My Personal "Top 10" (03/26/2014)

Okay, it's time to get a bit personal here.

I haven't done any regular blogging since the days of MySpace, circa 2006, and it's feeling good to get back into the flow of it. I love to write, and l love photography, so I think it's time for me to throw out my first "top 10" list about why I think photography is awesome. Being an artistic person by nature, it's difficult for me to do anything if it's not inspiring, which may sound a bit pretentous and jerky, I know. Music was always my escape, but for the sake of practicality (since I can't carry a drum set around with me), photography is the next best thing. I don't do this for money, I do it because I have a passion for it. Here's why:

10.) The gear is REALLY cool. I'm not going to lie. When I got my first DSLR, I held that thing in my hands feeling like the coolest person on earth. Starting out as a teenager, I was using a Pentax 35mm (seen on the home page of this website), and it had the old flat body design. When I got my Canon, It felt pretty awesome using that ergo-grip for the first time, and it's always comfortable shooting portraits with an attached battery grip. Something about it just felt professional, and it's easy to see why people would opt for a DSLR over a point-and-shoot. For most photographers, gear is a very personal decision. If you don't believe me, ask a photographer why he/she bought the camera/lens/tripod/whatever they have and prepare to have your ear talked off more than you'd like. Every lens or camera body we have is there for a purpose, knowing the capability of what each can do.

9.) You can do it alone or with other people. I'm not just a photographer, but also love music and can play several instruments. One of the most frustrating things as a musician in a band or group, I've found, is that it can be hard to get everyone together. Unless music is your life and your band is your life, it's not easy to get everyone in the same room on a regular basis. Schedules conflict. Some people have family and kids. I've been in a rock band and also part of a Japanese taiko corps, and neither are easy when your spouse gets home from work late or the kids have sports practices four nights a week with homework and dinner on top of it. What's great about photography is that it's something you can do in your free time, on vacations, while taking a walk, or as a paying job. You can get with other photographers and bounce ideas around to keep the creative juices flowing, then either go shooting with them, or branch out alone. There's a lot of versatility and creative freedom there.

8.) There's always an opportunity to meet new people. This can always be nerve-wracking for people like me. I grew up as an introvert, so it's not so easy for me to just get out there and talk to people, and I always feel so envious when I see others do it so naturally. However, if you have a paying client with whom you'll be having a photography session, the opportunity for growth and stepping outside of the comfort zone is always there. For me, I love photographing families and kids because it gets me to always be at my best at making my clients feel comfortable. For me, photographing people is an expression of the interconnectedness of humanity, and it always feels good to connect with others, especially with my clients (most of whom eventually become new friends!).

7.) IT'S EXCITING! For me, this doesn't only apply to photography, but life in general. When there's something that I'm trying to accomplish and I just keep plugging away at it, it's fun to see something new emerge from my work in the course of it's evolution. I might be out on a small family trip (Santa Fe, NM is a favorite spot), and I may be walking around photographing the plaza or something I find interesting. Sometimes I'll be working on those photos in Lightroom and come across one that I vaguely remember taking. I'll look at it and have my mind blown, not knowing that, at the time, I was taking a photo that would become a favorite (my lotus flower that eventually became my graphic logo, for example). When I see those, I immediately pull the metadata to see how I can make my photographs look like that EVERY SINGLE TIME. It's a way to constantly train myself to look at the world with fresh, brand new eyes.

6.) I love making my clients smile. This is absolutely the best part of the job. When I'm photographing landscapes or architecture for some independent project during a slow time, I love that I get to take my time and I'm not worried about that in-the-moment scrutiny of others. When photographing people, however, it's much more rewarding. When I get that beaming review or hear that excitement when I show my clients their photos, I feel like I was able to make a small difference in their lives, realizing that this is the work they'll be showing on social media or framing and putting in their homes. When I'm doing a session and it's especially difficult in the moment, it's all completely worth it when I see my clients' satisfaction at their finished product.

