tl;dr just a fellow redditor who quit the rat race to try to make a living through art. My newest projects are a website that allows you to mix together a virtual audio-visual nature scene for relaxation,, and the "best astro-landscape photography calendar ever" (according to my mom, anyway). AMA about chasing your crazy dreams (you know you've got 'em)


I'm Phil Mosby. Just an ordinary guy who, at the age of 35, decided to buy a van and a large format printer, quit my comfy job, and attempt to make a living capturing, printing, and selling my astro-landscape photos and print creations full time. That was 3.5 years ago, in early 2017, and somehow I'm still kickin' and doing what I love!

In the summer of 2018, thanks in part to Reddit, I was able to hang one of my hexagon cluster pieces on the wall of the James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. This was one of the best honors of my life, and the subject of my last ama.

In 2019 I opened a small brick and mortar gallery in North Lake Tahoe (including a room for my "glowing night" prints) ...but fairly quickly found out that retail life is not for me ... and at the end of the year closed the gallery down to re-focus my efforts on my online art sales (which have been my main source of income all along). It was disappointing, but hey, sometimes you gotta try something to find out it's not for you! In the long run it turns out I was extremely lucky on the timing, having focused all of my efforts into my online business months before Covid reared its ugly head.

Present & Future:

During this strange quaran-time, I've finally had the mental space to complete two massive projects that have both been on my list for, literally, years:

#1 Nights On Earth my 2021 Wall Calendar and Stargazer's Guide to the Night Sky (preview on Imgur) (official website), which is just loaded with interesting space facts and useful data-points for any stargazer (as well as 13 of my best Lake Tahoe astro-landscape photos, of course). It was a labor of love to compile all this data, but I hope I succeeded in creating something that is beautiful, interesting, and incredibly useful to anyone with even a passing interest in space or stargazing (I can't wait to use it myself to plan next year's astro photography!)

...and then for my next feat of massively long days at the computer...

#2 I spent the last two+ months developing Nature Mixer, a website that I have been "thinking about" (and shooting video to "someday" use for this purpose) for over 5 years. It allows you to mix together a custom, endlessly-looping, audio-visual naturescape to help you relax, focus, or even fall asleep to. This is another project that I made as much for myself as for anyone else. I use it daily while working and quite often while sleeping (pro-tip, on most phones you can minimize your browser and the audio will keep playing). I love this site almost more than anything else I've ever made. I hope you'll check it out and tell me I did good.


I'm now 38 years old and still have absolutely no idea where I'll be in a year (let alone 5) but I (still) have no regrets about chasing my dreams, and I believe I'm currently doing the best work of my life...

AMA about the photo business, print making, selling art online, recklessly chasing your dreams at all costs, calendars, oh and NATUREMIXER of course :) Whatever you want. I'm not necessarily an expert about anything but I might know enough to talk your ear off.



I'll be here for a few hours this evening (until at least 8pm pdt) and maybe again tomorrow morning if there's any interest in talking. Thanks for reading this far!

Edit: Thanks for that gold thingy. I don't feel like I've earned it, but it sure looks nice up there.

Comments: 82 • Responses: 27  • Date: 

thxxx1337152 karma

Phil Mosby, the architect?

jawanda15 karma

Nah, I'm the "don't run in my lobby" guy.

Never change Reddit, I love that this is the top comment :)

justscottaustin20 karma

Any relation to Ted?

BranWafr17 karma

Probably not. Maybe he's related to the guy who runs the hotel where Zack and Cody lived, though?

jawanda15 karma

No running in my lobby?

Nah, but I had to learn all about these guys once I started posting with my last name on Reddit.

dudemo12 karma

Mr. Mosby, in 2018 I received one of your beautiful canvas artworks for my Reddit Secret Santa. I want to express my sincere gratitude for that. It was an awesome bright spot in an otherwise difficult year. You can't even imagine my surprise when I got home and saw this very LARGE package at my door.

The letter I received with the canvas:

The art:

I have a couple questions regarding the piece.

First, I wanted to get it insured which means I need to get it appraised. I'll just be honest here, I have no idea if this is even appropriate to ask, but I'll ask it anyway. What would you value this at for insurance purposes? Not for resale. Absolutely not. Follow up question: should I insure it?

