original photographers

Stretch First, Then Run

Stretch First, Then Run

I’m taking a new way to work these days, with the new job, and so I can’t rely on my old familiar commute photography stops anymore.

It’s a good thing in that new places equal new adventures. New sites to see. New places to explore. Heck, even a new direction for light and sunrise (I’m heading East now instead of West).

The thing is, it takes me a while to get used to the new commute. As I drive, I study the landscape and look for new opportunities.

This week I made it a point to actually get out and make some photos. After a while, you have to stop looking and actually shoot, right?

A running metaphor, because I’m running these days: My drive is the stretching, the warming up. The shooting is the actual running. For me, it’s important to stretch first.

That’s how it goes for me. It takes me a while to get warmed up to the scenery. After that, I’ll do the work. And after that, I’ll find new paths to explore. On and on it goes.

Call it “getting into the zone.” Whatever. I know this about myself, and I’m watching the process unfold.


The Art Life

The Art Life

Photography itself is its own reward…The art life is a privilege we should be willing to pay for.

In other words, don’t do it for the money, says Brooks Jensen, or for fame. There are plenty of other reasons to do your thing.

In Jensen’s list, most of the reasons are internal, as it should be.

For me, it’s good enough to be a hobby. Like many hobbies—car repair, painting, collecting shot glasses, playing flamenco guitar, film history—it’s not cheap. And that’s okay.

I play guitar because I love music, and because it’s relaxing, not because I’ll be in the Rolling Stones.

I play with a camera for the exact same reasons.

[via CJ Chilvers]


On Ornery Artists

On Ornery Artists

There’s something noble about being the “ornery artist.” The one who switches it up when he or she shouldn’t. The one who you can’t pin down. The one who avoids fame and publicity.

As I walked around the Ann Arbor Art Fair on Thursday, especially looking at the photography booths, I couldn’t help but notice how similar they all were: landscapes, sunsets, flowers, bodies of water, animals, HDR (blah!).

Art fair artists are there to sell things, I get it. It’s hard to be ornery and sell in mass quantities.

For me, it’s more fun to root for the curmudgeon.


Three Things

Three Things

Doesn’t get much more simple than this:

Wanna be a better photographer? The simple answer is: shoot every single day, study the work of other photographers, and try your darndest to find something new to say in your work.

Bingo.

I struggle with that first bit the most. It’s so hard to get out and shoot on a regular basis.

And “study the work,” not “mindlessly consume and copy.” Get the difference?

That advice appeals to the academic in me. Seeing the world as the “great” photographers saw it is a quick to realize how much farther I have to go, and what I do and don’t enjoy.

The part that surprised me was the question about clichés. Most of the photography editors said there’s no such thing.

So much good stuff throughout this roundup.

Eric Kim: “To find your style in photography is to find who you are as a human being. What interests you in life?”

Laura Austin: “Style is about authenticity.”

Eric Anderson: “Finding your style comes with a lot of practice and being true to yourself.”


Welcome to Art Fair

Every year, during the hottest week of the summer, Ann Arbor puts on a giant art fair, shutting down streets downtown and welcoming thousands of people over four days.

I’ve been to Art Fair several times, but this is my first time working on campus during the event. As the artists set up their booths, I walked around town grabbing some of the behind-the-scenes shots.

It’s fun, seeing the event before the event starts. A lot of the art was already on display, but many artists didn’t have their tent up yet, and their wares were sprawled out on the University of Michigan lawn, waiting for hanging.

There were these weird juxtapositions, like fake cactus and palm trees baking in the Midwestern sun, or giant metal sculptures just hanging out on University Ave. And hot. Everything was hot.

Should be a fun couple of days, trying to get into work.

For a few minutes yesterday, though, the setup gave me a great chance to wander around and see what I could see.

A suggestion: If you find an artist you like at one of these art fairs, a good way to support them is to buy a small print or notecard, especially if you can’t afford one of their bigger prints. I found one from photographer Amber Tyrrell that I really liked, so I bought a notecard from her. Three bucks and some change is an easy vote of confidence.

Any little bit of support helps the artists, helps the arts economy, and makes the whole humid thing seem worth it.


Move ‘Em Out

Move 'Em Out

With an impending sale of Yahoo!, there’s a lot of hand-wringing about what’s going to happen to Flickr.

I’m worried about Flickr, too, for the same reasons Jim Nix is worried – namely, that if someone buys Flickr and messes it up, where can we photographers go? Especially those of us that have dumped most (in my case) or all (in other photographers’ cases) of our photos onto the site.

I, like Nix, enjoy Flickr’s organization tools, the Groups, the social aspects, and the ease of use. Flickr can be used in all kind of ways, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, and a lot of us pay the annual fee to keep the premium features. To me, it’s always been worth the $25 a year.

In recent years, Flickr has tried to Instagram itself by becoming more mobile and more in-the-moment. But what if it just stuck to being a photography enthusiast’s site?

“Growth” and “scaling” make you money, over time, but don’t memberships and providing value make money too?

I’d pay $5 more every year to make Flickr stay healthy, stick to what it does best, and listen to its customers. It’s an important tool in my photography tool belt.

I can’t worry too much, because I don’t have any control over who buys Flickr and what happens to it in the long haul. But I do have a wish list, and at the top of that is that Flickr sticks around and keeps chugging along, even if it’s not in the Who’s Who of social media/photography platforms.


Exploring Ann Arbor

Liberty Street - Ann Arbor, Michigan

After starting my new job in March, I did what I always do: got out and explored.

I’ve been to Ann Arbor, Michigan, many times, and done a lot of shooting here. Now that it’s my jobby-job town, there are a lot more opportunities to get out and see the city. Lunch hours, in between meetings, after work – all good excuses to get out and make photos.

This is, at its most basic, the best reason to make photography a hobby. You get to really learn about and know a place through the viewfinder.

A new place also provides that little spark of freshness you might need to practice your craft.

Do your everyday surroundings get stale? Go somewhere new, and – bam – instant inspiration.


On Greatest Hits

 

Ghost, performing in Grand Rapids, Michigan

You know that new thing where a band goes out on tour and plays an entire classic album of theirs live?

For the fans, it’s great, especially if it’s a truly beloved and well-known album. It’s a well-worn reminder of why you love the band and their music.

What if we could go back and try our hands at an old project, and reinterpret it years later?

William Christenberry made a career out of it, coming back to the same location year after year, watching it fall apart.

I often wonder what i would do if I took my life-changing Route 66 roadtrip and did it all over again, but with the photo skills I have now. It would probably be a longer trip out of necessity.

Pulling over, after all, takes time.

A greatest hits in photos, knowing what I know now? Let’s hit the road.


Paid Stuff and Fun Stuff

Paid Stuff vs Free Stuff

Working on personal projects is something I still try to do, it’s very important to me. I also believe it plays an important part in developing your own style, staying creatively motivated, exploring new ideas and learning new things…I try hard to produce personal projects fairly regularly, even when I’m busy with actual work. I try to produce and post something usually once or twice a week.

GIF artist Al Boardman talks about personal projects in a way a lot of artists do: It’s important to do the fun stuff and the paid stuff.

The paid stuff keeps the lights on, but the personal stuff keeps you, you.

And it’s usually the personal work that makes people sit up, take notice, and ask if you’re for hire.