Thursday, January 15, 2015

Things I have in common with Oprah

I have at least two things in common with Oprah.

1. A lifelong struggle with my weight (a post for another day).

2. A habit of choosing work over play.

In Oprah's February 2015 What I Know for Sure column, she says,

I am really good at working. Committed. Diligent. With stamina on steroids. Playing. I'm not so good at. I rarely decide to do anything just for fun. So the question I've recently started asking myself is, Am I having a good time? Am I doing what I really want? What does fun look like?

I'm with Oprah on this realization. Even things that are supposed to be fun, I can turn into work. A hike or walk outside becomes a quest to get in steps or cover a mileage goal. A beautiful autumn day becomes the perfect day to rake and bag all the leaves in the yard. A leisurely Saturday is quickly overcome by a long list of errands and chores. I am addicted to accomplishment. And this applies to my photography as well.

For several years, I tried to turn my photography into a business. I thought I wanted to be a professional photographer. Or more accurately, I thought I should be a professional photographer. But, I wasn't having fun. Was this what I really wanted? I've come full circle. As of this new year, I am an amateur and photography is my hobby.

In this new spirit of fun, I made the most of a snowy day. The weatherman predicted the bull's eye of the storm to be right over my home - just an inch or two, but with temperatures in the 20's. The forecast for a slip-sliding kind of day was accurate. I skipped my usual roll out of bed at 5am, pack lunch for my son, rush to my morning workout routine. Instead, my husband and I went out for a leisurely breakfast with my Mom followed by a ride along country roads, taking in the breathtaking scenes of freshly fallen snow.


I took pictures of things I love - old barns along the meandering lanes of my childhood. And though these structures have stood for years, the fleeting moments of snow dusted roofs and red stained wood against gray skies brought fresh interest and new stories.


Back home by dinner time, we enjoyed a steaming bowl of homemade turkey noodle soup. After dinner, I settled in to read The Lesser Photographer by CJ Chilvers. This collection of essays on photography is the best $4 I've ever spent. Some pages had me nodding in agreement and others gave me pause - making me question my preconceived notions, my motivation, and my goals.  I won't spoil the book for you, but it's a great use of your time and your money.


Reading The Lesser Photographer helped me to clarify my goals.

I want to:

create photographs that I love

tell visual stories with images and words

spend more time with my art

avoid the temptation to improve imperfections

be open and vulnerable and honest in my storytelling

As it turns out,  
Saying no is actually saying yes to other things. – Patrick Rhone

I suspect Oprah would agree with me. 

33 comments:

  1. Ah first...is that competitive...no, just a fact...I'm never first..
    I love this post..I feel exactly the same way this year...must be something in the air because several others have expressed the same feelings...it just feels right to get back to some fun and an easier pace...
    Your photo's are gorgeous..looks like you had a lovely day...and I'm going to check out that book...

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    1. Cheryl, Thank you so much for visiting and sharing. Your blog post, Hanging by a Thread, truly spoke to my heart. I do see that many of us are at the same place of transition in life -and our art reflects those changes. Embrace the journey.

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  2. Again another fab post and photos! But I will have to push back on you for this one.... "I am an amateur and photography is my hobby" YOU ARE NOT AN AMATEUR! Just because you are not selling it on a professional level does not make you less of a photographer. I said it.... a PHOTOGRAPHER...nothing needed before the word. Not to mention - you are also a storyteller : ) I have no problem playing (and probably do a bit too much) .... but I do have problems buckling down and actually finishing a project. great post - really makes us think about our own management of time.

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    1. Cathy, I feel as though you are my very own personal cheerleader! You are such an encouraging friend. As I read these comments, it occurs to me that my friend Candice, may have the right idea - to approach every project as a beginner (perhaps a better word than amateur). Regardless, it feels really freeing to let myself play!

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  3. I love reading your posts Donna and this one is again a great one... first, as an everlasting learner of english language, I appreciate reading your posts as they are for me an opportunity to discover new words, new turns of phrase, new idiomatic expressions and the pinch of humour you sow here and there... and also because they speak to us, they lead to questioning ourselves, they are loaded with deep reflections about life... and today's post is no exception... and last but not least, because your lovely pictures tell us stories, stories of men and women, they aren't only beautiful pictures but they are the expression of your feelings, they convey such humanity, they reflect your soul... I always learn a lot from you and keep your messages in mind even after I've left your blog... thank you Donna!

