Find The Best Time – The Story Behind The Photograph

ConstellationVIII_425

Constellation VIII, Uyuni, Bolivia, 2013

It had been a very long drive. Looking for other exotic locations along the way, we (I was traveling with colleagues Seth Resnick and Eric Meola) had taken the long way around, traveling for five days at high altitude, up to 5,000 meters, through Bolivia’s Altiplano to Salar de Uyuni the largest salt desert in the world. On arrival we began looking for water, which was seasonal and unpredictable. Unsuccessful at first, at first we found only mud beneath a cracked crust, later we found a few wet stains, still later a larger area slick enough to glisten in the sun, much later a larger slick against a mountain that offered limited reflections, and finally, late on the second day we found a large expanse of water. But there was wind and in many areas the water was too deep to access. We waited at our nearby hotel, made completely of salt; the walls and floors and tables and desks and chairs were all made of salt. Returning for the day’s final light, we found the wind had moved the water and then died down leaving a glassy sheet of perfect reflections as far as the eye could see, ringed by clouds. Walking on/in it was disorienting. You felt like you were walking on/in the sky. And then the color began to change and bloom. It was divine. We spent hours photographing, until the light faded and the winds picked up again. We returned the next day, our final day, to find similar almost ideal conditions and later the new introduction of lightning storms and rainbows behind us. We felt exceptionally fortunate.
If there was no rain, there would be no water to hold reflections; we would have been limited to making photographs of cracked salt patterns, a few piles of salt, and the distant mountains. If there were no clouds, there would be little to reflect. Even though this type of weather was typical at this time of year, and this time of year only, there were no guarantees. We had not only timed it just right and planned for enough time to succeed in, we also got lucky.
Stack the odds in your favor and do your research to know when optimal conditions are most likely to occur. There are situations where you can take actions to increase the probability of ideal conditions occurring and there are situations when you can’t – and knowing which situation you’re in is important. In situations where you can’t be more proactive, it’s wise to plan for a little extra time, in case you have to wait for ideal conditions to arise. It’s never easy to know when it’s best to move on and when it’s best to wait it out. Prior experience helps but it will only get you so far. Keep your eye on the weather and seek out local knowledge whenever possible.
Questions
How can you best prepare to make the most of optimal conditions?
What are optimal conditions for the task at hand?
When are you most likely to experience optimal conditions?
Is there anything you can do to increase the likelihood of optimal conditions occurring?
Is there anything you can do to improve current conditions?
When is it better to move forward rather than wait?
When is it better to take a new approach rather than return?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here. 
Find out about my Atacama Desert Argentina digital photography workshop.

Be Prepared – The Story Behind The Photograph

IlluminationXXVI_425
Illumination XXVI, Jokulsarlon, Iceland, 2012
French microbiologist Louis Pasteur famously remarked, “Chance favors the prepared.” Just showing up doesn’t guarantee success. You can stack the deck in your favor by being prepared. To be prepared you have to find answers to a lot of questions – or at the very least know what questions to ask … like where to go, when to go, how long to stay, what to bring, how to use what you bring, what you hope to accomplish, what your priorities are, and what you bring to the situation that is unique, for starters.
To get this image (and others like it), I had to do a lot of preparation. I thoroughly understood the subject; following Yogi Bhajan’s advice ““If you want to learn something, read. If you want to understand something, write. If you want to master something, teach.” I had done all three. I was in the right place; Iceland is on the auroral oval. I was there at the right time: as Iceland is just south of the arctic circle, skies are dark enough for a long enough period of time at only certain times of the year. I brought the right equipment; a sturdy tripod with a good mount and a fast lens were essential, plus there was new game changing camera technology that generated less noise at higher ISOs, which would open up new possibilities. I knew how to use the equipment; using your camera in the dark and focusing on a star doesn’t become fluid without some practice. I performed relevant tests to find out how much time it took before stars trailed and how high I could dial my camera’s sensitivity up before without getting objectionable levels of noise. I learned from my failures; after careful examination of images from the previous week I found out how shallow the depth of field or focus was at very fast apertures and that certain lenses produced unacceptable artifacts. I took stock of my community’s previous accomplishments; I looked at a lot of images of auroras, identifying what made some more successful than others. I made some time for self-reflection; I noted what was likely to make my images more authentic and what would make them more likely to stand out from others’ images, either on their own or through their relation to my other work, and I prioritized what I wanted to accomplish. All of this preparation contributed to my being able to work quickly and make the most of each passing moment in a focused way that was most likely to generate results that were relevant to satisfying my goals.
It was so easy to make dramatic images that night and there were so many other photographers making images around me that the bar was raised, which called me to succeed not just on others’ terms but more importantly on my own terms and not just once but multiple times.
Some preparation is specific to a task and/or a moment. A great deal of preparation is more general and cumulative. Often, one builds on the other. Author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that mastery comes when we put in 10,000 hours. Even if you haven’t put in the 10,000 hours to achieve general mastery you can still master the moment; and if you have put in the time, you’ll be able to master many more moments. I’ve often been asked, “How long does it take you to make an image?” I answer, “Anywhere from 15 minutes to 6 months – but the real answer is 47 years and counting.”
Questions
How many kinds of preparation do you need to do – physical, mental, emotional, communal? Why?
What kind of preparation do you need to do the most/least of? Why?
At what point do you get diminishing returns from continued preparation?
Can you be overprepared?
When does preparation become avoidance?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Stay In The Zone – The Story Behind The Photograph

