So, this is the page where I tell you how I got started with photography and this website, and let you know a little more about the approach and what I’m trying to accomplish.
First, my background. I grew up in St. Louis, and still really consider myself a St. Louis guy even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years. I have been in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas for that time, and for the last 10 years I have lived in a great little suburb in the DFW area called Southlake. I live here with my wife Susan – a native Texan who is a practicing physician – and our two teenage daughters, Hannah and Elizabeth. Between being the sole male in the house, and being the lone non-native Texan, there is a lot of eye-rolling in my direction.
I went to law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and then went into private practice, where I remained for 12 years. I was a commercial litigator, doing mostly construction and surety disputes. That is a hard and stressful way to make a living. So a little over 5 years ago I went in-house with a company. I now work out of my house and enjoy my job. It even lets me travel to interesting places to photograph on occasion. That change is what really got me rolling with photography.
Approach of Outdoor Photo Academy
What I did for a living affects what I am trying to do with Outdoor Photo Academy. How so? Here are some ways:
- Simplicity: Being in commercial litigation, I spent many years trying to distill complicated disputes into simple, understandable concepts for disinterested judges and juries. It took me years to get really good at taking something really complicated and turning it into something that ordinary people could understand (and stay awake for). You have to simplify everything, then simplify it some more, and then simplify it again, all the while staying true to what actually happened (or else the other side will cram it down your throat). I learned to avoid jargon, use simple language, and make compelling diagrams to help people understand these complex issues. Mercifully, those days are over, but I can now use those skills and apply them to the thing I am most interested in – photography.
- Practicality: I come at photography from the realm of business and practicality. To me, if something has a real impact on your pictures, I want to know about it. Otherwise, I don’t care. I don’t approach photography like someone from art school. You won’t hear any art-speak here, and I avoid the vague advice and fluffy language. I’m not an engineer either, and I won’t get mired down in endless details and specifications that won’t have a practical benefit to your photography.
- Fun: I quit being a litigator because it was no fun. I’m making up for lost time now.. To me, taking great pictures – and learning new ways to do it – is fun. At the same time, let’s not take all this too seriously.
Not About the Gear
I have always been interested in photography, and have owned many film and digital cameras over the years. Changing career paths finally gave me the time to jump in with both feet. So, of course, my first move was to rush out and buy a bunch of new gear.
I bought the Canon 5D mark ii when it came out several years ago. If you are not familiar with that camera, it was perhaps the best camera on the market when it came out (and is still a great option). I also went out and bought several L-Series lenses, which are Canon’s top of the line lenses. Armed and ready, I then went on a trip to Ireland, ready to slay that island and come home with the best pictures in the world. I would then hang these pictures on my wall. Others would see them and insist on buying them. I’d probably just sit back and sell them for the rest of my life.
It will probably come as no surprise to you that I came home from Ireland with a bunch of crappy pictures. Actually, they weren’t horrible, but they certainly weren’t the masterpieces I contemplated. If you look at my website today, you will see few, if any, of the pictures from that first Ireland trip. It was slightly confusing to me. I had the best camera and lenses available. How could this happen?
Because I had the best camera and lenses available, I could not blame my gear. I knew that wasn’t the problem. It forced me to look elsewhere. I knew the problem was me, and that there was more to this game that I was missing. I set about finding out what that was. But that cured me of gear lust very quickly.
So you’ll see some things about gear on this site. It is a necessary thing. You cannot be a photographer without a camera. But I won’t obsess over it.
Putting the Outdoor in Outdoor Photo Academy
This place is called “Outdoor” Photo Academy for a reason. It focuses on a lot of different types of photography that pretty much all take place outdoors. If you like landscapes, seascapes, or just capturing sunsets, this is the place for you. If you enjoy wandering around a city and photographing the buildings and people you encounter, you will like this place. Even if you just like taking pictures on vacations or with your family, you will get a lot out of this website.
But, when you are about something, that means you are not about something else. So what won’t you see here? You won’t see anything about complicated lighting set-ups. Soft-boxes, umbrella stands, and the like just aren’t used when you are outside photographing the world. You need to remain nimble. Neither will you see much about working with models or posing. There won’t be anything here about product or food photography. Basically any photography that is posed or that was done in a studio is out.
The best photography captures a moment of time, or your family, or a beautiful place. I want to be out taking pictures of the world as it exists; not in a studio and not as I have posed it. If that sounds good to you, climb aboard.
Want to know more about me and my photography? You can always check out my personal work at Jim Hamel Photography. In addition, here are a few highlights from my work in photography:
- Staff Writer for Digital Photography School, one of the world’s most popular photography websites. I’m also the creator of two of their most popular courses: Night Photography and 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer.
- Best-selling author of 2 photography books: Getting Started in Photography (PDF e-book or Kindle) and Photographing London: How to Find and Take Great Pictures (Kindle).
- Lecturer on aspects of outdoor photography – particularly night photography – to photo clubs across the country.
- Client work includes book covers for the American Bar Association, extensive photography for website remodels, and office decor (of up to 25 prints) for local Dallas businesses.