Reaching Your Potential

Have you ever had the feeling that you are not being the photographer you could be (or painter, or musician, or writer, or whatever—put in the right word for you)? That you are not making the best photographs you could make? In other words, that you are not living up to your potential as a photographer (or whatever artist you are)?

It’s nothing out of the ordinary. On the contrary. This is a feeling we photographers have all had. Sometimes we may feel on the top of the world, and then the next day we just feel we can’t capture anything worth saving. Reaching our potential is a constant struggle, to become better, to overcome the fear that creative work always gives rise to, to step out of the box, to not succumb to old and proven routines. Here in this blog, I try to give snippets of thoughts on how to keep developing and getting closer to that potential that inherently lies within all of us. Moreover, my workshops, if anything, are all about helping the participants be the best photographers that they can be.

Throughout the years and many posts in this blog, I have pointed to the importance of doing the work, to challenge yourself, to work with passion, to be willing to learn—to mention a few things you need to do to be able reach your potential as a photographer. For a little summery of how to develop your creativity and become a better photographer; look up posts like A Path to Creative Life or Become a Better Photographer. Nobody said it would be easy, but as with everything in life, the purpose of the creative travel is not the end goal, but the road to the goal.

One aspect I have not written a lot about is constantly evaluating your own work and yourself as a photographer. On a regular basis, take stock of yourself. Where do you stand as a photographer right now? And how can you improve yourself so your photography will become better? In my personal experience, and as I have learned from talking with students in my workshops, one of the biggest things that hold us back is the feeling of vagueness and lack of clarity about how to get better. If we wander day by day with no sense of direction or movement, then we are easy pray for the forces of resistance—the internal and external forces that try to stop us from being creative and living the life we want.

When you evaluate yourself, don’t only look to your technical skill level. We should never lose sight of the fact that becoming a good photographer, like becoming a good artist in any medium, involves heart and soul in addition to craft and technique. A technically perfect photo can be banal, and a very imperfect photo from a technical perspective can touch something deep within us. This implies that discovery about how to improve our photography is an emotional and transformative journey in the psychological and spiritual domains, and that mastering of technique is but the barrier to entry. So when evaluating your present state as a photographer and where to go from there, you need to look at both aspects.

Evaluating yourself and your own work is difficult. Sometimes we need the help from others. We turn to family, friends, Flickr, photo clubs, or submit photos to competitions, or attend workshops. All good, but we also have to keep in mind that not all «help» is necessarily helpful. Obviously, the quality of this kind of evaluative response varies, and depends greatly on who is doing the evaluation. However, while we should keep in mind this truth, valid and useful feedback is important, and can come from many sources.

Ultimately, though, it is extremely important to develop the ability to evaluate you own work, no matter how difficult it is to do so. Almost every good artistic vision is individual, and not the result of a committee. External opinions can be noise on the line, and pull in many different directions. Learning to evaluate yourself and your work, is about practising. Do it on a regular basis and it will slowly by slowly become easier. Maybe you need some help in the beginning. Well, participate in a workshop where evaluation in most cases is an important part of the experience. Or look to literature. For one, I can recommend the book, Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer, by Harold Davis.

Are you trying to reach your potential as a photographer? Are you working as hard as you can to encourage your own development? You know, often in my travels to troubled areas, I meet kids that have nothing, may live on the street, have lost their family, or seek shelter in refugee camps. I can’t let go of thinking about the potential that lies within them. What could they have grown up to become in a better world, with better opportunities, with some guidance by mentors or parents?

Posted in Challenging Yourself, Creativity, Photography | Tagged , , | 34 Comments

Last Week’s Instagram


Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: It was captured with my Lumix LX-100 in an underwater housing with the lens sett at 10,9 mm (the equivalent of 24 mm full frame lens), exposure at 1/800 s and f/5.6. The photo was then transferred to my cell phone and processed in Photoshop Express.

Posted in Creativity, Photography | Tagged , | 54 Comments

Being Flexible






Sometimes unforeseen circumstances come crushing down and put an end to something we may have planned for a while. There are two ways to deal with them. Either we give up in disappointment or we turn ourselves around, improvise and make the best out of the new situation. I believe creative people would have an easy choice. They are improvising all the time, looking for possibilities, rather than limitations. Being creative means creating something new out of whatever is available.

