+ By Dylan Roche  + Photography by Jarvin Hernandez

In the photography studio of his upper-story apartment overlooking West Street, Jarvin Hernandez might be landlocked, but with prints of his work adorning the walls, he is always surrounded by scenes of water, boats, ducks, herons, piers, and pilings. “I try to portray the beauty of Annapolis, and I try to portray the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay,” says Hernandez of his photography.

While he might say that he tries, his admirers would say he succeeds. A self-described hobbyist who takes photos simply for the love of it, Hernandez ventured into the business side of his artistic pursuit only after receiving so many requests from people interested in buying prints of his work. But he’s not in it for the money—and he never wants to be. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my work,” he explains. “I don’t want it to feel like it’s a business, because it would take the fun out of it. . . . I want to do it for the right reason: because I enjoy it.”

Originally from El Salvador, Hernandez first began dabbling in photography about six years ago, after volunteering to take pictures during worship services at his church, Iglesia Hispana Emmanuel. His friend Tony Zapata, the church’s sole photographer at the time, took notice of Hernandez’s talent from the start. “He was a young man who came to our church with a lot of dreams,” says Zapata. “I taught him the basics, but this guy is a wizard. He loves to learn and learn more.”

Very quickly, Hernandez gained the skills he needed to work a camera and has grown, as Zapata puts it, to be amazing. What he can’t discover through self-exploration and experimentation, Hernandez learns from YouTube tutorials. It helps that he has a natural eye and inclination. “I learn a little bit from everybody and try to create my own style,” he says.

As he became more passionate about photography, Hernandez established a daily ritual. Every morning, just before dawn, he slips out from his apartment with his Nikon D750 in hand to capture the sun coming up over the Chesapeake Bay or the Severn River. “It’s something I enjoy doing and don’t do for somebody else,” he says. “I sit there, take pictures, enjoy the sunrise. It’s a relaxing time.”

He’ll often undertake the routine twice a day, in the morning and in the evening after work as the sun is setting. His favorite places to visit for sunrise are Sandy Point State Park or the downtown Annapolis harbor. Jonas Green Park is his choice sunset location. He seeks to capture what he refers to as the “golden hour,” when the sky is streaked with reddish orange tones, casting golden streaks across the water and around the clouds.

“I like to see the different colors,” he says, adding that pictures of vivid sunrises and sunsets, particularly on overcast mornings with good clouds to catch the warm colors, rarely need editing to enhance them. “You can just leave it the way it is—I try to keep everything the way my eye sees it through the camera,” he explains. “Sometimes, you take a picture, and it doesn’t look anywhere near what you see. But some pictures, you don’t have to do anything. It already makes you go, ‘Wow!’”

Though he makes it sound easy, capturing the scene just as he perceives it takes patience and dedication. Sometimes Hernandez takes as many as 500 pictures in a morning shooting session and chooses only one or two that he likes. He explains that, if it requires any digital editing, it’s usually just to bring more color out of it. He will then share his images of the day on social media, either through his Facebook or Instagram pages. “He has a passion for perfection,” says Zapata. “He wants to give you a final product that tells you a story. His emotions come through to you through his artwork.”

A combination of passion and drive makes Hernandez such a natural when it comes to capturing images, according to his longtime friend Darwin Regalado, who has known Hernandez since the two met in youth group at church. Regalado has watched Hernandez grow in his skills as a photographer, making investments of time, energy, and money to ensure that he is the best he can be in his craft. “He became very passionate about what he was learning,” recalls Regalado. “He’s constantly upgrading his equipment, so he always provides the best quality. His work just keeps getting better and better. I love everything he puts out, but the sunrises are my favorite. There’s just a certain detail and quality he adds to every picture.”

As more people took notice of Hernandez’s work, he heard requests to buy prints. He wanted to make them available, so he started researching reasonable prices and setting up a website.

He has also found professional opportunities as a videographer, mostly for weddings, which can be stressful—thus making him enjoy the simple escape of photographing sunrises all the more so. “When I go to a wedding, I know they’re going to pay me for my work, and I want them to like it,” he says. “But when I go take a picture of a sunset or a sunrise, I have freedom to just say, ‘Okay, I’m going to take as many pictures as I can and put them on the web, and if somebody buys it, good.’ But when I go out, I’m not thinking about what photos are going to make me money.”

He likes to contribute to the community with his talent when he can, either by taking photos or recording videos for nonprofit organizations such as the Night to Shine Foundation or the March for Our Lives.

As he grows as a photographer, Hernandez has clear goals, particularly for the coming year. He wants to publish a coffee table book featuring all of his best work around Annapolis, and he hopes to have his pictures displayed in local restaurants around town. He also would like to make his website more user friendly so that his fans can easily peruse images and order prints.

Wherever his artistic journey takes him from here, Hernandez is already living the dream. “I asked him a question, once, about where he saw himself five years in the future,” says Zapata. “One of his biggest dreams is to be what he is right now.” █

To see Jarvin Hernandez’s photographs, visit the Jarvin Hernandez Facebook page or
@jarvinphotography on Instagram.