Photography doesn't start with a camera

While it's totally possible to get a camera and then find a subject to photograph, it's definitely much easier to find something you are passionate about and then start capturing it.

If you gave me a camera 10 years ago, I wouldn't have known what to do with it.

Instead, photography came naturally to me when I discovered my passion for the outdoors after moving to the Pacific Northwest.

A camera is a tool to capture what we see. I didn't see anything 10 years ago. I do now.

There are no rules

"Photography is not a sport, there are no rules, everything must be tried and tested" - Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt is one my greatest inspirations. I love his landscapes, portraits and even the nudes (not a big fan of the genre, but the way he did it was just genius).

I think what I like the most about him is his approach to photography. For him, it was all about creating something with the medium, avoiding silly self-imposed rules.

He died in 1983, 5 years before Photoshop was created. That didn't stop him from completely changing his images in the darkroom. Actually, he admittedly did most of his work in the darkroom.

The image of the seagull is a good example. He added the bird afterwards, and the morning Sun years later.

He was brilliant, and we'd be wise to follow his advice to experiment and try everything.

PS: If you want to know more about Bill Brandt, I strongly recommend watching this interview from 1983 for BBC's Master Photographers.

Creating stuff that will outlast ourselves

A while ago, I had a "terrible" realization: everything I had done in life as a software developer was already gone or will be gone in the next few years. Apps have been taken down, websites have been closed.

The exception might be a few lines of code, here and there. They will survive as long as someone else keeps them alive.

The fate of all the side projects I've worked on over the years (hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work) is already sealed, though: they are all gone.

Even as a photographer, if I stop paying the bills this website would be shut down, and all online platforms will eventually go away and / or delete my images.

Your life's work gone, just like that.

The day I realized about this was the day I sold my first physical copy of "Went West", my first book. At that moment, my website and online platforms stopped being the only places where my work lived. There are 40+ copies of that book all around the world, and since then, I've also shipped several prints of some of my images.

I know they too will vanish, eventually. Some might have already been thrown away, or put away. Most will follow at some point.

My hope is for just a few that will survive and outlast me, if someone finds them to bring some joy. A legacy of sorts.

While I appreciate the immediacy of the web and the convenience of online platforms, I'm aiming to create more physical work this year and to put it in hands of more people.

I like driving

I don't mean sitting in traffic on my way to the office. Rather, a peaceful drive through the mountains on my way to a day out making some images.

Behind the wheel, I'm alone and I can't use my phone. I have no option but to go through my thoughts and sometimes, to get bored.

Being bored can be very good for our brain. Sadly, it's also very hard to achieve nowadays: not more than 5 seconds of boredom would go by without me reaching for my phone (I have adopted some measures to fight this terrible habit).

I don't know much about meditation, although it's something I've always been interested in. One day, I might give it a try.

Until then, driving will be my meditation.

Getting inspiration in nature

I got started in photography because of nature. It was when I moved to Oregon that I felt like I had to photograph those places my eyes couldn't believe.

I hadn't been out in nature for a while, and I believe that is what was driving my recent lack of inspiration.

Instead of visiting yet another town here in the Algarve, I decided to go on a little hike in some nearby hills (called Fonte de Benémola).

The short-term benefits were pretty clear: I was able to breathe and clear my mind. I think there will be some more long-term benefits, because sometimes all you need to run a marathon is to take that first step.

Downgrading my camera gear

I've been feeling a little bit uninspired lately. It's normal, everyone has highs and lows in photography.

When I struggle with creativity, there's one thing that almost always comes to my mind: camera gear.

"If only I had this camera or this lens... I could create something different"

I only recently realized that it's not a new piece of gear that I want to buy. I want a better version of myself, a better photographer making better images than the ones I'm making right now.

But it's not about the equipment we have, it's about the use we make of that equipment. A new camera or lens might inspire you to get out, but it will still be you who has to make the images.

