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 BorrowLenses.com 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.