throwaway like SnapChat.
You invented an Instagram technique… What is it and how did it come about?
I’m guessing you’re referring to the #puddlegram—which I’m not sure I invented but I was the first to use that hashtag. It’s basically a technique of using your phone to capture a reflection in a puddle. The trick is to turn your phone upside down so the camera is lower to the ground. I also sometimes use my shoe as a tripod but no one comes ‘round asking me for tips on that technique.
What is the coolest adventure you’ve had thanks to Instagram?
Icelandair invited @laurenlemon, @adamsenatori, and I to ride on the inaugural flight of the Hekla Aurora. We did a flyby over Reykjavik. Two days later, Lauren and I got stuck in a blizzard and sought shelter in a lava cave. Absolutely one of the most dramatic travel adventures I’ve had.
What are the downsides to having a following as large as yours?
I’m not sure there’s a downside, but I do at times feel enormous pressure to post images better than the ones that came before it. Also, it’s sometimes hard to respond to everyone who leaves nice comments. I do read them all.
What do you look for when shooting? Any advice for our readers to make their images better?
I’m obsessed with design and architecture. I look for symmetry wherever I am. In buildings, yes, but also in nature. The images I’m most drawn to are often ones that offer a new perspective. I guess my advice for anyone would be take a lot of images. Take them from lots of different angles. And then be very selective about which ones to edit and post.
iPhone only or anything goes?
I think if the iPhone has proved anything it’s that it doesn’t matter what camera you use. Anything goes. Blast what you feel. Make your best image.
Who are your current favorite Instagram accounts?