Breath of Life

På toppen av Navaho Pass med utsyn mot Mount Stuart

Choosing a creative path isn’t always an easy course to travel. It’s a path of much struggle. At the same time, though, it’s also a path of much joy and fulfilment. For me creativity is a healing path. Part of the struggle is because when we open ourselves up to creativity, we open up to our vulnerability. We learn about ourselves and we see ourselves in a different perspective, cannot hide all that we so often try to ignore about and in ourselves. Being creative means opening up—and that can be very challenging.

I think every human being has creativity in her- or himself. We are all creative beings. Life itself is but creative. Every creature (and just the word itself gives away the fact) is part of the natural order of creativity. We are ourselves creations. And the natural order for us is to continue the creation through our own creativity. But along the way to adapt to life’s demands many of us lose sight of our natural creativity.

To get back on the creative track, particularly for those of us who have been away for a long time, can be a roller-coaster experience. It can be painful, full of doubts and mountains of frustrations. However, as long as we don’t give in, we will eventually experience the fruits of becoming creative again. The fulfilment. Feeling whole. Feeling connected. The creative joy. Yes, creating.

Being creative, means to live. As the poet Alain Arias-Misson once said; «The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate—it is life, intensified, brilliant life.»

When you begin down the path of creativity, you will encounter challenges and moments of insight and growth, each time at a different level. There is no such thing as being done with an artistic life. You will always experience downturns as well as highs. As the writer, director and producer Julia Cameron writes in her book The Artist’s Way. «Frustration and rewards exists at all levels on the path. Our aim is to find the trail, establish our footing, and begin the climb. The creative vistas that open will quickly excite you.»

The peaks-and-valleys that are part of the growth along the creative path are like a series of expansions and contractions. It’s like breath of life. We breathe, in and out. Expansions and contractions. We create, in and out. Thus, become alive.

So at times when you feel lost, don’t feel creative at all, when everything seems like at a standstill; know that it’s just a time of contraction. It’s necessary in order to be able to expand again. Don’t get discouraged. We are all in this cycle of expansions and contractions. We all have times when we can’t get out of the box, feel discouraged, but then suddenly the box fall to pieces, we feel free again, free to create.

If you have followed my blog for some time, you may remember that I was in a deep contraction just before Christmas. Now I am in an expansive uphill. Things begin to open up again. And I enjoy being creative, see things that I otherwise would ignore, feel like I am paying attention to life’s details as I wrote about in the post Pay Attention, two weeks ago. It’s a joyous place to be. But I also know, as certain as rain follow sun in my part of the world, that before I can blink I will be moving into a contraction again. Being alive means constantly alternating between expansions and contractions. Each time I enter an expansive mode, I see new vistas, I learn to appreciate all creation with different eyes—yes, I expand.

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Last Week’s Instagram

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Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week (this photo is actually more than a week old, but I haven’t posted any new material 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: The photo was taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX-100 with the lens set at 24,5 mm (the equivalent of a 54 mm for a full frame camera). Shutter speed: 1/200 of a second. Aperture: f/5.6. The photo was transferred to my cell phone and then processed with the Snapseed app with the Drama filter.

Last Week’s Instagram

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Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week (this photo is actually more than a week old, but I haven’t posted any new material 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: The photo was taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX-100 with the lens set at 34 mm (the equivalent of a 75 mm for a full frame camera). Shutter speed: 1/125 of a second. Aperture: f/2.8. The photo was transferred to my cell phone and then processed with the Snapseed app with the Drama filter.

Riding the Waves

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The road to success isn’t paved with gold—or, navigating only through calm waters, to use the analogue I like to think of when talking about creativity; the interaction between man and sea. The path to success is navigating through foul weather, risky straits and choppy waves as well.

Not long ago, my partner and I planned to kayak along the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, USA. As often is the case along that coastline, the weather was windy and cold, and the waves were rolling big onto the beaches. Not conditions for launching any kayak trips.

We had a good time anyway, enjoying the strength of the gale in our hair and feeling very alive when the wind gusts battered down on us. Not kayaking but hiking along the shoreline. Still, we had brought kayaks and at some point, we decided we could use the heavy waves to practise paddling under less than perfect conditions, safely and close to the beach.

With wet suits, life jackets and all the necessary safety equipment we felt safe indeed, as long as we didn’t go far out. Of course, the waves are also the worst exactly where they break onto the beach. For that very reason, it would be good practise.

It took some juggling to get the kayaks launched, but as soon as we were out, it felt pretty good. We paddled through a couple of waves and felt in control. Then we turned in an attempt to surf back in again. That’s when we lost control, both of us. The first wave took us around.

As we had foreseen, we would keep warm with the wet suit and stay afloat with the life jackets. However, what I hadn’t foreseen was that we had already kayaked too far from the beach. I could not reach the bottom. Moreover, there was no way neither of us could get back up in the kayaks. Thus, I started to swim back in with the kayak in one hand.

