Finding home

Born in Sweden, Johan is a citizen of the world. Music, Photography, Dance, among others, his passions are many, becoming indistinguishable between hobbies and work.
Enchanted by his passionate way of life, it is with great pleasure that we interviewed Johan Otterdahl Edfeldt.

Hello Johan, it’s a pleasure to have you for this interview!  Could you please introduce yourself?
I was born in a beach town on the west coast of Sweden but spent the last 20 years travelling the globe searching for the perfect wave, mostly in Spain and New Zealand. I used to be a fulltime musician for many years but I have decided to take a break from my music for a while. So right now I’m working extra as a waiter and selling some prints on the side. When this Covid era is over, I probably go back to doing music and making photographs. I and my wife live in a tiny 25 square meter house in Sweden but we spent the first 6 months of the year in New Zealand living vanlife and staying with friends.
Having lived in different countries, with different cultures and ways of being, what influence did it have on the way you see the world?
I really never felt Swedish, so when I moved to Spain at the age of 19, I felt right at home. I love passionate people and people with passions. Swedes can be very cold and emotionless in their appearance. Although my wife and best friends are Swedish, I met them all while travelling. I don’t have any friends back in Sweden I actually met in Sweden. Moving to Spain, I had more friends within a few months than I had in a lifetime, and then moving on to New Zealand I met the nicest people in the world. Learning to speak German, English, Spanish, Norwegian etc. has helped me a lot with my photography and how to interact with people. When you travel and see all kinds of cultures you learn to read people, situations and capture stories better. It’s good to be street-smart when you’re out taking photos unless you shoot, sport, wildlife and landscapes.

Home is where I have my wife, guitar, surfboard and camera. Everywhere is home.

Speaking about people with passions, what are yours?
I’m a passionate guy and I tend to go all-in when it comes to hobbies, so much it takes over my life in many ways.
Surfing, music, dancing, juggling and photography have been my five biggest hobbies in my life and I actually have worked with all of them in one way or another. I played soccer for nearly ten years as a kid but that was more my dad’s dream than mine, I reckon.
I am hyperactive so my hobbies have helped me calm down and love life a lot more.
Music has been my biggest income and currently, I got two albums on Spotify under my artist name Jonah Lake. I write, produce, master and play everything on both albums. On YouTube, there are more styles. I like playing folk, rock, reggae and blues. Nick Drake is my favorite artist of all time and Paul Simon is my biggest inspiration when it comes to songwriting. I’ve written over 200 songs so far in all kind of genres.
What are your favourite writers, and could you also tell us about your Little Prince collection?
I honestly have not read too many books in my life but hundreds of photography, surfing and music magazines.
I preferred reading fact books my whole life, and 90% of all the books I’ve read have been music autobiographies.
The only thing I collect is my favorite book The Little Prince. Every country I go to I tend to buy it if I don’t have it in the country’s language.
So far, I got 14 The Little Prince books in different languages but I have only read them in Swedish, English, German and Spanish.
Erlend Loe and Arto Paasilinna are two really funny authors from the Nordic countries.
Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy is also a classic book.
Back to Photography, how did it come into your life and what were the reasons that led you to pick up a camera?
My dad was a photographer but I was never really aloud to use his camera gear as a kid. I always wanted to take photos, but it really started when I moved to the Canary Islands in 2000. I used disposable cameras all the time from trips to Asia, festivals and road trips. I got my first digital camera around 2004 but secretly used my dad’s back in 1999. I always had the passion for it but never the money. I always saw the world as a photographer even though I did not have a camera with me. My first “real” camera was a Canon 550D. I actually sold off all my Canon gear including a 700D and 5 lenses last week.
From portraits to landscapes, what inspires you to photograph? And how do your other passions influence your approach to photography?
I’m inspired by cultures and people’s passion for life. Surfing is more than just people on waves. When you have a passion, it is easier to meet, talk and photograph people with the same passion. There are so many fake lifestyle pictures out there. Instagram has taken it to another level. It seems like people care more about the picture than the moment. I like to stay a few days, weeks or months at a place if I like it. Then feel the vibe and photograph it.
With portraits, I always go for interesting looking people and I tend to like documentary-style portraits more than the classic style. I have been shooting landscapes for 10 years but I’d love to learn a lot more about landscape photography. My biggest problem is the editing. I like to get it right in camera and I really don’t like HDR and overworked photographs.
What is your relationship with the ocean, and how is that reflected in your portfolio?
I was born and raised by the sea in a Swedish little surf town on the west coast. Since I was a child, I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, and after I started surfing, the ocean has become my home and where I feel most at ease. Most of my travels are surf trips, so the ocean is always there most of the time.

I can get pretty bored with surf photography, but I realized that I could take my street photography to the beach.

A good portrait of a surfer gets me happier than a good picture of a surfer on a wave. I don’t feel I have a real portfolio yet since all I do is chaos; you should see my “organized” folders. 

