I’ve been a photographer most of my life and teaching is a role I’ve continually found myself in since becoming a mountaineering instructor at 19. After many workshops where I quoted notable photographers as having said this or that, a flash hit me—why not interview them and let others hear from them directly?
So in 2008, the early days of YouTube, I decided to create a video show and somehow managed for our first shoot to follow Annie Leibovitz (fellow Alumna from SF Art Institute) through her opening exhibit in San Francisco. We made another pilot and pitched the show to a big brand who said yes! But just as we were gearing up to begin shooting, in the summer of 2008, the economy went to hell in a hand basket, and they pulled back, dashing all plans on the rocks. Darkness set in.
I had already planned a trip to South Africa for an episode on shooting wild animals (I did make this video later and you’ll see these tips in the book) It was on a very early morning safari shoot, in a Land Rover tracking large game and very rare wild dogs and their pups, that the thought hit me “ you know — (rhymes with bucket) I’ll do the show on my own and find another sponsor!” And with that flash that’s exactly what I set out to do when I returned home.
I shot another pilot with Chase Jarvis at his studio in Seattle, and took the footage back with a roll to find help getting it edited. Oh–did I mention that prior to these first few shoots I had exactly zero experience with motion, editing, audio and all the those new and strange components for a still photographer to absorb to produce a video? Fortunately I had a great producer/ editor in Rocky Barbanica (who was producing for Robert Scoble at FastCompany at the time.) Rocky was a good but tough teacher who threw me in over my head and expected me to swim, which I somehow did. Then I got a copy of FinalCut 7 and made regular visits to the Apple Store for coaching.
We put together a fantastic episode with Chase and I pitched it to SanDisk. But after weeks and no word back I hit the doldrums again. Chase would encourage me saying, “If it were easy, and there were no barriers, everybody would do it.” That helped a wee bit – at least I had hit the barriers part of the equation.
Then one day, I received an invitation from SanDisk to join them for lunch at the Four Seasons. I doubted they wanted to foot the bill just to say “we’re not going to hire you.” As it turned out, it was a production meeting; they never actually said “yes” we just went right into pre-production. So after this exquisite lunch (on many levels) I floated back to the studio and went to work on my show Advancing Your Photography, never looking back. It was a great run with SanDisk, indeed.
My adventures with the show were wide and many but what a great opportunity to sit with so many stars in the photography galaxy: Chris Burkard, Joe McNally, Joey L. Bambi Cantrell, and scores more. I had the full impact from having already spoken to them, before the shoot, to meeting most of them at their studios, then shooting and finally editing and seeing and hearing their tips and advice dozens of times by then. It really sunk in.
I knew at some point this material had to make it into a book that condensed and distilled the wisdom I had gained. All the while I was learning and advancing too and working out what I called the “Cycle of Photography”—the natural steps that a photograph goes through to its final end point of being shared with the world and in many forms.
So a few years ago I began this project to write a fully illustrated handbook, the size that a user can carry around in their camera bag or have handy for processing by their computer. I wanted its information to be easily assessable, for fast use. But at the same time I wanted to cover all basics of the composition, camera use, processing and finally the many ways to share work and get it out into the world.