How I Started Taking Self Portraits

The year 2020, which was only 3 years ago, but for many of us still seems like yesterday, and was crazy year. The world dealt with a global pandemic that sparked lock downs, security measures, travel bans, and 6.63 million deaths. It was, to say the least, a rough time for Planet Earth and it’s human inhabitant’s.

I myself being one of those inhabitants, was looking for a project to focus my anxious and nervous energy on, and for some reason decided to study self portrait photography. My reasoning was, it was something that did not require me to leave the house, and it was something that would be a big challenge for me, because at this point in time I did NOT like having my own photograph taken. So I thought perhaps that it would both help me learn new skills as a photographer and work on my self confidence as well. I was right on both counts.

The very first thing that I learned about self portraits is a truth that applies to every single person who stands in front of a cameras lens. Whatever flaw you see in yourself, no one else sees it. Read that again and think about it carefully. I am serious when I tell you, whatever imperfection you obsess over, and ask photographers to cover, erase, change, or hide, no one…else…see it!

As human beings we have a body, and they all come in different shapes, colors, sizes, and models. That is one of the simple truths of being born, but for some strange reason society is always fussing about the latest and greatest “trend” that often focuses on some sort of unattainable body standard. For example when I was in high school it was all about women being pencil thin, and today a curvy women is more desirable. Bottom line, stop listening to trends, because trends are and always will be a passing fad. Embrace who you are and stop obsessing over some perceived flaw.

Let me give you another example…In 2004 I was serving a mission in California. My fellow service partner and I had been invited over to a families home for dinner, and after we were all fed the daughter of the family asked if she could play a violin solo, and get my advice on her performance. She knew from conversation that I had played the Viola since I was in the 5th grade and wanted my “expert” opinion.

She played her piece beautifully, and made only one, simple mistake. How do I know she made a mistake? Because as soon as she made that mistake she scrunched up her face, pursed her lips and said “sorry!” and then continued on with the music. Afterwards she put her instrument down and immediately offered an apology again for missing a note. I pointed out to her that the music was beautiful, it was obvious that she had worked hard and practiced the piece for many hours in order to play such a complicated work of music, but despite all of that work and her accomplishment, she focused on the single missed note. I mentioned to her that if she had not made a face, apologized…twice…and drawn my attention to the flaw I probably would not have even noticed, and would have just enjoyed the music as the beautiful number it was due to the dedication and hard work that she had committed to it.

It was the fact that she was pointing out the flaw that I even noticed it at all! This is true for photography as well. Whatever flaw you see in the photo, is often not seen by others unless you point it out. I have to remember this myself as both a model and photographer, and it has served me very well, when I remember to heed my own advice.

Moving on, almost 3 years ago to the date, I took my very first self portrait on my Canon EOS M50. It was a simple portrait, just me wearing my blue light glasses, sitting in front of my black Yule tree. Nothing special, but it was the start of what has so far been a 3 year journey. In the last 3 years I have taken dozens of self portraits, and I am pleased with the body of work I have collected so far, but what excites me even more is the years to come and seeing my self portraits evolve and change over the years.

I was not planning on this when I started the study of self portraits but for the last 3 years I have taken the same self portrait each year, always wearing my glasses, always sitting in front of the tree. Each photo unique. Each photos representing a new year and a new opportunity for adventure.

I have no idea what 2023 will have in store for me, but I know there will be many self portraits in my future as the tradition continues…

The Last Time

Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a deep love of coffee. I have a few preferred coffee mugs, and even subscribe to what some might call a “fancy” coffee bean subscription service that sends me a new bag of beans, from a different roaster from around the world, each month. I am the kind of person who goes to bed excited to wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee.

So you can image my distress when I had an unpleasant thought about coffee the other day. Someday, I will drink my last cup of coffee. Now I know for some of you this may not seem like a big deal, but for me it was a very upsetting truth. A truth I could accept but did not like in the slightest. Someday, probably without me even realizing it I will pick up and sip coffee for the very last time.