Second, how should I care for the piece? I imagine it doesn't need much more than a dusting every now and then, but I worry about light exposure. Should I? It hangs in my living room right above the couch and while it isn't in direct sunlight often, it does get a few hours a day.

I must admit to following you and your work since I acquired your magnificent piece. I also must admit to finding the digital copy of my canvas and saving it to my photos folder.

Please keep doing what you do. It's fantastic artwork.

jawanda6 karma


So very cool to hear from you and it's awesome to know that print is still on your wall being enjoyed. Truly brought a smile to my face seeing this comment right now.

The print is on archival quality canvas (no artificial brighteners) and made using super high quality inks, and is then varnished to protect against UV damage, so it should not visibly fade for decades even under moderate amounts of sunlight!

A light dusting is all the maintenance it should require, however if the canvas ever loses tension, you can tap the corner keys (those little things stuck in each corner if you flip it over) further into the frame using a hammer and it will tighten back up. Most canvases never require that, though.

As for insuring it, it couldn't hurt to add it to a homeowners' or renters' insurance policy, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of your way to get it individually insured. I don't remember the exact dimensions of the piece, but assuming it's about 40" on the long side the full retail value if custom ordered would be in the $600-$800 range.

Thanks again for finding this thread and following my work. I find it endlessly awesome and fascinating, the connections we make in this life even via something as... silly as Reddit Secret Santa. What a wonderful world.

Hope things are going good for you these days my friend!

dudemo4 karma

So very cool to hear from you and it's awesome to know that print is still on your wall being enjoyed. Truly brought a smile to my face seeing this comment right now.

Awesome! I tried to follow you without being an "internet stalker" in the process. It definitely is still being enjoyed. My daughter loves it so much I'm probably going to hang it in her room and eventually pass it on to her. She has the digital copy as her phone wallpaper.

The print is on archival quality canvas (no artificial brighteners) and made using super high quality inks, and is then varnished to protect against UV damage, so it should not visibly fade for decades even under moderate amounts of sunlight!

This is good to hear. I wasn't even going to hang it because I didn't want to sun fade it. But like my wife said: "He took the time to take the photo, print it on canvas, frame it, and send it to you. Hang the damn thing."

I have to admit, I like art but I'm more into digital art than canvas art. It's basically the only "art" hanging on my walls. But I make sure everyone knows about it when they ask, and they eventually do.

A light dusting is all the maintenance it should require, however if the canvas ever loses tension, you can tap the corner keys (those little things stuck in each corner if you flip it over) further into the frame using a hammer and it will tighten back up. Most canvases never require that, though.

A light dusting with a dry rag is all it has ever gotten and now all it will ever get. Should it ever need tightened, I will (and suggest my daughter does as well) take it to a professional and let them do it.

As for insuring it, it couldn't hurt to add it to a homeowners' or renters' insurance policy, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of your way to get it individually insured. I don't remember the exact dimensions of the piece, but assuming it's about 40" on the long side the full retail value if custom ordered would be in the $600-$800 range.

Full canvas size was 40" height, 24" wide. I'll make sure to include it in my homeowner's policy and send them the requires documentation and photos. When I talked to them (about a year ago) for it, they suggested just adding it to my policy and that having all the documentation that I have with it actually increases value. Surprisingly they HAD heard of you, calling you "the NASA artist". (Shout-out to State Farm for having knowledgeable staff!)

What a wonderful world.

Oh man, I've made so many connections on Reddit. I even hooked back up with the truck driver that plowed into my truck and made me paraplegic. (Not his fault, not my fault. Full story is somewhere recent in my comment history.) Hell, because of Reddit, I hooked back up with a few of my old pals back from the MySpace forums!

Things have definitely gotten better. And now I think of it, it seems to stem from your canvas art. Perhaps you sent me my good luck charm?!

jawanda4 karma

This is so awesome to hear. Not to tempt fate, but I'm 38, currently single, and there's at least a good chance I won't ever have kids. Knowing that my work will likely outlive me and continue to hang on walls long after I'm gone gives me a certain sense of peace and ... legacy. Knowing that your daughter loves the piece and will some day hang it in her room or even maybe her own home is just really cool and special to me.

