The little things, processes, and their environments

“I try to get inspiration from things around me rather than looking too closely at or studying other people’s techniques. I think it’s just your general experiences that shape you, whether it’s how you were raised or what you’ve done with your friends recently or recently. That’s what shapes everything.” -Rob Schanz

Rob Schanz Profile(IG:@robschanz): Originally from the east coast, Rob got his start in photography shooting NFL games for a brief stint before moving to Northern California in order to live closer to the mountains and the ocean. He is now a successful fashion and lifestyle photographer, producing commercial work for major brands while also pursuing personal projects. His life is filled with shoots in the studio and on location, supplemented with ample time surfing, cycling, backpacking, and running. It’s a lot to take on, but staying flexible and relaxed about things allows him to pursue an active lifestyle and stay truly creative.

Max Houtzager Profile(IG:@max_houtzager): Max is a creative director and photographer based in Tokyo. He grew up in Northern California, where, from an early age, he spent most of his time surfing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, or photographing and filming such. His work in the fields of food and drink, hospitality and outdoors, explores the certain feelings and moments that people chase, as well as the people themselves, and the environments and culture that surrounds them. 


Max: What are your hobbies or interests?

Rob: I spend a lot of my time surfing, running, or mountain biking. I would say those are the top three things that I do with my free time. Other than that, I guess I enjoy just wandering around the city (San Francisco) or around new cities and trying new restaurants or food and coffee. I just like to spend as much time as I can outside and explore new places, both in San Francisco or otherwise.

Max: Can you name a couple of your favorite places? You can be as general as you want – it can be a country, a city, a store or even a certain type of environment.

Rob: I like to have a good mix of city and nature in my daily life. I think I get a lot of inspiration from just the natural environment around me. Where I’m living right now, I can access the mountains in 5 or 10 minutes if I run or get on my bike. I can be in the mountains near the ocean and have these amazing views and get inspiration from nature that way, or I can take the ferry, or drive to the city and be there 15 minutes or so, and get an entirely different set of inspiration from more urban, faster-paced environments, like different fashion, etc.

I like to just get out and I think a lot of inspiration comes from the environments around me and just the little things that happen. I like to just be out and exploring things and observing the environments around me.

Max: What inspired you to start?

Rob:  Even from a young age, my friends and I would just make little films skateboarding or riding our bikes, whatever it was. I think I just always liked documenting the little processes in life and being able to put a picture to certain things that maybe other people weren’t able to experience.

Max: What’s the typical day in the life of Rob Schanz?

Rob: Man. Lately, I haven’t been getting up as early as I used to, but a typical day would probably be waking up at about 6:00 AM, pretty early in the morning. Usually, I’ll make a coffee, check the waves and see if there’s anything going on in the ocean. Depending on that situation, I’ll either work first thing or try to get outside for a little bit before I start to work. Also, I’ll take the dog for a little walk in the morning.

Then I’ll either work from home or I’ll be on set somewhere, so managing that situation from 9:00 to 5:00-ish. Probably, if it’s a weekday, I’m back outside again either surfing or mountain biking or running. That’s an average day, I think, right? I don’t know. 


Max: Can you give us some spot recommendations?

Rob: Favorite spots in San Francisco. I usually surf at Ocean Beach so oftentimes I’ll be out there surfing and then there’s a couple of places like Hook Fish, a good place to get a burrito, or Mollusk Surf Shop has pretty interesting surfboards and fun stuff to check out there. Lately, I’ve been going over to Chinatown and my friend has a coffee shop down there called the Coffee Movement, which has really great coffee.

I’ll go down there with my wife or alone and get a coffee and then wander around Chinatown. There are so many little hidden gems around there which have just been in San Francisco forever. They’re often overlooked just because they’re not super fancy shiny tourist destinations.


Nearby, I’d say the Marin Headlands. We’re out there a lot. For running and cycling. I think that that area is important. This is, again, I guess just inspiration. I think sometimes it’s less obvious, but inspiration from getting out into nature as an alternative to going to the city.

Max: When do you feel most fulfilled?

Rob: When I get a paycheck from a big job. No, I’m just kidding.

