Technology is telling us what to do

Here I am, about to go on my regular jog.  I pull my phone out and plug in my earbuds.  Normally, I listen to my own iTunes library, curated over the past 10 years of my life, but today, I want something different.

I open Spotify.  Somehow, this month I was randomly charged for the month despite turning off my subscription months ago.  I guess I'll make the best out of it.

Instantly appearing before me is a box that says "Bass-dropping Workout Jams", and without my permission or selection of that box, it begins playing.  It knows I'm about to go on a run, and it plays music according to the intensity of my workout.

I'm getting pumped up from this jam, and in confusion, begin my run, obeying this app's command.  

I'm running, keeping a good pace, beating my time from yesterday's run.  These beats were sick, and different from my regular playlist.  Technology has now infiltrated my time with nature; before, I was simply listening to my favorite songs, now an app is telling me what I'm gonna listen to and how fast I'm gonna listen to it.  It overtakes my brainwaves keeping me from fully being aware of my surroundings.

Suddenly, I'm running right into a rattlesnake.  I stop just inches away and back away slowly.  Nature doesn't stop for technology, technology simply tries to remove us from nature.

Technology is part of everything now; it tells us what to do, what to eat, how to exercise, and where to go.  As part of that, we become technology's subordinate, a vessel for an app to take on a human host.  We lose ourselves, and become a gadget.  Just today, I was endangered by Daniel Ek's music machine.  

How far do we let this go? Will my children even have personalities of their own? Will the future human race just be products created in Silicon Valley?

Eh maybe. I gotta go catch up on Community.  Seeya.  

TIL: podcast edition

So that's it, The Podcast and the Furious has officially wrapped this week. isn't the best podcast you've ever heard....

But I finished it.

If you want to subject your ears to the poor audio quality of Episodes 1-5, listen to the lonely Episode 6, and maybe have some pay off with Episode 7, you can subscribe on iTunes and give my absurd mini-series a listen.

The real question is: why? Why would I make a podcast about Fast and Furious? 

Simple answer: I wanted to create a podcast about creativity, consumption, and talk to other people who live a "365" lifestyle.  So I made The Podcast and The Furious.

Part of the "365" lifestyle is to make a bunch of random stuff that slightly contributes and gives you small bits of knowledge about the thing you actually want to make.  I want my "real" podcast to be good, so The Podcast and The Furious was 7 Episodes of mistakes and a guy learning how to even work a podcast.  

So guess what? I'm now more or less ready for my passion podcast, The 365.  

Episode 0 is out now, and Episode 1 comes out June 1st.  (iTunes Link) From then on, your boring, life-sucking chasm of a weekday, Monday, will now be filled with mindless joy of whatever I decide to talk to someone about.  It's about creativity and consumption, so in other words, it's about anything.  I'll be talking to creators, creatives (those two things can be very different), and other people you probably wouldn't expect.  I've wanted to podcast since I was 14 years old, and I'm finally doing it.

The best part about podcasting so far is that I didn't need to ask anyone's permission to have my own radio show.  I just freaking made it.  We live in an amazing time.

There are some kinks that need working out in the first two episodes, but there's a lot more in store.  I'm excited for this new, strange, and surprisingly busying journey.  Hope you like it too. 

Procrastinating real work

Currently, I'm making my way through the book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  It's the perfect book for me, since I'm a chronic procrastinator.  If I know there's something I need to do, I find another project to work on to distract myself, which really results in nothing getting finished or done super well. Pressfield refers to the force that keeps you from your work as esistance.  The Resistance and I have a pretty off and on relationship (mostly on), but I'm learning that there are ways to defeat it.

I also checked out an old podcast interview on Chase Jarvis Live with Chris Buck.  I somehow wasn't super familiar with Buck's work, but it's right up my alley.  If you don't know, Chase Jarvis, like most mainstream photographers these days, is really into the idea of mobile photography.  Buck, however, is not an advocate for the "art" of smartphone photography.  

His reason? Buck believes that iPhone photography is procrastinating real photography work.  Why spend time making photos that look like they're taken by amateurs when you can get in the studio and make professional looking stuff?  This statement may have angered you; personally, it blew my mind.  

The second he used the word "procrastinating" my ears perked up.  I know for a fact I'm guilty of that.  I also know that when I have an assignment or something to work on, I begin busying myself with other things that seem easier or more fun.  Could iPhone photography be that thing? (Just caught myself picking up my phone to check out Instagram in the middle of typing this post)

Now, not all iPhone photos look like amateur shots, obviously.  I know some people have serious skill on the platform. (Although, don't be deceived by the "Instagram aesthetic". One day I'll finish my controversial piece about my theory on that.)  I think what Buck means by "real work" is the stuff you're passionate about or is important, not the empty snapshots or selfies you post every day.  

