Archive | July 2013

Learning in the 21st Century

Today, learning just about anything is more accessible than it ever has been in history. According to YouTube’s in-house statistics, each minute, more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to the website. And that’s just one of hundreds of wonderful websites which allow visitors to explore and learn about a variety of subjects all around the world. 

YouTube is localized in 56 countries in 61 languages worldwide.


So when I made the decision to drop out of college and pursue a career in the family photography and printing businesses I knew that this didn’t have to mean I would not keep learning. College is structured of course so that a graduate has undergone a quantifiable and standard learning regiment. Most universities offer their students ‘a tailored education’ to meet the needs of each individual student but in a way it’s like going to In’N’Out where you can get a burger with or without cheese, pickles, tomatoes, or sauce – essentially you will still have a hamburger not a burrito. If that product works for you then it’s a great way to become educated without having to come up with a truly unique education. However, for anybody who wants to learn a new language, better writing skills, a new workout, or the history of traditional Buddhism, it’s merely a matter of willing yourself to seek out said information.


There are a smattering of photography schools, especially in the metro Los Angeles area. These schools range from one day workshops in general tips and tricks to full degrees in Photography and Fine Arts. Yet again, as helpful as these courses may be to a photography student none will offer a truly tailored program which allows the student to explore the aspects of photography he or she is interested in with unlimited depth, or skip over parts of the field which they will not use in their career. Of course it’s impossible to say what exactly I will do in photography but shelling out thousands of dollars to LA Film School or the Academy of the Arts seems like a less-direct investment than applying those funds to a photography trip with real-world challenges and opportunities. Thus I have elected to forgo a traditional education in photography and use my closest resource as a mentor. 


My father has been shooting photography since he was a kid but really got into it more seriously once his printing business began to be successful. In the early 90s, he and my mom took a three month trip and several shorter trips to photograph the United States. They made beautiful landscape calendars and also printed them to sell for christmas gifts. Although these calendars were less than a million-dollar idea, they did allow our family to travel and enjoy tax writeoffs because the equipment was used for business purposes. We first started with a Lazy Dayz motorhome but after experiencing strong winds in southern Utah sold it to get something heavier. Later came a 45ft. Blue Bird coach which had overheating issues. Finally we settled on a 45ft. Marathon coach complete with a K2500 Suburban 4×4 in tow. My first spoken word was actually ‘burban. From a very young age I was fascinated with anything transportation. The ‘burban later gave way to a Hummer H1 wagon which was the first sold to civilians in California after Arnold Schwarzenegger.



From a very early age I was fortunate to travel and ride in some neat vehicles. These are passions I still hold today and look forward to sharing with my kids someday.


I felt a brief history was due and again, learning can happen in any variety of forms. ~ImageryAdventures


A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

^Such a cliché title, I know. But it really is true – one image can create nearly endless connections. ImageryAdventures will be my platform for sharing some of the experiences I will be having over the early stages of my photography career.

Hello and welcome to my blog, my name is Russell Layton. I’m just shy of 22 years old – college educated but not graduated. I never thought it was important to prove to others what I was capable of with a piece of paper. No, worth comes from real results, products, and innovation. Doing something everybody else does is celebrated at college graduation because it is a milestone rather than something truly incredible. Now I’m not downplaying education or even college for that matter, but graduating with a degree doesn’t necessarily make someone smart or capable in my book. Their abilities outside of college is a stronger indication of what that person can accomplish.

L-R: Nate Troscinski (roomate), Me, Trevor Spencer, Sebastian Burcombe

L-R: Nate Troscinski (roomate), Me, Trevor Spencer, Sebastian Burcombe

I made friends with one of the employees in the cafeteria. He speaks 8 languages and has now returned to Afghanistan to be a translator.

I made friends with one of the employees in the cafeteria. He speaks 8 languages and has now returned to Afghanistan to be a translator.

Currently I am typing this blog from my apartment in Phoenix, Arizona where I have lived for the past 8 months. I have had many “plans” for my life. Out of high school the plan was to attend a large university and graduate in Accounting to eventually run a big company. I did a semester at Indiana University my freshman year of college and decided I was wasting my parents money with out-of-state tuition. Shortly after this realization I moved home and returned to work at the family printing business and went to school at the local community college where both of my parents and my older sister had attended classes. Although it felt a bit like an extension of Glendora High School, Citrus College delivered a decent education at a great value. Upon completing my General Education requirements and core pre-requisites for a business major I was at another planning intersection.

My patio in Arizona

My patio in Arizona

During much of the time I spent in community college I dated a girl I had met through a mutual friend. She moved to Arizona and thus I went to visit her many times during our relationship. Ultimately, I moved to Phoenix to be near her and also to attend Arizona State University to finish my degree. The move to Arizona was the best decision I have ever made because it gave my life a new clarity. It was the first time in my life I was not in school and also the first time I was completely financially independent. I found an apartment and held several jobs from selling insurance to waiting tables at Chilis and IHOP to later valeting cars at a 5-star resort.

Valeting at Four Seasons Resort North Scottsdale

During this time in Arizona I debated what I wanted to do with my life more than ever. I knew from selling insurance that I hated sitting at a computer for 8-9 hours a day. I wanted a job where I could travel and be new places, but not have to be on a plane 4 days a week for corporate meetings and such. I definitely liked the freedom and responsibility that small business offered seen through the businesses of my parents, uncles, and grandpa. But what would I do? I had no revolutionary ideas, no real money to speak of, and I didn’t even have my degree.  In my mind I knew I had only a small handful of assets working for me: a good personality, a strong work ethic, and a healthy body and mind.

Over the last several years it turns out my parents had been undergoing a similar challenge: what direction to move the business in. Since printing is such a mature industry we knew we needed to evolve our products and services to offer new areas of value to our clients. This is where my father’s longheld hobby for photography came into play. During my time in between Indiana and Arizona I took a couple trips with my father to shoot photography in the southwest United States. My parents also traveled the bulk of the last two years going to Hawaii, Florida, Bahamas, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, and Utah to shoot landscape photography.

Rainy weather in Moab, UT

Rainy weather in Moab, UT

Old camera system we used to use - we modified the focus knobs to about 400% of original size to allow for finer focus adjustment.

Old camera system we used to use – we modified the focus knobs to about 400% of original size to allow for finer focus adjustment.

Well you can see where the story is going. It turns out the business my parents were evolving had the very elements I was searching for in a career: travelling, nature, photography, off-roading, exploring, and meeting new people. What’s more, working in Arizona gave me a chance to realize that I did like working for my dad as tough as he seemed sometimes. I had an amazing childhood thanks to my parents and if one day I could repay them in some small way then I would be happy. I’m going back into the family business with a new vigor – the hope that my youth and energy can be harnessed with my dad’s experience to push us to the next level. We will be a team, both interested as much as the other to succeed.

My parents purchased a Renegade motorhome to travel in for a while.

My parents purchased a Renegade motorhome to travel in for a while.

It may look big but living out of an RV for months can still be cramped.

It may look big but living out of an RV for months can still be cramped.

The list of mods is ridiculous on this thing. This shot shows about 70% completed here.

The list of mods is ridiculous on this thing. This shot shows about 70% completed here.

I will be moving home from Arizona in the next couple weeks. It is a bitter sweet feeling because I will be leaving my newfound friends here in the desert but returning to my family at home. Shortly after returning home I will be flying to Washington to join my parents up north and continue photographing beautiful landscapes. ~ImageryAdventures

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