Finally! A Photography 101 Course I Can Recommend

Most mainstream photography courses focus on what matters to professional photographers and ignore the 99.9% of us who are hobbyists. Their advice is misguided at best, and scammy at worst.

My book and blog are an antidote to most of these courses. If you’re here, you know the basics, and probably want to unlearn the rules to get to core of what makes you most creative. Think of it as Photography 301: Unlearning Photography.

So when I do get inquiries about where to go for Photography 101: The Basics, I don’t have many places to link to that I know I can trust.

That changes now with The Sweet Setup’s new course Mobile Photography (The Sweet Setup was kind enough to provide this affiliate link after I first posted this). I checked out the course and I like where it takes its students. The examples used are examples actual hobbyists might encounter, which is rare in a photography course. But most of all, I’ll recommend this to beginners because it comes from a trusted source: Shawn Blanc.

Using Ulysses as a Database for The Van Halen Encyclopedia

My 1999 book, The Van Halen Encyclopedia, was put together using Microsoft Word and stacks of research material. Back then, I wanted nothing more than the skills to put together a database to update each entry, then publish it as a whole book every year or two.

The technology existed back then, thanks to the endlessly hackable Microsoft Access, but I didn’t have the time or expertise to put it together. I could make the database, but I couldn’t compile to save my life.

Almost 20 years later, I’m finding that Ulysses can serve as simple version of this database.

I started by breaking the book down by chapter (or letter):


Then I broke the chapters down into individual entries. 


Here’s the best part: You can add updates, citations and images to the entries in the note field. This makes future updates much easier, plus the tags (keywords) make organizing and indexing the book much easier.

For the most contentious part of the book (The Tours chapter), I can upload ticket stubs and tour itineraries as evidence of show dates. It was difficult to convince some fans that their bootlegs were not dated correctly, and that the book had the correct date and location of a show. Now, I can have proof at the ready.

In the future, I can also connect all of this to a website, thanks to Wordpress’s integration with Ulysses, and update the book in real time for readers.

I’m still struggling to adjust my writing to the Ulysses way, but I love the direction the app is taking my organization of the material.

I’m not planning on publishing a new version of the book any time soon. It would take years of hard work at this point to update every entry with all that’s been discovered about the band in the last two decades. But it’s nice to know it’s much more doable now.

My future wishes: Vellum and Squarespace integration.

Brian Koppelman: “Go Do the Thing.”

Brian Koppelman (a fellow Van Halen fan) is the co-creator of the hit Showtime series Billions, one of my favorite shows. This week, the cast and crew of Billions is back at work on a new season and Brian had some words of encouragement for all creators: 

brian koppelman.jpg
“This is the call sheet for the pilot of Billions. Note the date we started: Jan 19, 2015. Fifteen months before, I really thought my career might be over. Or radically smaller. Because in October of 2013 a (bad) movie we wrote bombed and we were fired from an HBO show we were hired to run. Our agents at the time told us we were basically un-hirable. Or that the demand for our services had shrunk. I remember walking New York City in a lost daze. It was a dark time...I believed the agents that there might never be another opportunity. And then, somehow, David and I remembered we were writers. That no agent or executive could stop us from the work itself. So, along with Andrew, we wrote the pilot to Billions, on spec, without a deal. I’ve detailed that experience before but just know this: doing it felt like rebirth. And a regaining of power and self determination. Right now, I’m on my way to set for the first day of shooting season four. Never let them tell you you’re dead. You’re not. You’re alive. And you have way more control than you think. Go do the thing. Love.”

I Launched a Book on Patreon

I finally did it. I set up a Patreon account. I don't expect a lot of people to sign up, because I've yet to launch much of what is planned for the coming year, but those who do join this early will get a free advance copy of the second edition of the A Lesser Photographer ebook, with a limited edition cover by renowned minimalist designer Daniel Benneworth-Gray!

When You Have Nothing More to Say

Patrick Rhone appeared on Anthony Ongaro’s podcast and right away the conversation focused on why Patrick Rhone ended his blog, Minimal Mac, when he did after 5 years and about 3000 posts:

Anthony: “And then you stopped.”
Patrick: “I stopped at almost the very height of its popularity.”
Anthony: “Why did you stop?”
Patrick: “I had nothing more to say.”

This is also why I stopped blogging at A Lesser Photographer. I had said it all and I felt that to say any more would be to dilute what the site had taught me and my readers about photography.

I curated the best essays from the site into a book. Patrick did the same for his blog. Now we have neat little packages of what we learned on the topics we studied.

This is important, because people need to hear the solutions to complex problems over and over until it sinks in. Concise, clear books fulfill this need better than blogs.

We both went on blogging at our personal sites. That doesn’t mean we never write about the niche topic again, but it does mean we approach it from different (healthier?) point of view. 

After months of work, I’m about to click publish on a new edition of A Lesser Photographer at Amazon and a few other places. I’ve sent review copies out to several websites, so you may see those articles soon. The book has been out of print for a while, which has given me a lot of time to contemplate its value.

I love being able to say that I have nothing more to say about a topic, and this book will make that possible once again.

How to Be the Dumbest Person in the Room

James Altucher recently posted about the smartest piece of financial advice he'd ever received:

"Everyone has to be smarter than me for me to get involved."

The whole post is a great story of ups and downs that's all about having a beginner's mind at all times.

Read the post, then watch Jeremy Irons perform this very idea below. In this scene, from the movie Margin Call, he's the CEO of a large investment bank on the brink of the housing collapse a decade ago. In my career I've dealt with many high-level executives in banking and other industries. The best of them approach meetings exactly like this (even with very small problems).