Passion

This is the first part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of MY creativity. Being a creative person, this is something I feel I must do to expand my creative thinking. Know one self.  A very large part of who I am is my creativity. As long as I can remember, I have been creative and doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not validation. To focus on me and what drives me to be creativity. Let’s start with the strongest member of my creativity, Passion. You have probably noticed I used that word to describe the things I love to do. My photography, modelmaking, sculpting along with writing are my passions.  

It all started in spring 2017, while I visited the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle isle. I went there to photograph the spring flowers in bloom. Red, white and pink little beauties standing proud in the light. There was so much color and so many little pretties all over the conservatory grounds. After about an hour into shooting, I stopped and looked around. During that moments of silence, I heard myself say “I could do this all day long”. Loud and clear as the sky is blue. I knew where it came from but what do I call it? It was something I have heard as long as I can remember. But it’s been so long since I heard it so clearly. It wasn’t until I got home and started looking at my images, that I realized it was my Passion speaking to me. It moved me so much, I started to question it and I came up with two short but complex questions.

1. What is Passion? (what does it mean to me?)

2. How has is changed my Life?

I spent countless hours pondering and searching for answers to those questions. I struggled to clearly describe how I felted. How could I describe something that I had come to live with for so long. At one point, I felt it would have been easier to describe blue to a blind person. I found sharing these questions with others who I felt had passion in their lives to be helpful. I was not looking for my definition of Passion in others but more to the point, finding others that felted the same as me. Those two questions produced some of the most honest and enjoyable conversations with others creative people. It’s very interesting hearing how others describe their Passion. I want to share with you some definitions of Passion from other creativity individuals I have meet in my travels as well as how Passion has changed their lives.

Let’s start with Nick Malachowski. He’s a Lead Automotive Designer. I had the pleasure of working with him in 2016. Here are his thoughts…

Passion is the enemy of fear. Fear prevents us from exploring the unknown, from being vulnerable, from uncovering the truth about us and about the world. Passion is the very act of pursuing those things.

There have been specific decisions in my life I have be faced with (quite recently in fact) where there was no guidebook to tell me what to do, and most of them involved a level of risk that could have paralyzed me. Passion was my catalyst for change.

There can be times where passion can cause pain. When you pour your heart into creating something that doesn’t function or resonate as intended. But, as with most pain, time heals and brings perspective – even revealing that sometimes the most important experiences in our lives can reside within failure.

And a life driven by passion, and accepting of pain, is the only version of life I’m interested in experiencing.

The International Society for Aviation Photography rents a house very close to Wittman Regional Airport during EAA AirVenture. This is where I met Vincent Trelut, a man of many talents. Here is how he feels about Passion…

Passion is what occupies my mind when it is free from obligations or necessities, and my brain is available for pleasure and joy. It is what drives my motivation in life beyond the usual day-to-day activities, because I have not made a living or a necessity out of my passion: it is therefore consuming some of my resources, without bringing money to fuel it. I live passion for aviation history, flying and photography with freedom and an amateur spirit.

Passion has made me knowledgeable about history, science and many other things. It has stimulated my brain and body, contributed to keep me healthy. It has made me meet great people, make friends and share with others. It has also absorbed a lot of my time and resources, probably too much from the viewpoint of my family. It has also made me focus on a few topics only, and created a bias in my approach to life, at least in my leisure time. The key is to keep a balance and not be too passionate all the time on the same topics, while still keeping passion alive, because it stimulates and makes me learn so much, becoming a better person.

During our Friday night cookout at AirVenture, I met Gary Daniels. His creative career spans from designer, creative director to marketing executive and now he is owner of Daniels Creative.  I feel we instantly hit it off. And the following morning, He did a masterful job during our little photo shoot of warbirds and re-enactors. Super talented and passionate guy. Here’s what Gary has to say about Passion…

Why does a person find they are drawn to something so much that they pursue it in life, either as a hobby or a profession? A lot of factors come into play here. Maybe something sparked an interest when they were young.  Maybe they stumbled on their passion later in life by accident. It’s a mystical and magical thing. That is almost impossible to describe sense it is so different with each person.

And a ‘passion’ can be literally anything! I once met a fellow that collected old credit cards. He had thousands and he was passionate about it! He talked to me for 30 minutes about his collection and it was all I could do to not dose off! I thought, “What a gigantic waste of time!” Go figure, but he was very passionate about it and that was ‘his passion’. Who was I to discount it?

I spent my professional career in the creative industry and I was exposed to fantastic designers, photographers, illustrators, writers, etc. I had this very discussion with many of them. And, I heard this statement from almost all of them, ‘I didn’t start out doing this…I didn’t pick this, it just found me.’ 

Another aspect of the human experience, I am most appreciative of, is the gift of imagination within each of us. And, because of our inherent ability to imagine, we create passions that we pursue…sometimes for a week, sometimes for a lifetime. Imagination and passion, I feel, are the two human drives that give each of us a reason to live.