The week before last, my love one and I were supposed to go for a six days backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a trail that follows the mountain range along the west coast of the Americas, from Canada into Mexico. The whole trail obviously isn’t possible to do in six days (we would rather talk about months then), but we were heading for a minor part of the trail along the Cascades just east of Seattle.

Or so we thought. When we passed by the ranger station nearby our trail head to get some final information before heading out in the wilderness we were startled by what they could tell us. The whole area was closed down because of a big wildfire. There was simply no way we could proceed with our plan.

After the initial moment of feeling paralyzed, we started to look at maps and books we could find at the ranger station to search for alternatives that could be just as enticing as the trip we had planned. After some back and forth we ended up choosing an area close to Mount Baker, one of the most characteristic mountains in the state of Washington.

It was another three to four ours drive to get from where we were. So when we finally reached the nearest small town, Glacier, the day was more or less gone—we had already lost the first day of what was suppose to be our six days hiking trip in the mountain. More so, we found out next day, we would have to wait even one more day before we could hit the new trail. We wanted to do something called the Copper Ridge loop. The problem is, it’s very popular and it’s situated within North Cascades National Park. The latter means all camp sites are strictly regulated and you need a permit to camp anywhere in the park—a specific permit for each camp site and the date. Nothing was available before the second day. So what should have been a six days backpacking trip finally ended up being only four days.

However—and of course—we didn’t just do nothing until we finally could get going. The same evening we arrived to Glacier, we drove up past Mount Baker ski area to a plateau between the two gorgeous mountains of Baker and Shukshan. The sun was setting and it was a gorgeous moment for both of us. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. The pictures accompanying this post are all from that evening at the so-called Artist Point.

It was a gorgeous evening and for a photographer an amazing moment, particularly after the sun had gone behind the mountains. Part of what made the evening so beautiful and colourful were clouds lining up in the horizon, spreading the last minutes of sunshine across the sky.

Of course, those clouds were also a forecast for the rain to come next day. We have never been stopped by rain, though, so the second day we hiked up to the glacier tipping down from the peak of Mount Baker. As any of you who follow Adrian «Chillbrook» and his blog know, bad weather is god weather for photographers. To make it short, we had another great day. When we finally got on the trail for the backpacking trip, the sun returned and we had another couple of gorgeous days—in a different way. I’ll get back with pictures from this hike as soon as I have had a chance to process them.

In the end, we had just as fantastic six days as we probably would have had if we had been able to stick to our original plan. As long as one doesn’t give in, there are always possibilities…

When was the last time you had to improvise and come up with an alternative plan in an incident of a moment? I would love to hear your story.

Facts about the photos: All the photos were taken with my Canon Eos 5D with either a 16-35 mm lens or a 24-105 mm lens. The photos have been processed in Lightroom and nothing else.

Posted in Creativity, Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged , | 81 Comments

Last Week’s Instagram


Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: It was captured with a my Canon 5D with a 24-105 mm lens sett at 70 mm, 1/160 s and f/22, transferred to my cell phone and then processed in Snapseed with the filter Drama. I finally use the Kelvin frame from Instagram.

Posted in Creativity, Photography | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

Blessing in Disguise

In the creative process mistakes are a blessing in disguise. If you don’t get caught up by the fact that you just did a mistake, the mistake itself may be turned around and used as a tool to creatively reach something you otherwise wouldn’t have thought about at all. It may open doors for your vision and bring new ideas to mind—as long as you don’t discard the mistake as just that.

Quite a few years ago Seymour Jacklin wrote a blog post called Mistakes: The Departure Point for Creativity. What he wrote caught my attention and I want to pass his thoughts on to you, my readers.

In his post Seymour writes: «Accept that you will make mistakes as everyone does. If mistakes are so inevitable would it not be better to incorporate them into your creative process and use them as opportunities to be exploited rather than set-backs or even fatal flaws in the project». I think Seymour hits the point right on. Instead of getting irritated by or discard mistakes, we as creative persons, should re-examine what went wrong, and make the best out of it, either by seeing the mistake as an opportunity to learn or actually as something valuable to incorporate in our creative process—a new opening.

