Blog

Week 14: I Wasn't A Natural at Photography

Look at 'em legs!

Look at 'em legs!

I've been taking pictures since I was 9 when my dad bought a 3.2 megapixel camera at Staples. I loved that camera so much that I saved up all my birthday money and money from chores to buy my own!

I love taking pictures but for most of my life it has been a way for me to nerd out on this little computer that was a camera. I wasn't in love with photography or light. I didn't even think about story or all those other terms people use to describe photography that wins awards. I was into it because it was a computer!

It wasn't until a couple years ago when Canon released the Canon 6d that I really started to get into photography. I had to commit by spending more than half the money I was worth to buy that camera. But you know what? Spending a couple grand on a camera made me go out and use that camera. It wasn't another toy that just took up shelf space.

It was the first camera that I took out of auto mode. That Canon 6d I shot 65,000 picture on it before I sold it a couple months ago.

And for a majority of those 65,000 shutter clicks, I didn't like the photos I took. I want proud of them.

I spent years taking photos and not liking them.  I didn’t know at the time but that is just a part of life https://vimeo.com/85040589.

I have hundreds of pictures of my room because it is my childhood room where I learned photography.  [It was never this clean, see below]

I have hundreds of pictures of my room because it is my childhood room where I learned photography.  [It was never this clean, see below]

I started to figure out how to take pictures I liked because of the hours I spent photographing my childhood bedroom. 

Listening to music and taking pictures. Pictures that for the most part are pretty bad! I'm not going to lie. I wasn't better than the average bear when it came to photography!

See my computer screen from the close up above! Now this was the norm.  Just looking at this photo makes me feel at home!

See my computer screen from the close up above! Now this was the norm.  Just looking at this photo makes me feel at home!

But there is something special about learning something new in your bedroom. No one's watching, there are no expectations. 

I would nerd out about photography while I was stocking shelves at Trader Joe's with my friend Andy. Then I would come home and shoot my bedroom!  Failing over and over behind a closed door. 

I explored all over Los Angeles with my camera (2013)

I explored all over Los Angeles with my camera (2013)

I would then take would I learned and head out to explore Los Angeles with my camera. The main reason I did it was so I could remember the places I had discovered. 

My camera was a convenience, not the purpose. 

I was taking thousands of photos around Los Angeles for no one else's eyes except for my own. 

Back to my childhood room.  Oh how I loved Mad Men

Back to my childhood room.  Oh how I loved Mad Men

Then I would come back home and I would edit them. I would share sometimes but not very often. I was doing it for me. 

I took pictures of EVERYTHING.  

I took pictures of EVERYTHING.  

When I turned 20 for an entire year I took a camera everywhere I went. Sometimes it was my big Canon 6d and other times it was a small point and shoot. For most days I didn't even take a picture. I would just carry the camera. But I realized that I looked at the world differently when I knew I had a camera. It made the world a more beautiful place to look at becuase I forced myself to look at it in a different perspective. 

I used to dress like this when I went to Downtown Los Angeles so hotels would think I was a European Tourist and would not bug me for being in their building.  Or maybe I just had mad style!?!?!

I used to dress like this when I went to Downtown Los Angeles so hotels would think I was a European Tourist and would not bug me for being in their building.  Or maybe I just had mad style!?!?!

This may be the most generic photo I have ever taken.  But I took it! Oh yes Spencer took this! Along with 135 other versions of this EXACT photo! Oh art

This may be the most generic photo I have ever taken.  But I took it! Oh yes Spencer took this! Along with 135 other versions of this EXACT photo! Oh art

Before I ever took an original looking photo. Before I ever started to develop a style I took the most boring generic photos one has ever seen. Photos that don't stand out or could ever be labeled to me. Like the one above. I know we all have seen dodger stadium at least 100 times from this angle. But here's the thing you have to go through this phase of copying others in order to get past it. 

Slowly I started to notice I was liking my photos more and more.  I noticed the less photos I took the happier I was with the outcome.  

Slowly I started to notice I was liking my photos more and more.  I noticed the less photos I took the happier I was with the outcome.  

Now a days my photography and more importantly cinematography has gotten to a point where I love the world I see. And finally after all these years I am able to take a picture and make it look better than I ever imagined in my mind's eye. 

