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Ryan Watkins Photography
My Love of Reading Part 1
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Many of my prior blog posts deal with practical things like prepping for your session, resources for getting started in photography, and short photography related how to articles. This however will be the first of several more personal blog posts where you can learn more about the man behind the camera.

I admittedly have very few hobbies. Part of this is due to my personality. I don’t dabble in things. I’m either really into something (very knowledgeable and passionate about it) or I’m not at all (very little knowledge and interest). There are plenty of things (potential hobbies) I find fascinating but have found few I’m willing to put this level of effort into. I always thought this was something kind of peculiar to me but I was relieved to see that this is something G.K. Chesterton had remarked on as well in his book “What’s Wrong with the World.” He mentions that men are good at being specialists, where as women are better at being generalists, resulting in women usually having more common sense than men. After reading this I’ve seen this principle played out in real life several times. For example I’ve been meeting with old friends from high school on a monthly basis now since fall 2017. At one of our recent get togethers (this time at O’Kelly’s in Mt Pleasant) a male friend and I were trying to get prepared for the rest of our group to arrive. My friend is the lead guitarist in a local band which is in the process of recording their first album with a famous producer in California (a good specialist). I’ve been published in several magazines and graduated with the highest academic honor (highest overall grades) from Hallmark Institute of Photography (again another good specialist). He and I tried to push two tables together so all of our expected guests could be seated together. His girlfriend tried to explain how to put the tables together. We ended up putting the tables in a T shape which resulted in a befuddled look from both his girlfriend and our waitress (both good generalists) who both had a far better understanding of how to do this common sense task than either he or I (both good specialists but both relative dunces when it came to common sense things like table placement). Eventually with his girlfriend and our waitress’ advice we were able to get the table in a place which would seat everyone.

When I was a kid I greatly disliked reading. We were forced to do “accelerated reader” tests in elementary school which I despised. In high school I read photography magazines and books but still wouldn’t have considered myself a fan of reading per say. It wasn’t until I was done with my formal education that I grew to love reading. In 2014 I started studying reformed theology due to the influence of a friend at a bible study in Clare. This was one of the major things which prompted me to start reading in 2014. As the years have went on reading has became one of my primary hobbies.  

In 2016 and 2017 I’d read over 50 books each year averaging approximately a book a week. I read primarily non fiction, but hope to read more fiction once I get more of the non-fiction books I deem a higher priority off my to read list. These books range in topics from theology to politics to business to practical skills.

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A question I get asked regularly is “how do I have time to read so much?”. First of all, as I had mentioned prior, I don’t have many hobbies. I think this is one of the keys. As a kid I spent a decent amount of time watching TV and movies, playing video games, listening to music, and also practicing martial arts. As I took more interest in photography I left martial arts and significantly cut back on the time I spent playing video games. When I went to college I didn’t have a TV and was so swamped with school that I had very little time for other activities. After college I got used to not watching much TV or many movies, nor did I own any contemporary game consoles and still don’t to this day. In 2014 I drastically cut back on the time I spent listening to music and only recently decided to pick the hobby backup again in early 2017.

As I’ve talked with people (especially fellow millennials) I’ve realized I’m definitely the outlier when it comes to entertainment. I seldom watch TV or movies. I occasionally buy a CD from some obscure prog rock band I like and listen to it for months (usually while retouching or doing other busy work) before buying another. Even when I read it is primarily for education rather than entertainment. I seldom read a book just for fun, but instead because I want to learn something (hence why I primarily read non-fiction instead of fiction). Part of my desire to learn comes from being honest with myself and realizing there is a lot I don’t know. Many people I talk to seem as if they live for entertainment. They work just to spend the little they make on video games systems and video streaming. As I’ve grown older and see how others live their lives that more I realize that I’d much rather spend my time learning (via books, lectures,or podcasts) or doing actual things with people (fellowship with people from church, meeting up with friends over beer, going to networking events and art gallery openings, seeing a local band in concert, etc). We are social creatures and need community and fellowship with others. Many times the things I learn from books or podcasts can become interesting conversation topics at the various aforementioned community events. Sometimes I learn more from the conversations about books I’ve read than I did from the reading the book itself. This concept is echoed in the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad where the author mentioned that we don’t just learn from books and lectures but also from life experiences.  

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Another thing which allows me to read so many books is changing how I read the book depending on the content of the book. A book I would highly recommend is Mortimer J Adler’s “How to Read a Book”. In this book he talks about the different levels of reading and how different books require a different level of reading. Most business books (for example) only require a systematic skimming (where you only need to understand the main points of the book) to get all there is out of the book. Other meatier, weightier books require analytical reading (which goes beyond just a surface level understanding of the main points of the books material). Lastly Adler talks about syntopical reading which combines things learned from several books to go beyond what any one of the authors said (this is where things get fun).

Another things which allows me to read so many books is changing the format of the book I read depending on the content. Books which I’m not taking notes on (like fiction) are best listened to in audiobook form. On the other hand if I want to take a lot of notes e-books allow me to easily copy and paste text from the book into a note. I use Evernote for all my note taking purposes. E-books can also be bought for a fraction of the cost of traditional books. Most books I purchase are from the Amazon kindle store on sale for between $0.99-$4.99. Price wise most are around $1.99-$2.99. I also frequently find traditional books at Goodwill for $0.99 before taxes.

Another reason I’m able to read so many books is much of what I read is in the public domain. Gutenberg.org and monergism.com are websites I frequently use to find classic books in e-book form. LirbriVox.org also has many public domain books in audiobook form (quality of the content can be hit or miss).

The next post in this series will talk about some of the books I have read which were highly influential on me.

P.S. My second shooter Nikki Robinson always jokes that I’m becoming a crotchety old man. After proof reading this I’m starting to become more self aware of that fact.



Photographer/Retoucher at Ryan Watkins Photography
Follower of Christ | Portrait, Wedding, Commercial, & Fine Art Photographer | Retoucher | Hallmarker | soli Deo gloria |

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