When all else fails…

Thinking about it, I can’t help but wonder why the last thing I do when I’m struggling with something is to look up (aka pray). Why can’t it be the first thing? I mean, c’mon, I know I can’t do anything decent on my own because of just how much I’ve mucked things up, so I should be thinking three steps ahead, not three steps behind. This goes for everything I do, not just in life, but in my hobbies as well; I guess it’s just the fallen nature in me that doesn’t think things quite through. It’s sad when I see that others are suffering and I’m the one thinking that woe is me; I’m NOT judging anyone but myself in this (it’s happened a few times to me and a certain instance has brought this topic to mind).

- Lynn Canyon Rapids -
– Lynn Canyon Rapids –

The things that I’ve seen around me makes me wonder what on earth I’m doing to deserve even another chance, let alone a second chance, but that’s just the depressing voice in my mind. I’m not going to dwell on it, just take it for what it is and then try to make something of it that might just turn into something of worth to someone…It comes down to inspiration with me. Do I think I’m there yet? Maybe, but I’m going to keep trying. It’s kind of like what Winston Churchill said about success: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. I’ve just got to say that we’ve got to rethink what success really means because I sure don’t think it’s about things or how we’re feeling at the moment, but it’s about reaching out to others and walking with them, inspiring them, and confiding in them. I just have to say this: If you ever feel like nothing’s worth it, seek out help, especially that of a good, solid counselor that can show you that life is worth it. That’s what I love about the Good Charlotte song, Hold On: it’s about not giving up, because it will get better.

We’re going to fail & fall flat on our faces, wondering what’s going on with us, but the key is to NOT give up; it’s a message I’ve got to keep reminding myself of daily…And yes, it is worth it, even if we don’t see it at first. We’re at the point that we need to learn from our failures and move forward, not dwell on them or get more things to fill our time up with the shallowness of materialism. This all is just my take on things and my way of ranting out my thoughts on the matter.

Darn it, I missed something…

We’ve probably all gone through this over the years, forgetting something only to have to go back & figure out how to correct it. The worst part is when it’s something important and we’ve nearly released it out into the wild only to realize that we missed something along the way. I’m like that in just about every way humanly possible, especially when it came to the term papers I wrote in college & university, or even the way I now deal with people every day. Honestly, I think it’s become a part of everyday life, missing something along the way, and it’s become a part of us just because of how easily it happens to all of us.

When it comes to photography, I’m no better and I’ve found that going back over shots from time to time helps me learn and get passed all the times I’ve missed something. Going back over the many shots, in a way, helps give me more of a piece of mind about them, while making me feel rather stupid because I’ve nearly always found something I’ve missed in the process (there’s something to be said for the ability to go back & really look at past shots). Looking through each one helps me see that I’ve missed something and, sometimes, helps me learn how to correct for it & get past it the next time I’m working out my photography with my camera.

It’s often the one thing we dread quite a bit because we associate it with failure nearly 100% of the time; after all, forgetting is, by definition, the failure to remember something. The issue I have with it is when it becomes a part of what defines us because we’re letting the lack of something make us who we are. To me, this can be one of the things that usually breaks the core of who we are because it’s negative nearly 100% of the time.

Striving for failure…

Not only does this sound wrong on so many levels, it doesn’t make an ounce of logical sense at all. But, wait a minute, why strive to fail? We don’t really try when we fail, do we? Not really, but the kind of failure I’m thinking of is different; it’s all about learning in the process & the fallout afterwards. I’m thinking about how we fail in terms of not just why we fail, but what we do while we’re about to fail.

It goes without saying that if we’re not really in the right frame of mind, then we’re most likely headed for failure. The same usually applies to missing the moment, but, if we look back, we can, mentally at least, take notes on what worked & what didn’t and hopefully why. This will usually help us learn in the process & grow along the way; it doesn’t always happen this way, but most of the time it does. We don’t want to strive for failure, but we want to strive to learn from our failures; I guess, for myself, learning new things & approaches to how I go about photographing things keeps me working to get better and improve just how I capture the shot & how I refine the shot in post processing, if at all. It’s about more than just being in the moment…It’s about being active in the moment.

