Here’s the formula. When I travel for work, I look to see if I can grab a half or even full day on either side of my commitments for a walking and photographing adventure. If that’s a yes, then I immediately jump onto a mapping app to see what’s nearby. In some cases, such as Phoenix or Vegas, the opportunities are obvious. And close by. In others, it takes some research.
Recently, I was in San Diego and so my preparation research mostly pointed out seacoast possibilities. Photographically speaking, I much prefer deserts and so I scanned the map for something, anything… within an easy (few hour) drive of my business meeting location. To the northwest of San Diego lies Joshua Tree National Park, a spot I have always wanted to visit, though some have advised me that “there’s just not that much there worth seeing.” Yeah, I heard that once.
I didn’t have too many other options and so off to Twentynine Palms, California I headed. Expectations were not particularly high.
An entire National Park named after a tree? Seriously?
Now the Grand Canyon… that’s some park. Gigantic crevice in the planet… that you can climb down into. Cool.
Yosemite. Epic walls of towering rock surrounding a pristine valley. Yessir.
Yellowstone. Bears, wolves, elk around every corner. That’s surely worth a visit.
But Joshua Tree? Just a few hours west of San Diego, California, and yeah… it’s named after some trees.
I had a glorious day there recently (and at the nearby mysterious Salton Sea) and it was extraordinary. Joshua Tree delights in its subtlety. In its understated charm. The hikes scale a low lying and approachable mountain, forge through easily missed hidden valleys, ascend toward a seemingly misplaced dessert lake, and leave you utterly and beautifully alone in the silence. It was breathtaking.
More to come soon…
After months of photographing gray, brown, and more gray, the Lord has blessed us with some spring flowers! I snapped this image while on my daily walk across the street to lunch. I’ve seen this same flower pot with nothing but withered roots in it a hundred times. It was refreshing and inspiring to see it full of new life and a splash of color!
I’ve heard it several times before and I bet you have too. Keeping a gratitude journal – into which you spend 10 minutes at the end of every day jotting down everything you were grateful for during that day – will reduce your stress and up the happy in your life.
Arianna Huffington summarized all this in her book Thrive by noting: “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day — and why the events made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”
I’ve read all about this. I’ve talked with people who do this. Without citing all the hard evidence, I’ll just say… I buy it. I get it. I’m in.
But… I stink at journaling. I’ve tried it probably 10 times before, for a variety of reasons and typically upon the advice of a friend, but I can never get past a couple of days of actually doing it. Once I even purchased a beautiful leather clad journal with heavy weight cotton paper and thought to myself: “Yeah, I haven’t successfully journaled because the paper itself wasn’t just right.” Right.
More recently, however, it has hit me like a much appreciated bag of bricks over the head: why not keep a visual gratitude journal? One that I capture with a camera (or my phone) and which helps me account for all of the things that I am most grateful for in my life. I have created a special on-line gallery (accessible only by me) into which I place these images. They contain photos of people, of events, of places. Just knowing I possess such a gallery prompts me to search around during the course of each day just looking for, and thinking about, my blessings. I review the gallery often and consider everything in my life I have reason to appreciate.
And you know what? It works. Maybe I don’t stink at journaling after all.
Try it and see. Let us know if it works…
After many months of photographing indoor basketball and hockey games, campus shots with snow banks always in the background, and leafless trees, spring has sprung! Today I kicked off a very busy two months for me at work, full of picture-taking, writing, and creating. It was great to walk around campus, under the warm sun, and take pictures of the goings on around me.
I am excited and look forward to growing as a photographer during this next chapter.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” — Edgar Degas
It has been a slow awakening, a coming into the light. And it has been fairly difficult. I am a photographer. I know how to use my equipment. I know my way around post-processing software. I have refined my photographic eye. But I am no artist.
I have spent decades refining this craft. Most of that has been joy, as I have described on these and other pages. Experiences of living, of traveling, of encountering and of discovery most often include peering into a glass or electronic peephole, manipulating compositions, altering shadows and highlights, and capturing it for all of posterity. It has been a photographic… pardon the cliche… journey.
The quest to improve as a photographer is big business. This desire is fuel to an industry that seeks to move gear, instructional supports, travel workshops, and a million other associated products and services. The fundamental equation is this: buy X and you will become a better photographer. I’ve wanted that. Many want that. Many. It’s big business.
Joey described his recent decision (see here), a shedding of sorts, to focus on artistry. And not all the rest.
As for me…
I, like many others, believe that a camera should function like an extension of one’s eye – for without this quality, how can it accurately do its owner’s bidding? Personally at times, I find that decisions regarding gear, specifically which gear to use in a certain circumstance, interfere with my ability to create photographs that I am pleased with. That obstacle is overcome when I only have the X100F in my bag, because of its streamlined approach to photographing. Continue reading