Brendan Taylor Filice

Photography & the Outdoors

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woman camera Brendan Filice

What To Ask Yourself When Buying a New Camera

If you’re like me, you bring your camera everywhere. Plus, you might not even have much of a choice if you have a mobile phone. iPhones even have two camera! One for selfies, and one for everything else.

But to take serious photos, you’ll need to develop an understanding of the sometimes scary ISO and f-numbers. Once you gain at least a peripheral understanding of what they mean, you’re better prepared with the array of choices in the photography world. Once you feel better about this information, camera-shopping is less daunting.

Let’s dive into details.

1. What’s your budget?

This should be the first question you answer before you make a responsible decision about your new toy.  Are you a beginner? Do you just want to snap pictures of friends when you’re hanging out? Then there are great cameras under $300; in fact consider learning how to use your phone as camera if you’re not ready to invest in a new professional camera.

brendan filice photography iphone


The best cameras, DSLRs (digital single lens reflex), will set you back a few thousand dollars, but are a smart investment if you plan to get into photography professionally.

2. Do you need all these megapixels?

A megapixel is composed of the millions of tiny squares of colors (pixels) that line your image, horizontally and vertically (think of square footage), that compute to give you the square pixelage of the picture. Yes, megapixels do matter, but really only up too to a certain extent. The highest megapixels only should influence your choice if you plan to blow up your photo to huge proportions and need to maintain the quality of the original shot.

3. Do you hate asking, “Can I charge this here?”

Most cameras have rechargeable batteries, but you’ll want to know how often that recharging has to happen. Camera-specific batteries, while easy to stick in the wall and recharge, are difficult to replace if you lose them.

4. What are you willing to carry with you?

Some high-end cameras are bulky and require complicated set-up; such as tripods. However, this gear often gets you images with great quality. The camera really has to fit your style and your lifestyle. If you aren’t going to be proud showing off that camera every time you pull it out of the bag, then chances are you won’t use it as often as you’d like.

5. What features do you absolutely need?

brendan filice settings photo camera

Cameras nowadays have tons of figures; some have dozens of specific details that will alter the outcome of your shot. Fast focus, image stabilization, easy manual override, low-light capability, and wifi and printer connectivity are just some of the options cameras offer today. If you’re trying to shoot action photos, you’ll need features for fast focus and stabilization. Are you freelancing and need to print often? Consider portable wifi and printer models.


These are just a snapshot of the questions to ask yourself when buying a new camera. Make the right investment for your lifestyle! Check me out on my Twitter @brendan_filice for the latest.

Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944), Emir of Bukhara

The Defining Images of Photojournalism

“Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality…One can’t possess reality, one can possess images – one can’t possess the present but one can possess the past.”

– Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)

Photography is an outlet for us to both collect and create history. However, photography is changing. We now are filming ourselves nonstop, with Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, and other apps that keep us vigilantly connected to friends and family.

New York Times columnist James Estrin speaks to social media’s affect on photography. There are two notable changes. One, it is creating a vast new audience that can appreciate photography (consider Instagram). Two, it is changing what we share; the majority of pictures circulated is about ourselves, our friends, and families (consider selfies).

Teju Cole’s “On Photography” column in the NY Times has addressed the influence of photojournalism throughout history. Images that may seem simple now; for example, the dancing legs of three African boys gracing the sand as the ocean splashes their feet, inspired artistic masters to go out and capture the “eternity through the moment.”

Without photographers to help us define our world, where would be? How would we understand our vast history – in moments dark and bright?

Here are some of the defining photographs through time.

Roger Fenton

Roger FentonRoger Fenton – Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855)

Roger Fenton was one of the first people to capture the brutality of war on film. Fenton traveled from Britain in 1853 to the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea, where England, France, and Turkey were embroiled in a war against Russia. This photo is famously free from any dead or wounded bodies to avoid offending Victorian sensibilities, instead, the natural landscape is littered with wasted cannonballs.

Mathew Brady

Matthew Brady Confederate Dead at Antietam

Mathew Brady – Confederate Dead Gathered for Burial at Antietam (1862)

Brady’s team didn’t actually have the technical abilities to take pictures of the civil war battles in action, but his haunting visions of the aftermath of major battles like Antietam and Gettysburg perhaps forever defined the public’s relationship with warfare and reporting.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky

Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944), Emir of Bukhara

Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944), Emir of Bukhara (Uzbekistan)

Prokudin-Gorsky’s talent as a chemist helped him pioneer some of earliest color photographs. He also ambitiously ventured to capture the diverse culture and history of the Russian empire as it bounded toward modernization.

