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4 Reasons To Take More Notes & 3 Ways To Make The Most Of Them

Alignment XVI

There are so many reasons to write! You don’t have to write professionally to experience the many benefits writing can offer you. Remember, while few people write professionally, everyone writes, most often to help them do their work. While you may not consider yourself a writer, you already write. So write more! Even if it’s just a little you’ll find it will help a lot.

Here are four reasons to write.

1          Retention

Writing will help you remember things. Most people can only hold seven things in their minds at once. Many times, if you’re full up, new ideas won’t come, until you make space for them. Other times, when new information comes in, old information is lost. Either way, the solution is to write it down – and there are additional benefits to making notes. You’re 73% more likely to remember and act on something if you write it down. (If you type your notes, this number drops to 39%, which is still much better.) Part of this stickiness comes from finding the words that work best for you, so use the language that you’re most comfortable with and that means the most to you. You probably have a to-do list professionally, so why wouldn’t you use one to help you excel in your creative life too? And there are times when everyone needs a checklist. (Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto shows how doctors used checklists to reduce hospital deaths and complications by more than 33%.)

2          Clarity

Writing helps you see more and see more clearly. Like any creative discipline, writing encourages closer observation. You note more things – more information. Plus you’ll find patterns in the things you note – information about information. You’ll understand your experiences better and you’ll find more ideas. Unlike photography, which encourages observation of things you can see, writing can also help you observe things you can’t see like your thoughts and emotions, interactions within relationships, and processes unfolding in time. When you find the right words to describe something you understand it better.

3          Productivity

Once you see what you’ve written new ideas will come to you. You can accelerate this process by playing word games. Alex Osborne’s acronym SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put To Other Uses, Expand, Reverse) is a mnemonic device for a series of mental operations you can use, each of which is capable of leading to countless new ideas.

4          Organization

Organizing your writing helps you organize your thinking. Often the process of taking notes isn’t linear, you simply let it all out. When you revisit and reorganize your notes you make even more sense out of your observations. Lists help you identify steps in a process, set priorities, and identify more important items. Remember, you can also use size, color, or graphic symbols like underlines and stars to make some words stand out more than others.

It’s important to file your notes in an easily retrievable organized system that you trust, otherwise your mind will continue trying to remember everything, which no one can do, not even the gifted who have a photographic memory.

Audio

What about taking notes with audio? Many apps (like Notes) will turn what you say into text. This can be a fast way to take notes, especially when you’re multitasking.

Audio files that aren’t turned into text take more time to review as they’re played back, as much or more time than it took to make them, so they’re not the most efficient way to retrieve. However, if you are having a conversation with someone and you don’t want to interrupt the flow audio is very useful. Nothing records intonation and inflection as audio does. And there are occasions where you want to note the particular sound of something, which words can’t duplicate.

Take Notes With Images

Some things are better noted visually rather than verbally. If you can see what you want to make a record of then a photograph can very efficiently make a note, often one full of detail that would take more time than necessary to record. If you need to make a visual note and you can’t photograph it, make a doodle instead. Diagrams can be particularly useful for recording processes (vectors, paths, timelines, etc) and relationships (maps, graphs, Venn diagrams, etc).

Go Multi-Media

You can combine text and audio and images. Together they’re even richer and more powerful than they are alone.

Avoid Perfection

Perfect takes time, so for this purpose, it isn’t. Not only is it too much pressure, in the wrong way at the wrong time, it’s a distraction. So satisfice. And above all, enjoy the process. Think of your notes as a place to record and explore your observations – not the way you’ll present them to others. With this realization, you’ll be freer about what you record and how you record it and so you’ll do it more often. And that’s the point.

Make notes, lots of notes, and keep doing it. Developing this habit will help you see more, think more, feel more, do more. You’ll get more out of life.

(Want more on this subject? I recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.)

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

The Number 1 Reason Not To Should All Over Yourself – Or Anyone

We have so many choices in life. As a teacher I’m frequently asked questions like these.

“What should I do? Should I do this? Or, should I do that?”

I invariably reply, “What are you trying to do?”

Our choices imply our intents and we don’t all have the same goals, visions, or styles. (Thank goodness; our variety makes life so much more interesting.)

And then I recommend rephrasing those questions to get better results.

Here are questions that you can use instead.

How many ways can I do this?

