Five pieces of gear for every camera bag

If you listen to this podcast for very long, you know that it isn’t really about camera gear, but this week I did want to focus on the five most essential pieces of gear you should always have in your camera bag.

Luckily, you can get all of these pieces of gear for little to no money, and many of you might even have them already around the house. The purpose of this equipment is not to add to your physical gear, but rather to shift your mental approach to your photography. Each one of these pieces of gear is about changing your approach to your work so that you can focus on the most favorable results, embrace any opportunity, and find motivation when things fall apart.

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Updated: The act of giving and working without failure

In this week’s podcast, we take a look at two important questions that can have a significant impact on your approach to your photography.

The first question deals with our approach to failure. What would you do in your photography if there was no such thing as failure? Do you think if you took a risk, would you see the world in a new way?

The second question focuses on our notion of taking and giving in photography. If you could give one photo to someone, what would it be?

As you will hear in the podcast, most of this week’s work falls on you to think about and answer these questions. How would a failure-free, giving photographic experience look?

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Are you validating the wrong things?

I was recently having a gear conversation with a friend who was asking me to validate a decision they make on a new camera purchase. They wanted me to tell them that with that new camera they were going to be able to take the photographs they always wanted. I just couldn’t do that. Anyone who has listened to this podcast for a while knows that it isn’t the gear that makes the photo.
So this week’s podcast is all about the validation of our decision-making process and how it can impact our work. I encourage you to think about when and why you ask for validation of your work and creativity. Is it because you have already made a decision and you want someone to agree with you? At times, we all need to have our work validated and supported, but that is different from the need to have a decision you already made, and believe to be true, agreed with. That isn’t validation; it is something else. This week we focus on how focusing on validation for agreement sake isn’t always the best use of our time in our photography.

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Your mental approach is everything

I am always bothered when I hear people say that you are too optimistic, or you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. My response to them is always the same. Your damn right, I am. The outlook you have on life, and your creativity is the most significant decision you can make.

Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t worry, fret, or get stressed at times, but when that happens, I work to get back to a place where I can focus all that is good and great. I often hear photographers worry about new gear, software, techniques, or locations they would like to go. When they don’t have what they want, it is a problem for them. In this week’s podcast, we take al look at how that approach can be a huge block that leads to apathy in your work. As we dive into the topic, we talk about how a shift to positivity and excitement can do more for your creative life than any issue you imagine that you need to overcome to finally get the click you wanted.

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Do you ever feel like you are on a hot streak?

I have several friends who like to gamble. Poker and blackjack for the most part. When they are playing, they always talk about being on a hot streak or a cold streak. When it is good, things are hot, and the universe seems to give them the cards they need. When it is bad, well, it is bad.
I think many of us approach our photography in the same way. We remove the focus, effort, energy, and vision to an external source calling it a hot streak or luck. Luck is something that we see as a way of explaining a variety of events that are good or bad, where we seem to have no choice in the outcome. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the idea of a hot streak and what it means to do meaningful work. Work that is personal and driven by our vision rather than by some hand of the universe, giving us the power to see.

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Do all photographs have to tell a story?

I have a quote from Gary Winogrand that says all photographs make a new fact. As I looked back on that quote, it got me thinking about how much narratives and storytelling come into photography. Anyone who has been introduced into photography in the last few years have been hit with the importance of storytelling and narratives in photographs.
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the importance of narratives in photography and discuss how direct storytelling in a photograph might not be practical or even possible. As we consider the various options for storytelling, I encourage you to go back into your work and see where you might benefit from taking a different approach to your storytelling. See if you end up with a better overall photograph when you shift your approach. You might find that even if it is just a pretty composition with the write supporting context, something more important emerges.

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Traffic roundabouts and intentions in photography

I love being able to drive on a roundabout. If they are well designed, they make the traffic flow so much better, but if you haven’t ever driven on one, knowing what lane to be in can be problematic and stressful. As I was recently driving through a local roundabout, it reminded me of a question I am often asked. That question is, where do I point the camera to make a good photograph?

