Indie Spotlight: Joe Urbz

Each Monday, we’ll highlight one indie photographer whose body of work deserves special recognition. Please enjoy their photography here, and make it a point to enjoy the rest of their work on their website.

Elephant Rock

This week’s Indie Spotlight shines on American photographer Joe Urbz. He resides in picturesque Twin Peaks, Southern California. He considers his photography focus to be landscapes and nature with some HDR.

He strives to take unique shots that may provoke a previous visitor to reminisce or for someone to wish they could be there on a realistic level. He wants the observer to feel they are there with him at that place. He tries to keep a balance between maintaining a realistic shot and keeping the artistic angle and feel of the piece.

Grand Canyon Sunset


Joe shoots with anything working and readily available. Currently, he carries his Canon 5D MkII, Canon 60D and iPhone 5; but he does also have other cameras, including film. His favorite lenses at the moment are the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS with a Canon 1.4 Extender III on the Canon 60D and recently a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS for the 5D MkII.

Norther Harrier

He uses these camera set-ups equally. Joe likes f/4’s for landscapes. They allow a lot of flexibility while staying sharp. He is able to focus on the art of the shot instead of the equipment dictating limitations. These lenses are cooperative with him and perform at a professional level.

Golden Gate


Joe uses the Back Button Focus (BBF) on his cameras and sets the custom white balance. He uses natural light with B+W filters (UV, Polarizer, ND), Hitech ND glass, and Manfrotto tripods. He uses a MacBook Pro Retina with Aperture 3.x and NIK Software for processing most of his work (RAW/TIFF). He also uses Photomatix for HDR, Perfect Photo Suite 7, Topaz, and Photoshop CS5.1 depending on the project. Every project brings its own mix of tools. He prints to a Canon Pixma 9000 mkII and uses other services also. He really enjoys metal paper and aluminum prints.

Mother Tree

Tips, Tricks and Techniques:

Joe found the use of the BBF on his Canon cameras an awesome camera technique. Using the AF-ON with Single allows him to focus on what he wants while taking multiple shots with the same focus points set, such as with sunsets. He uses it with Servo for action shots. He detests the trigger button refocus issue.

Lake Geneva Sunset

Some simple sounding tips from Joe: 1) do not let ocean water get into your camera or lens, 2) Canon only really likes to clean or fix the more expensive lenses, so take care of your equipment, and 3) do not use a $5 filter on a $1500 lens.

Moonstone Bay

Lessons Learned:

A technical lesson Joe learned is that using a ND filter on a hidden sunset behind the clouds can later be processed into a gorgeous photo. Today’s camera sensors pick up a lot more than people think.

Another valuable lesson is the practice of patience. Last year, for example, Joe was in Joshua Tree National Park awaiting the sunset with at least thirty other photographers. The first part of the sunset was hazy and did not foreshadow an evening with a gorgeous sky. Within the half hour watching and waiting, only two other photographers with their tripods stayed longer. Mother Nature provided a deep red horizontal sky overlooking the silhouetted mountains. Joe has seen this scenario quite often in Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainier, Pacific Ocean, etc. while awaiting shots.

Joshua Tree BW


The two photographers that bring inspiration to Joe are Ansel Adams and Susan Barcus. Adams is pretty self-explanatory by just stating his name. Joe admires his commitment to his craft and his later color photography. He allowed himself to explore a different medium even though he was a master of B&W.

Susan Barcus is a colleague, mentor and incredible friend of Joe’s. She has taught for over 40 years and is a long time professional event/sports photographer. Joe has worked as a multimedia teacher and videographer with her for years, and she encouraged him to reinvent himself with a private love of photography. She still inspires Joe to explore and learn more of the art. She is one of the best in what she does that Joe has ever met.

From Mulholland Dr

What’s Next:

He enjoys going on the road and capturing Mother Nature’s moods. He would love to shoot in Page, Arizona for the hidden slot canyons like Lower Antelope Canyon. He would next love to get to the Hawaiian islands and Europe, starting with Scandinavia. To try something out of his comfort zone, Joe would like to work with a professional in a major sports project, such as American Football or Basketball.

Cathedral Rock


Joe can be found all over the virtual world. His website, google+, Twitter, Smugmug, 500pxartwebsites, and  his classroom site.

Wendy is an editor and cover artist for an up and coming Lehigh Valley E-publishing company. She has a background in Graphic Design, drawing and amateur photography. She can find something to photograph just walking down the street. Landscapes, animals, architecture and her 1-year-old are her favorite subjects.


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