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)