Welcome to 2012!Its amazing, 2011 came and went fast. It seems the older you get the faster the years are. I guess it can be attributed to a mix of getting used to the clock and falling into routine. Wake, Work, Eat, Relax a bit, Sleep… rinse repeat.I have to admit, even though 2011 felt shorter than than a Hollywood marriage, the year rekindled a love that I had long since forgotten. In August of last year, I got involved with Google+ and gave it the true chance it deserved. I realized early on that G+ was not just another iteration of Facebook and instead required interaction for its full potential. But thats not the primary focus of this short little write up. With G+, I stumbled across Trey Ratcliff and his amazing HDR work. The emotion he could capture, the quality and the shocking boldness of each piece relit a fire in my belly that had long past faded.

This spurred me to dig into my storage room and grab my old cameras. First was my old Minolta x370n, which sadly died on me shortly after and before I could even put her back into action. So I moved on to my travel Elph SD1000, which worked out just enough to throw more wood on the fire.

So I started reading voraciously, watching every advice-dishing video cast and podcast I could find and stalked the thankfully, never-ending inspiration, derived from the magnificent photographers of Google+. Trey’s work and voice started my new path, followed by the interest building awesomeness of photographers such as Olivier Du TréHåkan Dahlström, Jeff SmithHengki KoentjoroThomas Hawk and so many more.

These were just those that I began following early on, whose work literally forced me to readdress my budget – specifically to invest in a a new camera that I could really learn on. But there are so many more out there I wish I could thank personally.

Ok… I know, I know… tools don’t make the photographer and many will say, “Oh, you didn’t need a DSLR to make great photos.” Well, part of me agrees with you, but another part of me silently say… well, it may not be needed, but god damn it helps. As a designer originally, I know many that would say Gimp or Inkscape are plenty… but ya know… hell with that. Why eat bagged cereal when the boxed Count Chocula is so much better.

Anyway, a little back story. I came into this world with a pencil in my hand. A stubborn traditional media artist all through school, sternly reluctant to dive into any other form. I eventually realized drawing and painting wouldn’t pay the bills and I had taken a few years of drafting, I decided to dive into graphic design. We all hit that point, where life says, “Hey, you had a good run, now its time to pay to play.” So when reality hit, my imagination all took a hit. Now I jumped into graphic design late in high school and worked through college. Soon I ended up an Art Director of a vinyl graphics shop in southern Illinois. It was fun, but never fulfilling. After college and my move to Columbia, I completely dropped my art. I walked away and forgot about it.

Now I admit, I had intermittent flashbacks and desires to jump back in. But life would always rear its ugly head and distract me yet again. Now, after 10 years of design both freelance and in-house, working with companies such as Blockbuster, CostCo, Benevidas, Camoclad, ScanDigital and many more. I have burned out, no longer finding any desire to continue designing. Not to mention, after 6 years of NO artwork, my anxiety had reached a tipping point with a deep seeded need to express myself in some way. This year, G+ and the wonderful photographers have helped me finally break that barrier and not only get back into my art, but also completely change my approach. Now older, I was also able to ignore the stubbornness of my early years.

After August, I found creating art through a viewfinder to be the most satisfying, enjoyable path that I have ever experienced. It was such an amazing coming of age moment once I realized how well the camera allows me to express the way I see the world to others. Even more so than traditional media offered.

I wasn’t traditionally trained for the lens and have recently approached a couple photography schools for some test runs. But something about it just didn’t click with my style of learning. I’m a bit of an autodidact. I prefer working at my own speed (fast) and learning on my own accord. That said, I’m certainly not the type to buck advice or turn away one who wishes to teach me. But the pre-determined time line and commitment over multiple months does nothing for me, except raise anxiety. Instead I found solace in the amazing books of some of those I mentioned above, as well as those written by Scott KelbyRC ConcepcionMatt Kloskowski and the greats at Kelby training group. There are endless archives of knowledge out there for us to gain from these professionals. I urge all of us to use that reservoir…

Another thing I found without equal… the inspiration attained from the original masters. Ansel Adams, W Eugene Smith and so many more… Inspiration can sometimes be the best teacher. At least from my perspective. If your starting out, look to those that have been there, have done it and mastered it. Study what they had to share with the world. If you learn anything like I do, visually, audibly and stubbornly. You won’t mesh well with a college professor forcing you to memorize pointless facts for an upcoming test which can decide your future. Instead, study them on your own – with enjoyment – and truly retain the information they have to give.

Anyway… the point is this, I am so happy to of leapt into photography with both feet. I would like to thank all of those who have helped me get to the point I am today and those that will help me get to the next level down the line. The great words spoken, the wonderful workshops, well written books and discussions during pod/video-casts. There are endless wells of information available right at your fingertips… and there all FREE!

Its 2012, and I am sure people all over the world are making resolutions big and small. The funny thing is, I am having so much fun today that I am not really thinking about tomorrow.

Thanks for listening to me think out loud and I hope you stay tuned for my upcoming post on the top podcasts, videocasts and books that have helped me the most.

Happy New Year everyone – Live for today!