Shooting Typography

This originally appeared as a guest post on Zach and Simon’s Westside Studio blog.

I’ve always loved taking pictures. I actually even won an award for my sports photography in high school for the Blue Valley Northwest yearbook (back before these fancy DSLRs, I shot on film and developed it myself). I’ve done my best to continue to shoot photographs throughout my adult life, but oftentimes the busy day can hinder the ability to get out there and shoot. I got out of the habit of having a camera with me, so even when I’d see stuff that I wanted to photograph, I wouldn’t have anything with me at all.

About a year ago I read about this photographer named Chase Jarvis who was somehow managing to get some crazy shots out of his simple 3-megapixel iPhone camera. I’m not sure if it was him who coined the phrase (Jarvis has since trademarked it and subsequently released a book, iPhone app and website), but he said:

The best camera is the one you have with you.

When I started working for AMC, I began spending the lunch hour walking around downtown Kansas City with my friend Justin and I began to notice some of the really interesting shots that I might be able to get if only I had my camera with me.

So I started bringing it with me everyday. I just got a new DSLR last year, the Canon Rebel T1i, and I have a nice compact sling bag that make it pretty easy for me to carry the camera, a flash and a couple lenses. I found that I was being drawn to the interesting typography and signage of Kansas City. One of the first shots I remember taking was this sign outside the parking garage at 1025 Main Street. First off, I’m a sucker for Clarendon and most slab serif typefaces. I always thought this was such and interesting choice for a parking garage.

1025 Main

Then behind my office, I found this fabulous Union Carbide Building.

Union Carbide Building

I began to realize that I was being really inspired by James Patrick Gibson‘s New Type York. I began to wonder if I’d be able to start a Kansas City-focused type photoblog. After a day or two and some encouragement on Twitter, I found there was enough audience and interest. Plus, there was definitely enough typography to shoot.

So armed with Tumblr and Twitter, I started KCType.com. I haven’t had a lot of time to spend on designing the template or worrying too much about the details, I’ve just been out there shooting in the places where I find myself on a day-to-day basis. I’ve had a couple guest posts from my brother and my friends Ramsey, Phil and Steve, but there is so much interesting typography and signage in this city to shoot that I rarely have trouble posting on a daily basis.

Usually, I’m shooting with one of two lenses: either my Canon fixed 50mm f/1.4 lens (which is freaking amazing) or a 75-300mm zoom lens that I’ve had for about 15 years. One reason I continue to stick with Canon is because I’ve got so much invested in lenses now that it would be silly for me to switch.

If there’s one piece of advice I could give to people wanting to get into photography (even though I’m grossly underqualified to give photography advice), it’s that you should always have a camera with you. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity for a great shot and there is amazing stuff all around us, even in something as simple as typography and signage.

See more of my pictures on Flickr. Also, be sure to check out my KC Type blog.