I don't wholeheartedly agree that mobile photography is total procrastination.  It can be a great marketing tool, and really humanizes who you are if you share bits of your life with followers.  The world we live in requires freelancers to have an online presence. Also, some people use their mobile photography in ways that are mind-blowing or for their "real work". There are always exceptions to the rule.

I think the reason this resonated with me is because, yes, the 365 is a personal project, but it doesn't have a super cohesive concept or consistency.  It's a years worth of random ideas I get every day, with a thin theme surrounding it.  I haven't necessarily worked on a true photo series or project in a year or two. When I post that photo on Instagram or Snapchat (yes, I've been using snapchat, but that's yet another post I need to write about. discussing social media is just such a tired topic these days) I get that dopamine boost and satisfaction of thinking I did something creative today.  Really though, I just took a pretty clean landscape shot in 2 seconds, or a picture of a distant figure in a grassy field.  I really takes no brain power.  

I've been fooled that posting on Instagram or online every day is "real work", but I still see it's importance.  This whole thing just made me realize I haven't worked a photo series I'm passionate in a while, and I really need to rectify that.  I know I dropped some pretty big claims without backing, but I'm still working out my thoughts on some of those ideas. (The "Instagram Aesthetic" thing has been on my mind forever, I just don't want to type out something that just sounds super negative. I'd rather write it in a way which is helpful rather than exclusively critical.)

Anyway, rambling aside. If you find yourself procrastinating, or you make art at all, go read The War of Art. It really is helpful and helps you identify those things that you didn't even know were products of slacking off.

My thoughts on Coin


My thoughts on Coin:

Ordered it two years ago, so everyone has told me it’s now obsolete. Yes, you can store cards on your iPhone and Android now, but no store I regularly visit has their payment system set up for Apple Pay other than Whole Foods and Bi Lo. 

You can use Coin anywhere, and it’s worked seamlessly so far. Set up had a slight learning curve but I was ready to go in 15 min. It worked at the gas pump and Starbucks. It’s a card, so every credit card machine in the world will accept it.

I’m going to test it a little longer before I fully trust it, but I can fully see myself ditching some cards in my wallet for this thing. 

It may not be the future, but it solves the card problem while we wait for the smartphone payment future to be widely applicable. 

If you can get your hands on one, I highly recommend it.

Journal Entry: "I'm a photographer, non-practicing."

I try as often as possible to write in a journal, but I keep them in a notebook never to be looked at again.  You could say that the reason I create is about the journey or the process, so I want to preserve all of the process I possibly can.  Instead of writing some thoughts to myself, I'll start putting them here. That's what a blog is for, right?

Hank Moody, in the first episode of Californication, comes to Los Angeles and introduces himself in a pretty interesting way.  "I'm a writer, non-practicing."  Or something to that effect.  This quote struck me, because I feel this way a lot, especially lately.  When I'm introduced to someone, or should someone decide to label me, I'm called a photographer.  Now, I'm fine with that, and it's not inaccurate.  Yes, I do a 365 project, and have a photo every day, yet, I've been working on autopilot.  I let the shots happen, don't take risks, and haven't really been planning out my photos day to day.  

Whatever.  I can beat myself up about and blog about how much of a failure I've been all day long.  But really, beating myself up about doesn't really solve the problem for too long does it?  Fact is, maybe I don't want to doom myself to forever be labeled a photographer.  A year ago, I predicted I'd be pretty dedicated to the whole freelance thing and just do that.  Then, I started picking up all kinds of other stuff.  I started writing more, drawing, and even podcasting.  A year ago, I would do a fine job at freelance, I know I'm a good photographer.  But I knew I was on the edge of something bigger than just photography, some sort of huge creative breakthrough that defines the path I choose.  

Photography is the thing that's gonna get me to the other thing.  It opened up this whole world to me.  

The 365 is more than just a photo a day, it's a thing a day, it's everything I do.  I've been trying to be too much in the middle, half average photography freelancer, and half content creator.  There has to be a balance. So lately, I've been doing less photography than ever, but I don't feel like it's a waste.  Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'll never figure it all out. All I gotta do is keep making stuff.

For now, I'm a photographer, non-practicing. (More or less)    

Photography is a skill like any other

It's funny how up in arms photographers get when a "normal" picks up a camera.  "Everyone is a photographer" is something that is said all the time.