Passion has a life cycle. You may be hair on fire passionate about something, then, the flame burns out. You may start out lukewarm on something, then, it becomes a full-blown passion. I have experienced both of these scenarios with several ‘passions’ in my life. Many ‘passions’ have come and gone.
But, for me, the one passion that has maintained a fire is photography. I think because of the creative aspect of the craft. And, photography is one of the miracles of the human experience. Being able to capture history with a device that snaps 1/250-of-a-second snippets of time is quite miraculous.

The positive aspect of my photography passion is the experiences the craft has made possible, the travel, the opportunities, the friends met along the way, and the desire to be better at the craft. Photography keeps me involved with life, with capturing the wonderful aspects of this world we live in.

The negative aspect, for me, has been the frustration of staying on top of the technology and the cost of staying current. And, the drive to be better can be so tiring if you do not keep that aspect of the passion in check. You can burn your passion out if you are too critical of yourself. Becoming better at your passion is a natural progression of practicing and nurturing it but pushing too hard just breeds discontent and self-doubt in your abilities. And, that can douse the flame.

But, a surprising bonus came out of my photography passion as I grew in talent and knowledge…I like helping others be better in the craft. Early in my photography passion, I was very competitive and did not want to share my ‘secrets’ of how I got the shot. That was borne from insecurity in my abilities and taking myself way too seriously. Now, I realize that there is always someone better than me, and always someone not as good as me. I have learned to drop the ego and just enjoy the craft with others at all levels. Teach as I can, learn as I can. And, the interesting side effect of this approach is that my passion for photography has actually heated up and I enjoy it so much more.

 Of everyone I asked, I gravitate towards Gary’s definition the most. Can’t wait for our paths to cross again!

But after months of pondering, I’m starting to form a definition I feel good about. Passion, it’s a fire that burns in my mind, body and sprite. When it is lite, I can tell you what color the flames are along with how hot they are but not how long it’s going to burn. Doubt and frustration can quickly snuff out it’s flame. I love feeding the flames and enjoying its heat. I must be careful and not put too much fuel into the fire. When I do, my life become out of balance and I start to neglect other parts of my life. Sometimes it becomes difficult to maintain balance, but I know I do my best work when my life is in balance.

While nurturing a passion of mine, it beings me an unmatched profound satisfaction that I cannot find anywhere else in my life. The nonsense of the world as well as the noise in my head fades into a peaceful silence. Time gets lost as hours pass like minutes. During this time, a clear and peaceful calm engulfs me. This time is sacred to me and I will not let anyone in anyway sabotage or try to take it from me. My passion has steeped into every part of my life and has become an important part of who I am. It has added many colors to the cloth I’m from.

My major difficulty associated with my Passion is that I want to spend more time doing what I love than things I should do. What I mean by that is I would love to be able to live off what I love to do verse working for a corporation. Yes, my job pays for everything I enjoy, and I keep reminding myself that but at what cost?  The mental focus and to be consistence creatively takes its toll after a while. I’m very good at what I do but it is a very taxing spending your creative energy on someone else idea and get little to no acknowledgement. I get far more satisfaction from teaching and passing on what I have learn to next generation then in my day to day duties. 

Seeking that peace and calm I get from my Passions V’s working on something and letting that peace and calm find me. If I am upset or frustrated, I do not work on my passions. It often just turns to shit and is more work to try to fix it later. I’ve also had people try to give me grief about my Passions. Negative comments along with underestimating my abilities. Fortunately, I’ve learned through some painful lessons not to let those people bother me and I have become cautious to who I share my passions with. There also the pain of others that take advantage or miss using your passion due to poor planning or just plain stupidity.

This is by far, the most difficult post to put together. And hope it is not the last. I do not ever want to stop challenging myself. My Passion, I feel it is going to take me a life time to truly understand and I can accept that.

Here are my images that sparked this exploration into my creativity. Looking back through my images, I can remember how much I enjoyed shooting that day. Great light and beautiful subjects.

I must say “Thank You to all who participated in this post. For shared their definition of Passion with me. Feel free to share your definitions of Passions in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog. 

 

Until next time,

Steven

The Story behind an Image: Part Four

For the past 14 years, I have had a love affair with photography. I love images that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few images that has a story. Here is part four in a series I call “The story behind an Image”

Part 4: Have Fun!

Anyone who ever been to any NAS Oceana airshow knows in the morning you do two things, shoot statics and shop for swag! During the airshow weekend, most of the squadrons based there set up a row of tents and sale tons of goodies. T-shirts, Cruise DVD’s, challenge coins, coffee mugs, photos & prints… Back in 2008 two of my good friends, Shawn Yost and Craig Scaling both attended the show. To save on cost, Shawn and I split a room and Craig crash with us on Sunday. All weekend long we were cracking jokes, quoting “Top Gun” and all around enjoying each other’s company.

