Storm the stronghold…

Now this one’s going to sound a little off, thanks to the title, but let me put it this way: the stronghold I’m referring to are the rampant ads & the push/desire for various things that we supposedly need to have. Christmas sales are there for one real, and sometimes disturbing purpose…make us buy more stuff. I’m not saying we should rush to the stores and buy everything that we can get our hands on, but rather storm the stronghold by refusing to let it get to us and drive credit card debt ever upwards.

I haven’t been exactly active photographically, or otherwise, in November and I really aim to change that this Christmas & winter season by getting out there and doing something that just might inspire someone. There’s plenty to do & see out there and I’d rather be one to really contribute to something, than just do nothing or add to the noise. Christmas is right around the corner and there’s just something about giving compared to receiving something; there’s a bit of a challenge when it comes to avoiding the stores because we’re so tempted to dive right on in to the sales. I’ve done this time & again to the point that I’m thinking that just the fact that the word sale might just hook me right in.

This Christmas, it’s a great time to get out once we’re all bundled up for the cold weather, or out in summer weather for warmer climates. We might as well storm the stronghold of the daily consumerism that seems to permeate everything around us; we can really do this much better if we get outside of the shopping malls and spend time with friends & family. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are truly about for most of us? I’m going to at least try to get outside and I hope that I can do something that might just inspire someone in the process.

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Without the tree?

There’s something to be said by celebrating the holidays without the tree decorated in the living room, or even outside. What gets me about having a tree is the advertising from all the stores; if the tree we have means something to us, why do we need to go all out for some tree that we might just throw away at the end of the holidays. Having a tree in the living room, at least for me, is about having something for the family, or friends, to gather around, not to show off. I’d rather having something that means something than something that’s superficial. I get just as guilty as others do when it comes to being materialistic, especially when the latest sales are one or the holidays are approaching, so I’m not trying to blame anyone, just trying to point something out.

- Snow & Branches -
– Snow & Branches –

It says something when the weather outside isn’t too great and there’s snow on the trees, but it says something more when the tree inside is all shiny, but never really used or gathered around at all. Things like that tend to suck the meaning out of the holidays & out of Christmas altogether if we’re not careful. Sometimes, it helps to not have a tree because having one becomes a distraction from what Christmas is all about, making us think about the latest things we can get instead of the boy child in the manger. Christmas for me has become more so about the manger and recovering from any soreness from work (he last three months of the year are the busiest for me). The music playing around this time of year is just a welcome bonus, especially when it points me upwards instead of downwards.

It’s great having the days off, but for those that don’t, try not to make things difficult for them, because they’re working so that you don’t have to, or they’re there so that you can shop. We could all use a little more peace in the world, especially right now with all the crap that’s happening all around us. So, let’s just slow down, stop what we’re rushing to get before it sells out, and think about what’s really important this Christmas; let’s get past the abuses in Hollywood (by not letting them ruin Christmas for us) and try to salvage the holidays before we ruin their start.

Do I really want this?

There’s stuff that really bugs me from time to time and it comes down to the question of me wanting something and changing my mind. Do I really want this thing to happen? Do I really want this piece of tech or gear? It’s coming up on Christmas and the stores are going on with advertising about new stuff for sale; it draws me in and then I begin to wonder if I really need it or even want it. It’s like that with virtually everything, especially around this festive time of year…Materialism run amok, I guess.

I’m not going to vent against materialism again, but try to explain out the processes that I go through. I mean, I can get really good at things with what I have…I don’t really need the latest piece of tech to get what I want out of a photograph, or design. When the deals come for new tech, don’t get me wrong, I am intrigued, but I tend to either get too far into the sales, or just forget about them in the end. I’ve been trying to really think about how much the holidays are more for family and the real meaning for the season, the boy child in the manger, not so much about what the stores are selling at a somewhat decent price. The season is meant to inspire us, not make us want more stuff to fill our homes and deplete our wallets.

There’s just something about finding inspiration and what it can do to the person who finds it; it can’t really be bought, but it can be given. Just think, if we’d all just learnt to stop & think, myself included, then we’d really get to the point that we can start to make a change in someone’s life and maybe in our own as well. I personally think this world would be a better place if we’d just learn to think of others over ourselves at least once in a while. Do I really want this to happen? Yes…The answer really is a resounding, heart-pounding YES!

The beat vs. the meaning…

Thinking about it, we often tend to focus on the beat compared to what the meaning of the lyrics are; I’m so guilty of this as well. We’re so taken back by how much a beat moves us that we don’t really think about the lyrics themselves. In this day & age, we’re focused on the beat & melody that we forget to dig a little deeper and find out what the song really means; I guess it comes with the territory when we fully adopt the materialism that mainstream media pushes our way, along with the shallow, biased news stories.