Everyone is a photographer.  Everyone has a camera, and everyone can take a picture.  Today, I was reminded, that while everyone can take a picture, not everyone can do it well.  I started taking photos for my new 365 today, which is all iPhone photography.  Guess what? I haven't taken a real photo other than just a snapshot with my iPhone in so long, I felt really rusty.  Using it just felt awkward, and I didn't really feel like my photos were that good.  

It'll just be like when I pick up my film camera again (I haven't used it for a couple weeks), I probably will have to learn to get comfortable with it again.  Photography is a skill as much as being a musician is a skill.  If you don't play guitar for a while, you have to shake off the dust and get used to it again.  Just because you have a guitar doesn't mean you're a musician.  

That's just how it is.  

The Wall: the subject of the next month of the 365

It's been two months since I started my fourth 365 project, and it's been really fun.  Of course, a project like this needs to be sustained, and it's hard to sustain it when you have no limits and must consistently come up with content every day.  

Now that I've warmed up to the project a bit 60 days in, I'm making changes.  Each month will have a new theme, or rather, "rule" for the portraits of that month.  Randomly styled photos are great, but creativity blooms from limitations.

This month, all portraits will involve a certain wall in my house as a backdrop.  I've been digging this wall lately, so you've already seen it before.

It's just a brown wall, and I think there's a lot I can do with it, no matter how subtle.  So this month, if you want your portrait taken for my project, it's all happening right here at my house.  Let me know if you want to be in the project! Always eager for new subjects!

Today was the first day of this "rule", so here's Day 60!

Making art on an iPhone Part 1

I love my iPhone 6. It's the best phone I've ever had.  I originally ordered a 6 plus, but due to the capricious phone god AT&T, my hopes were dashed.  I may go for the bigger one down the road (especially since I just sold my iPad, but that's a different story), but for now, my 128 GB phone is perfect for just about anything.  One use I've really come to enjoy is the ability to make cool art.

You probably knew you could create some cool stuff on the iPhone for years now, and I did too.  Now though, you can create better than you could before.  We now have a better camera, and more apps than ever.  The bigger screen is quite helpful as well.  

I'm always looking for ways to combine and expand photographic mediums. First, I started with my in-camera double exposures.  Those are fun, and I'm still learning to get better with them and integrate them more into my portrait work.  The other day, I was sitting at a coffee shop thinking, "How could I take my double exposures further?" My instant conclusion: create double exposures with two different cameras.  

Now, this process is different than my previous one.  It requires digital alteration of photos. Some of you may look down on "photoshopping" work to that level, but it's a tool I have at my disposal that I'm going to use.  If it's bad, I throw it out.  All that matters is the final piece.

For this stuff though, I'm not using Photoshop.  I'm using a combination of crazy apps unique to the iPhone.  Diana Photo allows me to combine images like my previous double exposure work. (albeit a bit limited. you have to learn exactly how to works it to get a successful image)  Check out this photo for example:

This is a photo of my friend, Essie, against a concrete wall.  The actual photo was taken with my Polaroid Colorpack 2 on the discontinued Fujifilm 3000b film.  She was wearing a black shirt, so I knew this photo would be perfect for a double exposure. (Check out my in-camera double exposure instructional post)  I had a photo I took of some cool trees on my phone, so I combined the two with the Diana Photo app.  Of course, the first photo was black and white, and the other photo was green, so that needed to be fixed.

My solution came from the app called Mextures.  With it, like most photo apps, you can get a bunch of film effects.  This app stands out for it's awesome textures you can add to photos.  I used it to turn the photo black and white (to eliminate the weird green color) then added some blur and definition to make the background look a little more "concrete-y"

This one was an easy one, but since this shot, they've started to get a little more complicated.  I'll try to post more of these throughout the week.

Here are the apps you should download if you want to make stuff like this: 

The Diana Photo App 


That's it for this post, more to come soon!  

Yashica Mat: the camera I can't stop using (part 2)

Shooting with this thing can be hard.  I figured I'd take some portraits (and become the next Vivian Maier), but I learned that I'm super slow setting up a shot.  You have to frame, focus, and light meter (or guess) for your settings.  I honestly don't understand how someone does street photography with this camera.  Guess I need to keep practicing! 

I just shot my first 120 color roll (Kodak Portra 400. Highly recommend this film) Some repeats in here, but I'm pretty excited to get to work on my next roll.

Coffee Underground in Greenville, SC

Coffee Underground in Greenville, SC

Day 29/365 Grant

Day 29/365 Grant

Heather in front of my awesome backdrop

Heather in front of my awesome backdrop

Another Grant photo

Another Grant photo

Beth Ann

Beth Ann

The natural light thing

I've heard a lot of discussion on the natural light vs. studio lights/strobes debate lately, and I realized, I have an opinion and a blog.

