Wow, things have changed the past few weeks & months! In no particular order...
- Built and launched knowjack.media
- Rebuilt this site and redirected all the old one(s!) to here
- Switched out my camera setup
- Completed my first paid photo shoot in 13 years
- Decided I'm changing careers
When my friend Jack asked me to help building a website for his new media company, I knew I was in for a treat. When he told me that someone had already done the design for the site, I knew this was also going to be a challenge.
The curse of being both a designer and developer is that you tend to only design what you know you can implement. All the wacky ideas are replaced by conservative and generic layouts. This is useful because most of what we build for the web is tried, tested and true. We use what works.
The problem is that outside of a few pet-projects and experiments, every site starts to look the same. When Jack was talking about this site, one of his criteria stood out...
"It should look like it could never be built with Squarespace."
By the time I got involved, the design team — Sam & India — had already done a fantastic job of making the site different. The branding was bold and the layout almost chaotic. A far cry from the normal boxes within boxes within boxes.
Ultimately the site was pretty straightforward to build. The asymmetrical layout was handled with ease by CSS Grid, albeit with a lot of testing across different screen sizes to ensure everything stayed legible and clear. Making sure that Jack's photos looked great across every device without being slow to load took a little more effort however.
I started off exporting different versions of each image manually but knew that this needed to be automated to make changes to both the images and their resolution simple at a later date. Fortunately I found Zola which is a Rust-based static site generator that includes a built-in image pipeline. Before I knew it, I only needed to pass the path of a full size image to Zola and it would generate the two sizes I needed in both JPEG and WebP formats, along with all the HTML
The site is simple, but I really like it as a striking, stripped-back demonstration of what Jack does. It puts his photography front and centre with just enough supporting information to give it context.
Rebuilt this site with Ghost
I've been experimenting a lot over the past six months with different website generators and working under different brands. This has created mess, sprawl and duplicated effort in lots of different directions. I think I had two current websites, two archive websites of different vintages and about half a dozen unfinished replacements. The time had come to clean up and start working with some focus.
I've ditched all the more "out-there" brand ideas and am sticking with the straightforward domain name "jamiedumont.com". Not only did I already own the address but it's fuss free and (relatively) easy to spell when directing new people to the site.
After months evaluating static site generators of various ilks, I was surprised to find that Ghost made the most sense for what I want from my website. I recently wrote about my first impressions which are mixed, but overall quite positive.
Switched from Fuji to Leica
During the UK's winter lockdown earlier in the year I purchased a Leica M2. It's a camera that I've longed to use ever since I started taking pictures, and I finally bit the bullet after finding the perfect one at Leica Store Manchester.
My poor Fuji X-T3 gave up a few of it's lenses to facilitate the purchase and since then I've shot nothing but the M2 — the X-T3 just wasn't fun to use anymore. Using film has been incredible fun and I enjoy the wait between taking the picture and seeing it. There were still times I missed the immediacy of digital though.
Knowing that I was heading back towards being a working photographer again I had to get familiar with digital once more. I took the Fuji out with me and came back with some lovely photos like the one below, but I still didn't enjoy using it.
In an impulsive (but well researched) switch I sold all my remaining Fuji kit and bought a Leica SL with L-to-M mount adapter. I was instantly hooked and shortly afterwards bought a Sigma 105mm macro lens too.
I have second guessed myself on occasions as the six year old SL does have it's quirks and is definitely a step backwards in some aspects like autofocus compared to my old X-T3 and the Canon R6 I was also eyeing up.
Overall though I love the camera and am comfortable working around it's limitations. Full write ups on both the M2 and SL are in the works. Big thanks to Leica Store Manchester, MPB & Park Cameras for making the buying and selling of kit so easy.
I'm wary of the term "professional photography" as it's overloaded with often unhelpful connotations.
A few months ago I was looking at getting some large C-type prints made by a printer I've used before, but was told that I didn't qualify for the company's services any longer as I "wasn't a professional".
Whilst it's hard to comment on an elitist attitude in photography having purchased two Leicas this year — which certainly come with their own baggage — I was upset because I see photography as an almost universally accessible creative outlet. Most people have a phone that is capable of exceptional images, and many create wonderful work in a professional setting with modest tools. What makes them — and me — less "professional" in the eyes of this printer?
Anyway, I've been a content Lesser Photographer for the past 13 years, just enjoying the process of taking pictures. As my software-induced burnout has taken hold I've been reaching for the camera more & more as a form of therapy. The Leica M2 with it's stripped-back approach devoid of any digital assistance has been especially cathartic. I began imagining a future where making my living involved taking pictures rather than writing code.
Last week I got the opportunity to make it a reality by working with my friend Jack — yes, the one I mentioned above. I had previously confided in him about my possible career change and he was kind enough to ask if I wanted to help him complete a brief where he needed to be on-camera rather than behind it. I jumped at the chance and Jack came down to Cornwall with the prop to end all props — a new 2021 Land Rover Defender!
Jack was patient as he guided me through what was expected during and after a commercial shoot. He pointed out where I was making silly mistakes and what the safest approach to shooting was when images needed to be delivered.
I'll write up a full photo story about the day soon.
The cat's already out of the bag at this point, but I've decided to scale back my development work in favour of more photography. I'll be keeping my current projects going, but I won't be taking on any new ones. I'll still be doing a little development here and there to keep my hand in but the aim is to transition to photography completely.
I have no idea how long it will take to make the jump because I might know my way round a camera well enough, but I'm practically starting from zero. I only recently created an Instagram account again and have no network of photographers, clients, models and agencies to lean on. I've also got a lot more equipment to purchase to have a well rounded set up and need to starting working out what kind of photographer I'm going to be.