It’s the process of looking for connections, whether that’s people, places, companies, experiences or just collective ideas. The more things start to come together around the project, I’ll start to notice when it’s something that seems a bit more realistic. Then, I can start formalizing it from idea to actual concept, and many times into a pitch or a proposal, depending on who I’m going to send it to.
What do you do when you hit a wall during your creative process?
That happens almost every day in some form or fashion, whether it’s schedule, the weather or something else. We all have doubts about what we’re doing, no matter what it is, and pushing past it is just something you have to do. Like, I fly 200,000 miles a year and people ask me, “What do you do about the jet lag?” My answer is, “We don’t have time for jet lag.” You can’t do anything about it – you just deal with it, because you have to work on other things.
The best thing you can do when you feel you’ve hit a wall, a creative roadblock, is to give yourself time and space. All of those emails, all the other things that you have to do, that’s all going to be there tomorrow. But the only way you’re going to be able to clear the way, mentally, for yourself is to seriously just take a step back – sit, relax, breathe, meditate, go for a walk. I’ll try to find any body of water, sit in front of it, take some deep breaths and just slowly start to work on whatever you can work on that’s right in front of you, and it will sort of clear up.
This world is really tough, because it can be a lot of creativity on demand. Conceptually, it can be really fun on the surface, but when you actually have to do things under contract, the pressure goes up. Any time the pressure goes up, you have to make sure you allow yourself the time to get back to that pure form of creativity you started with. That’s the most important thing.
Your post-processing workflow has attracted a lot of attention. What are some of your trademark techniques?
For 20 years now, I’ve been using Photoshop, and I’m 100 percent self-taught. My friend called me on a payphone, out of school, and he’s like, “This place is hiring for a Photoshop artist. Do you know how to use Photoshop? Can you come in for an interview on Monday?” And I’m like, “Absolutely. I know how to use Photoshop.” I had never used Photoshop a day in my life. So I decided to spend that weekend trying to figure out how to do it, and I made it through the interview process and learned on the job for years.
That really taught me a lot. Getting into photography, I already knew that side of it. Learning the technical side of the camera gave me the ability to kind of introduce the tools that I needed as I needed them. And when I started teaching it, I was shocked – I’d never looked at a tutorial on YouTube before. But if you YouTube, “How do I post process photos?”, it’s amazing. A million things come up and most of them are really bad, and they’re really confusing.
What I’m known for is being able to explain even complex things in a simple way, because they are not actually complex. That is the big misconception of post-processing – it is not complex whatsoever. People make it seem more complex than it needs to be.
What I’ve been doing over the last eight years is a process blending moments in time together. Sort of like, time bracketing, where you leave the camera set up in one location and you shoot through a sequence of light. That could be a sunset through a twilight. Then, in Photoshop, you actually blend those points in time together, so you can encapsulate an entire range of light in a scene.
And that’s something that, again, sounds really complicated, but it’s actually not. I’ve become very well-known for teaching and shooting in that style.