When was that last time we really stopped to tell someone we care about them and when was the last time we tried to inspire them? We’re so focused on our daily rhythm that we easily forget about those around us who just might be needing a simple word of encouragement or a helping hand. I’m not talking about the street hustlers here, but those people that come into our daily lives and seem to just be looking for a little help, but don’t really ask for it at all. If our lives are always go-go-go, then we just might be in need of a little breather from it all now & then to help us get a refresh.

Thinking about it, there’s so many wondering what’s happening that we might just need to stop awhile and lend a helping hand. Most of the time, it’s not our place to really ask why, but it might just be our place to really help out a person in time of need. There’s so much out there that goes wrong every now & then, especially in politics & money, that taking a time out with a friend might just be what we, and they, need right now.

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.

Yeah = Utah?

Ever experience autocorrect making mistakes (i.e. like the one above)? And yes, this is a rhetorical question. I’ve had it happen that autocorrect corrects itself to auto-coconut, but don’t ask me on what planet that makes sense because I’m starting to really think that common sense has all but disappeared these days. Just like all this talk about which brand name is better than the other (apart from Porsche being leagues better than BMW), it’s ridiculous, and just another way for people to sell us more things…As if we don’t have enough stuff already. Sometimes we just need to get ourselves off auto and onto something akin to manual, especially when it comes to photography.

- Cascade Falls -
– Cascade Falls –

I’ve gone through some of my photographs over & over, trying to figure myself out and where I’m going with this thing called photography that I enjoy, but it seems as about as elusive as politicians making any sense at all. The above photograph is one that I’ll most likely keep going over for months, mostly because I can’t seem to make up my mind about exactly how I want to finish it; I’ve already gone through two revisions, after the first refinement session, and I’m most likely going to keep tweaking it. I might even try a sepia, duotone, or B&W treatment on it, but the most important thing in all of this, to me, is that it wasn’t taken on auto, but on full manual; to each his own, I guess, but I’m going to keep going this way because it helps me think a little more when I’m doing things, and really muck up along the way while I’m at it which helps me learn as well.

In these days of everything going so fast, I’m thinking that we need to slow down and really think about what’s going on, but that’s not what the mainstream wants because then we’re not as gullible as they want us to be. We need to get some common sense back before the mainstream with its lack of any ethics runs roughshod over all of us. Just look at our Facebook feeds; they’re mostly about the latest stuff we’ve bought or how great we look, and little about uplifting, helping & inspiring others (I’m totally guilty of this as well). We’re at the point that we need to get past this whole gear & tech stuff and I’m at least going to try to get past it.

In odd places & spaces…

Over the last few weeks, working on a personal photography project, I’ve often wondered just how much we miss by not stopping for a while to explore small things in tiny spaces when we’re out in nature. I mean, thinking about it as I was out this weekend, photographing the local botanical gardens, I began to look around at spots I wouldn’t naturally stop to take the odd photograph, let alone somewhere between 10-20 shots of a small scene no bigger than the size of a car tire. For me, I guess, stopping to examine a tiny scene makes me think that much harder when trying to photograph it, especially without a macro lens, but life doesn’t always give us a chance for a redo, or the granting of wishes to have more gear right away, so I worked with what I had.

- Greens -
– Greens –

Does the above photograph achieve that? It did at the point of capture and, after some minor refinements (Clarity & Noise among them), it comes out as a scene that at least inspires me to look a bit closer at scenes I normally would usually, and normally pass up. In a way, it inspires me to stop, look & listen (metaphorically of course) to see what how my vision is doing when it comes to photography. Will it inspire others to get out there? Maybe…I sure hope so. Will it inspire like a good song? Probably not even close, but that’s okay because I’m not trying to beat someone else to it…I’m just trying my best to inspire. The way I figure it, the Creator’s given us a beautiful planet to live on and we’ve mucked it up, but there’s still a few good spots to get out & explore.

- White Trumpet Call -
– White Trumpet Call –

Perhaps that’s why I tend to gravitate towards peaceful scenes: there’s less noise & chaos surrounding me when I’m there. Maybe because it’s such a crazy world that a little peace & quiet goes a long way, maybe it’s because there’s so much shallowness out there in the media, but, either way, a little peace & quiet goes a long way in today’s world of shallow never-ending glitz & glamor. There’s so much out there that really has not much of any meaning to it, so why add to it? I’ll end this post with a song suggestion, a song that is quite inspiring, at least to me, and one to sing to: Grace Alone written by Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue (Kings Kaleidoscope performs this one just right on their album, Becoming Who We Are).

What gets me…

…Is the complete over-insistence on what society wants from us instead of the desire & need to inspire others. I mean, c’mon, when did we get so hung up on methodology & certain lists that we forget about the others around us that ARE hurting that we CAN help? I’ve certainly screwed this up so many times that, when I see others do it, it reminds me of my own shortcomings and literally gets me frustrated, to say the least. Shouldn’t we just learn to slow it down & listen, let alone trying to do it all on our own? I’ve failed on this so many times that I’m quite literally talking to myself here as well.