5_425

Constellation VI, Selljalandsfoss, Iceland, 2012

I had tried my hand at this subject and failed a number of times. It was easy to make the standard high impact postcard images of this famous location. Selljalandsfoss, Iceland is a marvelous waterfall that you can circle in front of, around, behind and back again. It’s particularly dramatic in the winter when the stairs that lead behind it freeze over and the walls around it freeze up forming icy stalactites of all sizes that periodically crash to the ground. It’s particularly divine on evenings when the setting sun sets the sky and the waterfall afire. In all the times I’ve visited Selljalandsfoss, the light has been like this only twice. Good enough results the first time lead to my knowing what I needed to do to excel – and I was able to do it. Well before sunset, I walked behind the waterfall, and sat quietly without interruption for the better part of two hours, listening to the thundering sound of the cascading water, feeling its vibrations in my body, and watching the water slowly change color from white, to cream, to gold, to pink, to coral, to mauve, to lavender, to gray, to black. I never took my eyes off the water, seeing endless patterns continually appearing, disappearing, and reappearing. I was enthralled, enchanted, transported in one of the more intensely inspiring moments of my life. I made a thousand exposures and collected enough material for a body of work. When you’re in the zone you stay there and you don’t do anything that might disrupt your flow.
What specifically is flow?  A mental state when people are completely absorbed with energized focus while harnessing emotions aligned with performing and learning activities. Some say that how and when flow happens is a mystery; they give up on solving this riddle because there are so many conditions that contribute to failing to achieve, achieving, sustaining, and disrupting flow – and they vary between individuals and individual moments. Others, love mysteries, like flow; they look to the most common causes for achieving and sustaining flow and incorporate individual differences and sensitivity to current conditions into attempts to achieve and maintain it. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly suggests that we enter states of flow or peak performance when we rise to challenges that interest and stretch us but aren’t beyond our ability to meet, placing us in a curious emotional state that lies between the poles of boredom and anxiety. Throughout the ages cultures have studied flow (using many different names) and we continue to learn more and more about it every day. My recommendation is that you too study flow – personally.
For instance, from previous experiences I know I tend to achieve states of flow more frequently and more deeply when I connect with a subject emotionally and my understanding of it is deep enough to ask more specific questions while creating something in a way that involves physical activity with sustained concentration. The natural world is almost always involved in some way. Reflection before, meditation during, and contemplation after, all aid this process for me.
You can profit from other people’s experiences of flow, what they create in it, and the paths they find to it, but don’t expect yours to be identical – your experience may be very different. In your study of flow, beware of limiting attitudes and superstitious behavior. Above all, pursue flow actively. Take action. Don’t ask “What happens if …?” hypothetically and preemptively. Instead, ask “What happens when … ?” during practical experimentation. Then look at probabilities and stack them in your favor. All you need to do is to find your tipping point(s) and trigger them. How do you know when you’re in the zone? You’ll know. And so will everyone else. When you’re in the zone, there’s no denying it. You’re usually there when you’re doing your best work and feel most alive.
Questions
What are the benefits of being in the zone?
How do you know when you’re in the zone?
What does it take for you to get into the zone?
What can you do to get into the zone faster?
What can you do to get into the zone more frequently?
What can you do to stay in the zone longer?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Leave Room For The Viewer – The Story Behind The Photograph