Jacob Riis

Jacob Riis Lodgers_in_a_Crowded Bayard_Street_Tenement

Lodgers in a Crowded Bayard Street Tenement (1889)

Jacob Riis – Lodgers in a Crowded Bayard Street Tenement (1889)

Jacob Riis was a Danish-American social reformer and journalist armed with a camera in New York City at the height of immigration. He believed that charitable citizens would help the poor when they saw for themselves “how the other half” lived, which turned into a groundbreaking work in the muckraking movement.


Dorothea Lange

Dorotea Lange Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson (1936)

In one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, Dorotea Lange captured the muted fear of a mother facing the threat of the Great Depression in the American West in her work for the Farm Security Administration.

Robert Frank

robert frank photo

Robert Frank was a Swiss Jew who travelled across the US at the height of the Cold War, capturing the American people —black and white, urban and rural, poor, middle, and upper class – in what seem to be mundane settings. His collection titled The Americans is arguably the best visual critique of modern society from an outsider’s perspective in the twentieth century.

kirkjufell mountains brendan filice

The World’s Most Picturesque Mountains

If you could photograph anything, what would you choose?

Mountains are ancient, awe-inspiring things. If I could take my camera all over the world, I would head right to the highest peaks all over the globe. Not only are these mountains aesthetically stunning, but people have gathered around epic peaks for millennia for sacred and spiritual reasons.


Brendan Filice’s pick of the fiften most picturesque mountains:
Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Elbrus, Russia
Tabletop Mountain, South Africa
Mount Shasta, California
Sugarloaf Mountain, Brazil
Mount Ararat, Turkey/Armenia
Matterhorn, Switzerland/Italy
Nevado Sajama, Bolivia
Galdhopiggen, Norway
Ama Dablan, Nepal
Mt. Kailiash, Tibet/China
Mount of the Holy Cross, Colorado
Harney Peak, South Dakota
Kirkjufell, Iceland
Patagonia Fitz Roy, Chile/Argentina

Ansel Adams Wilderness

A Beginner’s Guide to Nature Photography

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Ansel Adams, a landscape legacy

Do you find yourself using your iPhone to snap pictures of nearly everything you see? Do you run outside every time the sunsets to capture the perfect moment and share it with your friends?

Finding your inner photographer is exciting. However, many beginners find themselves overwhelmed with the culture and community that defines photography, especially nature photography.

So what are some things you ought to know once you decide you want to pursue photography as a serious hobby?

  • Megapixels: Starting with a camera between 6 and 8 megapixels is ideal for beginners. It’s easy to be tricked into thinking that more megapixels contributes to higher quality photos, but as long as it’s a high quality camera it is actually more efficient to stay within this range.
  • Digital SLR vs Point and Shoot?: A digital SLR camera is a heftier option that offers more advanced settings and albeit higher quality photos. This isn’t usually the best camera to start with as a complete beginner because it’s a pretty serious investment and requires a bit of an education to start using. However, exposure to using a basic point-and-shoot digital camera is good preparation for an eventual upgrade to a digital SLR.
  • Camera settings: On your digital camera, play around with the different settings. On most devices, you’ll find macro, landscape, and portrait. Macro is great for getting up, close, and personal with subjects such as flowers and small animals. Landscape settings are capable of capturing a wide image with a faraway subject.

Get to know yourself and your subject.

  • Do you want to photograph flowers and foliage close up with detail? Are you trying to capture animals in their natural habitat? Are you fascinated with massive landscape images of storms, sunsets, mountain ranges? All of these situations require you to use your camera in a different way.

Two components to consider:


  • Learn how to read the light. Shooting directly into the sun (meaning your subject is “backlit)” is generally misguided. You don’t want distracting shadows, extreme contrast, or light in the animal’s eyes. 


  • What’s the best way to frame your photo? While you shouldn’t restrict your creativity to mathematical regiments, there are basic rules that will keep your composition following basic aesthetic guidelines.
  • Rule of Thirds: Draw 4 sets of lines to equally divided your frame into 9 equally sized rectangles. Where the lines intersect, trying placing your subject at the intersecting points.
  • Attract the eye: If the shot is too “busy,” your viewer will ultimately feel distracted and not enjoy your photograph.
  • I love Steve Coleman’s list of 100 Landscape Photographers Worth Knowing to reference when I need some guidance with my photos and for some inspiration.

I hope this guide gets you started!  Being able to capture the nature world on film (or digital..) is an amazing feeling.

Plus, there’s a big world of photography enthusiasts out there. Plus, now that digital sharing is so popular, like on Flickr, there’s an active community of photographers who are happy to share their skills with amateurs.

