Travis Lawton: Following Through on Your 365 Project

Travis Lawton

Travis Lawton got some press earlier on this year from Petapixel as he completed his 365 film project. Lawton is the Phoblographer’s former Technical Editor, and continues to still blog on his own accord. His project is a special one: for an entire year, he shot film photos to hone and perfect his skills. But as many of us know, sticking to a 365 project isn’t the easiest.

With a brand new baby that just came along, Travis doesn’t have very much time for anything besides work and being a dad. But we got to pick his brain about the project and honing your photographic eye.

Phoblographer: You’re a former Phoblographer Editor and when you left us, you started a major 365 project to help expand and explore your own creative freedom. I knew what it was about from following your blog, but let everyone else know what the project was, why you did it and what you hoped to get out of it?

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Travis: Many on the staff at the Phoblographer are avid film photography fans. Many posts have been dedicated to shooting film. I personally hadn’t shot film since I was a little boy and I was wanting to get into it a little. I had also been planning to try a 365 project for the first time. I decided to combine the two and came up with shooting one roll of film per week for 52 weeks. I would then blog about each weeks roll and post the best images.

Phoblographer: How do you feel that you improved yourself as an artist? And what did you learn from this project?

Travis: The clear and simple answer, is the same that most people that get into film say, it slows you down. I’m someone who loves statistics and numbers so every time I pressed the shutter, I would think to myself, “well that just cost 60 cents”. No care-free burst shooting with film.

I learned to wait for the shot to materialize. If I saw a scene on the street that I wanted to capture, I would wait until just the right amount of people were in the background, or maybe I wanted a car just on the outside of the frame. It became a waiting game to get that perfect shot.

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Phoblographer: Take a look at yourself one year ago and yourself today. You’ve got a brand new baby now, but besides that how do you think that you differ as a creative? What new thought processes go through your head as you shoot now than when they did back then?

Travis: I think it all boils down to getting the shot just right, even when shooting with digital now. You mentioned my baby, she is now 6 months. Gone is the “snapshot” for me. Even when taking pictures of my baby, I will move her into better lighting. I remember one time she was lying in her crib and the light was coming in straight at her from a window. This was giving a slight shadow under her eyes so I opened up a small reflector, propped it over her head and filled in the shadows. This for just an iPhone pic.

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Phoblographer: Why film? Why not digital? Why 35mm to start and not medium format?

Travis: The whole point of the project was to kickstart me into using film more. The project actually started with much more strict limitations. I began it by saying I would only use one camera, one lens, and shoot black and white exclusively. After a couple of months, taking my camera to work and photographing the same areas around Seattle during my breaks, it was getting a little stale. I ended up adding color film to the project and it renewed my interest all over again.

After another couple of months, I added some more lenses and focal lengths to my arsenal and a couple of months after that, I began purchasing additional and different cameras. My last camera I purchased was a Yashica Mat-124G, medium format, twin-lens reflex. The quality of medium format blew me away compared to 35mm and again sparked my interest in film photography.

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Phoblographer: Finding a balance is always one of the hardest things for a creative? I, myself, can attest to this one. What advice can you give to photographers about finding a balance in life with their business, family, expanding their creative horizons, and not burning out while doing it?

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Travis: As a new stay-at-home-dad/full-time photographer, I’ve really had to think about this lately. For the first couple of months, I found myself not even leaving the house for days at a time and while a camera was in my hand quite a bit, I was only shooting one, albeit adorable, subject. I’m only just now getting back into a normal routine including paid jobs and my wedding season is getting ready to start up soon.

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The advice I would give would be actually planning time for these various things. I’m talking about using your calendar and actually scheduling times for family when no work will be done. This way you can give 100% of yourself to each individual item when the time comes.

I will say though that I’m always trying to think of new, creative shoots. One of the best ways I’ve found is while watching TV or movies. Millions of dollars go into creating a movie so when I see an interesting scene, or situation, I try to think about how I could create a photo shoot based around it and then push the envelope. I’ll admit that I have many more of these ideas written down than actually shot. It’s always nice to have a long, unfinished list of ideas, rather than trying to come up with a concept off the top of your head.

Phoblographer: If you were to do this project all over again, what would you do differently?

Travis: I would try to diversify my shooting locations more. I started and completed the project when I had a day job so many of the images were from the same location. I would also finally pull the trigger and get over my fear of asking strangers if I could take their picture. I can’t even tell you how much I wrestled within my mind about asking people this question while walking around downtown Seattle.

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Phoblographer: What’s next up your sleeve? You haven’t written for us in a while… 😉

Travis: I have a good friend here in Seattle who has been pushing me forever to get into shooting video. This person has since accepted a position at Creative Live shooting most of their promotional pieces for upcoming courses so he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve decided to diversify my time between still photography as well as videography. This will come in the form of promotional content for businesses, personal video projects, and wedding videography. This is one of the reasons why I decided to put together the following video that summarizes my OneRollFifty2 project. I just finished filming all the content for one client’s video and am set to start filming another in the coming weeks.

Oh and as life starts returning to somewhat normal, I’d love to write a little more for the Phoblographer and your amazing readers.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.