What a year it was.
A lot of shooting. A fair bit of traveling. A good number of blogs. And even more growth.
That defines my 2018, in photography and creative terms. I look back on all of the photos I did this past year, and wow, there’s a lot to account for. I’m going to be picking my favorite photos, my best photos, and then perhaps some that haven’t ever seen the light that I absolutely love and sharing them all with you! This will be a long one for sure, so buckle up and get ready for a bit of a ride down memory lane.
In no particular order, here they are.
We begin in May, on the 31st. I hadn’t done a lot of shooting from January to April because I was working on a documentary for my school and didn’t have time to shoot. Even after I finished, I never found a rhythm. I applied to internships, got turned down by everything, and wasn’t sure if I would get anything. My saving grace was the study abroad department at Canisius College – long story short, someone at Canisius knew someone at Loyola Marymount University and I got an interview and then the internship at LMU! I arrived in Los Angeles on the 19th of May and started work on the 21st, which so happened to be my birthday. It was tough being 21 on the 21st in a state and university where I knew zero people, so I went out and bought a six-pack of Sam Adams Summer Lager and had a beer with my roommate, who I had literally met on my birthday. I suppose it could be worse!
My first portrait shoot in Los Angeles was an absolute blast. Chris graduated from Canisius a few years earlier and moved out to LA in pursuit of acting. I heard about him from a mutual friend who suggested I shoot with him, and boy, that was a good decision. I hadn’t done much shooting at all and I didn’t realize how much I missed it! My first LA shoot was a smashing success and I couldn’t have done it with better people. Both helped me get into the routine of shooting and made it very comfortable for me. Chris played music to lighten the mood and I caught onto that – I always suggest it to whoever I shoot with now!
Looking back at everything I accomplished, this shoot pictured above was one of my favorites I’ve ever done. The lighting, the place we were, the whole mood of the shoot. It was all just so wonderful. Taylor is also one of the few people from Los Angeles that I still regularly talk to! We comment back and forth on each other’s posts on Instagram and pick the other’s brain about certain shots and photography nonsense. It’s a fun dynamic and something that I treasure. We’ve talked and talked about all the shoots we want to do once I’m (hopefully) back out there. She’s gotten into roof-topping recently (something that I love to do) and I’ve also gotten a lot better at night shooting. Hopefully we’ll make some really sweet photos.
But see, getting to know the person, mainly just the basic facts about him or her, makes all the difference. This is how I learned to approach all of my shoots. Chris and Ella perhaps showed me that best. They were both very personable people and we chatted a lot more than we shot, got to know each other and went out to dinner together afterwards. I learned that photography isn’t just about getting great shots of a person – it’s about building personal relationships with him or her. Photography is something that each person loves to do, just on opposite sides of the camera.
My internship in Los Angeles opened my eyes to the endless wonders of photography in general. I had been in Los Angeles for over a five weeks before I decided to reach out to someone to shoot. I poured over social media, looking for people I wanted to shoot with and sent messages to many! Some I never heard back from and some met up with me. One in particular was Abby. She was the second portrait shoot I did and this is what elevated me a bit and got me more shoots with even more people afterwards. The mood was extremely light, similar to the vibe I’d had with Chris and Ella. We shot in Venice and Santa Monica, two of my favorite places to shoot, perhaps ever. The first shoot led to collaborations with Frock Fashions and Jord Watches. Needless to say, this connection sprung forth more people who wanted to shoot with me, and that’s just what we did.
After the first shoot with Abby, I got messages from her friends or people who knew her, and I got more and more shoots. It was a fun balance because I would work at my internship in the morning and then have the rest of the day to shoot or do whatever. Most of my shoots were planned at golden hour (the hour before the sun sets) and it became my favorite time of day to shoot. I captured so many golden shots, which inadvertently led to a style that I adopted as my own. Nearly all of my shoots were from 5 pm – 8 pm and led to this wonderful, beautiful golden hue on all my photos. I stuck to that style for the whole summer and into September. But, I still needed to grow and improve, so the style changed as the months got colder.
August took me away from Los Angeles and back to Boston, but not before I could develop a relationship with Drew. She attends LMU and worked in the same department as me and we quickly became friends and then started dating. I balanced shooting with people and doing things with her. We drove around all over the place, from Playa del Rey all the way up the coast to Malibu. Some of my favorite memories from the year are times spent with her, but as I look back through my archives of photos, I don’t have many pictures of her or of places we went. This surprised me at first, and I scoured over more folders, but came up relatively empty. I think it’s mainly because when I was with her, I was far more interested in spending time with her than hiding behind a camera.
I did get one of my favorite shots from Malibu while I was with her. It’s pictured above, the silhouette of the palm trees in front of the sunset. That was the last picture I took in Malibu and it turned out to be one of my favorite shots. We were coming back from a viewpoint high above the beach and I remember hesitating taking out my camera to snap the photo, but I couldn’t resist. I only took 5 photos this day. We spent the better part of the day in Malibu at the beach, and I brought all of my equipment for five photos. I get too caught up in the moment with her, but that’s a good thing. We definitely take way more selfies together, usually sitting on the 405 or Pacific Coast Highway because of traffic, but most moments aren’t captured. But still, when I see this photo of the silhouetted trees in front of the sun, I remember parts of that last day we spent together in Malibu.