While I’ve said it so many times before, and often failed to take my own advice, it should be said again: there’s something in trying something different, even if we think we’re going to fail. It’s through this that we can learn from what went wrong and discover new ways of seeing, literal & figurative. When we try new ways of doing photography, we attempt different things that will usually lead us to an ‘a-ha’ kind of moment where we get a bit wiser…Hopefully.

Recovery…

We often think that we’ve got it all right and there’s nothing that can stop us, but that’s further from the truth, as I have often discovered. This is perhaps the worst way to approach photography, and most of life, because the further we get into this way of thinking the worse off we become, putting & pushing others aside. How do we get away from this & how do we recover from this? We can’t learn much if we think we know it all and usually the first step, as painful as it is, is to fail at something…something I’ve done all too often.

Failure helps us to realize that we need to learn more, but it’s a whole lot harder if we don’t get to the point where we want to learn. I’ve struggled with this so many times, thinking I should just give up and toss it aside, but then there’s something always bringing me back to it. I can’t always explain it; sometimes it’s a voice inside and other times it’s a swift kick in the backside, but there’s usually something, or someone, behind it that sparks an idea that fans the flames of creativity. This is, at its core, where recovery really begins. I don’t always listen, hence the good swift kick, but there’s usually a push & a drive to work at it, continuing to try to do at least something with it. Sometimes, we just need to ask a friend, or someone close…That’s usually all it takes.

Recovery doesn’t come easy and I’m far from it, but the best part about it is that we’re growing along the way, whether we realize it or not. And if you’re anything like me, realizing it is the tough bit. Most of the time, how I’ve learnt to shake it and begin recovery is just by reading unrelated books (Stand for Something by John Kasich or Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien are two great starts) or just getting out & going for a walk; listening to good music is another good way to beat recovery time.

Persistence…

Sometimes we don’t get it right the first time…Actually, most of the time, we don’t get it right the first time. The key is that we pick ourselves up after the failure; we don’t try to be persistent in failure, but persistent in at least trying to get it right. Sure, it’s a struggle and even at the best of times, but it becomes worth it because we learn & grow along the way. What the added bonus of this can be is that we get photographs we never thought we could get, thanks to just pushing ourselves to do better & work harder. Most of the time, it boils down to us wanting to improve, to get better at what we enjoy doing, and make it count for something, whether it be bringing a smile to someone else’s face, or our own.

- Purple Iris -
– Purple Iris –

Persistence is about looking at what makes something work and what makes it not work and striving to continually work at it. Take a look at the above photograph: the curvature of the petals work, as do the colors, lines & contrast, but the out of focus parts are a bit jarring. The out of focus parts are jarring mostly because they were too close to the lens, but do they detract from the overall image? To me they don’t because of the curving lines & colors, but I would change the angle a bit next time or even the aperture to keep the unfocused parts to minimum if I wanted a sharper image next time. It boils down to personal preference and learning as we go. Even if we get what we believe is a near perfect shot, we still want to learn something from it, mostly because just ignoring it has a tendency to make us complacent.

Looking at the above photograph, it works for the subject (color, tone & pattern in the large iris), and despite middle-road aperture (f10), the unfocused sections work to give depth to the shot without having to ‘brush in’ clarity along the petals themselves. Everyone has their own way of learning, or not learning, and the thing is, every time we take that camera out or take that shot, we should be learning at least a little bit more; now, I’m not always learning, but striving to be doing so at least the majority of the time. The best part of photography, for me, has to be the ability to learn as I progress…To be persistent in doing so.

What doesn’t make sense…

A few things don’t ever quite make sense to us and we tend to scratch our heads at just the thought of them…Sometimes we just give up entirely, chalking it up to a lack of talent or brains, or both. It’s when frustration takes over that we lose ourselves and think that we’re going nowhere fast on some kind of train leading to nowhere. I mean, think about it; if we can’t get the right shot, make the right decisions or even think the right way (photographically speaking), then we’re doomed, right? Not even close to being doomed. We’ve all suffered from faults and we can’t blame our gear or even begin to think we need more expensive gear…Mostly because that’s just a load of crap fed to us by marketing departments at tech companies.

