How I won a brand new Sony A9

 Image Source: Instagram/Borrowlenses

Image Source: Instagram/Borrowlenses

May has been the luckiest month I've ever had in photography!  But was it luck or was it hard work?  I think maybe it was a bit of both but mostly hard work.  In mid-May announced that in celebration for its 10th anniversary it was hosting a creative competition on social media and the grand prize winner would be receiving a brand new Sony A9 (retails $4500).  This camera had literally just hit the market and was the hottest mirrorless camera to date (also the most expensive!).  What did we have to do?  We had to submit a photo OR video of our camera gear or "kit" in a creative way.  Key word....Creative.


Now I've been wanting to move up to full-frame for a long time now. I'd been pining for a Sony A7Rii or even just a Sony A7ii.  I've been producing great work with just my APS-C sized Sony A6300 but I knew I was limiting myself and it was time to move up.  Problem is, at the moment I'm not making a ton of money in photography. I have a family of 4, with a mortgage, and putting down a couple thousand dollars on a camera was going to take awhile.  Then while scrolling through my Instagram feed I came across BorrowLenses' #refitmykit contest and saw a possible solution to my first world problem. But I knew that to win a camera like that, not only would I have to put a ton of hard work into my submission, I would have to show that hard work and be creative about it.  It was going to take a lot more than neatly laying out all my camera gear and taking the iconic top down photo of it all.  Looking at the majority of the submissions at the time that was all people were doing. So it seemed that most people didn't catch on that this was going to be judged off creativity.  Another thing I noticed was that they said we could submit a photo OR VIDEO. 

Before I got into photography, I started out in video.  I loved editing and putting clips together to make something awesome.  I made mostly GoPro videos and I was proud of them.  You can see all my videos still on YouTube.  I knew that for this contest I had to maximize every detail and angle on this thing if I wanted to win for sure.  Video was one way to maximize creativity.  Instagram allows only 1 minute videos but that was 1 whole minute of showcasing my creativity rather than just one single image.  Next came the hard work and I had to find a way to showcase that.  I went with stop motion photography as a way to maximize the fact that I worked hard on this video. I've never done stop motion photography but I understood how it worked and knew that people would put hours and days into creating something that could very well be just a one minute video.  This was definitely going to take a lot of hard work especially since I had never done it before.  But, it would allow me to story tell and get really creative in a way that people would mostly appreciate.  I began with story boarding my scenes on yellow sticky notes and then I watched tutorials on how to create good stop motion videos. After I knew what I wanted to do and had an idea of how to create this, I got to work.

Now, I work a full time job and I also have a family.  The only time I had to work on this was at night.  This meant staying up from 10pm to almost 3 or 4 in the morning.  I would go to work at my day job after sleeping 2 hours and then do it again the next night.  IT SUUUUCKED. But I kept my eye on the prize so to speak.  If you want a $4,500 camera for free, you better work for it.  So every night I was at it. Carefully moving about two dozen lego pieces individually, 1 cm at a time, occasionally knocking a few over and having to start over.  It required a lot of patience! Like ALOT!  But I had fun.  I only had a basic story board written out but along the way I would form a deeper story behind each piece. Each piece had their own thing going on whether they were in the foreground or background of my shot.  Attention to detail was something BorrowLenses had mentioned to me when I won and I'm glad I did it.  It really added extra layers and depth to the video. 

There were a lot of great submissions along with my own.  Even though I can honestly say I worked the hardest on mine there were some that were just so damn good and creative (and they were photos!).  I still had worries that I might not win! But hey--I got a really cool video out of it!  One thing I really liked about my submission was that, not only did it come out great, but I didn't have to use any fancy equipment to make it.  I used my Sony A6300 to film part of it, but the last part was filmed on my iPhone 7.  I didn't have any fancy tripods with extending arm attachments for that top down look.  I used a gorilla pod, my dinner chair, and duck tape.

So to win the contest I didn't need pro equipment.  Like BorrowLenses said, they were looking for creativity and for who wanted it the most.  I was able to show all of that in just a one minute video.  I am forever grateful for this opportunity. Not just for finally getting a full frame camera, but for this opportunity to learn a life long lesson for myself and for my kids.  That if you want something in life, even if it's free, you have to work hard and passionately for it.   


Good 1st Month at The Shutter Nerd

March has been a good month for me in photography.  I started shooting as a hobbyist a year ago. Started getting decent and everyone kept pushing me to take my skills and make something out of it.  I took a few months off to focus on moving my family from Japan back to the states.  I hadn't touched my camera in awhile and wasn't sure if I was going to get off my butt and get into it again.  Then one night I decided to head out and try some astro here in Jacksonville, NC. Milkyway season was upon us and I had yet to get a good Milky Way shot under my belt. That night the sky was clear and there was no moon. Perfect excuse to dust off the Sony A6300 and start shooting again.  After that night I came home with a few great photos that you can see in the "Night" section of my website.  But this post isn't about those photos. It's about how I re-sparked that passion for photography. After that night I began thinking of new things to shoot and before I knew it I was breathing, living, and thinking of photography 24/7.  I then decided that I was going to finally start my "thing".

Enter The Shutter Nerd. It was the first name I can think of because it pretty much describes who I am.  Amongst my friends I am a total geek about video games, comics, tech, and pop culture.  Also I was lucky to find that the name had not been taken on Instagram, Facebook, and the .com domain was still available! So I changed my name on Instagram from my own personal account to my business one @theshutternerd.  I made it a goal to give at least one quality post a day. This forced me to keep shooting.  Also, I've probably become a danger while driving on roads because I'm constantly looking around and searching for interesting subjects and locations to shoot. My wife is always yelling at me about this still and I'm working on it :P. If I don't have anything to post that day I've found I had soooo many images from Japan that I had never shared and that were pretty good. I'd dip into those and re-edit and share. Constantly posting, commenting, following, hash tagging like a #boss and interacting with people on social media has started to see my account grow a lot in just a month! I went from a few hundred followers to a few thousand fast and even got invited to do an IG account takeover for @universetoday, a popular space and astronomy news site with an IG account with over 106k followers. Right now the followers have seemed to slow down a lot compared to the beginning of the month, but they are still trickling in daily. I am at 3,828 at the time of this post.

Then I finally decided to buy the domain name and build this website. It's a work in progress but I'm proud of it. I feel legit now! Today, I'm going to work on installing my online store. Not sure how to do it on Square Space but I have one set up on Pixieset so I'll probably just link them together. If anyone reading this has a better way please let me know!  Now the next step in my photography goals is to start doing paid gigs. Follows and likes on social media are wonderful but it isn't putting any money into my camera funds.  I really need to start shooting people, events, and selling prints so that way I can keep funding my passion which means upgrading gear, running this website, and expanding my education through attending workshops.  I'm still a beginner in this game but I don't plan on stopping. This was just one month. I'm excited to see what happens in the next year.  If you are following me now please stick around with me on this journey!  P.S. Visit my online store and feel free to purchase a print as well! :) - Rey