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The reins: grab them. (An adventure into an unfamiliar world of photography)

Posted: November 18th, 2016 | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I’m fresh off an unexpected and wonderful road trip.

Six days ago I headed to Yosemite to be an assistant to my incredibly talented photographer friend, Jake Stangel, on an assignment for Travel + Leisure magazine. We spent six days on the road, heading south, via Monterey, through the rugged California coastline.

We drove down the winding curves of Highway 1, soaking up the best vistas, finding the secret hidden-away spots, and seeking out the unknown adventures in California’s Route 1. The feature is months away from being published, so I can’t give too much away about what we found and shot, but I can talk all I want about my own experience.

I’m a nonprofit campaigner. For me, being a photographer’s assistant is akin to a Wall Street trader taking a break from work to be a carpenter. It gave me a taste of a different slice of life. One not too strange when you think about my personal interests (California, camping, adventure), but perhaps a bit strange when you consider that it was a paid job outside of the confines of my CV (so far).

I took the risk, taking unpaid time off my job, because I knew I’d learn a few things. I was right to do that, and I recommend you do the same.

I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky I have a friend that’d even ask me to do such a thing, considering I have no background in photography. I’m lucky that my job affords me the flexibility to take time off with a week or two’s notice. I’m so so lucky that I could say yes to Jake. Not everyone can do that.

I had FOMO, like whoa. I’m deeply knit into my life in San Francisco. I’m grateful for that, because it means that after three years here, I finally have a community that feels to me like home in the way I yearned for the minute I set foot here, lonely and unsure of how I’d make a world that’d hug me as I fell asleep each night.

There are things that happened in San Francisco this week, people I very much wanted to see, money I very much wanted to make, moments I very much did not want to miss. But I took a chance, when Jake asked if I’d be available, and I said “yes, I’ll take a week off of my life to set your aperture, carry your tripod, drive your car, wake up at early hours of the morning, and hunt down the best photogenic vistas we can find together.”

Saying yes meant appreciating that luck, seizing a moment, and taking a step back to appreciate a bigger picture. I asked myself, “What could I learn from a person from a different practice?” And I had no idea. There was no way to know until we actually hit the road.

The number one thing I learned from Jake was patience.

Jake works with film. Real film. You know, the stuff you used to use a decade or two ago, because it was what we had. He works with film by choice, because it can capture so much more than digital, and because it forces a photographer to be all the more diligent, particular, careful and precise with a shot. Jake works in large and medium format film – the kind with negatives much larger than what you find in the analog camera you learned on in high school photography class – the kind that captures the world in actual high resolution. The kind that produces photographs you can step into and discover as if they were real.

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