In photography (yes, it’s that rant again), it’s become all about that latest piece of tech or how famous we’ve become through how many shots we’ve sold. In life, it’s become about that latest thing we’ve got & what shiny new toy we’ve got, but have we really thought about how shallow it’s making us? I’m just venting here, but I’m beginning to think that we need to forget about the megapixels and focus on the meaning & the inspiration behind the shot or the person. Like the mainstream media, we’re so hung up getting the most clicks that we’re just doing things that don’t really go very deep at all…And before I’m labeled an alt-right nut, I’d like to point out that the alt-right stuff disgusts me just as much as the regular person. I’m just as tired, as the next person, of being flooded with all the sensationalist crap coming from the CNN & Fox outlets out there, so I’m beginning to really look at this with a grain of salt…It’s just that the proverbial grain of salt is getting much bigger these days.

So, while this might seem a bit winded coming from me, I’m beginning to see that venting, in a decent way, is slowly becoming a way to relieve all the pent-up frustrations I’ve got. Who cares if we’ve got the latest stuff or if we’re rooting for the most likely person to succeed? I’d rather root for the underdog who’s trying to make it through with a bit of humility because, to me, that’s being a bit more real than the favorite.

Anyone else but me…

One of the best songs, that I’ve heard in a long time, about modern society, is Hokus Pick’s Anybody Else But Me and it’s pure genius. It’s a satirical look at people wanting to be anyone else but themselves and it’s awesome, not just because they’re Canadian; sorry America, we got this one because you’ve got your teams on the Stanley Cup way too many times. We’re so focused on being famous or at least someone of noteworthiness, that we lose our uniqueness in the process. In photography, as in life, that means copying someone else’s vision, techniques, methods & beliefs blindly.

While I’ve read a lot & learnt how some really gifted professionals work through their craft, their photographs, and the way they make them, are uniquely theirs…Or at least they really should be. Forever a tinkerer, I’m going to be tinkering with the methods & ways I tweak my photographs and I’ll learn along the way, not just through my mistakes, but I’ll learn from the professionals as well; they’ve written many a book about their craft, so it’s a no-brainer using the knowledge they have to impart to help myself to grow as well. When it comes to life, we’re not out to imitate, but to grow as the Creator’s meant us to grow; we’re meant to look upwards, not downwards or horizontally…We’re not called to copy one another, but to imitate the perfect example the Creator was for us. Sometimes we’re given a feeling/impulse of what we’re supposed to do, sometimes it’s in our daily readings, and sometimes it’s in how we’re working that we’re given guidance.

Photography, compared to every other art, is so much younger than the others, but why is it that imitation is seen as flattery & striving for meaning not as important? I mean, come on, we’re not all drones or Borg here. There’s just so much out there to photograph, so that doesn’t mean we’ve got to copy others’ photographs or even their methods, but just learn from them…The same goes for life itself. It’s all in how we try not to be anybody else but ourselves…In the way we’re supposed to be.

Hollywood…

Modern society & culture nowadays is oversaturated by mostly superficial things that it’s not really any better than high fructose corn syrup. I say this because, looking at what’s out there, it’s mostly completely superficial & focused on the idea of the individual & self-improvement, or self-actualization. Initially, that’s not entirely wrong, but when it becomes the center of all that we are, then it’s a big problem because we put ourselves at the center instead of a higher purpose; the one that was given to us by the Creator that’s about not glorifying ourselves, or creation, but the fact that He’s put us here to glorify something greater, Himself, because we’re not the ones that are perfect here due to the reality that we messed it up on account of our own free will. I’m far from perfect, so I’m going to stop myself before I go too much deeper and getting myself all mucked up…And in trouble.

What’s this all got to do with Hollywood or society in general? Look at the predominant message that it produces and what it centers on…the self. When have we ever stopped to smell the roses or anything other than ourselves? It’s been awhile, to be honest, at least for myself. Sometimes, all it takes is one good day to get out there and do something better than just sit in front of the TV, or just rant online about the depressing state of the media. I’ve been listening to the John Rich song, Shuttin’ Detroit Down, and it got to me, not just because of how hard the 2008 crisis hit the average American, but how modern society has created this illusion of a sugar-coated life when reality’s something different…They’re selling make believe and we don’t buy that here. Those lyrics ring so true in that we’ve got to really look at reality, see that we’ve got to see what’s going on around us, and not buy the sugar-coated version.

When we’ve got bombings after concerts, gang violence in our cities, and people just struggling to figure out what on earth’s happening, it makes you wonder (it makes me wonder) at just how far this whole thing has gotten where we buy the sugar-coated reality that we’re being told is good for us. I mean, wake up (myself included), it’s not about us; it takes people like those that helped guide people caught up in the concert bombing in Manchester to safety at a nearby hotel & notify family members to make a difference. I’m still working on this, making a difference thing that is, and it’s going to take a while, but I’m going to go out on the limb and start ignoring the sugar-coating, see the humor in life, and try to reach out & inspire.