Let me give you an example. As you may know, almost every year I go back to Cuba as part of a personal photo project. One part of the project it so visit a farm and the family living there, way out in nowhere land. When I met them first time they didn’t have electricity or running water, but their hospitality were by no means restricted by their tough living conditions. They have over the years become my close friends. Anyway, some time ago when I visit the family I was photographing them—as I always do, and one of the shooting sessions was occurring during the dark hours inside the house. Unfortunately the photos came out too noisy and too blurred to my likings, thus I just saved them on my computer and thought no more of them. But the other day I was looking for some pictures for a customer and came across the discarded pictures—the failures in my opinion. Suddenly I discover one of the pictures that I actually liked despite the obvious technical flaws. I proceeded working on it in Photoshop and made quite a nice black and white photograph, which at least for me is telling something very profound about the family and their lives.

I made what Seymour calls a Zen Out. In his post he comes with suggestions for how to use mistakes as a departure point for creativity. He talks about various approaches: Get Socratic, Get Freudian, Get Existential and Zen Out. As to the latter Seymour Jacklin writes: «Walk away from it for a while and settle your mind on something else. You may have made a “mistake” because you were trying too hard or wanting it too much. If you take a break and look away as if you do not care quite so much, you give your mind a chance to engage the subconscious». How appropriate for my case. For other suggestions on how to approach mistakes have a look at his post.

Posted in Creativity, Photography | Tagged | 65 Comments

Last Week’s Instagram


Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: It was captured with a Lumix LX-100 sett at the equivalent of a 75 mm lens, 1/320 s and f/5.6, transferred to my cell phone and then processed in Pixlr-o-matic with the filter Ivan. I finally added a frame from the same app.

Posted in Personal Work, Photography | Tagged , | 32 Comments

When the Livin’ Is Easy

Pat og Jenny på toppen av Mount Dickerman

Utsikten over dalen på vei opp mot Mount Dickerman

Summertime. Life does indeed feel very easy. I am a guy who undoubtedly are very fond of all different seasons and the changing between the seasons. I enjoy autumn, winter, spring and summer equally much. Still, there is something special about summertime. Not so much because of the season itself, but rather what it entails—at least for me.

It comes down to the kind of occupation I have. I work in the media business, and summer is generally a slow period. Papers and magazine run on slow burners. Nothing much of importance happens in the news. Stories are simply less interesting. In Norway (where I am from) we call it cucumber time, since summer is the time when all the stories about cucumbers have a chance to be published. For me it means less work and fewer assignments. Moreover, I have been so lucky to be able to shift my schedules around so I don’t need to make much money during the summer—out of necessity and just as much out of pure delight.

Summertime is the time when I can do all the things I otherwise never get a chance to do. Tasks that don’t bring bread on the table—at least not within a foreseeable future. Of course, I get to relax more, too, but I am really not the kind of guy to sit still for very long. Rather I have too many balls in the air—and I enjoy it, the more the better.

This summer I am finally finishing a novel I have been working on for quite a few years. I am developing a new online photo workshop and I am also putting together a new eBook about photography. All very exciting and fun to do. There is nothing like sitting outside on a warm summer evening and be working on your computer without any demands or stress. Only my own things.

In addition, summertime is the period when I have time to enjoy much more outdoor life, for the same reasons as already mentioned. I spend as much time as possible, either hiking, biking, kayaking, running, rollerblading or whatever it is I feel like doing. In fact, by the time this post is out, I will be backpacking a week along the Pacific Crest Trail in the state of Washington, USA. Furthermore, the photos posted here were taken last week when I hiked to the top of Mount Dickerman in the North Cascades.

Summertime is indeed when the livin’ is easy. When; one of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing. And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky.

How is summertime for you? Do you get a chance to spread your wings?

Pat og Jenny på toppen av Mount Dickerman

Jenny på toppen av Mount Dickerman

På vei gjennom den høyreiste skogen i lavere deler av Mount Dickerman

Posted in Personal Work, Photography | Tagged , , | 96 Comments