5.) Photo sessions are a workout. For anyone who's coordinated an all-day event, hosted or planned a wedding, or has supported behind the scenes at a concert, wine festival, or other large venue, it's a given that the event will be a workout. Photo sessions are no different. Photographing an all-day wedding and reception will be a given, but even the smaller sessions, such as a newborn or maternity session, can be physically trying. One client I had who had just had a daughter asked me to go to her house and photograph them. I was up the stairs and down the stairs. I was lugging lots of gear around, setting up and breaking down. At one point, we went to the park and down the street. Although it was lot of fun, it was also on a hot summer day and sweating was a given. I love that I can be up and moving around, not just sitting in one place with my camera.

4.) Tangible memories are being created all the time. I love going back through my archives and reviewing old work, even if it's just family vacation stuff. At the time that I'm photographing, I'm just busy trying to make everything look cool. However, I've been able to capture those moments where there's a smile on my kids' faces, or Amy laughed at just the right moment. Don't get me wrong, I love photographing my clients, but my favorite pictures are the ones that I get to take of this family to print and put in a frame.

3.) Photography forces me to always try harder. I once got into a discussion with someone about photography, and I was showing him some of my work. I had also let him know that I was to be photographing an upcoming wedding, and he was sharing his thoughts with me of how he hates that wedding photographers can be so expensive. He asked me something to the effect of, "how hard can it really be to capture a moment?" I had to reply and tell him that capturing one moment is easy, it's capturing 500 moments that's the hard part. I let him know that being a photographer is like being a drummer or a bass player: you're in the background and people often have a bigger reaction when you screw up versus when you're doing well. After a photo session, I'll go back and revisit a few weeks later when the Photoshop/Lightroom editing fatigue has worn off. If I see something I don't like or know that I could have found a better angle on something, I take perpetual notes when preparing for my next session to find areas of improvement. There's no bigger thrill for a photographer than when you completely nail "the shot." Even better when you nail a ton of them in one session.

2.) I get to use my camera to tell a story. As I've mentioned before, in addition to being a musician, I also enjoy writing. I love storytelling and using words to craft imagery. Even better is getting to capture someone's day or event and tell a story through my eyes, and being able to visually see it is very exciting for me. When going through the photos, I'll only submit the best of the shots that I captured to the client. When numbering the images in the order at which the client will click through them on their computer, I may do some slight rearranging of the photos to change the chronology of the "story" that I'm leading the client through. If they had a wedding and the mother endearingly touched the bride's cheek after the ceremony, I may place that image before the walk down the aisle to change the story a bit. I know that the day for the client may be a blur, but if I can use my lenses to "embellish" the day a bit and make it more exciting to remember, then that's my normal practice to have very happy and satisfied clients.

1.) The magic is everywhere, all the time. This may be because, at times, my muses can work overtime, but when I have an opportunity to photograph something, I have the opportunity to take a seemingly normal subject and find the life in it. There's a concept that we are not separate from our environment, but are one with it (as difficult as it is to believe when you're stewing over the jerk that cut you off in traffic). We're able to influence our surroundings with our thoughts and actions because we are one with our environment and everything in it, from the people and animals to the plants and trees. That being said, even the intangibles can have new life breathed into them when seen differently with brand new eyes. For example, there have been countless photographs taken in Yosemite National Park, but when Ansel Adems did it in his day, in his way, he showed the world to people in a way they may not have seen it before. People can be photographed in situations that may not be ideal, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but the photographer can bring out the compassion and heroism of others in those situations, rather than the hopelessness or suffering. The world has many ups and downs with everything in between, but there's magic in all of it, just waiting to be captured.

There it is, friends. The next time you pick up a camera, put a jigsaw puzzle together, build a garden, write a song, or do something you deeply enjoy doing, please take a minute to remember what inspired you to do it in the first place. The true growth and fulfillment isn't necessarily in the destination (although that part feels REALLY good), but in the journey and the hard work it takes to get there.

Respectfully,
Matt