A place for me to share my recent work, random musings on photography and reflect on my thoughts, experiences, ideas and revelations.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Plans, Goals and Intentions


Every year at this time I find myself thinking about my goals for the coming year, and reflecting on my accomplishments of the past year.  The last several years have taken some pretty interesting turns, but with a few more than usual mid-course corrections we got through them pretty much unscathed.  Last year I was able to write this post about one of the bigger turns I’d had to face during 2009.  I have to say that 2010 was just about what I expected it to be, I’ve managed to do most of what I set out to do and have a good start on what I haven’t finished.

A few weeks ago my best shooting buddy John Schornak and I were talking about our plans for 2011.  It was interesting to note – and at some point we both realized it – that neither of us were talking about doing a lot of group stuff.  We’ve both been active in the CNPA, attending meetings, leading outings and making presentations.  We’ve regularly attended the various events at Grandfather Mountain, CNPA annual meetings, WNC FotoFest and countless other opportunities.  There’s something going on somewhere just about every week.  There’s nothing wrong with attending these events and hanging out with all these people.  The events are wonderful and well-presented, provide inspiration to a lot of folks and the people are great friends.  I’ll probably attend a few, but there’s only so much a person can do and when I really think about it, photography for me is not about going to meetings or attending big events.

What I like about photography is getting out into the world, looking for interesting things and figuring out how to express my thoughts and feelings about what I see with my camera.  I already have limited time and creative energy, so when I have a chance to get away I feel like I need to get the most bang for my buck, and given a choice I’m going to give higher consideration to those things that are most important to me and get me where I want to be.  I feel like I do my best work while shooting on my own, working at my own pace and seeing with my own eyes.  Meetings, workshops and presentations have their place, but when I start thinking about what I most want to do – taking photographs – and when I think about the fact that the time I have to do that is very limited, I just don’t think that’s the way I want to spend my time.


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So what does 2011 hold for Tom Dills Photography?  First of all I’m planning to get out and shoot more.  I purposely held back in 2010 because I had other things that were priorities.  I’m not an expert printer yet but I’ve made progress and am pretty happy with my work.  I’ve got a marketing plan that I’m in the process of implementing that is already beginning to pay off in some unexpected ways.  I’m really itching to get back out there and shoot!

I am looking forward to re-inventing the day trip.  Kathy & I like to just hop in the car on a weekend morning and head off somewhere for the day.  Sometimes the goal is photography, sometimes the goal is finding peace and quiet, and sometimes the goal is good food and wine.  Ideally there’s time for all three!  It’s very easy to get caught up in destination shooting, what I call Trophy Hunting.  But I’m not trying to fill up a checklist with places I’ve gone and subjects I’ve shot.  A lot of people miss out on opportunities because the “experts” say that the only times to shoot are in the morning and afternoon.  Yeah, it’s easier then, but it’s not the only time to make good photographs.  So I want to explore that.

I’ve been thinking of myself less and less as a “nature photographer” lately.  There’s a lot more that interests me than just nature, and there are opportunities to be found everywhere.  I really want to explore the creative side of photography, go beyond shooting subjects and clich├ęs and get into expression and intention.  This is foreign territory for a lot of folks but that’s what is making me tick these days.  I will probably take a workshop or two, but they will be small groups intensely focused on what I am looking to learn, not just trudging around in the woods shooting birds, bugs and blossoms (as I’m overly fond of saying).

I’m hoping to strike a balance between information overload and personal development.  There is so much information available these days that it is exceedingly difficult to work through it all, and I firmly believe that many times we take in so much data that we can’t hear our own voice for all the noise.  I recently read an article that referred to “visual junk food” and I think that describes the problem well.  Tasty and delicious with little nutritional value.  It’s OK to eat the Twinkie once in a while but not every day.  The key word is balance.

What I won’t be doing is attending meetings, leading outings or filling my calendar with other people’s priorities.  You won’t see me posting stuff on Facebook as much.  After a year or so of playing around with that I’ve found that it can be such a time-suck that its best if I just avoid it altogether.  When my cell phone pictures get more comments than my “serious” ones it says a lot about why everyone is there and who actually takes the time look and to comment.  Go figure.  But I digress….

My comments will surprise and may even disappoint some people but that’s really OK, because everyone has to decide what they want to do.  I’m not criticizing anyone’s choices or suggesting that what I’m saying should work for everyone, because we all have different reasons for doing what we do.


I have a lot to do, and time flies while I’m having fun.  Joe McNally recently posted on his blog:
“Can’t believe it’s December. As my mom used to say, “Oh, you know, 4th of July and the year’s over.” I didn’t really believe her, but you know, she mighta been onto something.”  And he’s right.  But I’ve got plans, and I’m looking forward to working out the details and enjoying the journey.

From Heron Dance, one of my favorite blogs:
I remembered a story of how Bach was approached by a young admirer one day and asked, "But Papa Bach, how do you manage to think of all these new tunes?"

"My dear fellow," Bach is said to have answered, "I have no need to think of them. I have the greatest difficulty not to step on them when I get out of bed in the morning and start moving around my room."
- Laurens Van der Post

I have a lot to say, and it’s my intention to learn how to express my thoughts and ideas in the best way possible.  I’m really enjoying the expression I find from writing, and I’m planning to continue that because I think it is a great way to clarify my thoughts.  And it helps me with my photography because the act of writing a good paragraph is a lot like constructing a good photograph.  Use only the words you need to use to make the point you want to make.

“I apologize for the length of this letter but I didn’t have time to make it shorter”
- (Attributed to everybody from Twain to Pascal)

I want to learn, and I want to teach.  I want to lead and I want to follow.  I want to sell some stuff and share even more.  But mostly I want to learn to express myself with my photographs, and to some extent with my writing.  I like to do this, I want to do this.

I could sit around watching TV or Photoshop tutorials or gear review articles.  I could play around with software to the point where I wouldn’t know my Vision if it bopped me over the head.  I intend for 2011 to be a year of simplification, in my life and in my photography.  Minimize distractions and noise, but not to the point of becoming a hermit.  Just the opposite, I want to be out enjoying the world, being distracted by attraction, living mindfully and purposefully.  Attending to my priorities instead of those of some “expert” who wants to tell me how to think and what to do.  And don’t tell me when and where and what to photograph!

Does that all sound extreme?  It is!  It takes a lot to pull the plug on the things that get in the way, but we’ve done it and are doing it.  Some people think we’re nuts and maybe to an extent we are, but we’re just doing our thing the way we want to do it.  And that’s OK with me.  I’m looking forward to 2011 in a big way.  It might just be the best year yet!

1 comment:

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