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The Story Behind The Visual Palette

This is quite possibly my favorite, and most successful, photo that I've ever taken. I'd kept from putting it through my Redux series for a long while because I never really found myself in the right frame of mind to start over on it... until the other day. I've had a lot on my mind lately and starting anew with this photo offered the perfect respite from some of the demon battles in my head.

Getting this photo boiled down to three really dominant factors, as titled by this post: place, time, and luck. In the two weeks that I lived and traveled aboard the Royal Clipper, this was the only time the captain allowed the ship's sails be lowered in full regality. Furthermore, he only granted Press access to a ship's tender to circle the vessel several times before coming back. This limited access came much to the ire of the passengers, who all felt very slighted. Because I was considered Press, I was one of six people (out of over 200 guests and crew) allowed on the tender.

I looked at my watch while boarding the tender. We were hitting a really nice time of day where the sun was just starting to set, blanketing the area with really nice light and long shadows. It also allowed for the angle of the sunlight to really shine off of the sails, which were now on full display.

The luck really came into play once the tender started moving. The water was really choppy and because the vessel itself was rather small, it took each wave with little grace, forcing all six of us to wrap our arms around the tender's support beams and photograph the Royal Clipper while hugging beams of steel. While having a good command of the camera to adjust settings on the fly helped a lot, so much about getting this photo boiled down to luck. The luck to be at the right place and at the right time but also having the luck to have the right lens on at the right focal length, angled appropriately, and to expose the shot at just the right time.

I'm not above to attributing a lot of my successes to t

It didn’t hit me for a while. Not when I submitted the final chapter to my esteemed editor, Ted Waitt. Not when Jess Tiernan, Rocky Nook’s Marketing Manager, sent me my first physical copy. And not even when the book’s product page changed from “Preorder” to “Now Shipping.” Even after all of that, it hadn’t hit me that I was now a published author and bookstores all around would have a new book on their shelves with my surname on the spine. The full weight of that began sinking in when people started sharing posts and tweets of my book. This thing that I had spent about eight months creating was now in the world for people to enjoy.

And to think that it almost didn’t happen.

Let’s rewind a bit. It’s October 2014 and we’re at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. I’d been brewing up an idea to write a book focusing on a multi-year photo series I had been working on called The Path of Least Resistance. In its original state, I envisioned it to be more of a coffee table book that someone could pick up and become entranced by photos that captured the mesmerizing qualities of water in motion. Every time I looked at these photos, my stress levels went down and I thought this book could help others find some relaxation while perusing its pages, too.

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Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge, OR, USA

As luck would have it, I came across my friend, Scott Cowlin, at the Rocky Nook booth. I’d known Scott for several years and it was great to see him thriving as Managing Director. So, after catching up for a bit—as people often do at these trade shows—I pitched my idea to Scott. Now, while I likely didn’t think it to be the case at the time, Scott’s almost instant apprehension about my idea was a huge favor to me. After all, that’s his job—to separate the wheat from the chaff. While my idea for the book didn’t particularly jive with Scott, he made it quite clear that he would be very interested in working with me on a book. And that’s how this roller coaster ride started.

And still, even after that chat and the subsequent emails and conference calls, I had serious apprehensions. I knew that I should write a book, especially with the opportunity being placed right in front of me. My wonderful wife, professional photographer and published author many times over, Nicole S. Young, laid it out quite simply. “Trust me. Having a book on the shelves with your name on it shows the industry that a major company felt you were worth investing real money into, and that can open up doors that wouldn’t otherwise be there,” she told me.

A voice inside me said that I should listen to her sage advice, so I agreed to write a book published by Rocky Nook.

Rockaway Beach Twin Rocks

Before anything could really move forward, we had to lay down the bedrock of the book. Scott and I decided that the underlying theme of the book should be about helping photographers achieve the one thing that we all strive for: putting our own individualized stamp on our photos. With the general theme dialed in, I had set a few ground rules about what I didn’t want the book to be. I didn’t want it to be just another “how to” book that teaches you how to use your camera or some editing software. It was imperative that this book be “evergreen,” and that its contents be as relevant to photographers today as it would be ten years from now. Because an individual’s creative journey is lifelong and varies so acutely from person to person, I chose to build my book atop this theme.