Saturday, we got on base, parked the car, geared up, made our way through security and met up with Craig. We made our way over to the “Squadron Mall” for swag we could not live without. Shawn and Craig both like squadron cruise DVD’s and challenge coins. Me, I enjoy zaps (squadron stickers). After spending an untold amount of money, it was time to figure out where in the hell we were going to put it all. Remember, it is still morning. We still have a whole day of shooting ahead. You can’t hold on to all that swag and shoot jets?! You got to pack that shit up! With our hands full of swag, we headed toward to show line to figure out what we are going do and where we want to shoot from. If I remember correctly, Craig wanting to head over to the static to reshoot something. We paused, Craig took off his backpack to put his DVD’s away. With his hands full, he asks me to hold his camera. He then processes to put his DVD’s into his backpack. With a devilish grin on my face, I nodded to Shawn. He instantly stuck the pose and I quickly framed them both and press the shutter. Craig had his camera set to continuous shooting and it shocked me to hear the frames blast away. And as quickly as it happened, I lowered Craig’s camera and Shawn recomposed himself. Craig ask for his camera back….” You’re shitting me, Right?!” I said to myself. He didn’t realize what just happened. So, I handed him his camera as if nothing even happened. Trying not to laugh, Shawn and I were both amazing he didn’t hear the shutter on his camera or pick up on what we did. It was beautiful! Craig went off to shoot statics and Shawn and I in disbelief found a shooting location. We shot the show, packed up our gear and headed to the hotel. While there, dump cards, charge batteries, shower, dinner and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

Sunday morning, we woke up, got some breakfast and head to the base. Again, parked the car, geared up, made our way through security, shot the show and met up with Craig afterwards. I can’t remember why but Craig stayed with us on Sunday. I do remember, we headed over to my parent house that night for a home cooked meal. On the way over, I figure Craig would had said something to us about Saturday little photo shoot but nothing. At my parent place, we eat, and we laughed. Heck, my Dad even broke out his old cruise books when he served on the Ticonderoga(CV-14) and Saratoga (CV-60). Before long it was time to head back to the hotel. Back in the hotel, we chilled, packed up and come Monday, we all head back to our homes.

According to the EXIF data from the image, it was a full 10 days from the time I shot it to when Craig found it, processed it in Photoshop and email it to Shawn and me. He named the image “ShawnandStevearedead”. Hard to believe that come September, that image will be 10 years old.

ShawnandStevearedead

What I want you all to away from this image. First, regardless of what it is you are shooting, Have fun! Even better is to have fun with friends. Make moments with friends who make images. And second… Don’t ever let me hold your camera when Shawn is around!

 

EXIF data

Date: 9/20/2008 @ 10:17am

Model: Canon EOS 40D

Focal length:  23mm

ISO speed: 400

Exposure time: 1/200th

F stop: F/10

Shot handheld

Knowledge or Gear?

So, three weeks ago I have an idea for my next post. It was my take on the Knowledge vs. gear argument. What is more important? Having the knowledge to see and capture images properly or having the latest and greatest gear? The problem was I already knew that knowledge is far more important than any gear. And as I started writing, it turned into a long-winded rant about why knowledge is more important. I did not like the way it was going along with that is not the way I want to share. So, I thrashed it, gathered my thoughts and wrote this. What I normally like to do is come up with an idea that challenges my creativity. Then go out and test it. And share my results with you all.

I know just because you have a camera, does not make you a photographer. That’s a bitter pill for some. My opinion(and my opinion only), what makes you a photographer is having the ability to see and capture images properly that speaks to your viewers. And it does not matter if it was shot on a Nikon, Fuji, Canon, if it was shot as a RAW or Jpeg, was it from a full frame sensor body or from a cell phone… All those things are just tools to capture an image YOU see. It’s what the photographer trying to show and what the image says to YOU that matters most. Yes, gear helps. But like anything, if one does not know how to use their tools properly, the results will never be as good as someone who knows what he or she is doing.

My idea for this post was to go down Belle isle in Detroit on two different weekends. And I wanted my images to show three things. One, how cold it was outside using a limited color palette. Two, to show how colorful and alive it was inside the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. And three, have all the images maintain my look or style of photography. On one weekend, I used only with my iPhone 8 plus. And the other weekend, only with my 7D MKII with my 17-85mm. Each weekend, I shot images with the same three goals in mind. Then in Lightroom, strip the EXIF data from each of the images. With the idea of concealing what camera shot what image. Letting you, the reader, to try to figure out if you could tell what image was shot with what. I did strip the EXIF data from the images because it does not matter what gear I used. But what matters, did I accomplish my three goals?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know how to use YOUR gear properly. Knowing how YOUR gear sees and captures light as well as its limitations. I also want to stress the important of having an idea of what it is YOUR trying to show YOUR viewers. The next time you’re behind your camera ask yourself, “What is it I am trying to show and why?”

Until next time,

Steven