It’s a hard truth to face sometimes when we ponder our own mortality. To consider that in the grand scheme of things our existence is brief and honestly unremarkable when compared to the vastness of the cosmos. But for me, my existence matters. My love of coffee matters, and to those who know and love me, it matters.

Now, why do I bring up such a depressing and honestly unpleasant subject? Because I want you to understand that someday you won’t be here. Someday you will be gone, and all that will be left behind will be the memories of who you once were. Your loved ones will want to hang on to those memories anyway you can, and we should not make that difficult for them.

Recently a client messaged me asking me if I could restore an old photograph of his father. He explained to me that his father hated the way he looked, and never stood in front of a camera. In fact his father went to great effort to avoid cameras, and/or destroy any pictures that were ever taken of him. Meaning, that his son only had one surviving photo of the man that was his father. Only one.

To say this was a tremendous responsibility was underselling how I felt about the situation, but I was willing to do my best to help this client, and am currently working on the photo now. But it got me thinking…Why do so many of us avoid having our photos taken? We make up excuses after excuse as to why we should not be in pictures, forgetting that someday a photo or home movie might be all someone has left of us.

So the next time someone asks to take your picture, try to remember that someday you will pick up your last cup of coffee, and maybe your loved ones will want a photo of you drinking a beverage that you loved so much.

The one and only image of a father. This is all that remains…

John Scalzi and I Agree

So it’s no secret that I have been promoting the idea of moving back to the personal website, and having less reliance on sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. In fact, I have so adamantly believed this notion I am pretty sure my wife has gotten tired of hearing me talk about it. But nevertheless, social media companies have proved time and time again that they do not have the best interests of their users at heart, and all it takes is for some excentric rich billionaire, or bank to come along and mess everything up. It happened to Tumblr, OnlyFans, and now the latest drama is all about Twitter.

Now I am not stupid enough to believe or even think that social media is going to implode. I’m not running around with a tin foil hat on proclaiming the end of days here. Social media in one form or another is here to stay, and I love social media. I have spent many an hour scrolling through posts, images, and videos, and loved all that I saw. But for far too long we the people have been beholden to the all-powerful algorithm and whoever holds the golden key to that special piece of magic. Further, on most of these social media sites, you yourself do not OWN the very content you create. Once you hit post the very social media platform you are using owns it and can use it however they see fit.

So, for the last several months I have been encouraging people to start taking ownership of their own content and posting their writing, images, music, and video onto their own crafted and curated websites. Now I have no idea if anyone has taken that advice seriously or not, but it made me feel better about my opinion when none other than the great author himself, John Scalzi, posted this on his Twitter account.

He even went on to talk about it on his own website and writes about it here.

So the bottom line is this…You don’t have to leave social media. I am not suggesting that you delete your accounts and only post on your own website, but as John mentions…

“Just carve out some of that doomscrolling/toiletscrolling time for your own space, that you control, too. And when you do, then link to your own site from that other social media, and invite your followers on those services to visit you in your own place. And link to other people’s personal sites, so your followers can visit them, too. Make social media work for you, and not just for the amoral billionaires.”

— John Scalzi

My Thoughts on Hive Social

If you have been paying attention to social media the last 48 hours you might have seen several of your friends posting screenshots to their Hive Social accounts. As I have mentioned before major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have lost touch with many of it’s users. This is due to several reasons, but the main bullet points are…

  1. Losing touch with what it’s users actually want.
  2. Forcing changes on it’s users through TOS changes and algorithmic changes.
  3. Censorship of content.
  4. Hypocritical behavior in regards to content violations.

The list could go on and on but these four pretty much sum up everyone’s issues with social media. Due to these frustrations many people are looking for alternatives, and flocking to said alternatives in large numbers. Just a short time ago Peter McKinnon posted several videos talking about Vero, and due to his influence you saw users flocking to sign up for accounts.