Condensation_PreludeinGrayIII_2001_425

Condensation III, Rockland, Maine, 2001

One second it was there and the next it wasn’t and in a few seconds even the ripples it created were gone. It was there in this shot, but I took it out. What was it? I’ll leave that to your imagination. It’s more interesting that way. In moments like this our minds run wild. Our still childlike imagination takes over and plays. Stone? Fish? Bird? Snake? Squid? Sea monster? Mermaid? Diver? Now things are getting interesting! In the end, maybe this image really isn’t one thing. Maybe it’s become many. And maybe that’s more interesting. I know what it was when I made the picture – and that’s a limitation I’ve had to challenge myself to overcome to see more in this picture. When people try to solve the mystery together the image becomes even more interesting, to both them and me. We all want to bring more to our creations – and we don’t have to do all that work by ourselves. Part of that ‘more’ is what other people bring to it.
Everybody loves a mystery. Director J J Abrams’ love of mysteries is evident in his many television shows and movies and his mastery of mysteries is evident by their widespread success. He knows some mysteries are best left unsolved. “To be continued” … In his TED talk The Mystery Box and he wisely states “Ultimately the mystery box is all of us.”
How many great inventions have been repurposed for uses than they were originally intended for? Gunpowder was first born as an elixir of immortality. The rat poison Warfarin became a blood thinner. A telephone conversation recorder became a musical record player. Viagra was invented to cure heart disease but had an unexpected side effect of making other things hard. And what can’t you do with duct tape? The inventions that survived adapted. The ones that thrived left room for their users to bring about unexpected evolution. They grew stronger with user participation and innovation. You can’t guarantee that this will occur but you can hope it will and you can leave room for it to happen both in your plans and your creations.
There’s always a balancing act between holding to your original course and modifying it after weighing viewers’ responses. Consider putting your creations to the test with a select audience before releasing them to wider audiences. If you do, seek enough feedback from a variety of relevant sources and weigh it appropriately.
There’s a fine line between leaving too little room for the viewer (when what’s produced is uni-dimensional and predictable) and leaving too much (when not enough is brought to the picture and what’s created seems uncommitted). Find it and you’ll find uncommon success and new opportunities for growth.
Questions
How many ways can you leave room for user participation?
How many ways can you stimulate user participation?
Where is the line between too little room for the viewer and too much?
How much or how little does something need to resolve for it to be complete?
When is it best to switch gears based on user feedback?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Seek Feedback – The Story Behind The Image

SelvaObscuraVI_2002_425

Selva Obscura, Jefferson, Maine, 2002

I had no intention of making this image; I had left my ‘real’ medium format film camera home and brought a then new digital DSLR, a technology in its infancy at the time, to photograph a new puppy I was bringing home with my family. The drive through the foggy February forests of Maine was beautiful and late in the day as we neared a series of orchards the light turned golden. I stopped with no thought other than to enjoy the moment, making a series of exposures, before continuing on.
While I liked the images I produced that evening, I had no intention of displaying them, until everyone in my studio strongly urged me to do so. Response to these images has continued to be very positive. This one has become one of my top sellers.
This work didn’t fit neatly into the ideas I’ve been developing in my work for decades. It doesn’t present a view of nature seemingly untouched by man. It’s not a wasteland, either devoid of or filled with water. It’s conventionally clear where the life is, in living organisms, drawing attention away from the idea that there might be a spirit in other kinds of things. It didn’t fit for this and other reasons. Yet it was somehow connected. These images lay down a challenge.
As I was describing this process to my workshop participants one day remarking, “I don’t do trees.” one woman remarked, “I don’t think you can say that any more.” Touche.  The next morning on my way to class as I considered this further, acknowledging that I had always loved orchards, tending them as a boy and now living in another one, and that I deeply appreciated gardens and agricultural areas and sacred sites where man worked in concert with nature, the phrase came to mind, “Perhaps Eden can be restored, if we give it half a chance.” It’s a thought that runs deep inside all of my work. It’s my hope that what I share will kindle a greater sense of wonder for the natural world and inspire people to participant in it creatively and conscientiously.
That was one of a handful of days where the mission behind my life’s work became clearer and this image played a central part in that process. It’s become an important outlier in my body of work, which I’ve learned a great deal from.
In response, I didn’t decide to go in a new direction. I held to my original course, bringing the work I had already begun to completion – now with a renewed sense of purpose.
What you do with feedback is up to you. I recommend that you seek a lot of feedback from a variety of sources. Know the source of the feedback you receive. Don’t forget to give yourself feedback, the most important source of all. Weigh it all carefully, but make the final choice your own. In the end, it’s your choice. It’s your life’s work. It’s your life. Make it count.
Questions
What is good enough? How do you know?
What isn’t good enough? How do you know?
What is too much?
What is perfectly imperfect?