I'm so glad your wife made you hang it up! While it does have some monetary value, its greatest value in my mind is for it to be enjoyed. And I can't believe the State Farm person had heard about me, are you pulling my leg? They must've been a redditor lol !!

I'm truly glad to hear that things have gotten better. I'm not about to take any credit for sending you good luck, but I'm glad that my canvas could at least be at the forefront of a wave of good things coming your way. How fucking strange and magical the universe is, that us strangers can affect each other so profoundly!!

Thanks again for the comments man, really nice hearing from you and I hope we keep bumping in to each other.

sam_9_38 karma

Well done! I would love to get in to astrophotography, when you first started what equipment where you using? And what have you upgraded, added to this as you have developed your skills?

jawanda21 karma

Thanks for that! I started out on a cropped sensor Nikon DSLR the D5100. It's not a great low-light camera, but using any dslr and applying the rule of 500 you can start to get really interesting astro photos.

The rule of 500 says that the longest exposure you can take without getting star trailing is 500 / focal length = max exposure in seconds. So at 50mm, you can take up to a 10s exposure without star trailing.

You apply this function to take the longest exposure you can, while on a good tripod of course, open your lens up as wide as possible (smallest number, like f/3.2) and then start turning your ISO up from 1000 until you see stars appear. You'll probably be well above 3200 iso and thus will have a lot of noise on all but the best cameras, but you can get very cool photos regardless. You'll also need to figure out manual focusing in low light, try to use your live view screen on the back of the camera and zoom way in (on the screen, not the lens) to any distant bright light, either in the sky or on land if it's sufficiently far away, then manually focus on the light.

That's how you get started, and let me tell you, the first time you see the Milky Way through the screen on the back of a camera, you may just giggle like a school girl (I did).

Now I use better full frame Nikon camera bodies like the D800, as well as a handy device called a star tracker which allows you to "break" the rule of 500 and shoot much, much longer night sky photos without star trailing (my average exposure time is 3 - 5 minutes).

It's a great hobby!!

psychetron3 karma

Thanks for giving such a detailed answer! Really makes it sound fun and exciting to do, rather than expensive and laborious, as one might imagine. I might have to give it a try.

jawanda5 karma

It can be all of those things, but it's also wonderful. Being out in a beautiful place at night can be very enchanting, and coming home with magic star light on your memory card makes it even better :)

SolidParticular2 karma

What ISO did you frequently use with the D5100? I have a D5300 at the moment and love shooting the night sky. What do you edit in and how much noise reduction to you generally apply?

jawanda2 karma

I believe I was often shooting in the 3200 - 6400 range in those days, and yes the photos were incredibly noisy but still awesome to look at (as you know)! With the star tracker and full frame sensor, the noise is MUCH less of an issue. I'm now almost always below 400 iso.

Since I don't do much "stacking", most of my processing is done in Camera Raw and Photoshop. Camera Raw is responsible for most of the noise reduction.

Tovarusch6 karma

See this is why Reddit is the only social media I have. Yes people will argue and act like a pork chop. But for thw most part its ends with something like "no worries fam, we cool?" And people seem to actually help more with opinions, advice, tips, giving encouragement, spreading some love and letting people be seen/heard. Makes me wonder why I didn't join earlier than I did.

Good to see you're doing so well in part thanks to this wonderful community and more for your talent. Keep being you and strive for more.

jawanda3 karma

What a great comment, thank you, and I totally agree about Reddit. I learn so much from this website and have so many moments of ... surprise, and delight, at what the humans of this community get up to, I don't know if any other website or media platform has ever been as consistently interesting and relevant as reddit. You a member of the /r/whatisthisthing community? If not you should be. Just so many brilliant people on here.