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    1. Odile, The comments you leave, not just to me, but to every one in this circle of friends, are simply the best gifts ever! Your kindness and respect for every person and their art is clearly evident in your words and your photographs. Thank you so much for inspiring me and helping me to become my best self. It is my delight to call you a friend!

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  4. Looks like you have a few here who feel the same way and you have spoken from the heart and it has touched each of us. I am feeling the same way, especially weight issue along with Oprah. I so need to get back to what I love to photograph and intend to do that this year. I haven't had the desire to be a Professional photographer or go into any kind of business so I am one up on you there but everything else I can really relate. Love seeing the dusting of snow in your area and the red of the barns just pop. The fact that you have memories from these places makes it more special here. I also love that you took your Mom along for the journey. Have a wonderful weekend and alway enjoy hearing from you, you have become a special friend I feel.

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    1. Barbara, It is thanks to friends like you that I am finding my way, not only as a photographer but also as a person. You bring honesty and thoughtfulness to every photograph and blog post - and I learn right alongside you!

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  5. Donna, you are always a wealth of book information, which I love. I don't spend much time reading, and I should do more of it...I just clicked on the link and briefly read, but will return for more. Odile has beautifully summed everything I feel when I come here to visit your blog. I love your photography and your warm words. I'm drawn into your little space for a few moments and leave with new inspiration. Many of us have been on a photography quest for several years, and now feel the need to "be me", let go of other's influence, and see for ourselves the beauty, color, and life around us. I too am in that place now...2015. Have fun today!! :-)

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    1. Beverly, I learn so much from you, too! Your photo series this week featuring the same subject with different backgrounds led the way to my next post - coming soon - about contrast. Thank you!

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    2. How exciting! I'm looking forward to reading it. Thank you!!

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  6. For me, when something starts being work, it stops being fun, so since I've retired from a very non-fun job, I try to focus on doing things I like and try not to make them work! (This is probably why I irregularly post to a blog I thought would be a good idea to start and why I have a bunch of unfinished projects!)
    However, I love reading your blog, looking at your lovely photos and contemplating what you have written! That barn photo is gorgeous!!!

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    1. Roxanne, Your words are so wise. I just popped over to view your most recent photograph - the beautiful scissors in a crock and spools of thread. Such a stunning photo. And I enjoyed the view even more knowing that you had fun making the picture. Share on your Flickr page, share on your blog, share in the ways you enjoy - but just don't stop sharing at all - I love your art!

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  7. Thank you for the tip about A Lesser Photographer it is just what I need . I so agree with you there is a terrible pull about using photography as a business. I have felt the same but photography must and will stay as a precious hobby that stills my mind .

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    1. Viv, I look forward to your posts - especially love that you include a music link - and your recent focus on mindfulness and slowing down to enjoy the tiny pleasures of life - all these things enrich my life. I love your take - photography as a precious hobby - yes, that will be my way, too.

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  8. I hope you realize you touch so many people with your words of wisdom and clicks of the camera. I love visiting you as I am always touched by your heartfelt posts and today is just another example. I probably have too much fun and don't complete enough of the projects I start but I really connect with your lists of "I want to".....for the coming year. Bless you sweet girl for inspiring us with your gifts of words and photography...

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    1. Nancy, I love talking with you, and I can't help but notice you live in North Carolina. I travel your beautiful state to visit a childhood, and I like to imagine there might be a day in the future where I stop by for a cup of coffee, a little photography talk, and a hug!

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  9. As I go around visiting blogs today your quote from Patrick Rhone is the second one I have written down. Wise words. Wise words from you as well... we all need to figure out the right balance between work and play, the new year is a great time to think about that. Love your barn and fence image it show so much winter beauty.

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    1. Michelle, I keep a file of favorite quotes, too. I'm very selective about the quotes I save, but it's amazing the power they have. They stay in my mind, stay at the ready for sharing, and truly shape my life. A few words - a simple photograph - seems they have similar power.