I used to be all about natural light only, you know why? I was afraid of using a flash.  It added a whole level of difficulty and a science that I didn't fully understand.  (I meant to added this to my list of mistakes but forgot

Now, I almost can't stand to rely only on natural light, because quite frankly, it's super unreliable.  There was one day, when I was shooting engagement photos on a beautiful, overcast day.  The light was perfect for about 40 minutes, then out of nowhere, it got super dark and started storming.  Now, I know that even in a storm you're not going to pull your strobes out to compensate, but I was just using that as an example to show how you can't trust the weather.  

Some people may only use "natural light" because they love that soft look.  That look is possible to achieve with studio lights, but with lights, you're not limited to the light that the sky is providing you.  

I just got sick of being at the mercy of the elements.  My love of lights is a more recent one, because I just kept hitting walls in my portrait work.  Yes, lights add an extra challenge, but to me, that's part of the fun.  For example, check out this photo to the right: 

Totally artificial. (You probably could guess that) It was the middle of the day under my porch.  I used a smoke machine and one flash to show off the smoke through the steps.  I couldn't have gotten this smoke effect without a flash, because there wasn't enough directional light coming from the sky.  

But here's the other problem: lights are expensive.  Well, yes and no.  I use super cheap, crappy lights just to get by.  They do the job quite well and are super portable.  You can get out there and by a light kit with soft boxes and a few gels and strobes for $130.  

Try shooting with just one single light first, just to get the feel.  Once you're comfortable with that, start using a second.  Then once you begin to feel limited with 2 lights, go crazy and start engineering insane setups.  

By the way, I'm not saying natural light is bad.  I still use it from time to time when I just can't get the lighting setup I want.  I have realized that once I started getting better with lights, I started getting better at using whatever light the sky was offering me.  Just try it out, it'll be a pain, but well worth it.

Yashica Mat: the camera I can't stop using

Sometimes I have the ability to develop my own stuff, but a lot of the time, I have to send it off.  A couple days ago, I sent a couple rolls of Ilford black and white film to (highly recommend btw, pretty cheap with great results), and got them back today.  You don't know how excited I am that these turned out at all.  

I was thinking about getting a light meter to use with it, but after seeing how these turned out, I'm just gonna stick with my Light Meter iPhone app.  Not the prettiest app, but it apparently does the job sufficiently.

Weaverville Bakery

Weaverville Bakery



Living Room

Living Room





More to come!

Throwback Thursday

With it being my 4th (technically 3rd and a half) 365 project, you can probably guess that I have taken quite a few photos over the years.  I have about six hardrives on my desk right now holding them all because my 500 GB laptop hardrive isn't enough.  I have photos no one has ever seen, that I have forgotten about, because I've taken so many photos that some get lost in the clutter.  

Today, I posted my first Throwback Thursday photo within my 365 project, IV, a portrait series.  Thursdays shall now be dedicated to past portrait work I've done, which coincidentally helps me spread out all these portraits I've been working on.  Having 365 days of people is quite a challenge, so I need any break I can get.

Day 8/365 is a photo I took of my sister at my grandparents backyard fishpond in 2012.  She's a makeup artist, so she put that cool design on her face.  She also probably forgot about this photo, so I was happy to surprise her by throwing an old photo of herself in her social network feeds. 

Titled "The Evil Pond Spirit" a follow up to my Pond Spirit photo essay a few years back

Titled "The Evil Pond Spirit" a follow up to my Pond Spirit photo essay a few years back

Holiday polaroids

I've gotten pretty into using my Polaroid Spectra despite the film being pretty pricey.  It's something nice to have over Christmas, because you're able to take snapshots of your family or weird stuff along the way and have a print to hold at the end.

My wife Anna got really into knitting over Christmas, and has almost finished her first scarf.  She's done a really great job, and I can't wait to share some photos of her final product.

This was supposed to be a double exposure portrait for my latest 365 project, but didn't really work out.  It's still kinda cool, with it being an explosion of red flowers.  You would never know a person was in the photo though.

I felt like it rained almost the entire time we were out of town. We had a few nice sunny days, but most of it was gloomy, rainy, and oddly warm.

Anna's crazy dog, Lily

Here's a classic photo of my grandfather holding his Yorkie named Murphy.  She'll only sleep like that on him.

Right before the photo was taken I told everyone to make sure they didn't blink since I only had one shot left.  Sure enough, I was the only one to blink.  I guess that's how it works.