Now, a few months later, a new viral social media platform is showing up, and that is Hive Social.

I along with many others signed up for Hive, however I signed up mostly to keep the username “@JustAdamScott” so I could maintain branding in case Hive does indeed gain the traction and power to remain. But so far I don’t see a great deal of hope for the small social media platform. While Hive does offer some features that are unique to the social media space, their infrastructure seems to be lacking the ability to handle such a large number of new users. Now I am sure their team is working to expand it’s capabilities and trying their hardest to accomidate so many new users, but will they be able to do it in time. That is, before their new users get bored with the lack of stability and slow connection speeds.

Regardless of if they are able to do so in time isn’t the issue. The issue is this is a symptom of a deeper problem. People are losing and have lost faith in the big social media platforms, and if Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others don’t do something quickly to retain their user base they may soon find themselves without.

A self portrait I took on Venice Beach CA 2022.

My Thoughts on trump Being Back on Twitter

So I learned tonight that Twitter and it’s new owner has reinstated trumps account. For many of us trump, his supporters, and his twitter account were a constant and never ending source of anxiety and fear. Each morning we would wake up wondering what had happened in the night, and had the end finally come.

When Twitter and other social media platforms decided to ban trump it was a small glimmer of hope. Not a large one, but it was still there, and the reprieve from his hateful, racist, and uneducated words brought a breath of fresh air, so to say. Since then trump ran off to create his own social media platform and TBH I have not thought much about him, or the things he says since, but it does concern me that after all he has done, and all he is under investigation for, how someone could think giving him a voice or platform is the right thing to do. Twitters new owner says he is ushering in an era of “free speech” but free speech does not protect you from the consequences of those words, and trumps words had many many consequences.

Since the announcement people have been leaving Twitter by the thousands. I personally know people who woke up minus 4000 followers just from people choosing to delete their account, rather then participate in a platform that gives trump any amount of voice.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this, and am struggling to decide what I will do next. Not that I think my personal choice will impact or influence anyone, but I do believe we are on the ledge of some serious choices that will soon have to be made.

Over the last 24 hours, like so many others, I’ve had a series of impulse reactions including considering deleting my Twitter account all together. Looking at global internet trends I seem to not be the only person considering such action. Searches for “Twitter alternatives” have increased all across the net, and several creators I follow have started new accounts with various platforms such as Tumblr, Vero, and something called Mastodon.

Does this mean I’m leaving? I honestly don’t know. Twitter is certainly on a downward decline. But, for now, I’m withholding action. I’ve enjoyed Twitter over the years and I’d hate to see it disappear or be forced to leave. But all good things come to an end & maybe it’s time.

All I know for certain is that social media companies continue to show a certain disregard for it’s users, and it convinces me more and more that the solution is to just continue running this, my own site, where I control the content, and don’t have to worry about changes to TOS, algorithm’s, or being shadow banned.

So, till next time, keep safe, drink your water, and make good art!

AS

A self portrait

Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear what you think about all this. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out on Instagram, Twitter, Patreon, or Vero.

Advice For Beginner Photographers

Last weekend I was asked if I had any advice for beginner photographers. To be honest I am always a little surprised when someone wants my advice because despite the fact that I have been taking pictures for 11 years I still feel like an amateur. And depending on who you ask you will get several different answers, because everyone has a different path and everyone’s experience will be different. For example when I first started learning the art of photography 11 years ago someone told me how important it was to read the manual for the camera you were shooting on. I did as the person suggested and learned…wait for it…nothing! It was a big fat giant waste of time. Why? Because reading a technical manual for a camera was not my learning style, and no matter how important it was for someone else it was never going to be how I learned something.

So that being said I can only offer you limited advice. It might work for you…It might not. If it doesn’t work for you don’t get discourage you might need to try learning a different way. Hey for all I know you might learn a lot by reading the cameras manual.

