Jose Madrigal is a published photographer originally from Houston, Texas. I recently had a chance to interview Jose to learn more about him and his photographic passion. Here is what he had to say!
WLB: It's great to be able to interview you, Jose. How long have you been a photographer and where do you currently reside?
Jose: I've been a photographer since December 2016. I am privileged to own a 15-acre property in central Texas where I do most of my photography and have hosted several workshops. My wife and I have changed the property designation to wildlife management, which means restoring habitats not just for arthropods, but all sorts of native critters. I look forward in the coming years to finding more and more native wildlife and flora making a home at my property.
Jose teaching a photography workshop on his property in Texas.
WLB: Sounds like a beautiful property with plenty of opportunities for a photographer to explore. What got you started in photography and macro photography in the first place?
Jose: I must blame my wife for starting me in both general photography and macrophotography. Around 10-15 years ago we began traveling regularly and she was always blown away by the pictures I would capture on my phone camera. In 2016 I finally agreed to let her get me my first interchangeable lens camera that Christmas. It was just a Sony a6000 starter kit, but I was instantly hooked and quickly added and upgraded gear. I focused primarily on portraits and landscapes that first year.
My wife is also an avid gardener, so the following Christmas she asked what kind of lens I would need to take pictures of her flowers and butterflies. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to score a great new lens, so I told her to get me the Sony 90mm macro lens. I figured I’d take a few pictures for her but eventually find ways to use the camera for more of the stuff I was into. Within a few minutes of shooting with this new lens, it dawned on me that I was behaving differently with the camera than I ever had before. For the first time, I was exploring and playing with the camera instead of thinking and planning. I realized I was truly behaving like an artist now instead of like a technician. I became obsessed with macrophotography, and for the next 6 months rarely took that lens off the camera. That spring I was contacted by the editor of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine who had discovered my work on Instagram and wanted to publish a few of my photos. This, coupled with a rapidly growing Instagram account, cemented the fact that I had found my niche, and macro/closeup became almost my exclusive focus.
WLB: You and your wife make a great team! It’s so cool to hear about the path you took toward macrophotography. Within the realm of macrophotography, why do you find so much enjoyment in photographing arthropods?
Jose: Arthropods are simply fascinating to observe, especially up close. I like to photograph them because I love sharing what I discover with others. They are artfully engineered in my opinion, and one of my main goals is to capture them in a way that allows people to experience the same awe and appreciation of their beauty that I find.
WLB: Do you have any favorite arthropods you like to photograph?
Jose: I’m particularly fond of bees and dragonflies. My favorites are probably the less skittish ones that let me take as many pictures as I want without flying away lol!
WLB: Haha, that’s very understandable! Do you have any favorite gear that makes it easier for you to photograph them?
Jose: I’ve never been much of a gear head. In my younger days I was an aspiring musician, and while the guitar was my primary instrument, I wasn’t really into “guitars” per se. I saw it as an instrument to achieve a sound or a song. I feel the same way about camera gear. It’s a means to an end, and I choose gear based on the desired outcome. That said, I most often shoot with my 100-400mm tele and my 90mm macro. They are the tools that allow me to get what I’m after most often. For cameras, I have the Sony A1 and as a backup, the Sony a7r3.
In 2023, I plan to spend a lot more time with my 50mm macro lens. I have always loved the wider-angle look it gives to shots, but it is slower focusing and requires getting closer to the subject than my other lenses, so I’ve typically opted for the other lenses. With making the leap into being a full-time photographer in 2023, as well as already having a large library of shots with the other lenses, I really look forward to playing with the 50mm a lot more.
WLB: Do you have any photographic achievements you’d be willing to tell us about?
Jose: Although I’ve never initiated it, I’ve been published several times in a few magazines, most notably in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, as well as other magazines in the UK and the Netherlands. I’m prouder, however, of having sold thousands of artistic prints over the last 3 years. My goal has always been more about creating art rather than documenting species. Seeing that goal realized, and finding that people appreciate my work enough to buy it, is much more rewarding for me than being published or winning a contest.
I’m also proud that I’m known as one of the masters of in-flight insect photography. I’ve put countless hours into developing the skills and techniques, and have been rewarded with some pretty amazing shots. This niche opened the doors for me to write tutorials and teach online workshops for brands like NiSi and B&H Photo, as well as several successful in-person workshops.
Lastly, I was named as one of the featured photographers for the 2022 Texas Photography Festival in Georgetown, TX. I was awarded a plaque and provided a display wall to show prints of my work at the festival. With only 12 photographers receiving this recognition each year, I was incredibly honored.
WLB: Those are some wonderful achievements, and I think your recognition as one of the masters of in-flight insect photography is well deserved. Thank you so much, Jose, for your willingness to share so many details with us about your life and photographic journey thus far!
To learn more about Jose and to see some more of his artistic and gorgeous work, be sure to visit his website at www.jmadimages.com which can also be reached via www.pollinatorportraits.com. On Instagram, you can find him @jmad_images, and his Facebook page is Pollinator Portraits by J. Madrigal. It is also now a privilege to share some of his images through the Jose Madrigal Collection here at Whole Lotta Bugs!