I don’t know. There are so many different answers– Does that question pertain to anything in particular? It’s like on a job, there’s that. If you get a good wave, you feel good. From a work perspective, I think generally after a good day on set where I’ve just worked really hard and I’ve been in the zone and it’s almost like a switch flips, and you’re in work mode. If you have a good long, hard day of work like that and the photos turn out really good and everyone’s super happy around you, I feel that’s the most fulfilling moment. You’re just really tired but also really satisfied.

Max: Is there a certain mindset you try to stay in? What typically motivates you? Do you do anything specific to stay motivated?

Rob: Man. I honestly try not to really think about–There’s definitely some days or some weeks where it feels harder to– If I don’t have to be on set, especially if I’m just working from home, it’s harder to motivate and feel creative. Then there’s days and times, or weeks when I feel extremely motivated and creative. I think generally, I try not to worry about that too much, or think about it too much. I just try to do what feels natural or what feels right.

I think mostly if you’re doing something like if you’re a photographer and you have made it to a certain point, whatever you’re doing is working and try not to overthink anything and just enjoy things around you. Make sure you just have a good balance of work and pleasure. I think the enjoyable, pleasurable moments are the ones where you get the inspiration for the work moments.

Max: Do you collect anything, photo books or something that gives you inspiration?

Rob: In terms of photo books and stuff, I actually try to avoid paying too much close attention to photographers and their styles of doing things just out of concern that subconsciously I may end up regurgitating their work. I have photo books. I just try not to go too heavy into it and just, again, try to get inspiration from things around me rather than looking too closely and studying other people’s techniques.

Max: Do you have any favorite sayings or idioms or some quote or something that you like to live by or that ‘s written in your wallet or on your wall or something?

Rob: I don’t know. I just think in general, life is a lot easier if you try to be positive about stuff and optimistic. Especially, again, in a work environment, all you can do is your best. I think it’s always good to just try to stay as positive as possible. It’s kind of cliché but important.

Max: What’s the most important thing in your life?

Rob: I feel like the obvious answer is family. Yes, I think family and friends. Again, that’s the same thing where family and friends just get you out and doing things and experiencing different stuff, which I am always trying to tie back to photo work. Also, I think your general experiences are what shapes you, whether it’s how you were raised or what you’ve done with your friends recently or semi-recently. That’s what shapes everything.

Max: How about the role of bags in your life? What essentials do you typically carry?

Rob:  I think whether I’m trying to get out of the house or I get out of the office to work in a new space like a cafe or a restaurant, coffee shop, et cetera, or whether I’m going on set, even if I have my camera, my specific camera bag or case with me, I always have another bag that has my laptop and my notepad, headphones, a pen, just all those daily things that I like to bring with me. I’ll just put it in the bag and oftentimes, I’m riding a bicycle to commute or taking the ferry, riding my motorcycle. Those things, it’s really important to have some backpack or shoulder bag that I can just throw on my back and take along with me. Having a versatile bag is really important. 


My essentials in my bag are, I would say, almost always my laptop but definitely a notepad, a pen. Usually, I’ll bring a smaller point and shoot camera with me like my Fuji X100T. and headphones. It’s funny, actually. Usually, I have in my bag a small honey and a small cinnamon because if I’m on set and they have toast, I like to make a cinnamon toast with honey and cinnamon and peanut butter.

Max: You carry the peanut butter, too?

Rob: Well, no, usually the sets have peanut butter. There is actually a small honey and cinnamon in my bag right now.

Rob: I feel those are the basics. Oh, you know what? I have had flashcards for the Hiragana alphabet in my bag for the last year, since I was studying Japanese.

Max: Please tell us about the things about Briefing that you think are particularly appealing.

Rob: All the Briefing bags that I’ve owned in the past have been really durable. The materials have always felt sturdy and well crafted. Also, they’re very versatile bags. They have a lot of different straps, a lot of different pockets. A lot of different ways to wear them generally, whether it’s over the shoulder, across the body, or on the back. I think I’ve always just been impressed with all the attention to detail, the small things, the pockets, the points of attachment, and things like that. They are well-built. The materials feel sturdy and there is a lot of thought going into the little things, the smaller details of the bags.


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