I quickly realized that this was much heavier than I had anticipated. After some time I wasn’t sure at all if I got closer to the beach. Instead I started wondering if there was a tide taking my out rather than in. I did not feel very comfortable any more, not the least because I could feel my stamina started to dwindle too quickly. In addition, my partner and I had drifted apart. At least she was much closer to the beach. Of course, I could let go of the kayak, but that wasn’t an option, not yet. That uncertainty, though, about which direction I was going, was anything but calming.

To make a long story short, I finally made it onto the beach, with my kayak and everything. We both did. By then I was completely exhausted, had to rest in the breaking waves before I could pull myself and my kayak onto dry land.

It was a valuable lesson. I learned where my limit is and I learned that I have to practise much more navigating foul weathers. Of course, I would never launch a real kayak trip under such conditions, but you never know if or when the weather suddenly changes faster than you have anticipated.

The mistakes we do underway are what build strength for later successes.

The path to success usually goes through choppy waters, for then to experience some calm and beautiful sea—for a little while. The path to success starts out with interest, passion and ideas. Next come the hard work and the fight to get closer to where we want to be. Then some mild success, and next some failures as well. And eventually—and hopefully—we will hit the big wave taking us far and away.

Creating your life’s best work and living the life you imagined requires having a deep drive to reach the top, but also a strategy for making it back home. It isn’t very creative to sail the biggest waves only to crush onto your doom. True creativity requires a more holistic view that includes both the up and the down.

Personally, I have had my share of success—in my eyes, that is, which is what is important in the end—but these days I am once again fighting my way out of a trough, as those of you who follow my blog know. It’s part of the creative path, and I know as long as I keep swimming and learning how to navigate back onto shore again, I will soon enough be riding confidently the big waves.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens and the zoom set at 105 mm. Shutter speed: 1/500 of a second. Aperture: f/22. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop and finally a Bleach Bypass filter added from Nik Color Efex.

Last Week’s Instagram

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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: The photo was taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens and the zoom set at 24 mm. Shutter speed: 1/125 of a second. Aperture: f/9. The photo was processed in Photoshop, included various filters from Nik Software before transferred to my cell phone..

Last Week’s Instagram

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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: This photo was captured with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-105 mm lens set at 55 mm, 1/200 second and f/5.0. It was processed in Lightroom and then transferred to my cell phone.

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: This photo was captured with my Panasonic Lumix LX-100 with the lens set at 34 mm (the equivalent of a full frame 75 mm), 1/1600 second and f/6.3. The photo was transfered to my cell phone and processed in Snapseed with the filter Drama, twice.

The Last Bit of Summer

Pat på vei langs High Divide

Pat på vei opp langs Bridge Creek

Mosegrodd granskog

Pat i leiren ved Appleton Pass

På vei langs High Divide. I bakgrunnen Mount Olympus (2432 m)

Pat plukker blåbær langs Bridge Creek

Solen står opp over leiren vår ved Lunch Lake

As the summer on the Northern hemisphere slowly turns into autumn, I have changed my location from Seattle, USA to Bergen, Norway, as I mentioned I would do last week. However, as I also mentioned last week, I had a last backpacker trip in the vicinities of Seattle before flying across half the globe.

This time we were exploring the Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, more specifically the area around the High Divide, the ridge that separates north from south and west from south on the peninsula.

The Olympic Peninsula is a rainy place, so much that the forest surrounding the mountains is a so-called temperate rain forest. However, those four days we were hiking around the Hide Divide, the weather showed itself from its best side. We had a couple of unusually clear and sunny days. Almost every day we would have a view of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in the region, not something that happens most days in the region.

Needless to say it was a gorgeous trip, but also challenging. When you carry about 50 pounds on your back, hike maybe 10 miles one day, while starting out with a 2500 steep descent, only to continue with needing to climb 3000 feet again, it’s indeed quite demanding. However, by the end of the four days, you are really in good shape!

The photos following this post were all taking during this trip.

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 Photoshop.

Up in the High Mountain

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Pat på vei opp mot Mount Baker

Pat og Ted på toppen av Hannegan Peak (1886 m)

Pat i leiren under Hannegan Pass

På toppen av Copper Ridge ved observasjonstårnet

Pat på vei opp gjennom Hannagan Valley

As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post Being Flexible, I have enjoyed the possibility to get out in Mother Nature this summer. Moreover, as I wrote then, I had just been back from a week backpacking in Northern Cascades in Washington State, USA. The photos included in this post are but a few impressions from the hike we did across Copper Ridge. We had some tremendous days in the national park close to the border of Canada.

Last week I was out backpacking again. This time we went to the Olympic Peninsula, also in the state of Washington. This is quite a different landscape, mountainous, too, but the foothills are covered with a temperature rainforest. This kind of forest is magically, and so are the mountains protruding above the rainforest. I will get back with photos from this trip when I have gotten a chance to process them.

In the meantime, and as this posted is being published, I am on my way back to Europe, first to my hometown Bergen, Norway and then about a month later off to teach a photo workshop in Prague. It’s going to be quite a busy time, but I usually thrive under much work. See you soon again. Hopefully, you will also have a chance to get out in Mother Nature these days.

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 Photoshop.

Being Flexible

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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.