When it comes to taking good pictures I think a good starting place would be to consume as much photography work as you can get your hands on. I was an avid reader of National Geographic since I was around 8 years old and loved the photos inside…still do as a matter of fact. One of the first photography books I remember reading and studying was Life.Love.Beauty by Keegan Allen. His story telling along with his beautiful images really helped me understand what photography really was. I was obsessed with Tumblr (still am) and would spend many enjoyable hours scrolling through the beautiful images on it’s platform. I followed photographers on social media. Photographers like Denny Llic and Annie Leibovitz and studied their photos trying to understand how they created the images they did, and then with my camera in hand would go out and try to recreate their images using my own props, models, and lights.

That last part is really the biggest piece of advice I can offer. Go out and practice. Shoot everyday! Make mistakes, screw up, reset and try it again. If you only get 1 really good shot in 1000 go out and take more photos till you get 1 good shot in every 100. The ONLY way you will ever get better is to go out and DO. The more pictures you take the better you will become.

I am a much better photographer today then I was 11 years ago. I have no idea how many photos I have taken in 11 years but it HAS to be in the hundreds of thousands. In another 11 years I will have taken even more images and I will be a better photographer because of it.

I know what kind of photographer I want to be in 11 years. That future me is out there, and he is counting on me now to do the work, make the mistakes, and learn the lessons I need to learn in order to become him. I very much don’t want to let him down, and I doubt you don’t want to let the future version of you down either.

So pick up your camera or cell phone and go out and start taking pictures. Your future self will thank you for it.

Don’t believe me? These are some of the images I took 11 years ago. Look at these images and then look at my photography today and tell me you don’t see improvement. We only improve things that we practice and photography takes a lot of practice.

The Decline of Twitter

Unless you have been completely cut off from the outside world and have no access to current events, and if that is the case good for you, you probably know about the decline of Twitter. Decline is honestly a nice way of saying the absolute dumpster fire that has become Twitter since Elon bought the social media platform.

Social media has become such a big part of so many people’s lives, and for many, it is how they make a living earning money through the content they create. But, over the last few years, people are starting to understand that social media companies can’t be trusted because all it takes is one change in their TOS and suddenly people are without.

Let’s look at a few examples…

  1. Tumblr – In 2018 Tumblr changed its TOS to restrict nudity on its platform. Users from all over the world were furious and over the course of 3 months, Tumblr lost 33% of its user base and usage statistics for the remaining users were terrible.
  2. TikTok – TikTok has for years not been very kind to its creators and it’s AI system is constantly banning or removing content that doesn’t violate its TOS, but due to how TikTok is built it makes it impossible to appeal. Due to its abuse of both creators and users, it’s estimated TikTok has lost over 200 million users since 2020.
  3. Instagram – Wanting to be just like the “cool” Tiktok Instagram changed its TOS and algorithm to prioritize videos or IG Reels over images. The very thing that made Instagram famous in the first place. This change and shift caused many famous creators such as Peter McKinnon to actively suggest that users leave Instagram and use alternative platforms such as Vero.
  4. OnlyFans – Considered banning adult content briefly despite the fact that adult content is what made OnlyFans profitable in the first place. Thankfully the loss in profits and the overwhelming outrage at the decision forced the leaders and owners of OnlyFans to change their minds.

These are just a few examples, but Twitter seems to be joining the exclusive club of social media platforms that shoot themselves in the foot with how they treat their employees, content creators, and users. Could they recover? Maybe, Tumblr is seeing a resurgence in its user base despite some sordid history, so maybe there is hope, but this brings me back to a theory I have and have had for some time.

Social media was an incredible invention, and it connected people from all around the world in ways no one had ever seen before. But as time has advanced and social media platforms have improved so has censorship. Social media platforms changing their TOS, algorithms, and priorities are inevitable because a company never has the best interest of its user in mind, only its profit margin, and bottom line.

With that in mind, the best option for most content creators is to start their own website and post their content there. I know it isn’t the easiest idea, and it certainly puts more responsibility on the content creator but it is the only way to secure and safeguard your content. Having your own website allows you the opportunity to post whatever you want without fear of being censored or shadowbanned. You are the master of your own site and the decider of your own fate.

