Direction

IMG_0974**Originally written February 22, 2015**

Where are you going?

Sunrise out the windows of Heathrow airport early in the morning is quite a beautiful site. I find myself sitting and asking myself, where am I going?

No, I’m not trying to figure out what plane I’m getting on or where it’s going, that I know; rather, where am I going in life.

I don’t like to think of my life sitting still, or myself for that matter, yet over the last few weeks I have done a lot of sitting still. There have been meetings as our team has worked through process updates, planned our major story pieces for the next several months and done some team building exercises.

This has given me a lot of time to think about where I am going in my life and craft. I have been setting challenges and goals for myself over the last year and as I look ahead to my year and my travels I am looking forward to opportunities to see how I have grown as a photojournalist and what goals I can set for the future.

Not everyone likes to plan ahead or map out goals, there are articles written on both sides of this, reasons to set goals, how goals are killing productivity. I’m not trying to add to the noise one way or the other, maybe goals aren’t for you or your office, they are for me and for the organization I work for.

For me, it is a matter of direction. Without goals I will likely be running around in circles and an unproductive mess. I, therefore, continue to map out where I want to be as a photojournalist over the coming year, what connections I want to have in my city, and overall where I’d like to see myself as a person. All of this is giving me vision and direction for my life and craft.

But for now, its time to catch a plane.

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The Stories We Live

IMG_4426“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” -Moby Dick

This is quite possibly one of the most recognizable opening lines in classic literature. But what makes this story and so many others so recognizable? What makes an interesting story?

To begin with, it would be helpful to discuss the idea of story itself. Generally, a great story will cover five basic (leaving all complexity aside) elements: Introduction/Beginning; Rising Action/Conflict; Climax; Falling Action; and finally Resolution/End. This is a general rule and has much flexibility to it, but if you pay attention to a good story, on some level, it will follow this template.

We each have our own story, as well as being part of a larger story involving others, but some people feel their story is not as exciting/interesting/creative as those around them. Those individuals therefore try to live vicariously through someone else’s story.

Maybe we fail to see our own story as interesting because we so often neglect to ask why. Why am I doing this? What is the point?

If story is revolving around an axis with some sort of climax, there must be an answer to the why question. Failing to know why we are living the story we are results in feeling like our lives are mundane and boring.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have chosen to work in a field where I get to tell people’s stories; stories that make each of us unique and interesting (even if we don’t think our own story is that interesting).  I have found that when we think about the ‘why’ question and can answer it, we usually find our story is not as boring and mundane as we might have thought. I get the privilege, like so many others, to challenge people to ask that question and see their story as interesting and dynamic.

Your story is as interesting as you want to make it. I don’t mean live someone else’s story as your own; rather, embrace the story you are in. See the creativity staring right at you, embrace the opportunities that are there and live an adventurous life wherever you are. I love the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I think they have done a great job of capturing this idea of embracing the adventure that is right in front of you. It isn’t that you must travel to some exotic location in the world or do some amazing thing that no one else has ever done. It is that you live each moment to its fullest and live the story God has given you to live.

So I ask you, what story are you living out?

Reflecting

reflectionIts always interesting to think back in life to where you were at a given time and compare it to where you are now. Sometimes this comparison is good, others we would prefer to forget.

In 2000, I had the opportunity to visit London for the first time. I remember walking around the city, taking in the sites, dreaming what it must be like to live there. Now, 14 years later, I find myself walking around London, taking in the sites, and reminding myself that I do live here.

Photography is very similar. As photographers, I think there is value in reflecting back on the past (this really applies to any area of life). Think back for a second to your first foray into the craft of photography. What did your pictures look like? How was your composition? Exposure? Did you understand ISO? Aperture? Shutter Speed?

Maybe you like me thought putting your camera in “P” mode stood for professional.

But reality is that over time and energy invested, we grow. We move from one point to another. We develop our craft as we work through it. Then, one day, we find ourselves wandering through our image gallery reflecting back on the past.

It is healthy, just as in life, to look back over where you have come from photographically. It is encouraging to look back and see that you are making progress.

Not quite where you want to be? Great. None of us are. Rather, we are a community of people working through this craft together. There are a lot of great resources out there to teach you for free and I would venture to say that most of the photographers with dedicated blogs to teaching would love to help you learn in whatever way they can.

Here’s to the future! Here’s to the unknown! Where will you be in another 14 years?

a lazy afternoon

sunshine through branchToday is a good day to be lazy. I don’t know why but it seems like as fall is coming around it is just easier to sit and do nothing. The windows are open, there is a nice cool breeze, we don’t have anything we have to be doing, we can just relax. So my wife and I are sitting in our living room working on our computers (ha, seems kinda sad).

She has been writing some articles on Prague and Budapest lately and it got me thinking about some pictures that I took while in Prague and how I have grown so much as a photographer since then. I love taking time to look back and see where I have been because it helps me to see the progress I am making as well as keeps me focused on the path that I am taking and the direction in which I am wanting to be going.

I was reading recently on Corwin Hiebert’s blog about how he hits the “reset” button on things in the fall, I don’t know that I have a “reset” button but I definitely find it beneficial to keep a regular inventory of these things throughout the year.

The irony of all of this though is that in January I will be going back to school full-time to get my Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. This is a necessary step for my wife and I as we are planning to move back overseas to continue in using media and photojournalism in missions.

The hard part for me is knowing that photography will not be as prominent in my life. I don’t know what it is going to look like for the next few years, but as I enter this fall knowing that it’s the last bit of free time (photographically speaking) that I will have for a while. I am excited to see what this coming year holds and how I will be able to continue to develop my craft and grow as a photographer.

OK, so this seems like it is sad, but really I’m excited to see where this will all lead. I have seriously grown so much over even just the past year let alone the past two years in photography, and I know that these last few sessions I have this fall will be so much fun, but reality is it’s all gonna change. No reason to fight it, so I’m gonna embrace it and see what the Lord has in store.

life’s intersections

Life is full of many intersections and crossroads. I’m facing one of those right now. I recently moved back to the U.S. from Russia, I’m moving to a new state where I have never lived before, I’m trying to find a job in an economy that is struggling. I am facing many intersections in my life.

Intersections bring us to a place where we have the opportunity to make a choice. We can continue on the path that we are on or we can follow the diverging intersecting path. Many times we don’t know where either path will lead, we may think we know where we are going, but the reality is that in the presence of an intersection we are facing the possibility of two unknowns.

Despite the uncertainties of intersections, I find them refreshing. It’s an opportunity to stop and think about where I’m heading. A time to stop and seek Gods direction in my life to know that I am heading in the direction that He is leading me.

We will always face intersections, they are a reality of our lives. It is a unique opportunity that we have to look both ways and begin an adventure!