Despite being away from the sunshine and beaches California holds, the month of August brought me to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and wow, it’s a sight to see. Unfortunately, fires ravaged through Glacier National Park, so my family and I had to skip out there, but the sights, sounds, and nasty smells of Yellowstone are incredible. The hot springs, the grand prismatic spring, and of course, the geysers, are wondrous freaks of nature. The grand prismatic spring might’ve been my favorite sight to see. As you walk on the wooden walkway, hot steam hits your face, combating the cold morning temperatures and warming you for a few seconds. It’s very odd seeing green forest, then barren land and a colorful spot sitting in the middle of it all. How does this even occur? It’s all natural, and I’m reminded that Yellowstone is on top of a super volcano. Oopsies.
I unfortunately suffered a wallop on the head while I was at Yellowstone and saw their medical facilities. They were pretty darn cool! I headed back to Buffalo for my last year of college, in probably the worst condition I could’ve been in. No matter here, University at Buffalo Medical is fantastic! I healed up as the months went on and did some shooting where I could. September and October were understandably less focused on shooting and more focused on college and healing, but I found the opportunities to shoot with friends where I could. One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2018 is to keep shooting. I allow myself short breaks because I know I get burned out if I shoot too much but I want to keep my creativity flowing. I’ve gotten better as a photographer as the months go on. Some images, to me, will be timeless and will always have a special spot in my heart as a favorite photo. I can only say that about a few photos. But those photos mean more than anyone else could know.
I followed up the quieter months of September and October with a roaring month in November. As my archives show, I shot 18 times over 14 days in November – those numbers aren’t bad at all! There was a little break in there due to Thanksgiving, so that stifled the amount of times I could shoot, but nonetheless, I was a busy dude. November was a month to remember, particularly because 17 of the 18 shoots were in low light at night. I wanted to get better at night photography, so I set all of my shoot start times to be no earlier than 5 pm. I can absolutely see a difference from the start of the month to the end of the month. I watched tutorials on how to shoot and edit low light photos, and the more I shot, the better I got. And just like that, I feel comfortable shooting at night.
I started doing long exposure portraits, something that I found immensely rewarding. It requires the shutter to be open for about a second, which means the person in frame must stand still for one second. That sounds a lot easier than it is; standing completely still for one second is actually very hard! I was able to shoot ten different people for a project in my photography class, but I had gotten the inspiration to do a long exposure portrait after doing one earlier in the semester and then seeing another model on Instagram, Joelle Friend, do a long exposure with a train. I had to try it. One of the above pictures is with a bus – it’s absolutely one of my favorite photos ever and one of the best I have taken in my short career.
November gave way to December and I finally got back outside to shoot. Buffalo was blessed with a bit of snow, and my aesthetic changed once again. Gone was the dark undertones of night photos and in came the icy, white and blue photos to represent wintertime. I think winter is one of my favorite times to shoot, especially on cloudy days. The lighting creates this beautiful soft-box that makes the tones even throughout the photo. Just superb. And you can always count on Buffalo to come through with some snow, even if it’s a few inches.
Okay, so that above photo wasn’t actually taken in Dubai – I accidentally confused my family when I used a caption on Facebook “17 hours and 40+ minutes later”, detailing the location as Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I did not go to Dubai (but I would love to someday). Buffalo has some sand dunes and Taylor and I thought it would be funny to pretend we were out in the desert, just outside of the city Dubai. Whoops. Sorry for the confusion, family. Finals ended and my last semester awaits my return to Buffalo. I flew back to Boston for Christmas break, shooting a couple times down in the city, a much different vibe than shooting in nature. I think I like it though – it’s different than what I usually do and again adds to that growing folder of diversity.
Well, this was a lot more than the top 10 photos I had promised in the previous blog. I knew as soon as I began to write it that this would be the longest blog I would write, and I’m not surprised. I took a lot of pictures in 2018. I’ve summed up a rough estimate, and, not including sports, it comes out to about are-you-kidding-me-of-course-I-didn’t-count-that-would-be-absurd. But I would honestly love to know how many I took! I’m very thankful that I live in the United States and get to call this my home. Every day is independence day , and I’ve been surrounded by the fifty stars and thirteen bars of all-American greatness either on my front porch at home or in my rooms in LA and Buffalo. Hopefully 2019 features more snow photos, a return to California, and many more thousands of photos snapped. Here’s to a whole new year of favorite photos and memories.
And God is good.
Let’s get shooting.
Next blog: I haven’t thought that far yet, but to be honest, we’ll probably stick in 2018 a bit longer. A resolution for 2019 is to keep my blogs up to date so I don’t have to play catch up.