Re-Discovering Creativity: The IT Guy, the Photographer

Matthew Collen is an IT guy.

Well, if you looked at one aspect of him at one point of time in his life, that’s what you would say.  If you asked me a few years ago, I would say Matt is a funny, artistic guy from my high school who loved the Bears and the Cubs – he sat behind me in AP Bio and we participated in good-natured pranks on our Hungarian-born French teacher who often confused the five languages she spoke.

In high school, Matt had a number of interests – drawing, painting, and technology, to name a few.  Like many people, after graduation he recognized only one of his interests led to a viable career option, so he became The IT Guy.  IT is an enjoyable career, but art nagged at him.  Over the years, the desire to create crept up frequently.

Matt discovered digital photography via his love of technology.  Digital cameras were essentially a fun tech toy to learn how to use and fiddle with.  After a couple of years of nerding out on cameras, he took a photo of a daffodil in the snow.  Upon seeing the beautiful image he captured through his lens, he finally saw the art in his hobby, and that artistic void he felt from high school was finally filled. Matt the IT Guy, a.k.a. Matt the Funny, Artistic Guy started sharing some of his photos with friends and family, and he became Matt the Photographer.  I first noticed his talent with this shot from a couple of years ago (click on the photos for a larger image):

Solitary Goose
I asked Matt to talk a little about this photo:
“This was taken during a event, full moon.  While the moon was cool to shoot I noticed some geese just hanging right at the edge of the falls behind town hall.  This one goose was not part of the group and lights on the pond were lighting him up on one side only and I thought it would make for a cool shot.  I had a little trouble composing the shot as a newb: rule of thirds, the reflection, blah blah.  Anyhow I ended up liking the shot and it did pretty well for me in competition as well.”


Not long after, Matt posted a number of photos he took on the Yale campus, and I particularly enjoyed this one: Melancholy
“This was shot during a event at Yale.  It was in the courtyard of one of the libraries… There were four of these at each corner of the fountain so I just lined up the one with the least distracting background and fired away.  I was an early spring day and just a cold dreary day and the title really fit.  I always feel a little weird photographing what is someone else’s art but while it is the subject it is not the whole story.”


Matt joined the Milford Camera Club in Connecticut, and began taking a number of classes to further develop his art.  I asked him to talk a little about each of these photos:

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
“…After a minor edit this is also known as It’s Always Greener…There is a group of day lilies right by the opening of the gate in my back yard.  Inevitably one will follow you out and get stuck and then eventually get decapitated.  Below the gate is just a pile of ‘heads’ and hence the Trouble I’ve Seen title – well that, and the obvious ‘behind bars’ look.  I really liked the bright red, orange and yellow against the weathered wood of the fence.  This is one of my favorite shots to date and got me an Honorable Mention for the NECCC Winter Inter-Club competition.”


Gerber Daisy
“I had just gotten back from a macro course in MA and just had to shoot something.  I ran to Whole Foods, picked out a few nice flowers, brought them home, got in real close and fired away. Macro is one of my favorite types of photography and really is great for those with limited free time.  With a toddler at home free time is hard to come by, but with macro all I need is flower or two and I can set it up in the basement and fire away.  No need to worry about travel, time, daylight, etc…”


Vincent Island
“My favorite subject other than my daughter!  I grew up on the beach and this was always there.  Now that I don’t live there I try to shoot it every time I visit as I truly miss it; it knows a lot about me.  I took this shot this past Thanksgiving.  The sun was dropping and while I was hoping for some clouds I think the sky is great and really gives the picture great contrast with the yellowed sea grass and salt heather.  The rock to the left is a major fixture in my childhood, just the whole scene means a great deal to me and I am glad to share it with others as well as capture it as I remember it in case there is a day I don’t have access to it.”


Brooklyn Bridge
On a personal note, this is one of my favorites. I miss the northeast and have fond memories of going into New York City as a child.  For me, this shot really takes me back and reminds me how much I loved New York as a kid.  Here are Matt’s comments:
“I took this one with a group of friends from the camera club.  We all met up at 4:00 and drove down to catch the sunrise in NY.  We went over the Brooklyn Bridge and walked around China Town looking for interesting street shots.  I set out to get that shot with no one around.  I ran up ahead of our group only getting sidetracked by the locks all over the bridge.  It is a somewhat cliche shot but it is a classic and one you just have to have – no way I couldn’t take it.”

Many of us unknowingly abandon the things we enjoyed when we’re young.  Matt’s story shows us that even when we leave art behind, art never leaves us – it sits quietly in each of us, waiting for that one little catalyst to awaken it from its slumber.  You just need to find your proper catalyst – it is out there for you, if you are willing to look for it.

I’d like to give a big “thank you” to Matt for allowing me to publish his photography and sharing his story and thoughts. Matt is still a long-suffering Bears fan and I quote, “ an even longer-suffering Cubs fan” who currently lives in Milford, Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

And now, on to the geeky photography details:
Solitary Goose
Canon Rebel XTi, Canon EF 70/300mm (220 mm)
ISO 800, f 5.6, 1/5 sec
Post Processing:  “Just a levels adjust and cloning of a distracting element in the water near the goose.  I was really going for the black and white contrast…”

Canon Rebel XTi, Canon EF 70-300mm (200mm)
ISO 200, f 5.6, 1/160 sec
Post Processing:  “A minor crop and and adjustment to make the image level.  I also softened the background and gave it a sepia like tone when I converted it to black and white.”

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
Canon Rebel XTi, Canon EF 70-300mm (160mm)
ISO 200, f 5, 1/320 sec
Post Processing:  “Levels adjustment and burnt in the little bit of the house I caught in the background.”

Gerber Daisy
Tripod Mounted with Cable Release…
Canon Rebel XTi, Canon 100mm Macro
ISO 200, f 3.5, 1/30 sec
Post Processing:  “A small levels adjustment and a white balance adjustment.  I also cropped into it by about half…”

Vincent Island
Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm (41mm), Speedlite 430ex II
ISO 400, f6.3, 1/200 sec
Post Processing:  “Just a crop to get it closer to the rule of thirds and then increased the tonality.  I also did some dodging and burning to the grass to give a bit more contrast from the background.  I used the flash for fill light on the grass and rock as I was exposing for the sky and island.”

Brooklyn Bridge
Canon Rebel XTi, Tamron 10-24 mm
ISO 400, f 4.5, 1/1250 sec
Post Processing:  “Converted to Black and White, a minor crop and just increased the tonality of the image to make the clouds and stone pop.”

Images are Copyright 2012 by Matthew Collen

Are you someone who recently re-discovered your creativity? Discuss below, or if you have a great story to share, drop me an email at