What I love the most about photography is being able to share the beauty of nature with people, especially those who live in cities. Also, it gives me a pretext to wander around in nature alone. It brings a thrill when you are able to capture a photo of quite evasive insects like dragonflies, which tend to fly off if they detect any movement nearby (hence I used to call such photo sessions “dragon hunts”)!

My name is Mantas Masiulis, I am a software engineer for the last four-and-a-half years, and I’m currently residing in Kaunas, Lithuania.

I wasn’t initially interested in a career in tech when I was growing up – most of my adolescent years were spent studying biology-related topics. This was due to the influence of my brother Simonas, as he was a biochemistry student at Bristol University and a role model for me. Even though I participated and won medals at national bio-science competitions, I grew dissatisfied with the direction I was heading. My other brother Domas (8 years older than me), who was a software engineering masters student at the University of Southampton, suggested that I should try out one of the free online JavaScript courses and test myself in the field of programming during the summer break before my last year in school. I wasn’t that good at mathematics until that point, but that programming course really steered me 180 degrees straight to mathematics! I got easily hooked and even programmed a simple text-based console game in my spare time. During the last year at school, I managed to tame mathematics and successfully prepared myself for the national exams, where I scored maximum results from the IT exam. This fast transition from biology and natural sciences to mathematics and the IT sector is one of the proudest achievements, and I’m really thankful for Domas and Simonas for supporting me in my search for a career path.

Up until university times I used to live in a rural part of Lithuania, far from urbanized centres, in a huge homestead with my parents and my two older brothers. That’s one of the reasons why I initially pursued a path as a natural sciences student, because our house was surrounded by nature and wild animals. However, in order to pursue knowledge, I had to relocate to the second biggest city of Lithuania – Kaunas, to study software engineering at the Kaunas University of Technology. I decided to study there because my brother Domas also studied the same course at the same university, and he was quite satisfied with the quality of his studies. After the studies, I decided to stay and put my roots here because Kaunas is quite a cosy city to live in due to its urban-and-nature balance, and also because my lovely girlfriend is from this city.

Outside of my job, I love photography. I first became interested in photography when I was a child, and I was always fascinated by nature. My older brother Domas taught me how to use our first digital camera’s manual focus in order to capture exquisitely focused photos of flying bees. That really captivated me, and I started to wander around nature trying to capture as many photos of as many insects and plants as I could.

Currently, I’m a big fan of the Lithuanian photographer Marius Čepulis, who is famous for his captures of various wild animals and birds. He’s also a skilled writer – his posts on Facebook are quite interesting because he manages to present facts about animals in a playful style. I also sometimes watch videos of Mathieu Stern, a French photographer, who uses vintage lenses, of which I’m a huge fan!

I’m a huge fan of mirrorless cameras – in truth, I’ve never really used a DSLR camera in my life. I mostly used cropped sensor Sony cameras, but a year-and-a-half ago, I upgraded to a full-frame mirrorless camera, and I’m really stuck with it ever since. Also, I’m a huge fan of vintage lenses, not only because they are really cheap, but because they help you produce those vintage-looking photos. Some vintage lenses also have such imperfections that produce really interesting photo effects (e.g. swirly bokeh on Helios-44 or Jupiter-9 lenses) which cannot be reproduced with filters on photo editing software.

I’m truly a nature photographer – I used to spend half the day wandering with my mirrorless Sony camera trying to capture a photo of dragonflies or butterflies that darted around in a forest near my parent’s homestead. I’m also interested in macro photography, as the idea of a small and sometimes overlooked part of the natural world can yield such beautiful captures. However, as I do not own a specific macro lens (only cheaper extension tubes), my experience in it is quite limited. A third photography branch that interests me is portraits, mainly because I’m eager to make the best portrait photos of my girlfriend Ieva.

One of the most memorable photos I am really proud of is the close-up photo of really evasive damselfly which I tried to take a photo of for several days without success. However, during yet another attempt to locate and photo it, I managed to slowly creep up next to and take some really close-up photos of it. My heart was really thumping at that moment because I was afraid that it will fly away as it did several times before!

Looking at my other hobby, I also love cooking. After I finished my Bachelor’s Degree, I had a lot of free time on my hands and I decided to try to prepare one of my favourite dishes – pasta carbonara. After a few YouTube videos and a trip to the supermarket, I successfully managed to prepare it and I was delighted to savour my own creation (which, from a flavour perspective, was really close to the one I’ve tasted while visiting authentic Italian restaurants in the UK). After that, I decided to explore Italian cuisine in depth and tried to make various home-made pastries. My girlfriend Ieva also introduced me to several Lithuanian food bloggers who steered me to Asian cuisine, of which I’m a huge fan nowadays.

What I love the most about cooking is the ability to experiment, and to make homemade things that taste far more superior than mass-produced items (e.g. home-made Nutella). I also love being able to share my passion for food-making with my friends and my girlfriend Ieva. She is my best helper in the kitchen and the best critic of my cooking end-results – the process of preparing food is far superior when you’re working alongside someone you love.

I think my signature dish would be caramelized onions pizza. My girlfriend and I are huge fans of Italian cuisine – at least once a month, we do a pizza-day and make home-made Neapolitan dough pizzas. Caramelized onion pizza is partly sweet, partly cheesy, and extremely savory, which makes it different from typical ham and mozzarella pizzas. Thanks to my brother Simonas for sharing this recipe!

I have a few future goals with my photography and cooking. I want to try out wedding photography, but due to the current Covid situation, I’ve decided to postpone it till more certain times. As for cooking, my long-term dream would be to retire from programming and to open my own little pizza restaurant, but it’s a long journey ahead of me to get there!

I see a few similarities between my job and my hobbies. Programming and cooking are quite similar because you have to know how different components interact with each other and how you have to composite them. Both of them require careful calculation, as straying from the course could result in burnt or hard crust or dysfunctional software (yet cooking can be more forgiving while improvising). As for photography, it ties in with programming because both topics require patience and results cannot be achieved easily – you have to practice a lot to become skilled at both.

Photography and cooking have been a benefit to my technological career. As photography allows me to spend a lot of time in nature, I feel well-rested and prepared to get back to my programming job. The same applies to cooking – a full belly of good food really calms your mind and allows you to focus on programming tasks more easily. Sometimes, you have to let your mind rest and focus on non-programming activities to achieve better results at coding later.

My advice to anyone interested in photography or cooking is to try different types of photography or cuisines and find what aspects you like or dislike. Try to find co-workers who might be interested in the same hobbies, as you can learn from them, and sharing your experience is sometimes more fun than going solo. From a photographer’s perspective, try out vintage lenses – they are really interesting to work on with and are very affordable. Remember that equipment is not a priority, but the subject which you are capturing.

There is always more than tech. Stories from other specialists really give you the drive to invest more in your own hobbies or to find a new one. We (tech people) sometimes delve too much into our professional themes without showing our “humanly” sides. I think that sharing your stories about hobbies and after-work activities may help others to find their own leisure-time activities, which can also attribute to better mental well-being and also improve work productivity.

Be sure also check out Mantas’ Instagram profile for more of his photos:

https://www.instagram.com/masiulismantas

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