I started to craft a style that was not textbook perfect.  I like out of focus sometimes! (said every art student in america)

I started to craft a style that was not textbook perfect.  I like out of focus sometimes! (said every art student in america)

Hey I'm getting a little better!

Hey I'm getting a little better!

But don't mistake me. I wasn't a natural. I don't believe in natural talent without practice. 

I can be artists too!! Look at me! Look at me! But wow I love this photo.  It did take 200 exposures or more.  Is it really worth it? no

I can be artists too!! Look at me! Look at me! But wow I love this photo.  It did take 200 exposures or more.  Is it really worth it? no

I was the photographer taking hundreds of exposures of the same subject with the same lighting and every other elements. Just so I could get the perfect picture. And I would drive myself insane when I would try and edit. 

This is my old lightroom catalog.  This is ridiculous! How many exposures do I need of a photo? Don't do this. Please don't do this.   *Nothing says "I don't know photography" quite like Spencer's old lightroom catalogs! 

This is my old lightroom catalog.  This is ridiculous! How many exposures do I need of a photo? Don't do this. Please don't do this.  

*Nothing says "I don't know photography" quite like Spencer's old lightroom catalogs! 

Now I don't take as many  photos. And there is a purpose behind that and the link to my happiness in photography. It's called paradox of choice and there have been many papers written on it. 

I have learned that I love extreme wides where the people could almost be fake.  

I have learned that I love extreme wides where the people could almost be fake.  

My 9 to 9 currently is that I work on movies in Hollywood. I've worked with amazing Directors of Photography. Often their advice is don't worry about everything going digital. Slow down use a light meter, don't take so many pictures.

I've done the picture part and this week I picked up my first light meter on Craigslist! And I must say it's badass!  It really helps me to think less about the camera and instead of what is actually in front of the lens. 

Now a days it's been all about shadows and how cinematic I can make it feel.  And yes this could use some fill

Now a days it's been all about shadows and how cinematic I can make it feel.  And yes this could use some fill

At the end of the day get out and shoot! Don't think just shoot and you will figure it out. My first "serious camera" I put 65,000 shutter clicks on it. Just shoot shit, not the same shit, but different shit and have fun.

Don't let getting popular or will people watch or look at my "art" influence you. 

Close your door and do it for you. That's the most important lesson I've ever learned. 

And remember I was horrible compared to the average bear. 

-typed on a phone (please forgive me) 

Week 13: Social Media Makes Me Feel Bad

I’ve struggled with a love hate relationship with social media for as long as I have been on it.  I love the potential of it, I love the moments of joy it can bring, and I love the ability to connect with others.  

 

But as social media matures I have seen a shift toward the celebration of falsely advertised lifestyles.  Social media seems to have become a public journal where you post the highlights of your life! On these apps, everyone seems to be living such spectacular lives with such amazing food, people, and culture! Yet, more people than ever report that they are depressed or feel lonely.

I have personally noticed that I am at my worst when I spend a too much time on these apps.  I start deprecating myself and judging others by how they present themselves on the screen.  

So, I am going to take a break from social media.  I am going to turn it off for 30 days.  And I know as a someone who is trying to build a presence online by making videos this might not be the best marketing plan.  But for me I am trying to figure out if these thoughts of depression and self deprecation are worth the tiny growth I receive by being present on these apps.

Week 12: Making Movies With A Purpose

I had the opportunity to load film on a job this week.  I’ve practiced loading film before but I have never been the key loader on a show.  It is a very stressful job because a loader is the only person who physically touches the film inside the magazine.  If anything is wrong with the film it’s my fault!

 

Shooting on film was experience in itself.  It was still filmmaking like every other project I have done in the past two years but it felt more purposeful.  We weren’t “spraying it down” like we usually do when we are shooting digital and have unlimited hard drive space.  Everytime the camera rolled, there was a purpose.  

It was a wonderful experience and it’s taught me to slow down when I am shooting and to treat filmmaking like an art.

On a side note it’s been raining this week in Los Angeles so for the first time in 12 weeks I took my recording inside.  Enjoy!

Shot on:

Sony A7rii

Canon 6d

 

Week 11: I Make $CENSORED a Year

I've been camping for the last couple weeks so I apologize for the missed uploads!