Just think of all the times that hardware like cameras are marketed as the next best thing that will get our photography to the next level. It’s like vision doesn’t matter at all sometimes with these marketing types; I’ve met people who think that zoom lenses are crap because they’re all plastic, but they spend loads on lenses and think the world of themselves, but never take their cameras off auto-mode…It’s like driving a massive 4×4 in congested downtown city streets, but never taking it elsewhere. The thing that really gets me is when they try to impose these so-called rules on others, saying that it’s their way or it isn’t photography. Sure gear is good, but there’s also craft (how we do things) and vision (how we see things); when they’re out of balance, by quite a bit, then there’s something questionable about it because it doesn’t make sense…And it often shows in the photograph.

There’s been many cases where some amateurs get past the so-called pros in photographs that make an impact, mostly because they go by feeling, not by the flow of money. There’s some amazing pros out there and there’s some amazing amateurs out there as well, the problem is when we look at others and get discouraged & give up on ourselves. What does giving up really accomplish anyway? Taking a break to reflect is the better way to work it out, because then we just might come back to it with new eyes & a new way of approach, making it less frustrating to us when we get back to photography. That’s all for this rant, so don’t take it personal when you’re mocked because of your gear.

On anger…(Pt.2)

When it comes to dealing with anger, I’m the last person to really ask about it, mostly because I’m the first to fuss & grunt when things don’t work. I mean, the easiest thing to say is to not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26-27), but, truthfully, it’s the best thing if you’re angry with someone. When it comes to photography, the best thing is to take a breather…stop what you’re doing, take deep breaths, and look at what got you ticked off in the first place. If you can, try it (the shot) again while trying not to do what got you angry in the first place and, if not, switch to a different subject and work on that to get your mind off what got you angry in the first place.

Photography, of all of the arts, is most like Math. Now before you go raving & ranting that I’ve lost my marbles and/or fallen of my rocker, let me explain what I mean. The two are much alike because they are both really tough, can get us frustrated when they don’t work, and can lead to headaches when faced with failure…And it’s been scientifically proven that math can cause headaches! Despite how silly this must sound to anyone reading this, I’m being dead serious…Photography & Math are similar in how easily they can make us angry.

Thinking back on this topic, and the last, somewhat silly, paragraph, it’s easy to get angry and even easier to get angrier as time passes by. The trick to to stop, drop & learn and what I mean by that is this: 1) stop & pause what you’re doing, 2) drop your anger by trying to do something else or figure out what exactly it is that made you angry to begin with, and 3) at least try to learn from mistakes by making an attempt to try a different approach.

On anger…

When it comes to making a mistake and then getting ticked at it, often times saying, “what the heck” or swearing, we sell ourselves short. Why? Because we immediately focus on how messed up the situation is instead of grunting & then learning from it again. When we think about it carefully, we’re not trying to go for the most times our speech has to be bleeped out per minute, but we’re trying to get something done right.

Picture it this way: you’re photographing a bunch of animals and you screw up a shot so badly you curse out loud a few times and there’s a family with young children nearby. Now, I may be a bit old-fashioned, but using that kind of language is just plain stupid because those children are going to go home and, being their naturally curious selves, are either going to ask what that word meant, or start using it a bunch of times without thinking too much of it. There’s nothing wrong with blowing off a little steam, just not when it gets to the point that it controls you and ruins the day, not just for you, but for others as well; the key is to figure out what is causing it and then learn from it…Something I readily admit that I really suck at. Blowing it off verbally is usually a sign that we’ve lost it; muttering under our breath too loudly is definitely a sure sign of this, and, if we’re out photographing wildlife, it often disturbs the animals around us and can wreck the scene in front of us.

