Some elk in Estes Park, Colorado. They are apparently like rats.

Thirty one days of photography (well 28 to be exact)

Towards the end of November I decided that I needed to purchase a camera. I had come to the conclusion that I needed a new hobby and a camera seemed to be a good way to get into photography.

The idea of a “new hobby” started innocently enough. I wanted something to do outside of work that wouldn’t be based on programming computers or startups or anything that I had been focusing on since I started modest in the end of 2012. I wanted something new to think about.

I had some parameters though. I wanted something that was going to be technical but not based on computers. Something that would challenge me and make me think critically and creatively. I also wanted something I had never done before.

Photography seemed to be a good candidate.

Hiromi waiting for coffee at Handlebar (best restaurant in Chicago)

I started telling Hiromi that I was thinking of getting a camera. I told my brother and his partner, sarah. I told everyone. I was trying to gauge how serious I was about it.

I didn’t think I was very serious.

I got a lot of snarky responses and a handful of great responses offering to help out if I needed advice.

However, I was not confident and I had a couple very specific worries:

1. I was worried that I would get addicted to gear and make a hobby that was just gear. I like gear ;)
2. I was worried that I wouldn’t commit to it

If I was going to do it, I wanted to learn and make it real. Not some silly thing.

So I did what all people do when faced with worries and confusion: I video chatted with Mark Trammell.

Axel the poodle. He is quite a guy.

Trammell and I hadn’t hung out in a minute — so we had a video chat scheduled over the thanksgiving break to catch up. For those of you who don’t know Trammell — he is the best.

I mentioned that I was considering getting into photography. Trammell was excited and mentioned that he had a lot of gear I could borrow to get started. I explained my concern about gear and he, in true Trammell style, told me a story about his time in the Navy when he was learning photography. Trammell explained his idea of how I should start in photography:

1. get a fixed lens camera
2. learn composition
3. don’t worry about gear
4. do street photography
5. shoot automatic for a month
6. then shoot manual for a month trying to replicate the automatic month
7. learn how and why and eventually get to a point where I understand wtf all the nonsense is

This was tremendous. It resonated with me. It explained how I could jump into photography without just getting into gear.

My father looking through the lens cap. @dylanreed is in the background.

It seemed simple: Get a fixed lens camera and then learn composition and the basics, start from the beginning, avoid technology, and do art or whatever ;)

I decided to vet the idea with a few people I trust with camera stuff.

I asked Vu Bui who told me that he thinks it sounds reasonable and suggested I go with the Leica Q. I asked Sean Bonner who also thought it sounded right and suggested I go with the Leica Q. I then asked my brother’s partner Sarah (who teaches photography) and she thought it seemed reasonable.

Yes! Reasonable and a couple recommendations for a camera. Done and Done.

I went to amazon and looked up the camera and thought “who the fuck would pay this much for a camera?”

I received the camera on December 3rd.

This is the first photo I took with the Leica Q. I accidentally took it as well. ;)

Before I received the camera, I started asking some friends for beginner tips to photography. Advice is always awesome because it never makes any sense when you compare it all together. It always contradicts other advice. I love advice.

Joi Ito said “Bring it to meetings and take photos of the people you are meeting. Except for me right now. Don’t take a photo of me right now.”

Sean Bonner gave me a boatload of amazing advice that he turned into a blog post.

Richard Cook gave me some excellent advice as well:

Carry the camera everywhere, take pictures of ordinary life, don’t worry about composition — you can always crop, every photo is a tradeoff of exposure versus aperture versus ISO, learn about depth of field, use black and white

Chris Lea told me boatloads about light. He said:

the golden rule is that you’re always thinking about light in some manner.

He then went on to give me a bunch of hints about light and then suggested that I shoot black and white.

All of this advice has been super helpful. I have boiled it all down to

  1. Carry your camera everywhere
  2. Take a lot of pictures
  3. Use the constraints to power your creativity

My father building a small boat

It has been 30ish days since the camera arrived in the mail. I have carried my camera everywhere I have gone. In the 30ish days I have taken ~2000 photos. Many of which are not great. A couple are really great. It is fun and interesting. I am challenged.

In that 30 days I have had a lot of conversations about photography, creativity and composition. I have never had conversations about those topics before. I have no idea what I am talking about, but it is fun to learn and to listen.

Most of all, I have enjoyed capturing my friends and our experiences.

I am excited to continue carrying my camera everywhere and taking pictures of all of you!

The cloudgate (bean) on a cloudy night

A couple final thoughts:

Photo management software is terrible. Mylio is pretty good — but disrupts the “natural” flow of things: i.e. Apple Photos.

It is amazing that all of these pieces of software don’t play well together. It makes me wish that flickr had survived. People still use it — but not how it used to be used.

Instagram is amazing and I enjoy sharing photos there. However, I don’t think it is where my photos will go to live.

Google Photos is great. I enjoy using it to curate my photo collection online. The integration on iOS to Apple Photos is a bit too much voodoo for me.

My current workflow is to import my photos into Apple Photos, Google Photos (via dropbox) and Mylio. Mylio acts has my archivist. Goole Photos is my primary interface on mobile and Apple Photos is nice because of the iOS integration. It is all too fancy.

I also like 500px. It is nice, but I am intimidated. ;)

I will keep trucking. Keep taking photos and let’s see if I can turn this 30ish days into 365 days.

@dylanreed hanging out in the mountains. Looking like a badass.