Friday, January 19, 2018

Educated Guess

"Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune." - Jim Rohn

I knew from a very early age that formal education wasn't for me. I remember the first time I received an assignment to do a book report. I thought it was ridiculous that I would have to read a book only to regurgitate the information in a condensed format. The other issue I had was the books we were assigned to read. As much as I hate tooting my own horn, I always had an above average reading level so these books bored me to death. Needless to say, I completed very few book reports as they didn't stimulate my mind. I mean seriously, did teachers really want to read all these little kids' crappy book reports? I absolutely understand the value in being a teacher, as I've had a few opportunities in my life to share knowledge in a formal environment. However, I think the key to successful teaching is catering to your students which the current model of our education system does not do well at all.

What I remember from school, we were supposed to memorize information in order to be able to take and hopefully pass a test, only to never use that information again. This doesn't teach you to think for yourself, this teaches you to waste your mental capacity on irrelevant data. The issue here is that critical thinking is a requirement if you ever hope to be successful in anything.

The only subject in which I felt like I was taught real skills was mathematics. Not because I would ever need to use algebra as an adult, but because it taught me to think about a problem in order to find a solution.

Now I always felt history was captivating and believe it's important because unless we study history, we're doomed to repeat it. I found that there was a heavy focus on dates of events instead of the events and people who partook in those events. Back to memorization...

Science... oh beloved science. Now here is a subject that I appreciate more as an adult than I ever did in school. The beauty of science is that it is responsible for all of the technological advancements we take for granted today. Science is everything and if it had been positioned that way in elementary, I would've paid a lot more attention. But I digress.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the current model of the school system teaches people to follow directions more than it does to think and I believe that to be a critical flaw. The other problem I see is that many people believe that they stop learning when they finish school and I feel that's when learning truly begins.

In my life, I've learned the most from the jobs that I've had over the years. My first job was in a flea market at the age of 12. During that first job, I learned about the psychology of sales and providing value. I also learned how to use humor in a public environment. Not to mention learning the basic economics of a retail business and how many people underestimate their total overheard costs.

I believe I learned the most about language from working at an attorney's office. I'm not sure the majority of people realize how much of the legal system is just vocabulary. I learned the subtlety of design working for a florist and the appreciation of hard work while doing grounds keeping and maintenance for a hotel. I even learned the value of efficiency working in fast food. There's a lesson to be learned in everything you do, no matter how mundane a task may seem.

Not only have I learned from working, but my dad taught me how to change the oil and brake pads on my first car. This gave me the confidence to learn more about mechanics. When my car broke down, I didn't have the means to take it to a shop so I had to troubleshoot it myself which built an entirely new skill set. I was later able to apply that skill set to computers where I ended up making a very reasonable living for a large portion of my life working for a technology company. And to think, it all started with old dirty oil.

The ability to think for yourself allows you to make your own judgements, form your own opinions, and develop your own truths. This is so unbelievably important with the overload of data in the Information Age. So many people these days just believe what they read on the internet or are told by the news when all sources of information have some level of bias. Even what you're reading this very second is biased based on my experiences with the public school system in America. Does this all ring true for every one of the 7+ billion people on this planet? Absolutely not.





Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Passion

I recently learned that the word "passion" comes from the latin word "pati" which means to suffer or to endure.

I think we all have passions, something we're willing to suffer for. The thing that's most interesting to me about passion, is that it rarely feels like suffering as you're enduring it. You make sacrifices that are worth the outcome. There's an overwhelming belief that you're doing something right or for a greater purpose.

Passion can be unpredictable and even illogical but it's rarely a bad thing. Individuals who harness that passion and live with it often see all the possibilities of life in a beautiful light. Passion can lead to accomplishments far greater than one could dream of. Passion allows people to connect on arguably the deepest of levels.

I know I've suffered for my love of photography. Years ago I used to stay up literally all night to photograph raves. I carried a heavy bag full of equipment 10 hours a day for days on end in the hot Florida sun for the Firestone (formerly Honda) Grand Prix. I've gone out in freezing cold weather in order to shoot landscapes and nature. I've committed to shoots when I'd rather be spending time with friends and family. I find that, for me at least, it's always worth it. I never regret or really even think about these "struggles" as they're occurring.

I believe that my dedication to my passion has made me a better person. I'm more patient, diligent, friendly and driven because of it. Photography is my passion, what's yours?


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Why Wonder?

For someone who typically claims that I'm not a "morning person," I sure do appreciate the sunrise. I always have a hard time getting out of bed and I'm always grumpy in the morning but I find that once I get started, I feel on top of the world. Now I normally only get up early if I'm planning on photographing the sunrise or if I have somewhere to be. But I never regret it, even if I'm lacking in sleep or just physically/mentally/emotionally exhausted from the day prior. It is always worth it. Always.

I seem to have this inner-monologue that starts out with "Who gets up this early? Why? What are you thinking? Go back to sleep, Matt." Which is typically followed by "No, you need to get out of bed, the World (whoever or whatever) is waiting for you." Often this ends with me setting a new alarm, rolling over in bed and then falling into a deep slumber only to wake up later saying to myself "Damn it!"

