2018: The Year in Review
2018 has been a long year, what feels like eons. I've spent a lot of this year here, in Seattle, working on various projects for clients across the country. A few projects that I had the pleasure of working on provided a lot of lessons to take into 2019. Here are some of my favorite ones.
Starting in the beginning of the year, I collaborated with the German brand LAUT to review two of their phone cases for the iPhone X. It was a fun experience to reach out to them to create a video that was cinematic, and fun to put together, while also pushing myself technically in terms of additional elements to make the project more dynamic. I would love to continue to create more projects like that and improve by challenging myself.
One of the best parts of my career is getting to work with people I respect, both for them as a person and for the work they do. I had the enormous honor of getting to photograph Karlie Hustle, host of the Brutally Honest Podcast, one of GQ Magazine's Best Podcasts of 2018, as recommended by Desus Nice. Going down to Tacoma, WA, in what felt like the shadow of Mt. Rainier in comparison to Seattle, I spent the majority of the night taking behind the scenes photos at a lovely space called the Alma Mater during rehearsals for the first episode of The Night Show, a PNW talk show doing big things in the space. Among other features, including probably one of the nicest green rooms I've ever been in with a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier coated in citrus orange and lavender hues, was the main venue room, a stage with an intimate space for conversations and drinks. With a run-and-gun setup, I did a lot of going back and forth trying to capture the story behind the scenes as preparations were being made. One of the best experiences so far was just to hang out and be a fly on the wall while I took photos, documenting what was happening versus being a participant.
Going back to Los Angeles for a commercial shoot was another fantastic, if not humid and sun-soaked experience in the City of Angels. I had a full day to shoot whatever I wanted, which meant strategically taking photos from LAX, winding my way around iconic areas such as Marina del Rey to Venice Beach, through Beverly Hills to Koreatown, and into Downtown Los Angeles. Drenched in the late summer humidity soaking in the sweeping vistas, this trip wasn't focused on Hollywood or its denizens, at least not on those who spend time around the sound stages of Studio City. It was a focused event on creating a catalog of photos for my client Commonwealth Floral Co., a West Hollywood based, LGBTQ event florist, that creates larger than life and astonishing pieces for her clients. Sarah Nix, the owner, gave me complete creative freedom to do what I saw fit to create the best photos possible. Using old tools in new ways, in the middle of Central City, I tried to recreate the feeling of a wedding, the vulnerability and joy of the moment, and as real emotions emerged from the models, took candid photos of the models we had for the day. Upon thanking the team for the opportunity and heading back to LAX to come back to Seattle, I began to edit work on the flight back and appreciate what my work allows me to do, travel across the country and connect with really amazing people doing fantastic work.
As of the time of writing, I shoot with a Nikon D7100 as my main camera, and as such, I was curious after following the rumors of what Nikon's new mirrorless cameras, the Z 7 and Z 6, would bring to the table and fairly, how would they compete against the current leader of the mirrorless market? At an event held at Glazer's Camera in South Lake Union, Seattle, Nikon had a rep on hand with a few pre-production units to try out the Z 7. Compared to my D7100, a camera released in early 2013, this 2018 camera felt both familiar, with a deep grip for my hands and layout, and yet like a quantum leap in evolution, both in handling, and in performance. With a full-frame BSI (Back-illuminated) sensor that's 3 generations ahead of the one inside my D7100, USB-C port and updated video features, even the 24-70mm f/4 S lens felt like a whole new world of workflow was opening up in my hands. Low-light shots that were harder to get with my current kit felt almost effortless with this setup and comparability with the lenses I already owned made it sound like an appealing upgrade path for someone in my position. It was a good experience to have hands-on time with something that was a just a rumor before now tangible product.
Of course, there are more players than just Nikon in the mirrorless category, and Sony has been pioneering that for years with the Sony Alpha lineup of cameras, so when they announced that they were hosting one of their touring Be Alpha events, I was inclined to check out what they had to offer. Arriving at the Fremont Foundry, Sony Ambassadors and reps, as well as what felt like the entire Seattle photography community came out for roughly 3 hours under our typically cloudy skies to try out various cameras and lenses in the Sony Alpha family, as well as meet others in our field. Since I do more photography work than video, and I wanted to see how huge files could get pulled off of the sensor in RAW format, I rented out the Sony α7r III and the 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. At first, there was a sense of unfamiliarity that made the experience awkward when coming from another system - the technical details of changing the important settings during shooting that should feel like second nature. Getting assistance and learning what I needed, I shot with this setup for the first hour, shooting indoors and getting impressively sharp photos from this combination. The tech inside the camera does not make a good photographer, but it does aid the process of capturing a photo. For the second hour, I used a combination I was familiar with on the Nikon side, swapping the 24-70mm for the 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. Another powerful combination that allowed me to isolate my subjects outdoors as it began to drizzle. The final hour of the event took place at dusk, so for one final lens swap, I switched out the 70-200 for the 55mm from Zeiss. What it lacked in the flexibility of a zoom lens, it more than made up for in aperture as the sun sank. Fast, sharp, and light, it was one of my favorite combinations I've shot with all year.
Looking at all these things in hindsight, this highlight reel of things involving photography, the biggest takeaways are:
You don't know until you try. The LAUT collaboration was a result of me reaching out to them because I knew I had a service I could offer.
Done is Better Than Perfect. I spent part of the time shooting Karlie with the "wrong" lens for that situation. It's not made for low light photography, but I picked it because of the zoom feature. The photo I took of her outside of the green room is one of my favorite portraits I've taken all year.
The tools only enable the vision, they don't replace it. Playing around the the latest cameras decreased the friction between what I wanted my shots to look like vs how they actual came out, but it doesn't replace the technical process of creating the shot, including the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
2018 was a year of lessons. I'm looking forward to build upon them in 2019. What are your plans for next year?