So go out there and start your own site. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing plugins available in the near future that will mimic all the things social media platforms offer, but from the safety and security of your own site.

What do you think?

A recent image I took of Gabrielle Fixl

The Return of Tumblr

It is possible you may have not heard the news, so let me be the first to tell you about the return of Tumblr! There was a time in my life that if someone wanted to get to know me, and I mean really get to know me, I would just tell them to visit my Tumblr account. Spending 10-15 scanning and browsing through my page would tell them more about who I was then a few hours of conversation. Tumblr was the one place where I felt I could be 100% myself. I did not have to worry about what anyone thought about me. I was not posting for followers, likes, or an algorithm. I was just posting for me.

Because Tumblr is largely a site of interpretation using pictures, the written word, and GIFs different people would find different meaning in a single image. Because of that Tumblr actually helped me discover parts of myself that I had buried, hid from, or just plain ignored. I would see an image, or piece of poetry, a GIF set, or something else and I would have to ask myself, why does this speak to me? Why am I feeling something, and what does this feeling even mean? And considering I started using Tumblr at a time of great self discovery and change I consider what Tumblr did for me a blessing.

I also credit Tumblr for helping me develop my personal style when it came to photography. See when I started using Tumblr I had not yet started photography, but I had a deep love of pictures and images. I was drawn to very specific images, and I loved how certain photographers could make everyday objects and items seem extraordinary.

They say if you want to become a writer you need to read great writing. If you want to be a musician you need to listen to great music, and if you want to be a photographer become a student of great images. Well that is exactly what I did. I immersed myself in photographs and image content. I collected and rebloged every beautiful image I came across and all the while I was developing a style, and I didn’t even know it.

By the time I picked up my first camera I had a private folder of images I had saved from Tumblr that I wanted to try and recreate, but with my own vision and skills, and I went about doing so with a passion.

I was living in Olympia WA at the time and there was absolutely no shortage of beautiful places to photograph. I wasn’t a great photographer, I was brand new, shooting in aperture priority mode with the aperture wide open. I felt like a fraud, and not like a “real” photographer most days, but looking back on some of the images I took I can see the influences Tumblr had on me. I can see how the hours spent scrolling impacted me, and helped mold my sense of style and taste.

They were not the best pictures, none of them were ever edited, and I don’t think I was even shooting in RAW at the time, but I look back on these images and I am proud of Adam 11 years ago. He didn’t quit, and because of his efforts and the efforts he made for the next 11 years I am the person and photographer I am today.

So thank you to him, and thank you to Tumblr for being that safe space so many years ago. I hope, with the return of Tumblr, that it will once again be that safe space for people to discover themselves, just like I did so many years ago.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any thoughts leave a comment down below. Also if you would like VIP access to some of my photography, prints, and thoughts don’t forget that I have a Patreon you can sign up for. However, if Patreon is not your favorite feel free to follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

Photographers Get No Credit

I have been thinking on this subject a lot recently. Partly because I had an interesting experience with this, but the reality is Photographers get no credit for the images and work we create. I’m not really sure why, to be honest, because so many other creative artists get credit for their work, why not photographers?

Let me explain a little about what happened to be recently, and I want to be clear, some of this is my fault, and I know and recognize that.

A few months ago my wife got a gig working as a Special Effects Makeup Artist on the set of a small independent movie. She was very excited because the film was being produced specifically for an upcoming film festival. A few days before the film was to start shooting a call went out from those in charge of the film asking if anyone knew a photographer who could shoot behind the scenes shots. Of course Leslie suggested me and showed the producers my work, which they were delighted by and asked her to speak to me about being on set. I of course agreed, but was surprised that I was never contacted directly. Like ever.

The first day of filming arrived and I had still not heard a word from anyone on set. I had no idea what the producers, director, or anyone else for that matter was looking for. So I shot an email to the director asking a series of questions.

