My Book! PLUS: Why You Should Start a Personal Photography Project

So over the last couple of months, throughout this whole coronavirus lockdown, I’ve gotten not a small amount of messages from people who have been feeling a little bit befuddled by this whole situation. They haven’t been feeling that inspiration, right? It’s really hard to want to get out and shoot when the government is telling you, no, you gotta stay at home. And I totally get that. This whole situation is just nuts. It’s so weird. It’s hard to know what to do. Those kinds of uncertainties. Don’t leave a lot of room for our creative hobbies. A lot of times. So people have been sending me these messages and saying, well, how can I stay creative? How can I stay inspired? How can I keep shooting during this weird coronavirus lockdown? When I can barely leave my house? And the answer that I always give to every single person is the same start a photography project.

And this could be anything from a three 65 selfie project to taking pictures of your dog every hour of the day, or exploring your backyard from, you know, three inches off the ground. It really doesn’t matter what it is. The idea is you just create a project and that project gives you structure. That structure gives you a reason to shoot. It’s kind of like going to the gym. A lot of times, it’s hard to motivate to actually leave the house to get there. But once you do it, once you just leave the house, you drive to the gym, you get on your Spanx. That’s what I work out in any way. Then, you know, you get your workout done. And the photography projects are the same thing. You have. The structure takes so many questions out of the whole situation. You don’t have to ask yourself, should I be shooting?

Where should I go? What’s the weather going to be like, is it going to be good? You know, all those things that we second guess ourselves about all the time, those go away, you have the project. The project means you shoot. And as soon as you start shooting, I guarantee you inspiration is going to Stripe. So for me, I decided to take my own advice and start a photography project. And what I’m doing is documenting this amazing place mono link. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to create a coffee table photo book that had project in my head for a couple of years now. And I’ve kept putting it off and putting it off. I’ve been chasing photos in New Zealand and South America and things like that. But now I’m here. I’m here in California. And I feel like there’s absolutely no better time to get working on this project.

Now the honest truth is I really have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never made a photo book before. I don’t know where to begin, nor do I have any idea what I actually want the theme of the book to even be it can’t just be pictures of mono Lake. No, no. It has to have some kind of a defining structure, but the fact that I don’t know how to make a book and I don’t know what the theme of the book is. Honestly, I don’t even care about that right now. I trust that that stuff is going to appear in time. What’s important to me right now is simply to have a reason to get outside the motivation to go shoot. And the reason that I chose Mona Lake is it is an utterly fascinating place. And I think that most landscape photographers, especially if you’re from North America, you’ve heard of Mona Lake, but probably the only thing you’ve ever heard about Mona Lake is the famous tufa towers, which are just down the beach right over there.

But the truth is mono Lake is so much more than just tufa towers. It also has volcanic craters and resident wild Mustangs and freshwater marshes and nesting ospreys. It is the world’s largest breeding colony for California goals, which are these guys right out here. It’s a major destination for migrating birds of all kinds. And it has a really incredible history that goes along with it, not just the natural history of this place, but also the human history that the fact that the Lake level a hundred years ago was maybe a hundred feet higher than it is today is all because of human intervention. The water in the creeks that flow into mono Lake are being diverted now into the LA aqueduct to provide drinking water for the city of Los Angeles. So the fact that we can even get to these amazing places like the two photographers is due in large part to the human interactions with this place.

And even on top of that mono Lake is so emblematic of the environments that you find here within the Eastern Sierra, that if you ever want to understand the ecosystems in this part, California, you have to understand mono Lake. So that desire to understand, to probe a little bit deeper and to discover these places around the Lake that are new to me is a huge part of what’s driving this project. And the reason that I’m telling you guys this now is because the project is still in its infancy. Like I said, I haven’t even figured out what direction I want to take the book yet, but I figure if I tell you guys, if I tell thousands of people, then I have that accountability. Like I said, I have just started the project. I’m only a couple of weeks into it, but I’ve already uncovered some amazing stuff, some incredible moments and some really unusual places that I’d never seen before.

Even though I live only 30 minutes down the road from the Lake last night, for example, I went to a place I’d never been before PanAm crater. And I climbed up to the top, the check out all the cool volcanic rock that’s in the area. And it provides this monumental overlook of the entire mono basin. And there were thunderstorms flowing through the Northern skies and rain falling through the Southern skies. It was a pretty awesome moment that I got to experience just because of this project because of the impetus to get out of the house and shoot, or like a week ago when I was driving around the East side of the Lake through the eight inches of sand on those back roads. And I stumbled across herds of hundreds of horses grazing on the grasses or when I was photographing at South tuba, the most classic spot here at mono Lake, but there’s always something different happening in the sky.

And as the sun went down that particular night, this crazy beam, this column of light came a repelling out of the Western sky. And I’m fortunately I was in a terrible place to get any good photos of it. I have no good compositions of this, but I want to show you the shot anyway, just because of the unusual quality of light. So these experiences are coming to me and this deeper understanding is starting to develop now, just because of this project, the reason that I’m here tonight in this spot, kind of in the middle of nowhere, is to try to experience another one of those unusual, incredible moments. You see the full moon is going to be rising over there over South tufa in about two minutes. So that’s why I got this big beast ready to go. Now it’s pretty cloudy over there. I don’t actually know if I’m going to be able to see the moon as it comes up over the two foot, but there’s a chance. And that chance is all you need to be excited about in photography. So I’m really excited about this. I’m going to keep you guys updated as the project develops, as I figure out what the book’s going to be about and how I’m actually going to make it. So until the next video have fun and happy shooting. 

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