Always Be Capturing.

ABC. Always Be Capturing. A somewhat lame spinoff of the famous line from Glengarry Glen Ross. But I mean it. And DoSS, for Don't Stop Shooting, sounded even worse.

When I got started with my first "real" camera, a film SLR Canon Rebel G, I shot constantly. And with all the cameras I had from then until a few years ago... I did the same. At one point I never went anywhere with no less than a Canon 1vHS, 10 rolls of film, 3 lenses and a flash. 

Ok, so that was silly.

But it meant I was always capturing life around me. Friends, family, coworkers, skeptical strangers... no one was safe from my rabid enjoyment of the sound of my own shutter. And when you shoot constantly that way... when you look, to someone who knows you, like something's missing when you're not holding a camera... people just get used to it. I guess if they love you enough they just tolerate it. And then after a while they get truly used to it and enjoy the results. I have taken countless candid photos of people in the past 15 years where they stated, after seeing the results, that it was their favorite photo of them. I attribute that mostly to the fact that they just didn't like having their photo taken, so there wasn't much to choose from. But I got through that by being... well by being a guy who always had a camera.

Now it's a little easier. Our phones shoot wonderful photos, so you don't even need to be obtrusive and ostentatious to constantly take photos of the world around you. 

Sometime about 3 years ago... two things influenced me away from my previous habit. One was that I started buying into the argument that if you're always shooting your life, you aren't present enough to live it. I can say, from experience, that it isn't the case with me. Also I have a terrible memory, so having records of the things I do allows me to relive moments I'd otherwise forget entirely. The other big influence was that I started having access to "higher profile" people in my life, and I didn't want to look like I was taking advantage. I didn't want to be posting photos of famous and popular people and seem that I was just trying to look cooler than I was. 

Well I'm over that. I spent the past few years shooting only when around other photographers or when it was at a place where it was more acceptable (parties, events, etc.). And I have a huge chunk of life missing from the 100,000 or so photos I have in my personal library of snapshots. 

Last month I went to visit my grandmother, whom I hadn't seen for over 15 years. She was in a nursing home and had a 2-inch tumor in her brain. She wasn't the person she was 15 years ago, let alone a few months ago... she didn't remember me, she didn't really talk much, and the only thing that really linked her to the grandmother that I remember was her smile and laugh.

I had brought my Leica M Monochrom... but I hesitated. I thought maybe it was inappropriate. I thought maybe she wouldn't like it but not be able to articulate it to me. I thought I'd look like a douche. And after 30 minutes or so of being there, I remembered that I used to not actually care until someone ASKED me to stop (and I always would if asked) and I took out the camera and started shooting some photos. 

My grandmother passed away this weekend. I saw her only that one time in the final 15 years of her life, but I'm extremely grateful that I decided to shoot. In the photos she isn't the younger, loud laughing, constantly smiling grandmother I knew when I would come over for Christmas as a child... but you don't know that. The photos preserve what you want them to preserve. And for me these few photos preserve the person I knew before, and not the one I saw in the final month of her life.

And for that I am reminded to always be shooting.

Fashion Photography | Tracie Cotta Photo Shoot One - part 2

Video by Tracie Cotta


In part 1 of Shoot One we shot in Tracie's front yard, her bedroom, downtown Fullerton, Disneyland and at a local park. That left 2 days... which took us to San Diego and back up to the OC Fair for part 2.

San Diego "secret" location

Years ago I saw some photos on flickr that were really cool... they had very dynamic lighting... and the location was outstanding. I'm not usually a big fan of girls in bikinis just for the sake of showing skin... but these were really good shots otherwise. I was about to do our first photo shoot of Paul Dateh and I wanted a really cool place to shoot... so I contacted the photographer and asked about the location.

"It's a secret."

Oh. Well that sucked. I sorta understood because if you have a cool location that you use often you may not want it to be swarming with every kid with a DSLR and a cute girl at his disposal... sooner or later that will cause problems with the owners/tenants/neighbors... someone. But I couldn't just give up... so I plead my case a little harder... and he finally relented... but only after I promised not to share the locale with any other photographers. And I haven't. So... don't ask where these were done. I made a promise and I like to keep those. When I can.

We got to the location about an hour before sunset... we planned on getting through two outfits... I hadn't even seen the first one, but LOVED it. Tracie knows how to put together an interesting ensemble, that's for sure.

And she knows how to look fierce.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

For the final shot, just after the sun dropped below the horizon, Tracie quickly changed and we took this final photograph... and then, like teeny tiny vampires... a flock (or is it swarm?) of blood-thirsty mosquitoes chased us back to the car.

Tracie Cotta

The OC Fair

In the 16 or so years I've lived in Orange County... I think I've only actually been to the fair like 3 times. Once to shoot a Noodle Scar episode and twice just for fun.

This year Tracie and I decided to go on the last day it was open... and we ended up having a lot of fun and not shooting very many photos... but two stood out as ones I loved. The fair really is a good place to capture color and lights... kinda like Vegas. But with barn animals and carnies.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Holga Fashion Photography - Carlie Renee

Amy, Ashley Rose, Ashley (not Rose) and Carlie asked me to come down and light a fun fashion photography shoot they wanted to do of Ashley Rose... with wonderful makeup and styling (as always) by Carlie. I brought the Alien Bees down to Ladera Ranch, we climbed a hill... and photographic adventure ensued. I wasn't really there to shoot, just sorta show them how I'd light the various things they wanted to shoot... since they are all wedding photographers they wanted to learn a little about fashion lighting when it's dark. Lighting is just one of those things that isn't the most obvious thing to figure out, and having a little guidance from someone who does photographic lighting often can make a big difference.

I brought my Holga which I had just cleaned out and loaded with film the day before... and decided to take a few shots of Carlie while we were all set up. I didn't bother dialing in exposure or trying to get anything perfect... just had Carlie pose how she wanted and I snapped off 11 shots. These are the 5 I like. No PS, just Lightroom adjustments because the exposure was WAY off. I didn't even remove the dust.

I see more Holga Fashion Photography in my future.

Carlie Holga

Carlie Holga 2

Carlie Holga 3

Carlie Holga 4

Carlie Holga 5

Holga photography is a lot of fun. You get unexpected results, not just from the camera but from yourself. Through the crappy little plastic viewfinder things look a little different, and so you look at things a little different. Also, looking through a square is a different experience as well, your cropping is completely new and fresh. Basically what I'm saying is that you should go and buy one. Just PLEASE don't buy one from Urban Outfitters with their flashy colors and $45 price tag.

Go to Freestyle Camera and get one for $28 or click the photo below to buy from Amazon (it's the same price as Freestyle but I get like $1.20, which is cool) and have some FUN.

Buy a Holga on Amazon