Don’t Leave the Camera at Home

In Creative Process, Photography by Chris FoleyLeave a Comment

A million years ago, in a past life it seems, I was a professional musician. Music is a much different trip than photography, especially if you’re in a band. If you’re in a band that’s really going for it (writing a lot, playing every show you can get, recording whenever and wherever you can, etc.) you tend to meet a lot of other musicians. In fact, as a touring musician, one can’t seem to take 10 steps in any direction without bumping into other musicians, and in these circumstances, one tends to hear a lot of advice. Regardless of whether or not one was seeking said advice.

One piece of unsolicited advice I can remember receiving (more than once, as it turns out) was to never leave the house without a tape recorder. Mind you, back in 1994, a tape recorder (Google the term kids; it was once a very important accessory) was a bulky affair and generally a pain in the ass to carry around in your backpack. The point behind this advice of course is that creativity hits you in its own damned good time and not on your schedule. If you’re on the road, or even on lunch break at your day job you could suddenly have a killer melody downloaded on you, or a lyric; a clever turn of phrase, and you certainly don’t want to lose that.

When once I was handed this piece of advice I can remember dismissing it as a rather ridiculous idea. Nah, that’s too much trouble.

“You don’t take your career as a musician very seriously, then.”

My would-be mentor wandered away at that point, presumably to go record some genius idea into his big-ass Radio Shack tape recorder. I was left perturbed by this.

“FUCK that guy,” I thought. “What does he know about me and my goals?!”

Well, guess what.. he was right.

The most innovative and inventive musicians I know are never without some way to record ideas, and sheesh, in this day and age your full-on travel studio is only an iPad away.

I didn’t realize how right he was until after I had given up my aspirations of being a professional musician and had opened up a recording studio, working as a producer instead. And then I got to be the guy telling younger musicians to always carry a (what had evolved into) a digital recorder with them. Some of them were receptive to this bit of hand-me-down advice, though I’m sure more than one of them rolled their eyes at me later in exactly the same way I’d rolled my eyes at the “old guy” suggesting they should manage their art responsibly.

I no longer write or perform music, and I no longer produce or engineer music for others, but my current career path is still a very creative one. There’s the web work I do and there’s photography. Photography is not the group sport that music tends to be, and one could go one’s entire life without bumping into another photographer, at least on a professional level. Sure, everywhere you look there’s a person with a camera around their neck, but I’m talking about somebody who takes the art seriously.. at least as seriously as you do.

So now I’m going to be that guy again once more and tell you that bit of what is now obviously priceless advice.

Don’t Leave the House Without a Camera

You just never know when something in the world will scream to be captured, documented. You never know when a lightning bolt of creativity will descend upon you from on high. Bring your camera. This is one of the 10 Photography Rules I learned in 2014 and really took to heart.

Trust me on this one. Keep it in the trunk if you like, or have a second body that lives in the map box, but the one rule is that you’ve got to be able to exercise some creative control over the camera. No smartphone, no point and click. A real camera that you would use to make a real photograph. Really.

I might go so far as to say that if you don’t have a camera with you when you go out, you just aren’t taking your career as a photographer seriously.

It rained today in Santa Barbara, which is unusual enough, but the sky got really interesting right around sunset. The color of the ocean was unique, and the quality of light was very unusual. I happened to be driving home from some appointment or another and stopped to make these photographs. No, nothing from this series is going to win any awards, but I have them now, and the way that the clouds and the light are in these shots aren’t something I can just pop out and capture at my convenience. I’m sure glad I had my camera with me, even though I only had this one fisheye lens.

Carry a camera with you, and make the best images you can with the tools you have.


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