Time for a party people!
A year ago today I set out to start a daily photography blog with the sole purpose of following a passion, improving my skills, and leaving a trail of memories for my kids. I had some idea (and I hoped) that the journey would be fruitful. But as often happens when we get a wild hair brained idea in our heads, we set out unaware of what the experience will actually hold. Oh yeah, I had no idea (my family had no idea either)...
As I stand at the year long mile marker looking waaaaaaay back at the girl poised at the start line (sigh--I was till in my 30's), I find that I am incredibly proud of myself. I am not sure I have ever felt this sense of accomplishment in myself. (It must be something akin to finishing a marathon, or loosing weight, getting to the top of Mt. Everest?) I am certainly proud of myself for sticking with it. Proud of myself for the huge improvement in my skills. And most surprisingly, I am proud of the fruitful self discovery that unfolded with clarity and sureness. This was the single most beautiful gift that I received and one that will push me onward to continue blogging.
So that's the reader's digest version.
You can move on to visit your next blog or park yourself here for a moment while you peek into what the journey has shown me. I have written this mostly for myself as a mile marker, but perhaps some of it will resonate with you, especially if you know me, and if you have already been where I am.
So here goes...
I discovered I am more passionate about photography today than I was a year ago.
There are not enough adequate words to describe the fulfillment I experience when I am behind the lens. To say it is a "calling" makes it sound a little cliche to me. I believe I just discovered the perfect vehicle to express the creative spirit that I have always had, and that has longed to express itself in a manner that is meaningful to me. There is not a day that goes by that I do not want to pick up my camera. The thirst is that real.
I discovered I have greatly improved.
This came as a surprise...and not a surprise. I just didn't know how much and to what depth I would grow. Inch by inch I pushed my technical skills and my editing skills, which I also discovered was another place to be creative. And moment by moment I pushed my creative eye to "see". There were only a handful of days I struggled to pick up my camera (rainy days), yet every time I did I found that life was waiting for me to discover it. The daily practice of sowing my seeds produced much more fruit than I ever could have imagined. It got me wondering what else in my life I could improve upon if I set my mind to daily work on it? It also made me realize that the act of picking up my camera every single day is what makes a good photographer into a great one.
I learned that safety is equal to stagnation.
I could pick up my camera every day and take the same safe pictures, hunt for the same safe light but it would not push me to be better. I could improve upon what I was safely doing, but never would I learn to be a pro, excellent, unique, if I shied away from the difficult. There were moments (during photo shoots) that brought me to the edge of my skill level and yet pushing myself through it, in the end, created growth. Every great photographer will tell you that learning to shoot in all situations is what produces that instinctual familiarity with your camera.
I learned that I needed that and that I wanted it. Safe is fun, but challenge will grow me.
I discovered how to listen to myself.
As I listened to well meaning friends encourage me to go step up my business and begin marketing myself as a child/family/whatever photographer, I was always left with a nagging "not yet" in the back of my heart. From past experiences and from watching others I know that all too often we are too quick to outline the future for ourselves. We take the obvious logical road and pick the fruit before its ripe. I needed to listen to myself and that nagging "not yet" and ask myself questions. (To which I am still asking.) Questions such as: For what purpose do I pick up my camera? Do I just want to make money? Do I not want to be left behind? Do I just want accolades? What truly ignites my passion when I do get behind my lens? What is that nagging feeling about? Why am I so hesitant?
I discovered that I do not care about the money or the accolades...at all. I want to be true to my creative spirit even if it never means making a dime.
(That was a relief to discover.)
This I discovered from two experiences.
The first was when I found myself actually being paid to do photography shoots. While I loved the chance to capture friend's kids or take family photos I found that I struggled with having to pose people and perform to client's expectations. It went against my need to be the "fly on the wall". I was often distracted with finding the moments of candor and spontaneity and story. I thought that if I was going to be a "pro" I needed to be and give what people wanted and if this was how I was going to make money, then I did not want the job. Sounds so stupidly silly as I write, but slowly it donned on me that I needed to be true to the type of photographer I innately was. Tracey was in charge (duh). I also realized that if it weren't for the fact that I really should be compensated for my time (my family deserves it and I deserve it for all the hours I put into it) I would totally shoot for free. However, if people wanted what I had to offer, then they would find me until I was ready to "step up into a full time business"--whatever that looks like.
The second experience affirmed the first one. When Haiti was hit with a massive earth quake and the images of story after story flooded the internet, I found myself shedding actual tears over the longing to be there with my camera, to capture such an intense soulful, heart wrenching moment in time. For a brief moment I wanted to be a single, childless, poor traveling photo journalist, living out of a tent, anxious with the need to be out amongst the chaos capturing untold stories and nameless faces. I took notice of my response and listened. That moment of self reflection affirmed to me that I love to convey story, I love to document--in beautiful pictures and in words. This self discovery is the greatest gift I treasure from the year long process because it freed me from rushing into a type of business, to make money, that was not yet right for me. And, it freed me from pursing a mission that wasn't right for my purpose. As I commit to continuing my blog I am anxiously excited to discover how to marry my desires with a purpose that will bless many. I will be keeping my eyes and heart open.
I discovered that I needed to set my heart to more and more learning.
Though I have yet to discover how my photography will be used specifically in my future I am devoted to the process. If I do not arm myself with the tools of the trade then I will not be ready for the opportunities that present themselves. For the next six months I have committed myself to stepping up my skill level and my editing skills. I have already sat with my hubby and told him what I needed--a better editing program, more memory on my computer, a class, technical knowledge, whatever it takes. I look forward to this time. And if I happen to do a photo shoot here and there, then it is the way of provision, and a chance to happily practice.
If you have stuck with me to the end of this post, and even to the end of my year long journey, then I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for you. I have spoken to many of you who peek into my life everyday and your encouragement means more to me than you know. Really. The fact that my creativity blesses someone is worth more than money or accolades. Words can't express...
Thank you, thank you for following me on my journey.
And thank you to my family who have patiently encouraged me--patiently waited for their dinners, good night kisses, and for me to put down my camera so that I could engage with them. Thank you for letting me spend so much time on discovering myself.
Hoping that you all would follow me as I journey on into the next mile...