We live in an age of technological wonder. Digital cameras and post production software give us an unprecedented ability to craft and control images. The internet and the social networking revolution have allowed us to make intelligent connections globally and with an ease that would have been unthinkable two decades ago. The simplicity of on-demand publishing has allowed us to put our work in from of more eyes than ever before. All of these are miraculous tools when viewed in relation to the rest of human technology, but even these marvelous contraptions have become so commonplace that it seems absolutely alien when you do meet someone who isn’t maintaining two blogs and multiple Twitter accounts.
But for all the benefits technology has given us, it must not be forgotten that there is a far older and more archaic tool of undeniable importance. In my day to day work, the single most important tool that I carry around with me is a simple notebook; in fact, I carry more than one, in different shapes and sizes.
For starters, I cannot tell you how many times and in how many different job roles a small 3.5 x 5.5 inch pocket notebook has saved my ass. If you are an assistant, every boss will love that you always have a notebook and a pen at the ready to take lunch orders and write down exposures. If you are a photographer, it always helps to have a notebook to loan to the one assistant who invariably never has one of his own. They are also indispensable for jotting directions, numbers, notes, and names down on the fly. I’m sure that little voice in the back of your head is saying “Why do I need to write directions?, my iPhone has GPS” Thats great if your going somewhere with an address, but if you ever have to shoot in a labyrinthian hospital basement, University steam tunnels, or a massive manufacturing complex don’t be surprised if your miraculous GPS leads you astray whereas a hastily hand drawn map might save the day. The pocket notebook and a reliable pen are tools of vital importance. I’m partial to the Moleksine Volant style notebooks, they are flexible enough to fit anywhere, they don’t have any wire coils that can come loose and stab you, their bright colors make them easy to spot if you ever put it down, and their pages tear out clean and easy. I have also known a lot of people to be very happy with the Action Runner from Behance Outfitters because of its checklist style layout and equally bright colors. But don’t be afraid to get even more low-tech, even having a few loose 3 x 5 notecards on you at all times is better than nothing.
The other notebook that I have on me at all times is a hardbound, super durable 5 x 8.25 black notebook which is also from Moleskine, but any suitably durable notebook will do. It is important to stress that this book goes with me everywhere. If I leave the house, this book is in my bag, its on my desk when I’m working, and Its on my bedside table when I go to sleep. This is the book I jot all of my shoot concepts and ideas in. How many times have you had that perfect image pop into your head when your about to drift off to sleep? Only to put it off until morning and find your ability to recall it is hazy at best. I got sick of losing track of my ideas, so now I keep them all with me, all the time.
I tend to prefer the Moleskine notebooks because I put a lot of wear and tear to on my notebooks and the Moleskine’s seem to last a little longer than a $1.00 composition book, but whats more important is that you have something to write on and something to write with all the time. You can find other good notebooks here, here, and here, or you can make your own
Get a good and reliable pen while you’re at it and always hold onto it, don’t let anyone walk off with it. You should always have 2-3 cheaper pens handy as loaners, nothing will piss you off more than losing a good pen… nothing.