Brendan Filice Get Outdoors

Why Can’t We Just Walk?

Whenever I go anywhere, I see people with their heads down, on their phones.  People are playing Candy Crush, tweeting and chatting, and are “Yelping” the best spot for dinner. We’re so addled by our second lives on our iPhone screens. I think most people recognize that it’s a distraction, but because it’s so second-nature, we’ve become complacent.

People nowadays will mock you for being hesitant of technology.  Especially in my millennial demographic, it’s “uncool” to “unplug.”  If you’re sitting with a group of friends at dinner and everyone has their phones out, comparing Instagrams or whatever it is, you feel awkward without a phone.  You awkwardly gaze at everyone, trying to keep up conversation but everyone keeps going back to their phones.  What did people do for fun 15 years ago? We are addicted to technology and this takes us from experiencing our world is scary.

While I worry about the trajectory of social relationships for people in my age group as authentic interaction gets replaced by technology, I try to remind myself that beauty still exists in the world for myself and for whoever dares to embrace it.

My favorite thing to do is to go somewhere – anywhere – without my phone.  This doesn’t sound very revolutionary but for a lot of people this is unthinkable. How will they get to their destination without a map? What about listening to music? What about beating high scores on their game?  What if there’s something they need to photograph and post?

We have to be able to let go of all of these preoccupations.  Why are we controlled by these impulses?  For just a few hours, turn off your phone and go to the library, go to your favorite park, go downtown – and just experience it for what life is.  Observe people as they walk by.  Be conscious of sound – what are people talking about? Do you hear animals? Do you hear machines, too?  There are so many noises that go into our experience that we don’t notice when we have ear buds in.  Breathe deeply – what odors define these places? With every inhale, remind yourself of your purpose.  It’s an awesome way to stay grounded and remind yourself that there’s no need to be on your phone all the time.  Lastly – look around, observe everything in your path.  Let yourself get lost instead of obediently following Google maps.  You can always ask someone for directions (yes, a real person).

My favorite exercise is to jot down what I observe on these strolls.  I always notice that I have more to reflect on when I have a phone-free day compared to days when I’m obsessively on my phone.  What is there to take note of, “Lots of things inside my iPhone today!” compared to “Met gracious strangers, played with two dogs, helped a neighbor with their barbecue.”  Let’s stop caring about the second lives on our screens and remember our real lives in the the very tangible world..start by taking a walk.

brendan taylor filice nature photo 1

The Peace of the Wild

In a 1986 book called The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich declares,

“Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.” 

I’m lucky to live in California.  The urban kingdom of LA aggressively crawls into into a steadfast competitor – ancient forces of nature.  When you spend just a few hours in the realm of California’s countryside, our human structures seem so much more fragile.  I got into photography because it’s a way to capture a brief moment in the present with an ancient, powerful force.

brendan taylor filice nature photo 1

Sunset over the Mountains


I’ve been going out on hikes ever since I can remember.  There’s something formative about going on an afternoon adventure; scraping past tree branches as you ascend toward a higher elevation, leaping on boulders, maybe losing your balance and landing clumsily on your hands on the tough rock.  You pass a field of wildflowers, blooming scarlet, gold, and periwinkle, early for the season. You hear some frenzied scurried – realizing it’s probably just a squirrel, but you’re always on the alert for something like coyotes or skunks.

The hours dwindle by.  Hunger creeps up on you.  But the brief hour of sunset to twilight is what makes the effort all worthwhile.  This is when I like to take my photos.  And I’m not alone; this golden hour is a popular time for photographers to capture the mystical light covering the landscape.

Their is an overwhelming peace to the wild. Some people don’t feel safe outdoors; there’s too many bugs, too much dirt, too much uncertainty.  But being away from our cities and technology forces us to connect with what’s really human. After a long day’s hike, you’ve consumed all the sites and sounds of the organic world. All of these experiences existed long before our fancy luxury cars and skyscrapers. There’s no better way to truly connect with yourself than to get outside.  For me, I can keep this peaceful moment by capturing it in a photograph.


Stay tuned for more photography in my next post.




Brendan Taylor Filice Photography : Flowers

A Love for the Outdoors

Brendan Taylor Filice has always loved being outdoors. From playing sports, to skateboarding, to taking photos – he thrives outdoors without a question. Visit his bio to learn more about Brendan and his hobbies, interests, and talents that have been inspired by his love of nature!

Brendan Taylor Filice Photography: Outdoors

Welcome to My Blog!

Stay tuned for some great photos and posts about the outdoors!

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