P&P Blogger Profile: Shawn Duffy

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Shawn Duffy of SDuffy Photography

I am originally from Pittsburgh, PA but I’ve been living in the Washington, DC Metro area for the last six years.  During the day, I hack websites for a large Internet company.  I absolutely love technology and I am extremely excited about some of the things going on with the web right now.  I also love to travel.  I didn’t travel much when I was younger so I’m doing my best to make up for it.  In April, my girlfriend and I are going to Paris and, in June, I’ll be making my second trip to the West Bank where I volunteer on a refugee camp with Palestinian children.

I was recently featured in the DCist Exposed Photography Show and that compelled me to take my photography much more seriously than I had been.  So, when I’m not working, I try to find new and exciting things to photograph, I blog, and do my best to turn this wonderful hobby into a full-time career.

Why do you blog?
I love technology and the web right now so, given my passion for photography, it seemed like the natural thing to do.  I’m a fairly new photographer so I blog primarily to learn.  I try to blog about the things I don’t know or have recently learned in an effort to help other new photographers.  I’ve learned so much from the web and other bloggers that I feel like I should do my part as well.

If you only had time to read three blogs a day, which ones would they be?
Wow, that’s a tough one considering my Google Reader subscription count is up around 300 feeds now.  Only two would be photography-related: Digital Photography School and Strobist.  The third would be Mashable (http://mashable.com).  It’s a great social web/tech blog that keeps me in the loop on new sites, web services, and apps. 

How long have you been using Photoshop/been a photographer?
I’ve only been using Photoshop for about a month.  I finally got around to buying a copy of it when I bought my new computer.  As for photography, I’ve been taking it seriously for about a year and a half, ever since I actually sat down and learned the manual controls on my Canon Powershot.  Within a month of that, I bought my first DSLR, a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi.

What type of camera(s) do you shoot with?
I currently shoot with a Canon 5D.  I lost my XTi and about five lenses when I returned from Ireland last year.  They made me check the bag and, of course, it didn’t show up when I got back to DC.  Luckily I had insured it and I used the money to upgrade to the 5D.  I do miss the faster fps of the XTi but, overall, I absolutely love the 5D.

Mac or PC?
Well, I have a brand new Mac Pro desktop, a Macbook Pro laptop for work, and an iPhone.  Yeah, I’m an Apple guy.

What is your favorite piece of photo or computer equipment (other than your camera)?
I’d have to say the Apple 23-inch cinema display on my new computer.  After editing photos in Aperture on a 15-inch laptop screen for over a year, the 23-inch screen makes me feel like a whole new photographer.

What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have?
As for a single piece of equipment, I’d have to say I really want to get a longer lens.  I’m looking forward to getting the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens.  Overall, though, I want to start building up my studio equipment so I can do more portrait work and learn more about lighting in general.

What advice do you have for a novice creative professional/photographer?
Stop comparing yourself to the best of the best.  It’s useful to use them as inspiration or as an example of what to strive for, but if you’re not careful, it can frustrate you.  I see so many incredible photos everyday that I often find myself discouraged and thinking “I’ll never be that good”.  Frustration is the enemy of creativity.  Don’t sell yourself short.  I’m willing to bet that your best work is probably a lot better than you think it is.  Take your time, do your best, and before you know it, you’ll be the photographer that others strive to be.

What inspires you to create?
I wouldn’t say there is any one thing that inspires me.  I love creating compelling images that others enjoy.  My favorite area of photography is photojournalism.  In photojournalism, I think it’s all about documenting history and capturing emotion.  If I can capture an emotion in a photograph and make others feel it, then as far as I’m concerned, I’ve succeeded.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Set goals.  From huge life-changing goals to small lists of what you have to do every day.  Without that, sometimes you feel like you’re just drifting along and not going anywhere.  Take charge and chart your course.  Also, it’s a cliché, but: Life’s too short.  Do what you enjoy.  We always read stories about people that give up the day-to-day office and cubicle lifestyle and go on to do amazing things.  There’s no reason that those stories can’t be about you or me. 

Where would you most like to live (other than where you live now)?
Ireland.  No doubt about it.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Other than photography, I love learning new things.  Though I haven’t done nearly enough of it recently, I love to read.  I read mostly non-fiction and current events.  I can’t get into fiction novels.  I’d rather spend my time learning about the real world around me.

What talent would you most like to have?
Obviously, I’d love to be a better photographer.  Outside of that realm, I’d actually love to be able to sing.  I don’t know where that comes from, but I absolutely love music.  Music is probably the best medium for communicating emotion and to be able to sing well would be a blessing.

From Inside the Actors Studio:
What is your favorite word? Liberty… in the original, Founding Fathers sense of the word.  I’m not a very religious person so the closest thing I identify as a “higher power” would be the Constitution of the United States of America.  Did I mention I was very politically active? 
What is your least favorite word? “No”.  I don’t like being told I can’t do something, particularly when the person telling me that is myself.  I think that’s a battle we all fight every day.  Once you learn how to stop telling yourself “No”, no one can ever tell you “No” again.
What turns you on? Living in DC, I love when there’s a huge protest downtown for me to photograph.  I could do that for hours.  There are just so many incredible photo opportunities in events like that…  It’s a blast.
What turns you off? Being treated like a criminal simply because I carry around a big camera and take photos of things in which a security guard/police officer can’t see the value.  I hate being told I can’t take photos of something, especially when I’m on public property.  I could go on forever about this, so I better stop now.
What sound or noise do you love? A camera shutter.  There’s something about that sound that still excites me.  Also, something a little random: I love the sound of sending email in Apple’s Mail.app.
What sound or noise do you hate? I apologize to all the parents in your audience, but I hate the sound of screaming and crying kids.  I’m sure I’ll probably change my tune when I have kids of my own but, for now, it’s definitely at the top of my “do not like” list.
What is your favorite curse word? I don’t think it gets any better than the F word.  I try and police myself when it comes to dropping an F-bomb now and then but, how can you resist using a word that’s so f***ing versatile? 😉
What occupation other than your own would you like to attempt? In an ideal world, I’d be a traveling freelance photojournalist and blogger.  I’d love to travel to conflict zones or poverty-stricken areas of the world, take photos and write about it for a living.  (Of course, in an “ideal” world, those places wouldn’t exist, but I think you catch my drift.)  Outside of the photo world, I am really getting more into web development.  Now that the days of basic HTML have gone out the window, I’d really love to spend some time boning up on web scripting languages.  I’d love to be able to build some of the cool stuff that’s out there right now.
What occupation would you not want to participate in? As politically active as I am and as much as I want change, I think I’d hate to be a politician.  It’d be nice if politicians could truly speak their mind instead of appealing to the lowest common denominator, but that’s how you get elected I guess.  Maybe that will change in my lifetime but, in the meantime, I’d rather be a responsible, and involved, citizen.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? The same thing I think everyone should be able to say to themselves before they go to bed every night: “You may not have changed the world, but you truly did the best you could.”

*Note: If you there is someone you would like to see as a part of the P&P Blogger Profile series, please email Jason with their blog’s URL. Also, be sure to check out the P&P Weekly every Monday for news about this site and a roundup of what other Photoshop & Photography Blogroll members are posting.

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