Take A Break

June 26, 2013 | Leave a Comment |

AnarcticaV_2005_425

Antarctica V, 2005

In 2005 I made the voyage from Ushuaia Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula to colead a photography workshop with five other instructors – Michael Reichmann, Stephen Johnson, Jeff Schewe, and Seth Resnick, along with 45 participants. It was tremendously stimulating to be in the company of such diversity and observe our varied creative processes. The journey was the fulfillment of a long standing wish to visit Antarctica, made as a young man while watching my mother shepherd the production of photographer Eliot Porter’s book on the region. With so many influences, I knew the key to personal success lay in finding my own voice amid so many.

Antarctica is so exotic it seduces you instantly. Because everything was interesting and different to us, many participants joked that, “You couldn’t make a bad picture.” But I knew a key question that success hinged upon answering was, “How different were our pictures from one another’s and from those that had been made before ours?”

It was natural that we wanted to maximize our time shooting with only seven days on the peninsula, three were lost in transit during our crossing of the Drake Passage, the roughest seas in the world, and our first trip could be our last, as it was a rare opportunity. When we weren’t sleeping, we were always on the lookout for more photographs. And we slept only a little, because the days were long, as the nights were little more than a period of twilight after an hours long sunset and before an hours long sunrise.

At one point in my journey, I realized I had reached a saturation point and needed to look inward to process the overwhelming stimulus, reorient, and reconnect. It wasn’t rest I needed most. It was reflection. During one of only fourteen opportunities, instead of going to shore to photograph, I made a few exposures from the ship decks – one of which worked (this one) – and I went down below and wrote in peace and quiet.

You can read what I wrote here.

It was time well spent. During that time I was able to ask the important questions, connect the many new pieces I had found to this puzzle, clarify my understanding, returning with renewed energy and purpose. Later, when my friend Seth Resnick looked at my finished images he said two things that were music to my ears. First he said, “Where did you find that one?” He had been standing next to me when I made the exposure; we had seen entirely different things – and that is the way it should be. Then second he said, “Your images are so you!” That was my goal. I wouldn’t have reached it without a lot of passionate, smart, hard work and more than a little reflection. And for both, I needed to take a break.

Taking a break isn’t easy in an era and culture that prizes productivity so highly. But there are times when you need to take a break. But … Why? When? How often? And, what do you do on a break? While there’s no one answer for every individual and situation, you’ll find lots of advice on the subject, some good and some bad. Take the good, leave the bad.

Do be mindful. There’s more than one kind of break to take. We need to take breaks to recharge our batteries; to energize we need rest, relaxation, and entertainment; these are usually but not exclusively longer breaks that don’t involve productivity in another area; the goal is renewed energy. We need to take breaks to find a fresh perspective; walk away from the problem or sleep on it; these are usually shorter breaks that often involve productivity in another area or switching gears sometimes making unexpected connections; the goal is insight. There are many other reasons and ways to take breaks.

The time to take a break is after you’ve thoroughly researched a challenge and put your understanding through systematic tests to confirm it and clearly identify the most promising avenues for further inquiry. Then, you need to walk away from the problem, clearing your mind entirely of it, so you can return to it with a fresh perspective. Generally, in the time in between, your subconscious has put the pieces … it may even find that ever elusive missing piece.

Curiously, many great breakthroughs in history have come when people sleep on it. Valuable insights have been found during sleep for individuals as diverse as Alexander Graham Bell, C J Jung, Mary Shelley, and Jack Nicklaus leading to discoveries such as James Watson’s uncovering of the double helix structure of DNA; Friedrich Kekule’s visions of the structures of the carbon atom and benzene molecule; Dimitry Mendeleyev’s creation of chemistry’s Periodic Table; Elias Howe’s invention of the sewing machine needle; and many others.

Questions

What are the benefits of taking breaks personally?

What are the benefits of taking breaks professionally?

What break frequency is optimal for you?

What break duration is optimal for you?

What activities during breaks are most regenerating for you?

What activities during breaks are most stimulating for you?

What activities during breaks are most enjoyable for you?

Are you good at distinguishing between taking a break and switching activities?

What do you need to do to really take a break?

What can you do to clarify your goals for your break?

Find out more about this image here.

View more related images here.

Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

SepiaTown

Sepia Town lets you view and share thousands of mapped historical images from around the globe.

You can even upload your own vintage images and share your history.

Explore Sepia Town here.

“Lightroom 5 has a great new non-circular spot removing/healing brush. However, there’s a feature that many will overlook for using the tool for what it was originally intended for. It’s always been great at removing dust spots from dirt on your lens or sensor dust as long as you could see the spots in your images. Now with the new Visualize Spots feature you can find them much easier.”

This new feature is included in ACR / Photoshop CC too.

View more on Terry White’s blog.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Bring On The Learning Revolution ! – Sir Ken Robinson on TED

Schools Kill Creativity – Sir Ken Robinson on TED

“Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. He challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.”

10 Talks On Education – Curated By Sir Ken Robinson

View more videos on Creativity here.

Quotes_Creativity

 

Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes on creativity.

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou

” Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things . . . Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it  lovingly, if your act of doing is not purely economical, then it is creative.” –  Osho

” Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things …” –  Osho

”Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self.” — Erich Fromm

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

“Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve Jobs

“Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas” – Donatella Versace

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” — John Cleese

“Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” – Cecil B. DeMille

“Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.” — Dee Hock

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury

“Perspiration is the best form of differentiation, especially in the creative world.” — Scott Belsky

“Creativity isn’t about wild talent as much as it’s about productivity. To find new ideas that work, you need to try a lot that don’t. It’s a pure numbers game.” — Robert Sutton

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce

“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” — Edwin H. Land

“The creative person is willing to live with ambiguity. He doesn’t need problems solved immediately and can afford to wait for the right ideas.” — Abe Tannenbaum

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.” — Antony Jay

“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” — Pablo Picasso

“Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.” — Edwin H. Land

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” — Edward de Bono

“A truly creative person rids him or herself of all self-imposed limitations.” — Gerald G. Jampolsky

“Thereʼs no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership.”  — Hugh MacLeod

“As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems” — Edward de Bono

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” — Theodore Levitt

Find more Creativity Quotes here.

Discover more quotes daily in my Twitter and Facebook streams

Kim Weston shares insights from his life in the arts steeped in the history of black and white photography.

Read more in my black and white resources.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery digital printing workshop.


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