From there, everything fell into place quite harmoniously. I remember exactly where I was when I came up with the book’s title. I remember the four rounds of cover design evaluations that we went through before falling in love with the one you see today. I also remember sitting down at the Starbucks in Pioneer Square to write the first words of my book. Looking back on it now, I can’t help but laugh at some of the more melodramatic moments I had with Ted and Scott, and I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t one or two moments where I was about ready to cut the cord and walk away from the project. I suspect that many of you can relate to the sentiment that “If I put my name on anything, it had better be amazing.” That’s a general rule I follow as best as I can on anything I do—whether it’s sharing a photo online, creating a blog post, or writing an entire book—and there were times when the stresses of “creativity-on-demand” bore down hard on me.

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Ted and I developed a schedule where I’d deliver a new chapter every Monday, and a few days later he’d return a chapter with his edits and remarks. The first few chapters breezed by but after a few weeks, I experienced a serious bout of creative fatigue. This was the first time I was put under a rather strict deadline to deliver content that had to be pithy, helpful, and—most important to me—personal. For years, I built my particular brand of visual storytelling on a very personal platform. I share everything with my readers and this book was no exception. I just hadn’t experienced the process of creating engaging content at this magnitude and frequency.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful support system with Ted, Scott, and Nicole. All of them were able to intimately empathize with what I was going through and always helped me with each obstacle. If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t think The Visual Palette would have made it to the shelves, and that’s why I’ll be forever grateful.

So, why am I sharing this chronicle with you? To be honest, a big part of it is because it’s cathartic for me. Recalling the experience of what went into creating my first published book serves as a distinct reminder about how important perseverance and consistency are. Putting those thoughts down on paper also reinforces my belief that the quality of the friends you keep can have a significant and material impact on your life. You don’t need a lot of friends or fans or followers. You just need the right ones.

This is quite possibly my favorite, and most successful, photo that I've ever taken. I'd kept from putting it through my Redux series for a long while because I never really found myself in the right frame of mind to start over on it... until the other day. I've had a lot on my mind lately and starting anew with this photo offered the perfect respite from some of the demon battles in my head. Getting this photo boiled down to three really dominant factors, as titled by this post: place, time, and luck. In the two weeks that I lived and traveled aboard the Royal Clipper, this was the only time the captain allowed the ship's sails be lowered in full regality. Furthermore, he only granted Press access to a ship's tender to circle the vessel several times before coming back. This limited access came much to the ire of the passengers, who all felt very slighted. Because I was considered Press, I was one of six people (out of over 200 guests and crew) allowed on the tender. I looked at my watch while boarding the tender. We were hitting a really nice time of day where the sun was just starting to set, blanketing the area with really nice light and long shadows. It also allowed for the angle of the sunlight to really shine off of the sails, which were now on full display. The luck really came into play once the tender started moving. The water was really choppy and because the vessel itself was rather small, it took each wave with little grace, forcing all six of us to wrap our arms around the tender's support beams and photograph the Royal Clipper while hugging beams of steel. While having a good command of the camera to adjust settings on the fly helped a lot, so much about getting this photo boiled down to luck. The luck to be at the right place and at the right time but also having the luck to have the right lens on at the right focal length, angled appropriately, and to expose the shot at just the right time. I'm not above to attributing a lot of my successes to t

I hope my experience helps give you the confidence and positivity to explore your own creative pursuits, no matter how unlikely you think they could be. If this Brooklyn kid could create his own book, I cannot wait to see what amazing things you will create.

By Brian Matiash, author of The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Voice

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Pssst. Guess what? Brian’s book is also on sale today through Tuesday, April 19th! You can get the ebook for $15, the print for $20, or both for only $30. Click here for details and coupon codes.

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