---

I feel that money is an important topic that none of us talk about!  Yet all around us everyday people flaunt their money, yet we never talk about money. 

I made this video out of frustration.  I hope one day we learn to not find our confident in how much we make every two weeks.  I hope one day politicians won’t brag about their money and then skirt the topic when we ask for their tax returns.

I want to start talking about money in everyday life without feeling guilty about it, so I’m going to start right now.


Filmed on:
Sony A7rii

Week 10: I Turned Down A Paid Job

I bought a sweet tent this past week (as you will see if you watch this video).  It weighs about 2 lbs! Pretty sweet indeed.   

This week's video is about a job that I turned down last week.  This is the first time I have ever turned down paid work in the film industry and I thought that was a great reason to document it.


Also for those wondering, the boat I am on is heading from Long Beach to Catalina (which is a small island off the coast of Los Angeles).  I was there earlier this week exploring so I thought I would give a taste of arriving on the island.  But don't worry, you will see more footage of the island in a later video!

Week Nine: My First Beer

Yo! Once again it is Wednesday morning at 1am and I am writing this.  This video goes up in less than 6 hours!

 

 

This is a special story to me.  I stressed out too much this week over this voiceover because I felt that I wasn’t doing it justice.  But, I finally got it to a point that I am extremely proud of.  I will even go as far to say that this video, this video you are about to watch, captures what I was trying to say better than any video I have made before.

 

This is the story about my first beer with my Dad on my 21st birthday.  

 

Enjoy!

Week 8: I Want To Do Nothing

Okay okay okay.  This video is a little different.  

I ended up going to work on Tuesday without having recorded an interview yet for my weekly video! That was yesterday! I didn't have time to setup some pretty looking professional interview with an overpriced camera and a very difficult to use mic kit.  So instead I just filmed myself walking to work at the studio.  I also ended up filming at lunch and on the walk back to my car just so I could get it sounding like I wanted! 

This video is the product of spending an incredible weekend in Malibu with friends, just getting back to the basics and disconnecting.  

You will also notice this music is not the typical overly cinematic piano (sometimes boring) piece that I find on Soundcloud.  For me, when I think about doing nothing I think about being in early high school listening to Mac Miller's mixtape K.I.D.S.  So I thought it would it would be a disservice to not use a beat off of that album.  I don't care how it sounds it's gotta be from K.I.D.S.!  And thus we have the Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza beat!

I will be back next week! Sorry I have not been responding to comments, I've been working more than I anticipated but I still read them and I enjoy them very much (they are good for my health and your's too)!

If you read this far you are the best! Not them, only you!  Well maybe them too. But only you.  (Don't think about this too much)

Week 7: Dating Apps

Week 6: Things Change

This past week the plan was to make a video about my hometown.  As I went around the city and visited places I hadn’t been in over a decade it hit me how much things have changed. How much I have changed! And yet I couldn’t figure out why I had changed.  

In this week's video that is what I discuss.  I talk about how working at a sandwich shop really helped to shake up my life and how I ended up taking an improv class in Hollywood at The Groundlings.  

I found myself getting emotional when I was reliving all these memories all over my hometown.  It was very unexpected.

I hope you enjoy!

 

I would be wrong not to mention where the title came from:
Omen - Things Change (feat. J Cole)
https://soundcloud.com/dopartomen/10-things-change-feat-j-cole

 

Week 5: Camping

I’ve been in San Francisco for the past week.  And those of you in America you know it was Super Bowl Sunday this past weekend and the game took place in San Francisco.

 

 

So as people flooded into the city to either go to the game my friends and I realized none of us really care about football! So we decided it would be a good opportunity to get away from it all.  

 

We went camping up in Northern California at a place called Pomo Canyon.  The campground ended up being closed so we hiked around and found a good spot off site to camp for the weekend.  It was a beautiful place with great views of the coast.  We made some amazing food and I have to say this was probably the best Super Bowl weekend I have ever had!  Who won the Super Bowl again? Nah just messing it’s not worth it.

 

And for those of you that are wondering the song is a Billy Joel cover of Vienna played and sung by Larry Fisherman (aka Mac Miller).  The key is that the song is slowed down.  I found the mood of the song and the words that Billy Joel wrote to be very appropriate to how I was feeling this weekend.  

