June 01 2015


Advertising and design have shaped the exciting career of freelance photographer Michael O’Neal. Originally from New York and now based in San Francisco, Michael has travelled extensively through Wyoming, Utah and California. His dog Preston, his Iphone and a digital camera are his usual travel companions. North and East is a photo-project based on a road trip from San Francisco to Wyoming.


How did this trip come about?

One of my really good friends who I knew and met in San Francisco was moving to Wyoming, to a small town called Kelly. He needed some help driving up, so we made a little adventure of going through the desert, Utah, the salt flats and then ending up in beautiful Wyoming to go to Yellowstone and all the areas around Jackson Hole. I’ve been there six times in the past year and a half. I am absolutely in love with the scenery and the wildlife there – I feel at home.

What is the wildlife like?

When I first went, it was awesome because it was really cold, snowy and there wasn’t a lot of people around so you really get to feel one with nature. The first thing you see is herds of bison – they are everywhere at that time of the year (January). There is an elk refuge and I’ve seen sheep, antelope, moose, bald eagles and red foxes. It is almost like the Serengeti of America.You got up close to a red fox…

It was one of the most beautiful encounters I’ve had with nature. I was driving and I saw him in the middle of the road. Some snowmobilers were feeding the fox and told me that he was really friendly. So I pulled over, grabbed my camera and Iphone and sat with him in the road for about 20 minutes. The Iphone picture came out better than the DSRL.


How is it like to shoot with an Iphone?

It is so ubiquitous and it has spun so many photo careers. It is very accessible and the best thing is the community around it. I have met so many people through Instagram – people from all over the world and all walks of life. I love shooting with the Iphone because it is very fluid and I don’t have to think about too many things. I just compose and find where the good light is and wait. There is a certain art form to be able to capture and edit an Iphone photo well, I don’t think it is as easy as people think it is, you still need to have a good story.  


Are there limitations?

Yeah, absolutely there are a few things like depth of field and shallow focus you can only get with a DSLR. It is not great for low light – it still gets really noisy– and the flash is not very good. Still, I believe in the old saying that the best camera is the one that is with you and you always have your phone with you.

True. On another topic, do you take your dog Preston everywhere you go?

He has become my best friend. I got him when he was 15 weeks as a puppy and since I am a freelance photographer I can spend a lot of time with him. It is always nice to have someone around to take my butt out of home and away from the computer when I am working. Also, he is very photogenic, so I always have someone to model for me.

You’ve done a lot of design, some advertising and now photography. What’s the toughest industry?

They are all tough. I started in New York working on advertising coming up with concepts for TV ads and working with a copywriter, which is very challenging and competitive. Still, it was good because it pushed me to have good ideas, be able to design them and execute them well.

What about photography?

Photography is a lifestyle you have to live and breathe. I feel my work is a real reflection of who I am and what I am feeling. In other industries there are a lot more people involved. Still, for my commercial shoots is all about collaboration.And what’s your next personal project?

I love music more than anything, is my other passion next to photography. I started a project called Line-In and it is basically about documenting some of my favourite musicians, singers and songwriters. I am looking for people that hit an emotional trigger when they are on stage.


See more of Michael’s photos here and follow him on Instagram here.

Article by: Laura Rodriguez Castro