Moon Hill, Van, TX by Shawn Thompson in Van, Texas

Shawn Thompson’s photos capture the charm of country life in small town Texas. We love his portraits and the way he plays with light. Follow the fun at @srt4shawn.

Name:Shawn Thompson

Place you live: Van, TX

Can you sum up Van? Van is a small town in East Texas that, if you blink, can be easily overlooked. However, there is something special about being from a place where everyone knows each other. It challenges you to be intentional about finding new people to meet and new places to shoot, and really lets you appreciate the little things in life.

What is a perfect day in Van? I, personally, enjoy foggy days. Catching the sunrise on a foggy day at my favorite spot, Moon Hill, which is actually just a road on a bump instead of a hill, is always a favorite. Since the terrain in East Texas is pretty flat, fog makes the many fields and roads far more interesting to photograph and makes exploring familiar places fun all over again. Breakfast at our local diner afterwards is also a must to get the most out of your day.

If Van was a person or character who would it be and why? Oddly enough, I’d probably say Donald Duck. He’s small, strange, and talks kinda funny; however, most people tend to like him for some reason.

How long have you been using Instagram? Three and a half years if I’m not mistaken.

Do you shoot with your phone or other cameras or both? My Instagram account consists of only photos I’ve taken with my phone. When I first started, I used my iPod Touch. I’ve since moved to an iPhone 4, 5, and as of this month, a 6. It’s been fun learning how to use each device to its greatest capacity and watching the quality, both in my images and in the pixels, improve with time.

What is your editing process? Very minimal. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to focus on making the initial image as good as possible instead of trying to fix everything in the post-process. I usually shoot everything with the camera on my phone and then slap a VSCOcam filter on it and adjust some minor things like exposure or highlights.

Do you create images outside of Instagram? I got my first DSLR last year and have been trying to learn as much as possible about “real” photography. It’s been fun essentially starting over and learning how to take photos in a whole different way.

Has Instagram/phoneography affected how you shoot? Absolutely. Since I started taking images with, and because of, Instagram, I can’t help but frame around a square. It’s both a blessing and a curse because if I want to share my DSLR photos on Instagram, they will crop perfectly. But, in every other instance of shooting photos, utilizing the whole frame is a key part of taking a good photo.

Can you give a couple tips to aspiring Instagram photographers? What really helped me was getting involved in a local community and being around other creatives. It’s amazing what you can learn by just being around like-minded people and doing what you love together. In my situation, however, I usually have to drive an hour or two to find these communities. The first couple of years I would have to drive all the way to Dallas or to Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s been so worth it though. I have not only found creative people who inspire me, but have developed tons of friendships that will go much further than just the Instagram era.

Who are your three favorite Instagrammers? I have met so many amazing people through this app, but as far as people that I feel push me creatively I would have to say @navanel, @connortd, and @_mattsteele_.

Want more Instagram tips and inspiration? Check out all of our Best of Instagram features here and learn from the masters.