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.

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.

How to have a distraction-free phone without crippling it

I truly believe smartphones are the single most empowering tool of our era. These little devices can do things we couldn't even dream of just a few years ago, no matter where we are.

With great power comes great responsibility, though.

My phone has greatly improved my photography, but it's also hurt it. I've found myself losing track of time while on my phone and missing shooting opportunities, like a sunrise in the morning. I've also found myself replying to tweets in the middle of a shoot, just because I grabbed my phone to meter the scene and saw the notification.

To avoid stuff like this, many people go to the extreme of keeping just the very basic apps on their phones. This is a mistake, in my opinion. Trying to avoid the downsides of using a smartphone, they are also missing out on the good stuff.

I believe there's another way, a way where we can still take advantage of these devices while limiting their negative effects.

This what I've come up with (this is for iOS, but Android should provide similar functionality).

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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.

It's ok to be miserable

Note: I have an audience of one in mind when I write these kinds of posts - me. While some might find them useful anyway, it's me writing to myself, about things I struggle with.

I rarely get a good image from a trip that didn't require a big effort from me, so big that it made me feel miserable (unfortunately, it doesn't work the other way around: feeling miserable doesn't guarantee that I'll get a good image).

My best images were made on days where I had to push myself beyond not only my comfort zone, but also what I thought were my limits.

I love the feeling of exhaustion after a whole day of shooting, looking at those negatives or RAW files, and finding out you captured what you saw.

It's ok to be miserable. It feels good.

One click away

Photography is not linear. No matter if you've been a photographer for a month or for a lifetime, we all are just one click away from our best image.

Think about that the next time you pick your camera.

One click away.

Today could be the day.

Consistency: the gate to Greatness

I don't know where I got this quote from. I even had to Google the name to confirm he was The Rock.

Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.
— Dwayne Johnson

I believe in this.

Don't sit and wait.

Study, improve, work, put yourself out there.

Little by little, every day, get closer to where you want to be.

Don't stop.

Nothing is guaranteed in this life, but consistency is our best shot at getting what we want.

Become a curator

Ain't nobody got time for nothing nowadays.

You can see it on the road or at the grocery store.

Time is the asset of our days. It always has been.

In the past, there was no escape to a "let me show you the photo album from our last vacation". Today, you can simply leave a like on the FB post and swipe away. People aren't paying attention, though.

Curation is more important now than ever.

We need to respect our viewer's time. They will give us a few seconds -minutes if we are lucky- of their days in exchange for good content. We need to use that time wisely.

Give too much, even when it's awesome content, and they'll swipe away. Give too little and they'll forget about you.

Small doses, all the time.

Edit your videos. Keep clips short, between 5 and 10 seconds. Use good music. Show only the parts that contribute to the story.

Edit your images. Don't show 30 pictures of the same thing from different angles. Sit on them for a while before sharing them.

Discarding clips and images will hurt. Like a wound that is healing, this is good.

Knowing what to share and (even more importantly) what NOT to share is a skill in high-demand, a skill that may take time and effort to develop.

I'd say it is THE skill a photographer must have today.

Listening to destructive criticism

I've grown used to destructive criticism. I've got a lot of it since I quit my job 10 months ago to pursue a career as a professional artist.

I usually dismiss it and carry on.

One day, Person A -let's call them that way- was trying to discourage me and asked a question:

"You say photography is your job... Do you work 8 hours a day then?".

They weren't looking for an answer, but to diminish what I was doing. Those are the ways of destructive criticism.

I couldn't dismiss it this time, though.

It was true: I wasn't putting the hours. I was definitely getting out and making images, but starting a photography business requires so much more than that.

From that day on, I've been working 12+ hours a day on my photography, 7 days a week.

Even though some people will try to ridicule what you do, the way you take their words is up to you. Use them to your advantage if you can; discard and forget them if you cannot.