A few weeks ago, I started shooting with my old Sony a6000. It's an almost 4-year-old camera, able to create beautiful images. It's always been a backup camera so I used to look down on it.

Not anymore. From now on, it will be my main camera for photography (digital, this is, the Bronica is not going anywhere!).

I also downgraded my 70-200mm big and heavy telephoto lens to the 55-210mm that came in my a6000 kit. The quality coming out of them isn't even in the same league and still, I've made more images I like with the latter. That's due to the size, weight... and also price. Being cheap means I'm more willing to risk it in rough conditions.

This kit should enable me to create most of what I want to create with my photography. Thinking otherwise has only led me to dwell and waste time looking at new gear.

Let's get out and enjoy what we have, let's get out and create something.

This is something you have to do every day

Casey Neistat tells us to show up every single day.

I think it was Michael Kenna who said, during an interview, that photography is something you have to do every day.

Showing up doesn't mean that we have to shoot every day. There's so much more to photography than using a camera: from developing / editing the images to publishing and promoting them, organizing your work in books, contacting models, agencies or brands, uploading stock images, planning your next trip, even cleaning your gear or posting on Instagram.

The point is: photography has to be in our minds every day, and we should make every day count, even if it's just a little bit.

Empty your mind

"The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities." - Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

To make great images, you need to look and see. Some of us seem to lose the ability to do so when we stay in the same place for a while, when we get used to what surrounds us.

Josef Koudelka never stays more than three months in one country. He's afraid he'd become blind.

If you struggle to see in familiar scenes, try something different. Try street photography, still life or portraits. Shoot with your phone or pick a different lens. Try to make images "the wrong way" by following bad practices.

Mixing things up every once in a while helps us to unlearn some habits and open your mind.

Photography Waves

Making images that matter is not an easy task, and we can go several days, weeks or even months without making one.

We must persist.

I believe in Photography Waves: days when the conditions are perfect, or you are extremely inspired, or the Muse is on your side... whatever the reason is, you make not only one but several meaningful images in one day.

Photography is easy

Some thoughts about photography and camera gear.

The technical aspects of photography is the easy part, do not let anybody make you believe otherwise and stop you from going out and making some images.

"I could do that!"

I believe the best art is the one that makes you think: "I could do that".

When a movie is so well directed and edited that seems it couldn't be any other way, we think we could do that.

When an image is simple -yet powerful-, we think we could do that.

Truth is, simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve.

"I could do that!" is the ultimate compliment to your art.

The one image that inspires my photography

I've had this blog for a while, and I feel like I haven't written much about what drives and inspires my photography.

If I had to choose one, and just one photographer, that'd be Michael Kenna without a doubt. I am a fanboy, I own several of his books and absolutely love his photography.

But if I had to choose one, and just one image, it wouldn't be one of his.

Bill Brandt, Lord MacDonald's Forest, Skye, 1947

I saw this image made by Bill Brandt (Isle of Skye, 1947) for the first time a couple of years ago.

There was something about it.

This image moves me so much, more today than it did two years ago. It's really hard to write this post because I can't really explain it.

The composition, the choice of a vertical format, how he removed all details from the landscape (but the cabin on the bottom right), the long exposure, the mystery... yes, I think it is the mystery.

This image inspires me every time I look at it. This is what I aim for when I go out with my camera: to create something that moves someone in the same way Bill Brandt has moved me with this image.

What about you? If you had to choose one image, which one would it be?

Fun photography ideas for the summer

I'm a winter person, I don't like much about the summer. The heat, the crowds, the hars light... none of them.

It's usually a bad time for me to go out and make images, so I spend most of the summer inside writing, editing and reading.

This year, I came up with 6 different photography ideas to try. From a homemade pinhole lens to use oil from a can of tuna to emulate the Holga look:

#1 Photographing the clouds
#2 Homemade pinhole lens
#3 Fireworks
#4 Night photography in a forest
#5 The Holga Look
#6 Infrared

It was fun and I learned a lot from every one of these projects. I hope at least one of them inspires you to try something different!