Tovarusch3 karma

Its my pleasure. I really enjoy seeing how much this community helps others. I am a member of that commumity now, thank you.

jawanda2 karma

Glad to have you here! Like any community, it has its back alleys too, but for the most part Reddit is a great place.

evalinaaa3 karma

I am so excited to have found this AMA! I love the idea of NatureMixer! So freaking awesome. What is the next project you want to sink your teeth into?

jawanda3 karma

Thanks a lot I'm so glad you love the site! I've got a laundry list of features for NatureMixer that I'm planning to develop over the coming months, and I'm hoping to do some serious shooting this summer. I'm also in the process of settling into a new print shop space. So nothing brand new, but lots of growth on the existing projects I have underway. My teeth are pretty sunk for the time being :)

skyskr4per3 karma

Always happy to hear an update on your work, Phil. What's your best advice for staying productive during the stress of quarantine?

jawanda4 karma

Thanks a lot, I'm never sure if people will be interested or if I'm just delusional and only I think the stuff I'm doing is interesting! ... lol :)

Boy I tell you what, I'm trying as hard as possible to see it as an opportunity. My biggest fear (besides all the obvious fears that go along with a pandemic), is that I will come out the other side and I won't be any better off, despite the unprecedented (if forced) opportunity to sit on my ass and do the meaningful (if tedious) work I know I need to do, with no one hassling me and no FOMO to boot.

So that's what's been driving me. Seeing this as an opportunity. For me it's mostly been creative pursuits, but maybe the same mentality could be applied to anything else you need motivation doing. Don't let this weird, hopefully temporary, shift of reality pass by without gaining something from the new experience.

Edit; And it's cool AF that you "remember" me my friend. It's a small Reddit.

tcmisfit2 karma

I’m attempting to get into selling my photos online as well. What would you say is the most efficient and successful way to reach an audience, gain followers, and basically get your name out there? Definitely not looking for the easy way out, but haven’t been much on social media and am still learning about “branding” myself.

Love the calendar. Thanks for doing this!

jawanda1 karma

Thanks for the question, sorry I missed it earlier. Please see my comments here, here, and here.

tld;r there's no one easy way, but it revolves around consistently putting your work out there and capturing those leads (preferably email, but social media follows have value too) when your work does gain some attention. And of course there's timing and luck involved, too.

Vioarr2 karma

Sorry, just because I can't seem to find it, but is there a page where you sell your prints? I was only able to see a calendar.

jawanda1 karma

Indeed: . Thanks for your interest :)

Okashi_dorobou2 karma

Oh hey man! Your website was the reason why I built my own photography website. You inspired me and I'm glad you're doing new stuffs! I'll go take a look!

PS: this comment was removed since I didn't ask any questions so here's one. If you got another chance how would you start promoting your business? What should be the first step?

jawanda2 karma

Hey I remember that user name!! I think you messaged or commented to me and I checked out your site right after you set it up, right?

Oh geeze hmmm if I could start over...

Dang it's hard to say what I'd do differently as a first step, as I'm still "figuring it out" even years later. There's been times where I wish I had taken a more traditional route. I see these guys who only take beautiful photos and let someone else do the printing, shipping, and (depending on the kind of gig they have) even selling and sometimes I'm jealous of all the time they have to Just. Take. Photos.

But then I wonder if I would've made it even this far, had I pursued that path. So many of my biggest opportunities have come about because I've done everything the hard way and combined my various different skills.

But I digress. A few tips off the top of my head: 1) make sure you're gathering leads, (preferably emails, but social media leads are valuable too) whenever possible. Step 2) Consistently keep putting your work out there. I know this sounds obvious, but it's something I still struggle with. I'll get sucked into a big project and before you know it I haven't posted to social media in weeks. I especially suck at Instagram, but it's on my list of things to do better at. A consistent trickle of new leads can add up and is more reliable than waiting for the next big swell. 3) for me, selling my own hand crafted prints has been a big differentiator and I use that fact in my marketing. (Even though like I said above, it's a ton more work and sometimes I envy the photographers who get to focus solely on shooting and never touch a print.)

I don't know if that's helpful at all but it's 6am and I'm still half asleep hah. Nice to hear from you again, I'd love to hear how it's been going with your own photography site / business!

Okashi_dorobou2 karma

Yep! That's me. I'm that guy. Sorry I had to ask such difficult question. I was forced to ask!

Anyways like you said you made progress since you tried a lot and I believe it. Especially point no 3, that a alone is what makes you different from others.

From my side, actually it started out well but then Rona came along and wrecked it up. Nevertheless working on my website made me learned a lot more about frontend development so it's really beneficial for my office job. I somehow still win here. I'm pretty sure it'll pick up again when things calm down so at the moment I'm doing what you suggest no 2!

jawanda2 karma

I'm glad to hear that it started out well. Art is definitely a luxury item and in times of economic uncertainty, it's a much harder sell.

