Every fall, AMLI throws a social media contest for the residents living at its communities around the country. Last fall, we held an Instagram and Facebook photo contest called My AMLI View, which sought the brightest, best, and most creative shots residents could muster from in and around their AMLI communities. Some residents chose to snap photos from their balconies, others looked to their building’s unique design for inspiration, and still some chose to focus on the natural areas and neighborhood surrounding their AMLI community. A select few even decided to capture a scene straight from their very own living rooms.

The point of it all was to get residents’ creative energies flowing and foster pride in the local neighborhoods and communities in which they live. Each AMLI community champions a feel of its own that blends the character of its surroundings with the style of the day. Apartments in Houston will be different from apartments in Florida, and apartments in California are in a class of their own. And those local particularities were put on full display by AMLI residents living in the nine regional areas where AMLI has apartment communities.

A cohort of AMLI judges narrowed down a pool of hundreds of photo submissions to an impressive group of finalists consisting of three photos from each of AMLI’s nine regions. Residents and the public at-large then voted for their favorite of the bunch and a week later winners emerged. The photo with the most votes won the grand prize, and nine runners-up with the most votes in their regions won prizes as well.

This month’s photo of the month is brought to you courtesy of Daylon, a resident of AMLI Design District in Dallas’s downtown Uptown neighborhood. Daylon was Dallas’s regional winner of the My AMLI View contest and won a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 camera with film for his efforts. We caught up with Daylon for a brief interview about his photo, his process, and his inspiration. Find that interview below.

1. What kind of camera(s) do you use?

My main go-to is my Nikon D800E and F/2.8 24-70mm lens. I shoot my all lightning pics with that combo. I love it because it’s a great, 24MP camera that is super easy to work with and yields great results.

2. Do you use any special equipment that you especially like when you take photographs?

When on land, nothing too special beyond a tripod and a cable release—and you don’t even need this to get super fancy to take great pictures. For my underwater photos, that’s a little different. I use a billet aluminum Aquatica DSLR housing that’s rated to 300 feet. So, I can take my favorite camera and lenses down deep to shoot shipwrecks and sharks.

3. What types of things do you like to take photos of? What inspires you?

For me, my two favorites are huge Texas lightning storms and anything underwater. I’ve been diving for over 25 years and there’s ALWAYS something cool to see and photograph on every trip.

4. What was the inspiration for your My AMLI View photo? 

Actually, one of the main reasons I moved into a high-rise was for an unobstructed view of downtown Dallas, so I could see the big spring thunderstorms roll in from the southwest. That decision has paid off well with a number of great shots like the one selected for the My AMLI View contest.

For this particular shot, it was a little science and a little art. Obviously, you never know when mother nature is going to turn on the fireworks for you, so you really have to point your camera at a promising spot and take a bunch of long-exposure shots in the hopes that you’ll catch a good flicker or two. In this case, I just happened to be at the right place (home!), at the right time. Knowing when to get in off the patio when the storm rolled in payed off.

5. Are there any Instagram accounts or photo blogs you love to follow? Which and why?

I follow several! Two of my faves are FroKnowsPhoto and PetaPixel for industry news, tips and tricks. Also the RSS feed at Gizmodo is great for photography news.

Some Instagram accounts I really like are: @daylonphoto (shameless plug), @discoversharks@alysontabbitha and @cosplayculturemag.

6. Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers and Instagrammers out there?

  1. Buy a camera.
  2. Switch it immediately to manual mode.
  3. Take a bunch of pictures in all kinds of different lighting and environments.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go low or go high to get a different angle. A good rule is that the more uncomfortable your body is to get the shot, the better the photo will turn out.
  5. Pick the one BEST photo to share and post.  A good rule of thumb I learned a long time ago about judging your own work or picking the “one” photo out of a series of shots: “If you wouldn’t blow it up to a framed 48″ by 60″ print and put it over your bed, toss it.” If you judge all your work by that standard, over time you’ll develop a KILLER portfolio of shots.

7. What’s the best part about living at your AMLI community?

The view! Duh. 😉

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About Nick Kotecki


Nick is AMLI's Social Media and Content Marketing Manager. When he's not on the AMLI Blog you can find him in the woods, in a book or on a plane headed away from it all. He has written and edited for many publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, Denver Post, Time Out and Newsday.