 

Living just a couple days without my phone was a very refreshing feeling.  It has provoked a couple ideas for some videos, so watch out for those!

 

Thanks everyone for watching and I will see you next week!   

 

Week 4: Why I Dropped Out of College

A year and a half ago I dropped out of college at the beginning of my junior year to pursue a dream I had of working in the film industry.

 

I filed my paperwork for leaving college, quit my job, and began to figure out how to take steps toward accomplishing this dream that seemed so far away.

 

 

For the next two months I ended up shadowing my friends Kyle and Susan as they edited a film called "The Stanford Prison Experiment". For two months I watched them edit 5 days a week. It was in that editing room, at Kyle's house, that I really began to realize how much I love to tell stories and it reassured me that I was on the right path.

 

After the film was complete, I didn't know what I was going to do next. But jobs came along. A couple months later I made my first dollar working in the film industry on a commercial and since then it seems like anything I try to do can be possible if I'm willing to take the risk and put in the time.

 

My plans have greatly changed since dropping out of college. YouTube wasn't even in the plan when I decided I was going to dropout! But I am extremely grateful for this platform. The small community I have found on here is an incredible inspiration.

 

Thank you for watching, for your comments, and for your emails. Connecting with people is one of the most satisfying feelings I have come to know. I promise to never beg for views, likes, or subscribers because I know those are only temporary. I would so much rather work harder at telling a story about something I have gone through that will connect with someone. Because that means much more in the long run. No one will remember the video they "liked" on that old platform called YouTube back in the day.

 

But I have a feeling people will remember how a video made them feel, and that's what I'm going for.

 

And with no further adieu, here is my video on why I dropped out of college.

Week 3: Mexico, I Love You

I've been seeing Mexico in the news a lot lately.  It's a place that I love and I feel it is not being represented properly.  

The footage of Mexico in this video is from a filming job that I went on last year to Mexico city.  When I arrived I was overwhelmed by how crowded the city was so I went to bed!  I woke up the next morning at 4am, grabbed the Canon C300 we had brought with us and went out into the city to see it awaken as the day started.  

I'll always loved this footage but it didn't seem like something I could put out on it's own.  I'm really happy with how the combination of this footage from last year and the voiceover I did on Saturday combined into a film.  Back when I filmed in Mexico City filming it was only the beginning of me figuring out that I love Mexico.  

Enjoy!

Week Two: Building a Career Working on Movies

This week I talk about my fear of hating my job when I become older.  Will working on movies every lose it's excitement? Or is it up to me to keep it exciting and fun?

The footage around LA is from a scout that I went on earlier this week.  We saw some pretty historic parts of Los Angeles.

Week One: Can I Live In The Moment?

https://serialpodcast.org

I was listening to an episode of Serial this week and when Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl describes what it's like to be stuck in a dark room and to not know what day it is or what is happening outside the four walls you are in, it really struck me what living in the moment can really mean.  And it brought up the question "Have I ever lived fully in the moment?"

This is the first of my one a week videos! Enjoy

Thoughts From Japan: Going Home

Today I flew back to Los Angeles from Tokyo. It's been an amazing trip and a great way to end 2015. Thank you for watching my trip, I appreciate it! 

Until next time!

Thoughts From Japan: Making Assumptions

Final full day in Japan.  We went to Mt Fuji and explored a different part of Japan on a bus tour.  Today I found myself thinking a lot about making assumptions about other people.

 

Thoughts From Japan: Homogenized Art

I often times find it too easy to continue to create the same thing instead of pushing myself to do something different.  I have experienced that with these 10 videos I am trying to create while I am here in Japan so I thought it was only appropriate to make to a video about it.

Thoughts From Japan: Jr High

The older I get the less talking I do when I am in a group of people.  I often times I find myself sitting back and listening instead.  In this video I talk about how my desire to climb the social ladder of my peer group peaked many years ago in Jr High.  

 

Thoughts From Japan: U.S. Navy Base

Today we went to the United States Navy base in Yokosuka and it got me thinking about WWII and the atomic bombings in Japan that helped to end the war.

Thoughts From Japan: Tokyo

Today we went to Tokyo.  An incredible city that felt like the future.

With this short film, instead of doing a voiceover I did a cut to one of Jóhann Jóhannsson's songs from Sicario.  

Enjoy!