This question is a creative challenge designed to open up many possibilities. Start here. Don’t skip it before rushing to the next question. (I recommend you write down all the answers you can think of and keep adding to your list over time.)

What happens when I do that?

This question provides clarity on the most likely consequences of your choices. It’s cause and effect, which can sometimes change in different contexts so add when and where into the equation.

Why am I doing this?

This question helps identify goals. (If you’re unsure of your goals ask “Why?” five times in a row. You may not find your final answer this quickly but you will develop a clearer picture.)

Should I do this or that?

It’s a question that limits your choices to two. This question is useful only after you’ve identified your goals, limited many possibilities to two, and you’ve asked the next question. So ask many other questions first.

Whenever possible, avoid using the word should. It’s limiting and in most situations, you have more choices. The word should often implies obligation. There are reasons you choose to do what you choose to do. You may not like all the choices you have and sometimes have to make the least objectionable rather than the most favorable. Still, you choose it. So own it.

Self-talk matters. Becoming more conscious of the language we use internally has many benefits including increased awareness of what’s going on outside and inside us as well as our reactions to these psychic events … and with that awareness comes choice. Once we’re aware of what’s going on inside us we can choose to let it flow uninterrupted or we can influence its speed, course, and tone. It’s not just stop or go, it’s also how and where would you like it to flow?

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

3 Easy Ways To Make Colors Pop In Photoshop – Jesus Ramirez

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This video will teach you three easy methods to make colors in your photos stand out in Photoshop.
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Over The Threshold – A Creative Conversation With Sean Kernan

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Over The Threshold – A Conversation On Creativity With John Paul Caponigro and Sean Kernan

During this inspiring hour, John Paul and Sean share images, thoughts, and provocations for themselves and viewers. A lively question and answer session brings this free program to completion.

At some point, all photographers sense their best and truest work lies at a point somewhere out beyond the threshold of their comfort. The question then becomes how to get there.

John Paul Caponigro and Sean Kernan, long-time friends, approach creativity in different ways, but they both head for the same transformative experience. During this conversation, they share personal stories of moments that changed their art and their lives. Meditation, playing music, acting, drawing, and writing are just a few of the practices they use to make room for the revelations that improvisation brings. They offer insights into moving beyond habitual practices and making space for the unknown, which is where the magic of the creative process happens.

Read Sean Kernan’s quick Q&A here.

Read our conversation for Camera Arts here. 

View more video with Sean Kernan here. 

View more Creativity Continues events at The Santa Fe Workshops.

Visit Sean Kernan’s website here.

An Easy Way To Turn Day Into Night Using Photoshop

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Jesus Ramirez shows how to use the Lookup Adjustment Layer to turn your bright daylight photo into moonlit nighttime in Photoshop.
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Make Your Color Grading LUTs More Powerful With This Hidden Photoshop Trick

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“Colin Smith shows a cool hack to split LUTS into color and tone, so you have more control over them than normal. Color grade your photos in photoshop and change the color or brightness of the presets.”
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4 Ways To Crop Your Images – Crop, Distort, Retouch

Deciding what’s in the frame and what’s out is a critical decision that can make or break an image. You can look at it very simply. What is an image of? What is an image not of? And how does what’s left over support or distract from the essence of an image?

In the past we had two simple options; one, use the frame to crop; two, crop when printing or post-processing. Now we have two more options to think about; three, distort; four, retouch. Each of these offers different possibilities and becoming familiar with them all will help you choose.

It’s a new mindset. Once you learn to see in these new ways, you’ll find you’ll make images that you previously passed by, leaving them unmade or even unnoticed. As a result, you’ll make many more successful images.

Classic crops eliminate the most information

Crop

You’ve got choices. Choose wisely.

One – Crop Before Exposure

Use the frame to eliminate distracting information around a subject(s). Take extra care with image information that touches the frame, as it will draw extra attention. If part of an object is eliminated by the frame make sure what’s left looks deliberate - just a sliver lopped off or a sliver left over seems careless. Once you’ve made your exposure, you’re committed. You can crop more but you can’t uncrop. When in doubt, shoot both tight and loose.

Two – Crop After Exposure

Shoot loose (more than you need) and you’ll preserve your ability to refine a composition during post-processing, testing, and comparing many variations, even over extended periods of time, before settling on a final solution. Doing this will take more time but you will gain precision.

