Advice

What photography has taught me

The alarm went off, it was still dark. I rolled over to see the time. 4:45am. Perfect. My favourite time of the day. I love mornings — it’s a time when I can just plug in, no distractions, be my most creative, navigate my thoughts clearly and simply enjoy the stillness.

Being up at 4:45 (and effective) means that I’ve went to bed at a sociable hour, it means I haven’t been out, it means I’m on top of everything.

I think my love stems from a combination of the peacefulness and the feeling of knowing I’m on top of my game.

It looked like it had been raining all night when I caught a glimpse of the windows with an outside light in the garden glistening through; on closer inspection it was actually condensation. Leave the air conditioning on all night in a tropical destination and that’s what happens!

I hadn’t packed my gear the night before, so I had to tip-toe around the hotel room so I didn’t wake up the wife. Drone, lens, spare batteries, check, check, check. It was time to head to the beach.

You see we were in Thailand. Nai Harn beach specifically. For the past 7 months we had been travelling the world, alongside launching a new startup within the adverting, media & production space. We’d been fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii, South Africa, Greece, Ibiza and now, Thailand.

Leaving my hotel room, as expected, very few people were around. A few nightshift cleaners, food delivery trucks, security guards — the usual. It was already hot and it wasn’t even light yet!

As I got to the beach the number of fitness fanatics steadily increased; I think my best streak was 16 days or so for fitness in the morning — I found it impacted my work flow too much, the mornings became about fitness rather than deep, clear thinking work. And if I tried to squeeze the workout in afterwards, it was too late in the day by the time I headed to the office.

Back to the beach though, more and more people arriving for their morning workout– mostly running alongside their dogs, the waves crashing in, and by now — first light starting too appear. That wonderful hue that lets you know sunrise is en route, and that it’s going to be pretty spectacular.

Similar to when I’m working through a financial model, company strategy or any problem during my morning “flow” — I was focused on capturing some amazing shots, memories to reflect upon in later years. By no means was I any good, but I was enjoying learning about photography.

For instance, I now know not to keep my cameras right below the air conditioning all night, it takes a DSLR a good 20 minutes to dehumidify! If you were cutting it close to sunrise, having to run to your location to capture it — you’d probably not be able to get any decent shots, as your lens would be all cloudy. Upon research, keeping it in the hotel room safe should give it a barrier agains the humidity.

The sky was turning all sorts of colours, and I could see the first ray of sunshine peeping over; helped by the fact I was currently navigating a camera in the sky — my drone at around 300 metres.

I had to stop and pinch myself, I wanted to just pause — enjoy the moment. Think of the steps, work and choices that had led to me in that moment, being on that beach, with my camera equipment, half way around the world capturing some truly stunning landscape.

And that leads me onto the main thoughts for this article; I wanted to reflect upon what my new found love for photography has taught me over the past 7 months — I’d never experienced so many moments like the one I was having right there on Nai Harn beach; this photography stuff is good for the soul, body and mind.

So if I was to try and summarise what photography has taught me, let’s go….

Look where others are not

Throughout our travels we’ve been to a lot of “instagram spots”. People eager to get the shot that 10,000 other people have got. Similar to entrepreneurship and being a founder who’s seeking out opportunity — I found that some of my best photos come from approaching the whole setting in a different and unique way.

Get out from behind the screen and enjoy nature

I should really have started with this point, it seems so obvious — but ever since I got into photography, I am out enjoying the world more. I’m not constantly in an office, my apartment or a restaurant. I’m out getting my hands dirty, climbing Lion’s Head in Cape Town at sunrise — enjoying the noise my trainers are making each and every step along the gravel. Photography has helped me get out and explore the world around me, rather than just live it through instagram and photos.

Always be ready to capture

The most amazing shots usually hit you unexpectedly; as a result, you have to be ready at all times, with the camera in close proximity if you want to capture it. Similar to entrepreneurship, luck comes at the most random of times — you have to be ready to capitalise upon it. Opportunity waits for no one, and if you’re too slow, that incredible shot will not hand around.

Humans are inherently social

Think through the photos that you like in your instagram feed, I guarantee if you did an analysis you would have liked more photos with people in them. Photography has taught me, or at least refreshed my memory, that humans are always seeking connection. I can’t even fathom how many neurones are triggered when we first see a photo — who’s the person, what’s the setting, does the person look happy or sad, etc. etc. Within 1 second our brain has done a mind-blowing amount of analysis. It’s also refreshing to reflect upon the fact that humans are inherently social beings.

Deep friendships are made through experiences

If you’re getting up at 5am to shoot a sunset from the top of a mountain, you’re most likely going to do it with friends and family. And unless you want to fall on your face, you probably won’t be glued to your,  phone apart from taking photos of course. I’ve been fortunate enough to create life-long friendships with an an amazing group of people over the past 7 months, mostly through photography missions. Same can be said about business and entrepreneurship; most of my deepest connections were borne from social situations and experiences.

Thank you

Apologies for the rather abrupt end, but as I said I’m writing these on the go and just clicking “publish”, I’ve found it’s the only way that I stick to the habit. If you enjoyed this, it would mean a lot if you let me know or if you shared the article for others to read. All-in-all, my advice would be, find something that can help you experience the learnings that photography has given me. If it is photography, you don’t even need a fancy camera – just use your phone, and happy snapping!

P.S. you can check out my shots from the past few months on Instagram.

P.P.S. I’m going to be updating this post later on to include some nice photos from my travels!