I literally mean this: no matter how frustrated, pissed, or angry we get, we’re going to be affecting how we are in the scene around us. Why not make a positive effect instead of a negative one? This is a point I often lose out on, over and over and over, and sometimes I wonder if my brain ceases to remember it even after I constantly repeat it to myself. Why not just use anger to make you think better the next time? Slow down, take a breath, grunt, then try again…something I’ve done before and I’d have to say works. Then we just might get a shot that works and might just say something we want it to say…Or your subject looks at you funny, but then you still have a shot.

-Small Bird-
-Small Bird-

Intent & Expectation vs. Interpretation

Ever wonder why things don’t quite turn out in photography and why that one shot didn’t come out? For me, it’s been a long, trying road of trying to figure that out. Sometimes, we just have to believe that it wasn’t meant to be and sometimes we just need to work it out. A photograph can hold different meanings for different people and be interpreted many different ways, but the beauty in all of this is that there is impact in it once it’s done right (something I’m not always getting right…far from it). So what do we do when expectation & intent doesn’t come out? I guess what I’m trying to ask is what if what we’re trying to say with the photograph is something completely different than what is read into it and does that mean that we’ve failed??

The tough part of these questions is that the answers have a habit of turning into something that looks a lot like blame when it really might not be. For example: taking a photograph about a subject that reflects the theme of loneliness that ends up being read as being about strength when you/I mean it to be about the negative, not the positive. Sure, it’s a bit our fault because we took the shot, but it’s also about learning & making the photograph excel AND it it’s good for another reason than originally intended, then it’s not really a failure, is it? What’s really important is that we get past the ordinary in photography and strive for the extraordinary.

Bring your normalcy to the edge
And watch it drown in new horizons
New horizons
-New Horizons (Flyleaf)

Like the above lyric, from perhaps the best Rock song to hit the charts in decades, implies, get rid of normalcy and watch it being taken over by new horizons. Work at being unique and make sure that if the interpretation of your images is different than what you intended, then it at least has impact & meaning. Sometimes, making a mistake can turn out to be a blessing in disguise, like trying to construct a poster for an event and you come up empty until you just give up and start messing around with different approaches with one finally working in the end; I’ve been there too many times to count, but, in the end it’s worth it. Sometimes, it’s putting the past ‘mistakes’ behind you and deciding to just move on, but remembering them as if there might just be a lesson to learn from them.

Dodge Dart (old) Swinger logo
Dodge Dart (old) Swinger logo

A chance…

Sometimes we miss the chance at a shot we try so hard to get and fall flat on our faces, wondering & asking why…Believe me, I’ve been there & done that. There’s always another chance at a shot that will be just as good if not better, and if not, then maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t meant to be; it’s something I’ve struggled with for what seems like ages. The thing is, I’ve learned, even though I still forget it quite a bit, that sometimes telling the mind to shut up & trudge along is the better thing to do, in photography…And sometimes in life itself.

Now on to a more cheerful mood…Remember the time you first got the shot that amazed you and made you want to continue photography no matter what? That was the perfect, meant-to-be shot that sometimes, even just recalling it, can bring a smile into even the lightless time. If you really think about it, it wasn’t just a chance, it was an opportunity handed to you/I and we took it, giving us that one shot of encouragement we needed. Most of the time, we end up too busy pushing ourselves to grab that perfect shot that we can just as easily miss the right shot; I know because I’ve been there way too many times to count.

UBC 2036 Main Mall

Taking the chance to get out there to find that shot is part of the fun because, like I’ve said before, it can open our eyes to different possibilities. From working at angles that we’re not used to working at to zooming in to a level of detail we’ve never had before, taking that chance is all about expanding horizons. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t; like on a recent trek out to the nearby university where I was working with a lens that I hadn’t used more than once before, trying to get a shot that I didn’t have a clue how to get. It took some trying, but some shots did turn out and, even with some chromatic aberration around some of the edges on one or two of them, the photographs turned out well. The above photograph was one of the vast majority that didn’t have chromatic aberration and it turned out good; the lines lead through the image while the bushes stop the viewer from following it too far and/or at a pace that would loose the viewer’s attention. So take that chance and you just might be surprised!