Of Special Days and Everydayness: Zhayynn James

That’s how it all began – a gifted DSLR camera, a search for photography courses on the internet, and a relentless love for the art that only rises with zeal and dedication.

When Zhayynn James received a DSLR camera as a gift from his loving wife, he did not know anything else apart from the innate passion and love for photography. When he wanted to pursue his interest and started looking for photography classes online, he first came across Toehold.

“Although there are numerous ways of learning photography, I love the way Toehold goes about it. In the beginning, I was making decent images during holidays but I wasn’t really aware of the intricate technical details involved in making evocative ones. But today, I see myself transformed as a better photographer who has a keen eye for detail. Going on Toehold Photo Tours has helped me look at the wonders not only on some fortunate occasions, but also in the everyday details of nature: wildlife, landscape, and urban life,” says Mr James.

“Toehold Photo Tours have helped me look at the everyday details of nature.”

He continues: “Photography has become my second nature after learning to probe into the how and the why behind making an image. That way, the pictures are made in the mind first, which is an enormous joy that’s also humbling. Photography also adds more to my very profession. Being a landscape architect, I am constantly trying to understand the ever-changing response of people to a space and how they move in one. So when everyone sees the same things every day, I see that it never looks the same.


Zebra Scape

© Zhayynn James


“I am also what you can call an opportunistic photographer. While wildlife has been and still remains my first love, I am also extremely interested in capturing the throbbing urban life down to its atomic details.”


Urban Scape

© Zhayynn James


Mr James fell in love with Africa the first time he visited Masai Mara, which happens to be his favourite destination. He becomes nostalgic when he talks about the abundance of the wildlife there and how shooting more of wildlife stoked his love for nature. He also mentions the incredible photo opportunities that a place like the Serengeti can offer and how one never returns without something to appreciate and cherish.

Mild Recollections

Mr James remembers how Tanzania was one of the places where he began to make full use of his skills as a photographer. He learned how to avoid mistakes while using different lenses by reviewing his photos over and over again and discussing them with the Toehold Skippers, because he believes that at the end of the day, it is more about learning and not just post-processing. He not only made the most of the wildlife there but also made some landscape images worth cherishing.


Serengeti Scape

© Zhayynn James


He also mentions how Toehold Skippers do not always go by the tenets of the book but keep working on increasing the range of photo opportunities depending on the place, light and many other factors. He states that they are not just mentors but are also friends in the ways they start interacting even after the Tour is over, and how they are attentive and listen to what one has to say at any point of time on or after a Tour.

Also: watch this video to hear what Zhayynn had to say about our Photography Workshops.

Mr James’s commitment to photography as a way of second nature has won him many prestigious accolades. One of his photos showing zebras in all their striped elegance was selected as an ‘Editor’s Favourite’ in the recently concluded National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest, in the category ‘Spontaneous Moments’. A lion portrait he shot was selected by National Geographic for the ‘Daily Dozen’ on 25th August 2015 and was published online.

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Mr James explains that he cannot dissociate photography from Toehold’s influence on him. His journey can be neatly summed up with what Pablo Picasso had to say about art – learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.



Zhayynn James

Zhayynn James


Categories: Client Corner, Featured, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized
Sourabha Rao

Sourabha is a staff writer at Toehold who dexterously gives verbal form to the inexpressible, and with her passion for travel, weaves immersive stories that transcend space and dissolve time.

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