Could you describe the cameras you have used over the years and what were the reasons that led you to start using Fuji equipment?
In the analog era, I used mostly one time disposable cameras but also shot with the Olympus OM-2 or my dad’s Leica Rs and a few pocket cameras. In the digital era, I’ve tried and owned a few. Before switching to Fujifilm my most used camera of all time was a Canon 700D. Cheap and great for travel. I’ve sold prints and had pictures in magazines and books taken with that camera.
What caught my eye with Fujifilm was the beautiful looking equipment. It reminded me of my old analog cameras. I always felt like the digital cameras were so ugly. Fujifilm was like a diamond in the rough. After trying one out I was sold. The X100T was the first one I tried. I never owned an X100 version but will get one in the future. The V looks amazing but I think I would be as happy with a T or an F.
What is your current camera and lenses setup?
My current setup:
Fujifilm X-T2 together with the XF16mm F1.4, XF23mmF2, XF35mmF1.4, XF50mmf2, XF55-200mm, XF18-55mm, Samyang 12mmF2, Leitz Elmarit R 35mm f2.8 (from 1969).
When I do street photography, I use the 16, 23, 35 and 50mm
When I shoot surfing, I use the 55-200mm and the 18-55mm
The 12mm Samyang I use for skateboard photography and Astrophotography.
I plan to buy the 90mm F2 in 2021.
I’ve been saving up and waiting on the next camera release. If it’s an X-E4 with WR, that will be my next camera, otherwise, I’m going for the X-Pro3 or X-T4 before Summer. Still, the XT2 is a great camera that produces amazing prints.
I don’t use a smartphone so if I’m out partying or just don’t feel like carrying my Fujifilm gear with me, I got a Sony RX100 MarkIII in my pocket. Great little camera in ISO values below 400.
With such an interesting selection of lenses inside your camera bag, what is your favourite focal length?
Hands down, 35mm APS-C / 50mm FF. I wish Fujifilm made an X100 with a 35mm instead of 23mm lens.

If I could only have one lens for the rest of my life, it would be the XF35mmF1.4. I just wish it was WR.

Do you prefer to work with natural or artificial light?
Natural light all the way. I use a flash maybe 10 days per year. Flash is great but it is a whole other way of taking photos and I’m not good enough or have enough money to get the gear I want. I really have respect for the flash photographer who can make it look natural. If I had some extra cash I could invest in gear and lessons. But extra cash normally goes to surf gear and surf trips 🙂
I got a Godox V1 which I’m very happy with.
And what about shooting on location vs inside a studio? Could you also share some tips on how to get the most out of the available light?
I always shoot on location unless I’m lucky to have a studio around. I prefer the wild and the streets. I could never be a studio photographer but I do love the work of Phil Sharp, a great GFX portrait photographer in England. I would love to do what my favorite photographer Theo Gosselin does. He builds his stories and photographs in amazing sceneries with beautiful and cool people.
Try to keep the camera as steady as possible in every kind of situation. Don’t be afraid to push the ISO. I kind of like the “grain look” the Fujifilm cameras get past ISO 800. If it’s really dark, shoot Acros and push the ISO as high as you need. Use a tripod if you have the space and time. Light is everything, but without darkness we can’t shine.
What software do you currently use? Could you briefly describe your post-processing workflow?
I actually try to get it right in-camera from the start. The custom film simulations are great. I shoot 99% jpeg but definitely will shoot more RAW in the future. If you get a good jpeg, it is easy to work with and it will look great printed. I normally use brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows and clarity when processing my photos. I normally spend less than a minute in post-processing on my photos, unless I’m selling a print or sending it to magazines. I have got Affinity Pro, Capture One, Lightroom CC and Snapseed. I use mainly Lightroom and Snapseed since I find the workflow with my Samsung TabS6 tablet suits me better than on my computer. I’ve fixed photos in computer since Paintshop Pro days in the 90s.
Any future photo projects?
I’m currently working with the 100 stranger’s project. I’m taking documentary portraits of 100 people I never met in my life. My plan is to take photos of people around Gothenburg. I shot in Acros mode and I ask them for their name and their favorite music. I plan to level up my astrophotography in 2021.
I would also like to shoot a wedding this Summer only using the XF35mmF1.4.
I hope to do plenty of hikes and develop my landscape photography.
I’m going back to New Zealand in less than a year and plan to make it a dedicated photo trip more than the previous trips.
To conclude, why photography?
To capture a moment can be so powerful and beautiful. A photograph can tell so many stories and even change people for the better. Photographs are captured memories. I love to take a good photograph, then print it and give it away as a gift. Most people these days don’t print at all so it is always nice to make them happy.
Photographs have changed history a few times, and continue to do so. 
I love photography and I feel naked if I don’t have the camera with me.
Everyone has art inside of them and I really suck at painting and drawing, completely useless. Photography is my way of giving a little piece of art away to the future.

A wanderlust Swede with a passion for music and waves travelling the world, capturing memories.

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