Find out more about this image here.

View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Try New Things – The Story Behind The Image

IlluminationII_425

Illumination II, Sossusvlei, Namibia 2012

 In 2010, during my third trip to one of the oldest desert’s in the world, Namibia’s Sossusvlei dune field, I enjoyed one of the most sublime hours of my life, from a helicopter. Moments of grace like this fill you with reverence for the miracle world we live in and a deep abiding gratitude to be a part of it all. I was prepared for it, but nonetheless surprised.
Before arriving, to plan where to go and how to maximize my time this magnificent dune field, I had done a considerable amount of virtual aerial research with Google Earth, zooming and panning images made from the combination of thousands of satellite images at various magnifications, to familiarize myself with where it started and stopped, how it changed in character, and the relative location of landmarks such as the dunes Big Mama and Big Daddy and the famous clay playa Deadvlei. This was a new way of scouting a location for me and it paid dividends making the limited time I had there more efficient and productive.
None of that could have prepared me for the changing angle of light or weather. On site, I had to assess the impact of current conditions. We were on the second flight of the day, an hour after sunrise. All week long, the air was filled with dust from far off sandstorms that scattered the rays of the sun, permeating the sky with a white gold light. Was this a liability or an asset? How could I make it one and not another?
Even at an altitude of 3,000 feet, twice the height of the largest dunes, I found I couldn’t fit the vast dune field into my viewfinder. So I improvised and started making multi-shot exposures for panoramic stitches while moving. It seemed like a bold move, if the two or three shots did not merge successfully then both would be lost. Then, one of my companions, made an even bolder move, requesting we do a 360-degree stationary rotation so that he could make a panoramic image of the entire dune field. Would it work? To my delight both methods worked.
Neither experiment would have been successful were it not for new image processing software that provided better image stitching capabilities. (Not long ago, it wouldn’t even have been possible to convincingly combine two separate exposures.) More new image processing features aided the final realization of this image. I used new lens profile corrections, designed to remove optical distortions, to expressively distort the image. Quite different than a change in angle of view, which reveals and obscures information, these distortions offered complementary but distinctly different visual effects, changing relative proportions and spatial relationships within the image. This furthered my ongoing experiments to compare and contrast the two and so learn to fully utilize them in tandem with one another intuitively.
Ever since that day, I don’t see things in the same ways. Now I also see in new ways. It’s important to try new things. Trying new things stimulates new growth.
Questions
How do new developments change your experience?
How do new developments change your thinking?
How do new developments change your actions?
How can you use new developments to innovate?
Which new developments are likely to impact your creations most?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Take A Break

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.