I always remember one specific morning where I DID NOT want to get out of bed. I had made plans to go shoot sunrise at one of my favorite spots at the time and the standard monologue ensued. This internal conversation lasted for at least 10 minutes. At which point, I was basically awake already so fortunately the motivated side of me won out. It was still dark out when I arrived at the beach and I haphazardly got my gear out of the car, proceeded towards the water and set up my tripod. When the sun came up, I was completely flabbergasted at how unbelievable nature can be. To this day, I don't believe I've seen a more beautiful sunrise, and I've seen dozens and dozens since. Standing there, just staring at the incredible wonder that Mother Earth has created, I thought to myself "Aren't you glad you didn't miss this?" Not that I would've known what I would've missed...


Now this photo is an HDR which stands for High Dynamic Range. In order to create this image, I took 5 photos with varied exposures and merged them into one final photo. Other than that, it is not edited at all, I did not enhance the colors, contrast, brightness, et cetera. I will admit that most of my photos get touched up in some form or fashion but why fix it if it isn't broken?

This was over four years ago now and it's still a reminder of what could be. It reminds me that if I don't show up, I might miss a moment of absolute magic. I still struggle some mornings, today included. Turns out I got to see a pretty phenomenal sunrise this morning too, so as usual, it was worth it. Who knows what you could be missing? I know I don't want to have to wonder.

Monday, December 18, 2017

How it All Started

Since the first time picking up a Kodak disposable camera as a kid probably no older than 10, it's always felt natural in my hands. Now I didn't realize at the time how much of an impact photography would really have in my life but did I ever love to waste film.

Fast forward to high school when my friends and I were all beginning to drive, this was the next chapter in my photographic journey. I was always passionate about cars as a kid and all I would read was automotive publications from Hot Rod to Lowrider to DuPont Registry. Cars symbolize so much: freedom, beauty, power and elegance just to name a few. I felt the urge to capture that essence of my Mustang and my other friends' cars. I was able to convince my dad to buy me a little 3 megapixel digital camera and proceeded to learn the craft of photography.

Somehow, only a couple years after this, I lost touch with the camera. It wasn't until many years later when I rediscovered my passion for photos. I believe it was 2010 and by this point, smart phones were coming a long way since their origins and the cameras in them were beginning to hold weight against other digitals. Similar to my passion for cars, I paired photography with another passion of mine: sneakers. I had been collecting sneakers (that's another story in itself) for roughly 3 years and had acquired many more pairs than any one person needs. Wanting to share my passion with the world, I decided that I would participate in what I liked to call Sneaktember. For the month of September, I would wear and different pair of shoes every day, photograph them and share them on Instagram and Twitter.

Now this is something I recommend to all budding photographers, pick a subject and take pictures of it every day for thirty days. This is going to teach you an unbelievable amount about lighting, composition, perspective, et cetera. You have to try a plethora of different things in order to keep your subject interesting, it will be frustrating but it will be worth it.

Now I got a lot of positive feedback, not only about my ridiculous sneaker collection, but also about the ways that I was capturing and sharing them. Now when October rolled around, I couldn't stop taking pictures. Doing this for 30 days formed a serious habit. Wanting to step outside of what I had been doing, I started focusing more on nature. I even found myself taking my phone to parks and preserves on my days off to take pictures. A couple of months of this and I decided that it was time to step my game up and I purchased a smart phone lens kit in order to try to get new perspectives. A couple months more of that and I realized that with the time I was investing, I should probably invest some money into another camera.

I ended up purchasing a second-hand Canon T1i from a friend in installments because $400 (I think) was a lot of money to spend on anything at that time. After getting that first camera, I started to take pictures of everything I could. If it challenged me, I wouldn't stop until I could capture it with ease and that's still my approach to photography. I want new subjects in new environments because the challenge of the unknown forces me into a creative mindset.

A few years, 4 cameras and hundreds of thousands of images later and I realized that I want photography to be a more integral part of my life. I believe the mastery of the craft is my true calling and I'm determined to create a sustainable lifestyle that allows me to photograph new places, people and things every day possible.

I appreciate the still image because I believe the simplicity makes it something that almost everyone can enjoy. You can take a few seconds to soak it in and see from someone else's perspective. I also believe that because nearly everyone has a camera in their pocket, a lot of us are beginning to take photography for granted. It's been an integral part of our society since it's origins in the 19th century and even as video becomes more and more accessible, I don't think still photography is going anywhere anytime soon. I love my craft and I am beyond honored that I'm able to share it with people all around the globe thanks to the internet and our advancement of technology. Who knows, maybe photography has saved my life. Happy shooting.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

And so it begins..

When you initially strap into the seat of a rollercoaster, you may be excited or anxious. However, your heart rate doesn't begin to truly accelerate until you're climbing up to that initial drop. And by that point, it's too late. There's no stopping the ride now, you're in it to win it through all the twists, turns, loops, drops and climbs. And when will it end? Who knows? You can't see the end of the ride until you're pulling back into the station.

This analogy came to me last night after waking at 4am in a cold sweat. The reality of my decision is setting in, although a rollercoaster may make you excited, scared and shock your system with adrenaline, rarely do people die or even get injured.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, I've decided after 10 years of loyalty to an amazing company that I was going to leave the security of my day job to pursue my passion for photography. Truthfully I know my calling is to create. I've been creative from the jump but always had a hard time calling myself an artist. It's time to put up or shut up.

I will continue to share the process of my evolution into a full time creative professional here, and also in as many other social platforms as I can. I'd love to hear your feedback on anything that I can do to make this more entertaining or interesting. Stay tuned...