Justin Ashar has a lot on his plate but it features the best of three worlds. He works as a geologist battling the often-cruel temperatures in the Arctic. While he isn’t working in the Arctic, he is an artist. For one, Ashar is an incredible videographer whose work has been featured multiple times on CNN.com and The Adventurous 500, a Colorado-based company that successfully combines advertisement with entertainment. In addition, he is also known as J. Ashar, a DJ who creates memorable mixes that have been viewed/listened to millions of times around the world across multiple platforms.

Jacob Elyachar: How do you find time to balance working as a geologist and having time for your art?

Justin Ashar: Honestly, it’s pretty tough. I do most of my geology work in the Arctic at -60 degree temperatures, working 12-hour days for 28-days straight. It’s really busy work, but after these month-long hitches of living in the middle of nowhere, I get flown home and have an entire month off to do whatever I want. It’s always my goal to release a video or do something creative in this short amount of time before I get sent back to work. I try to be as effective with my usage of time as I can.

JE: When did you decide that you wanted to be a videographer?

JA: After having some success and luck with video making, I wanted to step it up a few notches. I went out and bought myself a Canon 7 DdSLR camera that has the capabilities to shoot 1080p HD video footage and started teaching myself how to take professional-quality videos. After one of my month-long hitches as a geologist, I remember going to
a Barnes and Noble bookstore every single day for a few hours to read digital photography and videography books. Some people always tell me that I should go to school to learn how to make videos, but I always tell them that it’s a waste of time. Teaching yourself gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with your creativity, without any of the restrictions of a boss or a deadline.

JE: Your work has been featured in the Adventurous 500 videos. How has your involvement with the Adventurous 500 help further your career?

JA: I took on helping the Adventurous 500 when they were in desperate need of video editors. Even with the little time I had, I felt it was a great learning opportunity for me to practice my video editing skills and apply it to footage that could actually help businesses. It was more of a win-win situation for the both of us; I get to practice my craft, while businesses get a professionally edited video.

JE: Two of your videos: “Ode to Canada (Stop-Motion Tattoo)” and “Stop-Motion Rubik’s Cube” was featured on the front page of CNN.com. What were the purposes of these videos?

JA: I had always thought a tattoo would look really cool in stop-motion, and I knew Canada Day was coming up around the corner (July 1st). So, I remember I had asked my girlfriend to help me take pictures of myself getting a maple leaf tattooed on my chest. Although it would have been a 10-minute tattoo session, it ended up being closer to an hour because I would make the artist clean the blood away from the tattoo after every “stabbing” of the needle. When I released the video around July 1st, CNN really liked it and actually featured it on their front page for Canada Day. The really funny thing that people don’t know is that we had used a broken point-and-shoot digital camera duct taped to a tripod for the entire video!

The Rubik’s Cube video was a similar story; I had wanted to see a Rubik’s Cube being solved in stop-motion without any human contact. So, one night, I filmed myself solving the cube, taking about four pictures per turn, and uploaded the video to metacafe.com. It went viral on that site, and the next morning, CNN had called me and asked me to use that video footage for their report on the 30th anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube.

JE: Let’s talk about your work as a DJ. What made you want to become a DJ?

JA: I think it has been with me ever since I was in elementary school. I was always that go-to kid whenever new albums would drop, and people would always ask me to hook them up. It was cool though, I really loved showing people new music that they’ve never heard before, and it made me feel really good when they actually vibed to it. Then, I remember this one time my brother came home with a brand new set of vinyl turntables and a mixer, and I learned how to beatmatch and mix tunes by ear. It was always a hobby, but I carried it through college and even bought my own decks and a mixer by then.

-Jacob Elyachar, Multimedia Journalist for the Examiner.com

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