Part of pointing the camera is knowing what you like to see and understand in the world, and part of it is knowing what subjects/subject matter have stories to tell. Photography is about both. If you are only showing your version as a photographer, you are missing the point. The best images tell a story, and I make the argument in this week’s podcast that it should first and foremost be the story of the subject/subject matter. As a photographer, it is our job to tell that story the best way we can. So light, tones, color, and all the photography things are applied to ensure that the scene in front of the camera gets to shine. If the photograph is all about the photographer, that experience for the subject and ultimately the photo will be drastically different.

As you listen to the podcast, I encourage you to think about whose story you are telling and why. I encourage you to try to think of your work with the camera as more collaborative rather than an I story you want to tell.

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Ambiguity is a good thing

Episode 238

I find that it is sometimes difficult to work with a strong feeling of uncertainty. It doesn’t matter if it is technical, artistic, or just a feeling I have. I like to think that I have some clarity in my work and process. However, the reality is that I frequently don’t have a clear idea when I set out to work what might happen.

In this week’s podcast, I talk about the importance of accepting uncertainty and ambiguity in our photographic process. While it might be uncomfortable to work this way, I believe that the value of learning how to roll with the changes and finding inspiration from learning along the way is more valued than always having a hard correct interpretation.

I also think there is so much we can learn from spending time with the uncertainty of what we are working on at any given time. It is in that space of wonder that our creativity can produce the best results.

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Is your photography signature worthy?

I was recently asked if I sign my photographs. I found this to be such an interesting ask because it seems so simple on the surface and yet within it holds more profound questions. Our signatures carry power. A signature can bind you to an agreement, signify acceptance, and provide a notion of who you are. From signing checks (or a screen) when purchasing something to contracts to artwork, the signature says we accept this object or agreement as outlined.

As photographers, the signature on the work indicates that the work is finished and that we accept the work is as good as we can make it at the time. It is an agreement that we put on the work. The signature says the work is good enough, says what we want, and we are happy and moving on. This, of course, doesn’t mean we can’t improve on it later, but for now, this is what we’ve done.

In the related context, the idea of something being signature-worthy and if the work I create is signature-worthy comes up for many of us. In this week’s podcast, we talk about the idea and meaning of the signature and signature worthy work.

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Trapped and the value of help

I came into the studio early today and found a flying friend cruising around. I guess they came in the night before when I had the bigger door open. After some encouragement and strategic door opening, we were able to work together to get them on their way.
As I worked to get the little one out of the studio, I realized that they had a methodology of looking for a way out and I hadn’t freaked out about things flying by my head. Together we find a way to get someone home.
I think our creative life is a lot like this morning’s experience. There are so many ways and thoughts we each have that can get us trapped and stuck. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at some of those ways and some possible alternatives to getting ourselves unstuck and back to a creative place.

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Part A inserts into part R and twist

If you have ever tried to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA or have been pulling your hair out because your friend can’t give you good directions to their house, this week’s podcast is for you.

That is a challenge that I am asking you to take on this week. I want you to create some instructions for how you take a photograph and edit a picture. Then use those instructions to teach you about your process. What have you missed, skipped, repeated, or do for no reason you can figure out. Then examine what you can shift to try and find a new way to access your creative process. One of the most significant challenges we often face is understanding why we do something. By slowing way down and focusing on the smallest task, we might find some insight into why we make our work.

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Upside down and backwards

I was recently at an art opening that had several photographs of interesting abstractions. Images of plants, buildings, and objects all taken and presented as abstract objects. In listening to people talk about the work, I heard people discussing what they saw in the images or what they thought the actual object in the photograph was. I also observed that many people would tilt their head left or right to gain a new perspective. That tilting reminded me of working with a large-format camera which flips an image upside down and backwards.
In this week’s podcast, we talk about the advantages of using the power of flipping the perspective of an image to help us better understand the nature of seeing, editing, composing and creating more well-seen images. Sometimes to gain an insight into more meaningful work, we need to see the world differently.

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