Distorted to fill the frame

Distort

Distorting photographs is widely practiced. But most photographers tend to think of their limited use of distortion as having produced no distortion. In fact, every lens distorts in its own way, some more than others, like wide-angle lenses. Lens profiles are designed to correct for lens distortion during post-processing by ‘undistorting’.

Many people think they aren’t distorting their photographs when in fact they are doing it on most of their images in multiple ways, first by using a lens, second by using a lens profile, and sometimes third by creating panoramas. Why are these practices more acceptable than using distortion and retouching as a part of your cropping practices? In the end, it’s your choice.

You can push one or more sides of an image outside its frame and achieve similar results to cropping. What’s different here is that the proportions of the objects and spaces left within the frame will change, typically getting taller or wider, usually only a little but potentially a lot.

You’ve got options. Test them before you settle on your final solution.

One - Transform

Use Photoshop’s Edit > Transform to distort an image uniformly. To move an entire side, hold the Shift key to move one side without moving the others.  And/or, to move one corner independently, press the Command key before moving a corner point.

(To do this an image’s Background Layer needs to be a Smart Object or a duplicate layer.)

Two - Content-Aware Scale

Use Photoshop’s Edit > Content-Aware Scale to distort an image non-uniformly – smooth areas will expand or contract more than textured areas. Pull the areas you wish to crop outside the frame. Hold the Shift key while you’re doing this if you wish to change one side more than another and the image’s aspect ratio with it.

(Do this on a duplicate layer. Content-Aware Scale doesn’t work on a Smart Object.)

Three - Warp

Want more localized control? Try Warp. (Edit>Transform>Warp) Warp gives you a grid to adjust more points with. It adds the ability to modify the position of elements not just with the edges but also the insides of the frame. Do this on a duplicate layer or duplicate Smart Object. Warp works on Smart Objects but since it is not a filter so you can’t get the future flexibility of a Smart Filter.

Four - Liquify

You can use the Liquify filter to distort small portions of an image. For instance, moving something in the middle of the edge of a frame off frame without moving the corners. To do this,  go to Filter>Liquify, start with the first tool Forward Warp and use the brush to get the effect you desire. It’s worth exploring the other brushes too as Liquify is a powerful distortion tool.

Distorted to fill the frame

Distorted version with aspect ratio changed afterward

Preserve Or Adjust Aspect Ratio

Both cropping and distortion may or may not change an image’s aspect ratio (the proportions of the frame). Cropping can be set to preserve a set aspect ratio but this puts limits on what’s possible as at least two edges, if not all, are adjusted together. if you adjust one edge separately from the others you’ll change the aspect ratio, for better or worse. But if a specific aspect ratio is important to you (either because the original creates consistency between images or because a new ratio is more expressive), after cropping you can distort the entire frame to the aspect ratio of your choice.


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See What You’re Missing – 2 Ways To Non-Destructive Crops

We’re responsible for everything that’s in the frame. We’re also responsible for everything that’s not in the frame. Deciding what’s in the frame and what’s out is a critical decision that can make or break an image. Framing and cropping are critical. If you miss a key element during framing you’re out of luck. However, if you overcrop you’re not, if you crop non-destructively and you remember to reconsider your crop from time to time. After you crop, you forget what you’re missing. It’s out of sight and out of mind. But it doesn’t have to be.

Lightroom and Photoshop’s crop tools allow you to see the image information you’re missing Here’s how …

In Lightroom, highlight an image and tap R. You’ll see the areas eliminated with a darker overlay. You never lose image information when you use Lightroom. It couldn’t be easier. What’s hard is remembering to do it.

Photoshop also makes almost as easy. First you have to open an image. Then press C (or click on the crop tool). Then click on the Crop tool control handles and you’ll see the missing information, again under a darker overlay. When you use Photoshop, be careful. Unlike in Lightroom, you can eliminate image areas permanently. Here are two ways. One, check the Crop tool’s option Delete Cropped Pixels. Two, flatten the file or merge other layers with the Background layer. You may think this has happened when you first look at a file that has been cropped in Photoshop as when you first click on the crop handles you won’t see the larger canvas but simply drag the right corner of the window out and you’ll see the bigger canvas.

