On Distractions and Productivity

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When the year ends and I look back as a photographer, I feel like a walking version of Time magazine’s “Year in Pictures Issue.” As a shooter who always has a camera in his pocket or slung over his shoulder, my year is truly documented in photographs. I seek, in life, images that illustrate my daily experiences. I create them both for my sanity and also to populate my blog, presentations, and upcoming book. Being a photographer helps me understand the world I walk in, and I’m eternally grateful for the little light traps that accompany me.

Being the director of the B&H Event Space might just be the perfect job for me. I get to work with the most inspirational photographers in the world on a daily basis, while also getting to test out the latest photography gear early. This makes for a perfect storm of creativity, but in 2014, a massive distraction occurred as the winter thaw occurred.

Distraction

I got a motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle, but an iconic Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom. This screaming chrome beast occupied my every thought, and I noticed right away that work on my book pretty much ceased as I spent every free moment riding. My photography suffered. I felt guilty that the camera was left un-slung in my cabinet. I resolved to cure this, and turned the distraction into a photo subject.

I chose some gear that would be easily stowed in its thin saddle bags, and a compact mirrorless camera fit the bill perfectly. So I slapped a Lexar 32 Gig SD card in my Fujifilm XPro system and took that on my rides. My normal go-about bag, a Billingham Hadley, was too wide, so I switched to a narrower Domke F-802 reporter's satchel. Now, when I rode, I resolved to make sure I’d take a portrait of the bike wherever the roads took me. Soon, I built up a nice collection of images while I learned how to ride.

The lesson here is simple: Integrate your distractions into your workflow. Don’t let a newborn child keep you off the shutter; make the child your subject. Don’t let moving cross-country distract you, start a documentary of the move and then shoot your new environs. If your kid joins little league, and you get the job of being the coach, then become the de facto team photographer. Sometimes you might need to adjust your kit and buy some new gear to accommodate the changes so you can keep shooting, but that’s okay—the switch-up in gear can result in new avenues of your photography manifesting.

Sony Assignment

My last thoughts on this year were learned late in the fall, when I was asked by B&H to work on a project for the Sony RX family of cameras. We wanted to create a program in the style that Event Space presentations consist of and detail the RX10 camera. This particular all-in-one bridge camera is extremely versatile and can perform many different roles in photography (it’s also a great video camera, too). I wanted to be an expert on the camera and showcase its sweet spot, that of being a travel camera, due to its compact size and performance. To this end, I would need to create a battery of images that showcase its impressive lens, fast reaction time, and the overall build quality of the camera. In addition to building the presentation, I would have to take on the role of the “assignment photographer,” and use the camera to cover a few destinations. I became obsessed with pushing the limits of the RX10 and with my new empirical viewpoint, make some dynamic travel images. This motivation (plus the undying devotion to excelling at B&H) led me down a rabbit’s hole of images where I am very happy with the work created.



 


 


 


 


 

The Sony RX10 project taught me that under the pressure of assignment, creativity can flourish. For all those of you reading this who are not professionals and have no pressure, I suggest setting some goals and expectations for your work.

David Brommer's Gear:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 Digital Camera

Billingham Hadley Bag

 Fujifilm XPro system

 Lexar 32 Gig SD card 

Domke F-802 reporter's satchel

I also identified this phenomenon, as I wanted to blog about my thoughts on the new Star Wars Episode 7 trailers that were released over Thanksgiving weekend. Since my blog is photo themed, I couldn’t just rant about JJ Abrams and the Force. I linked the two together by digging my old Star Wars figures out of storage and photographing them in my portrait style (with the RX10 by the way). The need to accumulate content for my blog inspired me to push my photography. Sometimes, having that awesome and capable camera is not good enough, we need to drive ourselves.

I’m really looking forward to what photography will bring in 2015. The cameras keep getting better and the world more complicated. Be motivated to explore the unexpected, and push yourself to new frontiers.

David Brommer is an 18-year veteran of B&H Photo and currently is the Director of the B&H Event Space. In the 1990’s Brommer ran Suspect Photography, a gallery/studio in Seattle. He is fluent from platinum to pixels and is a published writer and photographer known for shooting the edge of the human race. His blog, Suspect Photography, is dedicated to the pursuit of photographic style and features many instructional articles on photo gear and the art of photography. He will be a featured instructor and gear guru on an upcoming Linblad Photo Expedition to the Galapagos, in November and December of 2015.

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Hey David. Did I meet you when I did my B&H lecture, "Concentrate on the Picture"? I believe I did. Hope all is well. When you're so inclined give me a shout out and I'll come into the city so we can talk. Thanks, George

Nice article David. I have had a similar experiance over the past year. I was also distracted away from my photography by a new motorcycle, in my case a new Ducati Streetfighter. I also lamented that all my free time and money was shifted away from photography to the new bike, not that I wasn't having a fantastic time! The Ducati though, is an intense machine.When I ride I am entirely focussed on not crashing and staying out of jail. No time for photo ops. Salvation is at hand, however. It is winter in Minnesota and the Ducati is parked. Next month I am off on a ten day photo vacation with my wife driving while I will be free to shoot. That same wonderful person also gave me a new Zeiss 21mm Distagon (from B&H, of course!) to mount on my 5D3 so I can work on my landscape photography. As for combining my passion for motorcycling with my photography I did have an idea for posing a **** model with the Ducati to recreate an iconic Ducati marketing image from the 70s. That might be fun!

I really enjoyed your article and couldn't agree more. Your images are inspirational and captivating. Thank you for sharing. 

I too ride Sportster Custom (2007) and have been able to incorporate it into lots of my pictures. I'm retired so lots of time to do both. I like some of the posted pictures but the bike did not add anything to the shots, in fact just the opposite IMHO.

I for one agree with you on this article, it was hard for me also at one given time and I found that the things we love is really a distraction but a new rush for pleasure and we have to integrate this into our images as well. Kind of like preserving your times with something cause it will not always be new but now you can look back at the times as see your progress. To me there is no better what to record this by images and video. Today I must say I have a rush for just about everything everyday and it excites to keep recording and adding all of life's beauty to my collections. Thanks for sharing this so other can also keep there motivation going. 

David, thanks for reminding me that time and motivation to be a better photographer may fluctuate from year to year.  Sad events in my life occupied my time and fogged my vision of the beauty around us I try to capture with my camera.  I'm grateful for this new year and  the opportunity to see clearer and move forward with my goal of being a better photographer.  Jennifer

David, I enjoyed the article. I rode a motorcycle in high-school and college. I would just take off and go exploring; however, I didn't have a camera at the time.

In 1994, I found myself in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1000 miles from home and my wife) for a contract position fixing computer program problems for a long distance telephone company. I brought my camera gear with me.

"Drive-by Shootings"
Initially, I used disposable film cameras to take photos while I was driving my van and exploring the MidWest. Once I got comfortable with that, I switched to using my Canon A-1; I'd set the camera on program mode, the lens focus at infinity, and generally frame the photo a few inches from my eye and fire. I need to find the negatives from 1994; I have a great photo of exiting one of the tunnels on I-40 or 26 in Tennessee.