But it's perfect the way you're doing it. I was already selling a moderate amount while still employed, and the small amount of extra income as well as the relatively low-stress pace that you can promote your work and build your audience is a really good thing. Take advantage of it as long as possible! (or even forever, some of the happiest people I know do art on the side and make ok money from it but don't rely on it for making a living). And it's rad that you're learning skills you can use in your current job and other avenues of life!

Cool hearing from you, hope we run into each other again some time. Keep on pushing!!

Okashi_dorobou1 karma

I was targeting tourists coming to my area so when people stop coming so did the business stop going. I'm glad it's not my main source of income yet. I got time to spare now so I'll probably explore new projects.

Right, it's already midnight here. Good to hear from you, hope to catch up again sometime!

jawanda2 karma

G'night my friend.

Fisheyee2 karma

What would you say your greatest challenge was during your journey?

If there’s one piece of advice you could give people looking to walk a similar path, what would it be?

jawanda6 karma

Selling a luxury item like art is an emotional roller coaster. You can have dry spells that last weeks or months where it seems like nothing is working despite your best efforts, and then BAM a big order will come in out of no where and it will cover the bills for a whole month. So I'd say the hardest part is the lack of inherent consistency in this kind of business, and the feeling like I always need to be working on the next best thing. One reason the calendar idea appeals to me so much is because it's a smaller item that I can sell to more folks, which is a nice supplement to the big expensive items you only sell here and there (and which require tons of effort to make each piece, vs tons of effort up front).

bestCallEver2 karma

The new projects are sick phil. Way to branch out and combine your different skill sets. Any plans for an app version of

jawanda2 karma

Thanks man, appreciate your support as always.

YES, apps are part of the long term game plan. First it will be available as a PWA or "Progressive Web App", and most likely a native app a little further down the road.

illupvoteforadollar2 karma

How much can one make selling photography prints online?

jawanda4 karma

Some people do very, very well at it. I'm no where near my old income, but I've been amazed and humbled by the fact that so many people out there do collect art and are willing to spend some money on the pieces I make.

I'm sure many of the really big photographers do six (or more) figures online per year. I mean right? Right.

dnastea222 karma

Nature mixer is a cool site, great work! Do you feel more fulfilled now, having achieved your dreams?

jawanda2 karma

Thank you thank you! One small thing has been crossed off the list, but my dreams are nowhere near being "achieved". Even NatureMixer has a lot more work planned (including 50 more videos in the render queue waiting to be added!)

I'll really be achieving my dreams when something I've done is successful enough that I get to spend more time on the art, and less time worrying about selling. But I'm trying to enjoy the ride, with knowledge that I may never "get there" and what I'm doing now is certainly fulfilling as well.

mewingmaggie1 karma

Awesome job following through with your passion, my question is in regards to the glowing scenery of cities in your photographs. I was wondering if you do any post production to your highlights? From my cell phone they look burned out without much detail visible. I’m curious what’s the reason for adding a visual element that distracts from the amazing star scapes you create?

jawanda1 karma

thanks for checking out my work! For sure the "light pollution" can be a real distraction from the night sky, and I generally do my best to keep it at bay as much as possible (though I know in certain photos it's very prominent). The real answer is, sometimes it's a composition choice, and other times it's just unavoidable.

I live and thus primarily shoot in the greater Lake Tahoe area, and while we do have relatively dark skies, it's not exactly uninhabited. The lake is peppered with small to medium size towns, which might not appear to produce much light to the naked eye, but which really stand out when captured under long exposure.

On some of my photos, like this one, the bridges and a bit of man-made light were intentional and part of the concept I had in my head.

That's the big difference between a straight up "astro photographer" whose mission is to capture images of the sky, and an "astro-landscape" (sometimes called "nightscape") photographer like me who tries to capture images of the the night sky with the earth for context.

StubbornElephant851 karma

Sweet van. What's the inside look like?

jawanda1 karma

Thanks. These are older photos, but it's still more or less set up like this.

tranfenec1 karma

I tried doing the same, but then it started to look like work. I had to shoot corporate headshots just to gather an income. My nature shots just dont bring enough money on the table to support me. So my question is:

How did you manage to sell enough to be sustainable?

jawanda3 karma

Good question. In many ways, the photography is the easy part, amirite?

