Our first IT Dad of the month is Drew of Benspark.com. Erika and I met Drew at last month’s PBS Annual Conference and he made a lasting impression on us. We will never forgot when he pulled out his cell phone and attached his XShot! The Xshot is a camera accessory that “stretches your arm” for a photo. You’ll never not be in a photo again. What an amazing idea! Drew loves documenting his life through photos. Visit BenSpark.com where Drew has been blogging and capturing his life for the past seven years! We also admire any guy who can admit to being a Brony. Read on to find out more!
Andrew “Drew” Bennett aka “BenSpark” became a blogger in 2003. Drew is the primary digital historian for his family. He creates movies from old photos, captures every family event on film, tape and now digitally. Preserving family history is important to him and he is passing that down to his kids. It wasn’t until 2005 that he hit upon his calling, a Photo-A-Day project capturing his daily life in photos and blog posts in his blog BenSpark.com. Drew has taken and posted over 2500+ consecutive photos over 7 straight years and shows no signs of stopping.
Drew is a husband to a great wife, Allison and is also father to two wonderful beautiful children. His daughter, Eva, is four and shares his passion for photography. Drew became a Dad for the second time when his son, Andrew, was born. Drew decided that when his children were born he would take a photo of them each day of their first year of life to document the milestones and changes of these fantastic kids. Preserving and sharing these memories is a great pastime to share with the family.
Q. I love your photo journal and I can’t believe that you’ve bee taking photos every day for seven years! I can’t seem to get past month two! How do stay dedicated to the project?
A1. Staying dedicated to the project hasn’t been a problem at all. I first started out just taking a photo every day for a year to see if I could do it. It then became my thing. People always asked if they were going to be my Photo-A-Day. They also suggested subjects for me so I never ran out of anything to shoot. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t some lean days of me taking bad shots but sometimes those “bad” shots got the most discussion on my blog. To make it past the initial two weeks I recommend joining a site like ShutterCal. The site is set up like a calendar where you can upload your Photo-A-Day photo each and every day. They even have an iPhone app. I use the app for a second Photo-A-Day account where I post photos of my son for his first year of life for a major Christmas present for my parents and my in-laws and for us to have.
Q. How does your family feel about your daily photo journal?
A2. At first it was strange for them. Like I mentioned they asked if they were going to be the photo-a-day or said, “This isn’t going to be your Photo-A-Day, will it?” So after seven straight years with no days missed they are pretty used to it. Actually that first year I had nine people do guest photo-a-day photos for me while I was on my honeymoon and had no internet access but when I got home I uploaded my photo-a-day photos. I was very strict on myself that first year. My personal rules were that I had to take AND post my photo the same day. Now my rule is that the photo has to be taken on the specific day but can be posted later. It took a lot of pressure off. I was in the woods once on a white water rafting trip and tried posting via phone, that was before the rule revision and before cell phones having wi-fi and 3G.
Q. Can you recommend any “must have” photography gadgets?
A3. My number one must have camera gadget is a camera, you have to have one with you at all times. We are very fortunate these days to have great cameras in our cell phones. My first camera took something like 512k photos. I still have it, it is a Kodak D220. I should shoot a week with it or something as a retro homage. It always took good photos. But the second gadget I would recommend would be the XShot. this is a personal camera extender that allows you to take photos of yourself and others so that you can be a part of the photo. I have been working with XShot since 2007 when I was asked to review the device and since then I’ve suggested all sorts of tweaks and accessories for the device. I am almost never without my XShot. It always causes people to stop and take notice. Then I’d also suggest magnetic lenses for camera phones, Flip cameras and things like the Kodak PlaySport and PlayTouch. These lenses are Macro, Wide Angle, Fish Eye and Telephoto. They work great too.
Q. What would your perfect Father’s day entail?
A4. My perfect Father’s day would be a family kayak trip. I love taking my kids on the water. Well, we’ve only taken Eva so far and she loved it but when Andrew gets old enough he’s coming too. I’ve kayaked since 1996 when I went to EMS bought a rack, kayak, vest and paddle. Drove to the Kelly Street Bridge in Manchester, NH threw the kayak in the water and started paddling. The next week they discovered a dead body in that same area. I’m pretty sure if I was the one who discovered it I would never have gone int he water again. But I do things like that, I study something (I read about kayaking for a year before my purchase) then I pull the trigger and do it. But we were talking about Father’s Day. After kayaking I’d love to spend some beach time and then a Lobster Bake on the beach. And making inside out S’Mores.
Q. How do you balance blogging and family time?
A5. I balance blogging and family time by doing the bulk of my blogging while my wife and I watch TV together at night. Sometimes when I have a deadline or a project we work together on a two hour period of time when I can work without interruption and then we do family stuff before or after. I also involve the family in many projects. My daughter Eva has been the co-star of many of my review videos because we review a lot of apps and toys and kid things. So that is something we do to balance the time. I also try and write whenever I have spare moments. I heard Chris Brogan refer to it as Blog Quilting. You don’t make a quilt all at once you do patches and squares and then put it all together. I blog like that sometimes.
Q. Any advice for new dads who are interested in starting their own blog?
A6. For dads starting their own blogs I’d tell them to write for themselves not to make money. If you do that and you are true to yourself and your audience then you will create something that is the “secret sauce” which is quality content. I’ve gotten many opportunities because I went above and beyond in the little things. If I’m chosen for a campaign that calls for 30 photos I give 60 and sometimes even a video. Never do the minimum or you will not be called back to do anything a second time. Give and give and give some more and you’ll succeed. The second thing would be to support each other. Despite this being “The year of the Dad” or some such nonsense, we are not unified like moms because many dads even the enlightened blogging dads are still islands unto themselves. We don’t read each other’s blogs we don’t comment (unless it is a contest or something really tragic) but we need to support each other more. So go out there and meet other dads, follow other dad bloggers and offer help, ask questions and comment, tweet and promote each other.
Q. What do you for some “me” time?
A7. For “Me” Time. Well, I am a wicked geek. I collect Transformers, Comic books and LEGO sets. I’ve been on an insane LEGO kick for the past few months buying more sets than I can even tell you. I love putting sets together on my own and also with my daughter. I’ll read comics during me time watch shows like Game of Thrones while I read the book, go kayaking and I love going to the movies alone. Something I started doing in college. A wise person told me that if you can be comfortable eating alone or going to the movies alone you can do pretty much anything. That came in handy when I traveled for seven years. I was alone most of the time and so often ate many meals on my own and watched movies but I also went out and saw things.My first time ever in a rented convertible I drove for 8 hours up a mountain outside of Fresno till the road turned to dirt and snow was all around. I kept that top down and turned up the heat. Got a great experience out of it and it was because I was comfortable being alone. I also like that much of the things that I do during “ME” time are the things that I share with my kids. Taking photos, my daughter has been using a real point and shoot camera since she was 2. No silly toy cameras for her she was going to take as many photos as she liked and if she dropped it, well, it was a spare. No DSLR yet for her, too heavy, soon though. But my daughter and I watch cartoons like Transformers, Young Justice and Super Hero Squad together, I am proud that she can name more Transformers than princesses but I also know every My Little Pony character. So there is a trade off. Who am I kidding I love My Little Pony. I spend some of my “me” time with pretty hair and tiny combs. (that was a joke) LOL.