  • What kind of photographs did he want?
  • What is the turn around time?
  • How many images did he expect?

When he got back to me his answers were all very vague, but the bottom line was he wanted BTS shots, movie poster shots, group photos, etc.

Now this is the part that is my fault. I agreed to what he was asking for and did not have him sign any kind of agreement.

  • Lesson Learned – Folks if you are doing work as a photographer always and I mean ALWAYS have your client sign an agreement!

This is why they say experience is the best teacher, but more on that later.

So I showed up, had full and complete access to the set and took some pretty amazing shots including BTS, a very cool movie poster image, and a lot of great images of the cast and crew.

Now one thing I forgot to mention. The film festival that this movie was being shot for had one single requirement, everyone who worked on set could not get paid. So everyone from the Director down to the actors were doing this for free. Which, to be honest, I thought was a very cool challenge.

Making films takes a lot of people with a lot of skills. Skills that are usually expensive. So for a producer and director to convince all these people to come together and offer their services free of charge was a monumental feat in and of itself.

Now, fast forward a few days after filming had wrapped. I had taken over 6000 images on set and had a lot of photos to work though, but despite all of that I had managed to find 20 images that I had pulled and edited right away. One of them was the Movie poster image…

These are some of the images without all the movie information included, because I am not trashing on the movie, its actors, director, or producers. To be honest working with this cast was a pleasure and I would do it again in a heart beat. This is just a personal rant about how little credit Photographers seem to get.

What surprised me, and what I personally have been struggling with since is this…A few days later someone from the film was attending a conference where they were a guest. As a guest they were selling headshots and posters, and I noticed that one of the images from above was included.

Now this is where not having a contract comes in, and why experience is the best teacher. I had never said the cast and crew couldn’t use the image. I had no contract requiring the cast and crew to purchase the image and/or rights to the image. But it has bothered me ever since that someone used an image that I created and designed, to make money and profit, without my consent or permission.

But the truth of the matter is this happens all the time! Photographers, who put a great deal of effort into creating, designing, editing, and printing their images get almost no recognition for their work. Think of your favorite movie poster…who took the picture or pictures to make that image? Think of your favorite picture…do you know the photographers name that took it?

What I can’t figure out is this, do photographers get little credit because we created this reality? Every year I see photographers offering discounts, package deals, holiday specials, and very very cheap photo sessions. Did we the photographers create a market where our skills and services are just not seen as valuable? And if we did how do we reclaim our worth and change public perception?

I don’t really have any answers for that, but it is certainly a question to consider. If you have any thoughts leave a comment down below. Also if you would like VIP access to some of my photography, prints, and thoughts don’t forget that I have a Patreon you can sign up for. However, if Patreon is not your favorite feel free to follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

I Went Ghost Hunting With My Wife

Three years ago on October 31st, I married my partner Leslie. Why Halloween you ask? Well, two reasons…

  1. It’s our favorite holiday
  2. Leslie needed date she could remember

Now, fast forward 1 year. Our first anniversary is close at hand, and Leslie and I decide we are going to celebrate by visiting St. Augustine and going ghost hunting at The Old Jail. Not the traditional way most couples celebrate their wedding but mind you Leslie and I are not your average couple. We do things our way and don’t care much for tradition.

Now we were excited to be there, and in hopes of catching a ghost, we bought a night vision camcorder, an EMF reader, some ghost sensors, and more. What we did not have is the experience we needed in filming. The majority of our footage was trash. No, I’m serious! It was Awful! Unusable! So the footage stayed locked away for two years.

Fast forward to today, October 31st, 2022 and Leslie and I have decided to return to the jail and do another ghost hunt. This time with better equipment, and new skills in filming and editing.

But before we head to St. Augustine we decided to dust off the old footage of our first hunt, and with some editing, and magic revisit our first hunt. So join us as we celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary with this very special video.