Getting over being too busy. A photographer's (and everyone else's) dilemma.

There's always something else that needs to get done. Always. But we'll never do it all before we die and no sooner do we finish dusting than, when we turn our backs, the next delicate layer of dust starts to descend. Invisibly and inevitably.  It's hard to open the door and just go.  Go anywhere but back to work. What good is it to work all the time?  When you're working you're only thinking about work.  You're not thinking about happiness or the taste of the wind or the way your heart feels.  You're only thinking about getting this project done so you can start on that project.

I was working on post processing image files today.  At first it was fun.  The dog was lying down by my feet, keeping me company.  I had a big cup of warm coffee with just enough creme to turn the world in my cup a deep and lusty beige. Each image seemed fresh.  But after a few hours I started to resent having to sit in my chair and do work.  It started to feel like the same thing, over and over again.

I thought about picking up a camera and heading downtown to see what new images I could find but really, that seemed like work too.  So I put my dog in the house with Belinda, grabbed a bright blue set of swim shorts (so not like the practice suits we wear at morning training) and headed over to our club to jump in the pool.

Usually, when I head to the pool it's to practice hard.  Swim laps.  Get competitive.  But my brain was having none of that today, hence the big, baggy, bright blue swim suit.  I got to the pool and it was nearly empty.  The kids weren't out of school yet and it was that nappy, snoozy time in the afternoon for people with small children.  

There was one woman swimming laps in a lane and two older woman standing waist deep in the water on the other side of the pool just chatting.  The sky was clear blue, which was nice after a week of clouds and rain, and the water was as blue as the sky.  I jumped in with a big splash and dog paddled around for a while.  I was wearing an old pair of goggles with very dark lenses and it was fun to go to the bottom of the deep end and look up at the sky.  The sun was a squiggly hot dot.

I resisted actual swimming.  I resisted doing anything that remotely resembled work in the water, and when I was refreshed and happy and calm, and floating on my back squirting water out of my mouth I knew I'd broken the sneaky spell of too much work.  Which made it so much easier to go back and finish my work.

Physically and metaphorically it's important to stand up from the desk from time to time and just walk away.  To short circuit the vicious little loop that keeps you trapped inside, away from all the fun.  You can always go back and work more but we need play time just as much.

I love the image of the picnic shelter, just above.  It was taken at a little municipal park a few miles outside the tiny town of Marathon, Texas.  I took it when I went to west Texas a year or two ago.  It was a trip that wasn't really about going anywhere as much as it was about breaking the cycle of habits.  Working and not stopping to look at stuff.  This image reminds me that we need to be alone with our thoughts from time to time to properly sort them out and integrate them into our dynamic sense of reality and self.  It's not something I can do in the middle of a crowded mall, at a PTA meeting or in the car between work appointments.  Sometimes you just have to shut everything down, kiss the spouse on the cheek and spend a week on the road having your own adventure.

It's okay for photography to be the premise.  As long as you don't make that into a job as well.
Big talk for someone who makes a living taking pictures....

Being alone is scary for a while.  Then it gets good.  And then you're ready to come back home and get back to life.  But the interruption changes the story.  Which changes your life.  Which opens everything up.  Bring the camera but don't be afraid NOT to use it.  Sometimes looking deeply is much more important.

Imagine, a non-picture taking photography vacation.  Novel.

"Our focus becomes our reality." Star Wars.

Lonely, lovely west Texas Highway between Ft. Davis and Marfa.

There are many interesting pecadillos about humans. We tend to pick at details to the exclusion of the big picture.  

Instead of asking, "Is it interesting enough?"  We too often ask, "Is it sharp enough?"

If our focus is on making art then we will make art.  If the press of press turns our attention to the technical nuances of cameras and we let our focus wander down the "rabbit hole" of trying to divine where the ultimate compromise lies between the fascinating power of the 80 megapixel backs and the affordability and portability of the everyday cameras then that focus will lead us to occupy our time in a pointless flurry of research that ultimately yields nothing of real value.  Technology is a moving target, we'll never get in front of it.  But the chance to take time and shoot for yourself is also a moving (and receding) target and when you shift your focus from what you want to say to what you think you need in order to say it you inexorably push one train off the tracks and replace it with something else altogether.

Instead of looking for amusing images we start to look for images that will show off the edge acutance of our new lenses.

I read camera reviews sometimes.  I like the ones that Michael Reichmann writes on Luminous Landscape. He doesn't seem to care what anyone else thinks about his choices and he's not bound by the middle class thought trap that he must make the right decision.  He only needs to make a good decision.

Entertaining the idea that there is one right decision (when buying a camera) trains your mind to endlessly compare and analyze datapoints that may have very little to do with how well a camera works, feels in your hands or compliments your point of view. It focuses you on the process of evaluation. And ALL camera choices are a compromise of one kind or another.  You might choose a very expensive camera because you feel like you need the robustness of a "professional" body and a high pixel count to go with it but in doing so you might have to make the choice of allocating resources to buy the gear and not have enough financial resources left to follow through with the project of which you dream.  You might choose a camera because it fits in the pockets of your disco jeans only to find that it doesn't make the quality of images you imagined it would.

You might scrimp and save for a Leica M9 and one of the new, miracle Apo-Summicrons (because they are the best?)  only to find that the price was so dear you fear taking it with you if it looks like it might rain, or if the neighborhood you'll be visiting is too insecure, or the activity you want to pursue today might exposure your camera to some sort of damaging trauma.

You might buy a Canon 5Dmk3 and a big L zoom because of the presumed value proposition only to find that the weight of the combination hurts your wrist when you have to use it, handheld, for hours at a wedding or a riot.  You may end up wishing your research had turned up a less professional but more comfortable camera.

But the peril of researching all these choices is that your brain shifts what it thinks is its most important focus from making pictures to the endless task of evaluation.  And then you get into closed loop territory.  Your research tells you, "Yes, the TurboFlex Three is the ultimate camera for me!!!!" but as soon as you make that decision you start to hedge because you imagine that it will only be a matter or weeks or months before the much better TurboFlex Three N comes out.  And you get sucked into the next round of evaluation while the world spins and life goes on.

One day you wake up and discover that you know everything there is to know about the most obscure and least obscure cameras and lenses but you have no box of interesting prints, no grand work and no legacy of images to share and cherish.  Nothing to share.  You only have last year's greatest camera body and the need to get back to work researching this year's.

Do you find yourself shooting test shots all the time to reassure yourself that you bought the right thing?  Frustrating.  But our realitybecomes what we focus on.  Shift the focus and you shift reality.  Pick up the camera you have and head out the door.  It's that easy.

Ah.  But what if you need to measure how fast you can shift your focus?  Then what?