The Importance of Doing

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”
— Pablo Picasso

There is great importance in the doing of things. Not simply coming up with a plan or discussing ideas, but real action. Not because there’s a payoff, but because you have no other option but to do This Thing.

Earlier this year, while in Nashville for a conference, I took a detour to visit my longtime friend Adam, who lives in Chattanooga with his wife and daughters. Adam and I were roommates back when he still lived in California and we were fighting the good fight of local journalism, working for a small daily newspaper. Since then, he’s gone on to move back into web design, and over the past few years completely dive in to the world of podcasting. Not only does Adam have a great podcast called The Gently Mad where he’s interviewed people like Seth Godin about life, work, and creativity, he’s also teaching other people how to create successful podcasts.

It’s inspiring to see how he’s had a vision for doing something, and has thrown himself into the doing of it.

But this isn’t all musings on old friends and getting stuff done. The portrait of Adam above in his office was a great chance to use one of the single-best iPhone accessories of the past few years: the Nova flash, the best handheld, “off-camera” flash for the iPhone. (Its creators providing a great example of seeing a lack, and filling the void.)

While the iPhone works fantastically for a variety of photos, it — like any other smartphone — falls short in the area of flash. Nine times out of 10, direct flash is not your friend. The Nova solves this. About the size of a credit card, about a quarter-inch thick, it has rows of LED lights under white plastic, and syncs up with its iPhone app via Bluetooth. The app allows you to adjust intensity and color temperature, and the Nova works anywhere within a 20-foot radius.

With the Moment Tele lens mounted on my phone, and the Nova set off to the side, I was able to keep Adam in that great, soft window light while still adding some fill flash to provide depth.
It helps to have great tools, especially those that don’t take up much space in your pockets.

As a gentle plug, if you’re serious about your photography and you wind up shooting a lot with your iPhone, pick up a Nova.

The Nova also came in handy for another recent portrait of someone who inspires me with his drive to do the things about which he’s passionate.

My friend Nate is a talented singer-songwriter who’s spent the past few years criss-crossing the U.S., playing for audiences small and large, sharing songs inspired by his life and experiences. He’s currently raising funds for his next album, which promises to be really good.

Recently, we had the chance to meet up for dinner while he was in Los Angeles, and I captured this portrait of him. This is another great example of the opportunities created by using the Nova. I positioned Nate in a darkened doorway and tucked the Nova on a door handle. With very minimal, helpful gear I was able to create a strong portrait.

That’s how we move forward: By the doing. And we develop personally by doing the things about which we are passionate.

What are you doing today?

What's Limiting You Today?

Why do we put ourselves in a box? Why do we limit ourselves to what it is we want to achieve, but tell ourselves we can’t because we aren’t properly equipped?

Any photographer (or insert any other vocation) knows this all too well.

If only I had that lens…

If only I was shooting on that camera instead…

If only, if only, if only…

At the beginning of the year, I gave myself a personal challenge to create more portraits, constantly, no matter what gear I had at hand. After all, the best camera really is the one you have with you.

Which leads me to this portrait of Mike, a case study in using what you have at hand. A fellow coffee aficionado and news junkie, we ran into each other one Saturday at my favorite local coffee spot, and I had to create a portrait of him in that light. My gear? My trusty iPhone 5, coupled with the fantastic Moment Tele lens, and, oh, the white side of a menu I was holding just out of frame to bounce a little light back onto Mike’s face. I shot it with my go-to app, VSCO Cam, in which I applied some mild post-processing.

This was one of the earliest images I shot with the Moment lens, which I received as a Christmas present. There are a lot of iPhone photography accessories on the market, but this lens is by far one of the best and worth every penny. With high-quality craftsmanship, optical-quality glass, and ease of use (it twist-locks onto a small adhesive plate you affix to the back of your phone), it’s a great way to step your game up when shooting photos with your phone.

Here’s the thing. The skill to create a strong portrait comes from being able to see a strong portrait, not because of your gear.

Our ability to achieve, to rise above, and to succeed? It’s helped by various outside influences and resources, to be sure. But do you have within you the fire and the drive to do something in spite of circumstances?

What’s limiting you today?

"I'm not going to believe that only a few people are permitted to be gatekeepers or creators or generous leaders. I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us."