The New Year is upon us. It actually has been upon us for the last three months. I just didn’t notice how quickly the time had gone. So I am still here, pondering about the year beginning…
It is the time when we reflect on our past and think about what the future will bring. We want to put our mistakes behind and start fresh with a clean slate. If you are like me, you feel the excitement of something new, make plans and look forward to new ventures… And you try to make those dreaded resolutions that are often very difficult to keep. There is always one reason or another why I could not complete something that seemed to be extremely important at the time. However circumstances change. We change. Sometimes our life journey takes us in a completely different direction. Our priorities shift and what was important a while ago is suddenly insignificant now. Therefore I no longer worry about making long lists of things I would like to achieve. I just take one day at a time and enjoy the most of it.
However I still feel there is space for resolutions in my life. They are all related to my lifetime passion for photography and have been formed by years of experience in the photography world. They have become my lifelong resolutions which I think are good enough to share. Perhaps you might even find some that will suit you as well.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
Be true to yourself. Take the photographs that please you. This is the very reason why you are a photographer. It is a very personal thing. It is what drives your passion and energy to be a photographer. Do not compromise by trying to please others. It will only take your passion away.
GET OUT MORE AND LIVE THE EXPERIENCE
Take every opportunity to get out and explore the great outdoors. It can be just a park round the corner, a long drive to the coast or a walk up a hill. There is always something wonderful to see and photograph. Most of all, enjoy the experience of being out and about, discovering new places or re-discovering familiar scenes. Photography should not be just an act of clicking the shutter and collecting yet another image. Get a feeling of the place, experience it, absorb it. Only then you will be able to convey in your photos what you felt at that particular moment.
There are times it is not possible to take any decent photographs, but the experience of being close to nature is priceless. This is the time when I can feel truly myself, happy and free. These are the moments when I stand on the seashore, watching a new day being born. When on top of a mountain the wind has blown away all the clouds and shown me the timeless beauty below. When the sun has broken through the rainy clouds and painted the sky with the rainbow colours. When after a long, tiring day I am rewarded by a breathtaking view of a river glistening in the evening light. When the fresh spring wind blowing from the sea reminds me I am alive. The experiences are endless and nobody will ever take them away from me. And capturing these emotions in an image is the highest reward I can get.
ENJOY HERE AND NOW
Do you ever feel disappointed when you get to a place you planned to visit for a long time and it is nothing like you expected? Do you ever think “What a waste of time! I would rather be somewhere else…”? I used to, but soon realised that there is no point in it. You can’t change the weather, the place, the atmosphere. However you can change your attitude. So what if the sunrise did not paint the sky with spectacular colours? Subtle colours can make even more impact. So what if it is cloudy and the skies are grey? Look for some little details. There is a whole new world under your feet. So what if it is raining? The rain brings out most wonderful colours and reflections and if you are lucky enough, even so desirable rainbows…
DON’T MAKE TOO MANY COMPROMISES
You pre-visualize an image, make a plan, do your research, make all the necessary preparations, finally get where you want to be only to find out that for one reason or another you cannot capture the scene the way you wanted. So you start making compromises because you really want to bring back the image at any price. Does it sound familiar? I think we all have been there. Sooner or later you realise that it is not worth it because if you make too many compromises you will never be happy with the result. It is much better to walk away and come back another time, if it is possible at all, or look for alternative views. You never know, you can find some hidden gems that you would never think of and bring a truly unique image.
NEVER LOSE THE SENSE OF WONDER
I remember very clearly when this one came up. It was on one of those wonderful walks we do with my partner. We are very lucky to share the same passion for the outdoors and spend as much time as we can hiking in the countryside. We were on top of Whernside, just finishing the walk across the Three Peaks of Yorkshire. The weather had not been very kind to us for the whole day but at that particular moment the clouds opened up and the sun covered the valley below us with beautiful evening light. My eyes lit up almost as much as the sun and I was jumping up and down with joy upon seeing this wonderful scenery, ignoring completely Martin’s astonishment. When I calmed down Martin looked at me with a smile, gave me a hug and said “Don’t you ever lose this sense of wonder!”
For children, every little thing has its magic. As you grow up and gain a few experiences you start taking many things surrounding you for granted. Not a lot can surprise you. But you should never stop being amazed by the world around. There are so many views that can make your heart skip a beat if you let them. And they don’t have to be far from home. How wonderful it is to feel the same joy as you did when you were little!
Albert Schweitzer summed it all up in one simple quote: “Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”
Without inspiration there is no art. Hold on to it tight and if you ever lose it get out there and look for it until you have it back again. You can find it everywhere. It doesn’t have to be a grand view from a cliff top at some exotic location. It can be an intimate detail of a flower, pattern on a leaf, texture of a tree trunk, colours of a rock, reflection in a puddle. Get out there, be open-minded and let the images find you.
BREAK THE RULES
You know all the basic rules. The rule of thirds, the point of focus balance, leading lines, the depth created by the foreground, middle ground and background, depth of field, sharpness… Break them from time to time, get your creative juices going and follow your heart. The only rule you should follow is the rule of light. Adapt your image to the light conditions and fire away. Speed up, slow down, move the camera, use creative white balance, blur, cropping. Spin out of control once in a while…
Sometimes you might feel that you are not making any progress. You see the same things and create similar images. You become repetitive. Stagnation stifles your creativity. If you don’t strive to become better you might as well give up. When you feel that you are not getting any further, push your artistic boundaries, get out of your comfort zone, try new equipment, new techniques. Experiment, find new angles, new views, new ways of looking at the world around you.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY
No matter what your goal is, enjoy the journey to it. You don’t want to spend your whole life trying hard to succeed without making the most out of what you encounter on your way. You might be diverted, or even lost, but that doesn’t matter. Sometimes getting lost is the best thing that can happen to you. As a result you can discover who you really are and find success in something totally unexpected. Enjoy the learning curve, the new discoveries, enjoy your life. It will show in your photographs and in everything you do.
As Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”.
GIVE MORE THAN TAKE
Some photographers seem to see the photography world as competitive. They protect their knowledge of techniques or locations. Have you met people like that? I have. In the best case you are just ignored and your questions stay unanswered. I have much more respect for people who share their knowledge and offer help and support. If nobody shared anything there would be no progress. So forget about competition. There is plenty of space for all of us. Support others, be happy for them if they succeed, promote what they do, help them develop. Help and you will be helped.
I will borrow Albert Schweitz’s words yet again because I could not possibly say it in a better way…
“Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier”
“The true worth of a man is not to be found in man himself, but in the colours and textures that come alive in others”
And the last one, just for me – if you make any New Year’s Resolutions make them at the beginning of the year, not three months later 🙂