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  10. it certainly seems that you have summarized succinctly and eloquently that which many of us feel...taking time for one's self is hard for many to do...I'm glad that you let go and just enjoyed the drive in the country - your photos are wonderful and indeed tell a story all on their own. I've been a note to look into the book you mentioned...though my pile on my bedroom nightstand is growing quite tall! Enjoy the weekend Donna!

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  11. What a beautiful day you've captured! Your words were thought provoking as well. I look forward to every post!

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  12. I have always in the past felt guilty for doing the things I enjoy. Even receiving new toys I take forever to open up and use. All a terrible problem with delayed gratification. I think a lot of it goes back to my childhood. My father is a very hard worker, my grandfather was a very demanding of work personality. There was never any play in either of their lives and these were my role models. My mother tends to drift about never doing much anything, I didn't want to be like that either. I have slowly learned to let enjoyment and play into my life.

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    1. I hope your year long project On the Water is bringing not only a sense of purpose, but also fun to your life. Your recent blog post - voicing your goal to have your work published - was a brave step. The good thing - whether you succeed or not doesn't really matter, it only matters that you cast your net and try. The writing workshop you mentioned sounds fabulous!

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  13. Oh my...I think we've been sisters in a past life, lol! I can so relate to so much in your posting... My workaholic career...the loss of identity after I retired...the amount of time it took just to feel comfortable calling myself a photographer...much less the thought of being a photographer for a living. Fast forward...I'm so happy that I just make photos for myself and share them with anyone who wants to look! You speak for many of us, Donna! P.S. Couldn't agree more with Cathy's comments above too!

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    1. Robin, Yes, we could surely be sisters. I'd never guess from your photographs that you were a workaholic in a past life. Your images have such a peaceful and considered view - as though your comfort with yourself was in some way transferred to your subject. You have a gift - and I definitely want to look at your pictures!

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  14. Seems to me you've come quite far in accomplishing at least three of your goals already, Donna! Love your barn images, and the story that went with them. What a fun day with the ones you love! Thanks for the tip on the book! I'm looking forward to reading it. Blessings

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    1. June, You are a natural encourager - and the way you use your faith to touch my heart makes my life better. It's easy for me to drift away from my faith, especially in the everydayness of life, but you have a way of bringing God's love to the forefront and reminding me of what is really important. I need that on the days that I chase my tail, round and round, focusing only on me!

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  15. I agree with Cathy and Gotham Girl in that you are not an amateur--you know your camera inside and out, you understand lighting and exposure, you can frame a shot like nobody's business. Whenever I'm with you and we're taking pictures, I'm awestruck by your ability. And we are *all* guilty of turning every day into work of some kind. It's in our genetics (those Puritans and Tidewater ancestors) to work instead of play.

    But I'm going to add something else--despite my 33 years as a professional writer, a lengthy list of published books, I still consider myself a beginning writer. Yes, that's right. Beginning. Because each project comes with its own set of rules that don't reveal themselves into well into it. What worked before may not work again. So rather than amateur, perhaps call yourself a beginning photographer, not in the sense that you are just starting out, but still discovering yourself.

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    1. There's no one in the world I'd rather be a beginner with than you! Your insights help me to see in new ways - still discovering myself - I like this philosophy.

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  16. I love this and thank you for sharing! It's like bam! It hit me right where I am at. The whole photography as a business has been a struggle and I just want to let go and enjoy photography as an art and my hobby again. Blessings to you this week.

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    1. Sarah, The by-product of working hard to learn your craft and taking beautiful pictures is that people will naturally say, "You should do this for money!" or "Wow, you should start a business!" And even if no one says it, we kind of still feel a lurking pressure to "do something with" our photography. I got caught up in the expectations of others, and forgot to listen to my own inner voice. I'll encourage you to do what's best for YOU - and support and love you wherever your path leads.

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  17. I love your post! It's so worth it find joy in the everyday and reduce the busyness in our days. Lovely images too - those old red barns are so beautiful!

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  18. Oh my! those barn images in the snow are beyond amazing. Gloriousness!

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