Jens and Photography
Post from December 22, 2014 (↻ June 8, 2021), filed under Art and Design.
I love what technology has allowed all of us to do, from writing and publishing for the masses to designing and coding for the masses to photography and arts for the masses. But as a professional in an industry that is easy for people to enter, web design and development, I’ve also had firsthand experience with the flip side of these possibilities—that is, that they dilute craft, quality, and compensation. Anything we can do easily, we think we can do well.
Thus, I grew very respectful of the various professions, and cautious when picking up new skills (fully, that is, not experimentally). While I’m only moderately shy of confidence in my main career—you want me when it comes to high quality, large scale, tailored web development—I’m still deeming myself an average writer (and I’m familiar enough with English to take full responsibility), I’m probably only an okay investor, I’ve still got much to learn as a philosopher, and I’m even more mindful of who I’d like to introduce myself as here, as an artist or, more specifically, a photographer.
I’ve perhaps approached photography like everyone else does. Casually take photos. And do that for as long as there are camera phones, for regular cameras I always found somewhat a hassle to carry around, coming with a constant risk of loss or theft.
It wasn’t until the beginning of my still ongoing travels and the idea to document them that I got more interested in professional photography. Several things contributed to that.
1. Extra Motivation
Traveling the world for possibly several years, seeing many continents, countries, cities, monuments, and people, makes for many motivations and temptations to document everything in sight. And these motivations and temptations had an early effect on me. I wonder who could not photograph all the things!
Over time, the number of these temptations has become exorbitant. Per my Google+ Auto Backup I’ve taken more than 60,000 pictures by now. Pairing this with frequent reviews has made for formidable practice.
I’m generally curious, and then also a fast and committed reader. I’ve picked up articles and books here and there that touch on photography. Like Mastering the Art of Photography Composition, The Art of Boudoir Photography, or Posing Techniques for Photographing Model Portfolios (yes). That has helped.
For security and comfort reasons on my travels I had decided to only work with a smartphone (a Nexus 4). No SLR, no tripod, no nothing. While that may look like a serious handicap, rather frowned upon by professionals, it has pushed me to focus. Being restrained made me try to use the little that I had, better. And so I’ve worked much on finding good natural lighting conditions, improving on photo composition, and being more selective.
I should ask Julia to jog my memory but, not long after One Thousand Thank Yous, we started the photo project A Dog A Day. Julia had her own supply of dogs, primarily in San Francisco, and I found a never-ending one on my journey. That supply was useful to feed A Dog A Day, and ultimately formed a need to keep going with photography.
What I just described got me into photography, and is driving me closer to professional photography.
At the moment, I have a regular photography outlet through all the photos of my travels. It gets a little more demanding with the both travel- but also art-related animations for Animated Traffic. As mentioned, the craft itself, sometimes soaked in filters, I try to cultivate, improve, and share on EyeEm. A Dog A Day serves a similar purpose.
Occasionally I even sell a picture through EyeEm’s cooperation with Getty—my first photo got bought in October, another followed in November. It’s slow but the first sale was motivating.
First and foremost, I have much to learn. Although I think I improved, my photos tend to suffer from poor lighting, the composition is often static, and the technical deficiencies do show.
As I said with respect to limitations, I try to make the best out of the undesirable situation of just using a smartphone camera. That makes the following even harder: My basic philosophy of photography, or my aim for my own photography, is to be able to take good photos, not merely—though important—to edit bad photos to look better.
Somewhat consequentially, I’m not a big fan of filters, those you get with Instagram, EyeEm, or the Nik Collection. I use them sparingly but they appear to be useful to adjust lighting (or simply play). And yet I may still use them too often on EyeEm—tragically because EyeEm
has still a rather limited choice of editing options.
My plan is to practice more, much so. Take many more thousands of pictures. I want to read up more about photography (as well as related arts). I plan to study more expert photographers (you’ve seen how meager it is there when it comes to what I follow). I want to buy a “real” camera, though compact it shall be—a Nikon 1 and the Sony RX100 are on the table. I consider taking extra classes. I also plan to publish my photos regularly—and with that encourage criticism—, also on this site. Then I like the idea of selling more of my pieces. I have plans to include curated photos in one or two travel-related books. And one day, perhaps, I want to shoot for more.
But, photography will for some time play only second fiddle, for I have other obligations and ambitions. And I want to stay humble about my own photography until I have actually shot quality photos, consistently, on a high level. I realize there’s a long way ahead. But this is how it all starts.
Now: Please still be invited to follow my ventures into photography here, on EyeEm, at A Dog A Day, at Animated Traffic, and on Google+ or Facebook. And please share ideas! I’m particularly looking for excellent photography books and blogs if you have recommendations.
* I had not just quit WhatsApp when Facebook acquired them, but, prior, also Instagram. Yet the problem has less been lack of trust in Facebook than lack of trust in the U.S. administration. I’m wary of any U.S. company for that reason.
I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead—currently manager for Developer Experience at LivePerson—and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!
This is great Jens! I think its fantastic you’ve given such attention to photography in your travels.
One of the pits I fell into when starting out in photography was to take photos simply for the ‘art’ of it. Or to simply document an event/travels/etc. What eluded me in the beginning, was a lack of ‘vision’. I was more focused on making ‘cool art’ instead of telling a story. When I stopped wanting to make ‘cool art’, and changed my perspective to wanting to share a story or how something makes me feel, I started improving greatly and started fulfilling my personal passions that got me into photography to begin with.
So my advice, for whatever its worth, the best camera is the one you have with you, seek quality, but never get tangled up in the never ending desire to have more and more gear, keep it simple, always use your art (writings, etc.) to dictate your photography or vise verse, and never take a photo because you think you need to - take it always because you have to tell your story and need to share your vision with others.
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