Why would you need to reconsider your crop? To make future improvements as your vision evolves. In the analog darkroom photographers never (almost) cut their negative’s or transparencies. They masked them during printing. This means every time them made new prints they reconsidered their crops. Sometimes, after their seeing matured, they changed their minds – significantly. I’ve witnessed the greats reviewing their top images. One day, Arnold Newman adjusted his crop on his portrait of igor Stravinksy. Another day, my father reconsidered his crop for Running White Deer, making subtle but significant shifts in their final compositions.  Those two images are both dramatically influenced by the way they’re cropped. If the masters do it, you may want to consider doing it too.

Small changes can make big differences. But you won’t think to make them if you don’t see what you’re missing. So make it a habit to reconsider your crops from time to time. It only takes a few moments and if you do, perhaps even your best images will improve.

Read more in my Creative Composition resources.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

The 7 Best Beers & Breweries In Maine

Maine’s rocky north Atlantic coast may be short on wineries but it’s rich in breweries. With the most breweries per capita of any state, as of early 2020, Maine is home to 155 active, licensed breweries, representing over 100 unique brands with a deeply independent strain (like its people) ranging from classically elegant to off the hook inventive. It’s become a beer drinkers paradise currently applying for its own internationally recognized style.

Many Maine breweries have tasting or taprooms. A disproportionate number are in Portland. Stop by and try what you can’t find even in the best stores with their limited batches and seasonal varietals.

No store could possibly carry them all so finding specific ones requires considerable hunting and gathering, which just adds to the fun. One of the best selections in the state can be found in Freeport’s Bow Street Market.

Whether you’re a Maniac or ‘from away’, with riches that could be an embarrassment (but we’re not) it’s hard to know where to start. Here are my top picks. (My taste tests are ongoing, so check back for new additions.)

 

1

Allagash

They excel at Belgians.

Their White is a staple cloudy wheat.

Their Curieux is a stellar bourbon barrel tripel.

 

2

Boothbay Craft Brewers

They do it all without overdoing it … or is it overdoing it just the right amount?

Savor their lush Thirsty Botanist.

 

3

Foundation

They’re playful, richly rewarding, and sometimes even sweet.

Enter their radiant list with an Epiphany.

 

4

Lone Pine

Their flavors are so in step with the independence of the pine tree state.

Taste the place in their evergreen Brightside.

 

5

Bissel Brothers

Their creativity runs deep.

Ease into a wild ride with Substance an IPA with an understated name.

 

6

Maine Beer Company

They excel at IPAs.

Start with their beer Lunch.

 

7

Rising Tide

Though their list is deep, with plenty of range, they excel at lighter classic IPAs.

Try their Maine Island Trail Ale.

 

Discover more Maine resources.

Join me during my Maine photography workshop.

Maine’s 9 Best Oysters & 5 Places To Find Them

I find it mysterious and wonderful! The same oyster species grown in different places taste different. When you eat oysters you taste the seaweeds and kelps that surround them, the minerals in the rock and mud they grow on, and the salt in the waters they breathe. You even taste the temperature they live in. How is that possible? You’ve got to taste it to believe it.

Today (2021), about 150 oyster farms in Maine, extending from York to Washington counties, raise over 11 million oysters per year for the white table cloth market (an industry worth over $8 million). The Damariscotta River estuary in Maine is the largest site for oyster growth. Most Maine oysters have strong, hard shells, plump full meats, and a beautiful briny sweet flavor of a cold fresh clean ocean.

Maine offers a savory adventure with an impressive variety of oysters to choose from.

 

Pemaquid Points burst zaftig and briny.

Winter Points remain firm with brothy umami.

Taunton Bays offer a complex minerality.

Belon Rivers glide coppery smooth.

Dodge Coves supply sweet and sour tanginess.

Bagaduce Rivers balance bouquets in small creamy packages.

Glidden Points achieve an unusually crisp density.

North Haven Islands have a hint of honey.

Gay Islands share a touch of sugar.

Find more at Oyster Finder.

 

Find the best selection in Portland at Eventide.

Find the best selection in Boothbay at Mine Oyster.

Find the best selection in Rockland at North Beacon.

Find the best selection in Rockport at 18 Central.

 

Follow the Maine Oyster Trail here.

 

Want them shipped to you? Try Maine Oysters Company.

 

Discover more Maine resources.

Join me during my Maine photography workshop.