As you can probably tell from my post, I've tried a lot of different avenues to sell my work. What I didn't mention is that I also did craft fairs for a while, made magnets and other small touristy products that I sold to local stores, and tried dozens of other methods of making money from my stock of photos. So what's worked?

Because I bought that printer, I've got the luxury of really experimenting with my print pieces. And while my upfront cost was large, my actual cost per piece is much less than if I were purchasing prints from a lab. This allowed me to sell my earlier pieces at a really low price, which was very helpful when starting out.

But I didn't want to permanently devalue my work, so I started up a little auction website that allows me to sell existing "one off" prints at a price that is much lower than my normal custom order price, while also proving to being a great tool for capturing leads. Customers love it because they get a great price and sometimes pick up one of a kind experimental pieces. And I love it because it allows me to sell existing prints that would otherwise sit on the shelf. That really helped me survive some slim months, and while I do less auctions now they're still a good part of my income stream. But the main takeaway from that should be...

It's all about capturing leads. I had a tiny email list going when I started out, mostly friends and acquaintances. But I set up my site to capture leads, so that when something like the NASA piece happened and I was able to gather that momentary attention I was also able to quickly grow a bigger following of people who like my work and are excited when I post a new photo, an auction, or do a sale.

The vast majority of my sales come from those existing leads (in order of most value to least, those leads consist of: emails, Facebook followers, and Instagram followers).

So the ability to be nimble and highly creative in my actual print making + always being prepared to capitalize off of an unexpected burst of online attention (by having lead gathering mechanisms in place) are very important, but then it still comes down to continuously hustling, trying new things, and really committing to making it work as God as my effing witness.

Yes. Selling art is by far the most difficult job I've ever had. But also the most rewarding.

Xiaotheone1 karma

How many bigmacs can you eat in one sitting?

jawanda1 karma

Is this a himym or slozac reference? Regardless, I like to think I could put down three if I was really hungry and skipped the fries, or like 12 if it was some disgusting "extreme eating" challenge.

vickylovesims1 karma

What kind of things do you do to promote your store/art if you don't mind me asking (besides this AMA)? Do you use ads to funnel traffic to your website? I've wanted to sell prints online but just don't really know how to go about it. Any tips?

jawanda1 karma

Thanks for the great question. I've touched on some of the stuff that's worked for me in a few other comments like this one and this one.

But let me tell you, it's a constant battle to sell art online. As I said in those other comments, I've come to realize that gaining leads is how you get the best bang for your buck. You may get lucky and get a flood of attention to your site, but if you're not turning those visitors into fans / followers / leads most of them will appreciate your pretty pictures for a minute or an hour and then never return.

I've done paid advertising over the years, on Google , Facebook, Instagram, and even right here on Reddit. From my experience it's incredibly difficult to directly profit from any form of paid ad in this industry. Art is such a "personal taste" kind of thing, people hate having it shoved down their throats. I'll still (very occasionally) boost a Facebook post (with varying degrees of success- I did make some good sales when promotng my big pre-christmas print sale last year, but the margins suffered from the high cost of ads) but unless you have a massive ad budget and can afford to burn through $1000 to test a new campaign, I'd stick to the "organic" approach as much as possible. That looks like: 1) have mechanisms in place to gather leads. 2) consistently keep putting your work out there to create that trickle (and hopefully occasionally FLOOD) of new fans. 3) collect underpants. 4) profit.

My DREAM would be to find a paid advertising scheme that produces a consistent positive r.o.i. I'd keep paying for it forever. But from my experience, that's near impossible.

Hope that gave you some ideas.

Karl_Marx_1 karma

Were you expecting anything other than HIMYM questions, Mr. Mosby?

jawanda2 karma

Never. I've been here a while, I know what I'm getting into when I include my last name in a Reddit post.

SolidParticular1 karma

Speaking web dev, what did you do? Front end, back end, fullstack?

jawanda1 karma

I do full stack for my own projects of course, but back when I was professionally employed I was a front-end guy who also got sucked into many non web dev design projects (small teams, many hats).