Track Your Influences

Suffusion I, Palm Beach, Florida 2001

Sometimes ideas just seem to come out of nowhere. But do they?
We have so many experiences everyday, whether commonplace and routine or extraordinary and novel, it’s hard to say what registers as significant or even important. We’re influenced by so many things – our history, environment, community, actions, etc – that it’s hard to know when one thing leads to another. Often we refashion these materials, sometimes combining them, into something new, so when the resurface it’s not easy to recognize where they came from. What do we connect with? When do we connect with it? Do we know when it happens? Only if we’re mindful.
Awareness of what influences us is something that we can develop. To do this we need to develop a greater sensitivity to our environment and history in it (both personal and cultural) as well as to our actions and attitudes in relation to the activities and tone of our communities. Inquisitiveness is all you need. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t assume you know the answers. Don’t judge yourself or the answers you find along the way. Just collect information. By becoming aware of your influences you’ll be less controlled by them, see more options, and so have more and make clearer choices. Journalling can be an excellent way to develop this discipline and to reflect further on your influences while you’re making new or reviewing old entries. Once you experience the many benefits awareness of your influences brings, you’ll want to cultivate this habit. It can be a source of clarity, of personal insight, and even of purpose. Time and time again, this has been true for me.
Sometimes the insights awareness brings are surprising. One day, after Suffusion I had been hanging on my studio wall for months, I moved a snapshot of my grandmother’s ashes in the ocean (I had been unable to attend her funeral so I kept the photograph my father brought me close for a time.) across my studio. As soon as I saw the two images simultaneously in my field of vision the similarities and connections between them became clear. Since I made it, I had been trying to understand Suffusion I better. I knew some of the undercurrents at work in it; growing concerns about climate change and global warming; the ever-changing nature of existence and perception; watching smoke as a form of meditation; using smoke as a form of prayer. But I hadn’t guessed that it had anything to do with death and cremation. It would be a mistake to say this image – and the other images like it in this series – was about death. It/they are about much, much more. That’s part of what makes them so good. They’re complex.
You might be tempted to say that the influences were simple. The environmental and temporal factors were obvious. A good friend (Timothy Morrissey) had shown me how he photographed smoke and mist in his studio and I made exposures with him. The next day we went fishing and I made more exposures. Much later, I combined images from the two days. But that wouldn’t have explained why I chose to do this; I could have chosen one of thousands of other exposures from other years. Nor would that explain that I liked the results enough to print, frame, and exhibit the results. There was more going on in this image than first met the eye. I knew this, which is why I was still curious about it – and it probably has something to do with why others are curious about it too. I’m still curious. Our best work gets ahead of us and it takes time to catch up to it. Sometimes it continues to reward us for years to come – or even a lifetime.
Questions
How many things influence you?
How many things can you do to increase your awareness of what influences you?
What are the best ways to track your influences?
What benefits do you find from looking back on how your influences develop, flow, and grow?
Can you use the insights about your past reactions to inspire new actions?
How many ways can you proactively influence your influences?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.
Read more about Influences here.

Approach Things In Many Ways

Triple Goddess, Aneth, Utah, 1996

This image was born out of synergy. It took multiple media to resolve this image and each one contributed something unique to the final result.
During a brainstorming session I used word associations to search for new possibilities. Only a few word pairs and phrases stood out of the hundreds that were generated, only some of which seemed related, including ‘floating stone’. What was it that made that pair stand out from all the others? Perhaps it was the reversal of expectations it contained, stones don’t float they sink. Perhaps it was something else, something less easily explained and more personal.
I slept on it. Shortly after midnight, I woke up in the middle of a dream of a floating stone. Dreams are rich sources of insight, which is why I make sure to always have something close at hand to record them. I quickly sketched the image. Why a sketch? I had already written the words down. In this case, an image would be more specific. And I went back to sleep. In the morning, when I woke up again, I saw the sketch at my bedside. It helped me remember the image in my dreams. I sketched many variations of the image, generating many possible compositions of the same subject and even found a few new ideas along the way.
That day, I went to my photographic archive and searched for the best material to bring this image to light. Along the way, the photographs I sifted through stimulated many new related ideas, which I also sketched. In the end I decided to use a stone that was much smoother, a sky that was more complicated, and hills that were smoother than the ones in my dreams. Even as I was compositing the three images into one, something new ideas emerged when I decided to make the mounds symmetrical. Influenced by everything that I had experienced between discovering the seed of the idea and its final resolution, the image had grown richer and evolved. Discovery can happen at each and every point in the creative process.
When engaging in creative challenges, if you approach things in multiple ways you’re sure to find a shift in perspective. Whether we’re looking for new ideas, solving problems, or seeking feedback about what we have produced, we often enlist many people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences who each have something different to contribute to our understanding. You can do this for yourself, by trying different things that will bring you a variety of experiences and new perspectives. Doing this is part of being well-rounded, well-informed, and thorough. You never know what you’ll discover, until you try it.
Questions
How many ways can you approach researching a challenge?
How many ways can you approach solving a challenge?
What unique contribution does each approach make to your understanding?
What unique contribution does each approach make to the final result?
Which is the best mode to start with?
Which is the best mode to end with?
What mode is best for a given stage of development in a creative challenge?
Is there an optimal order for mode shifts?
How long is it best to stay in one mode before moving to another?
When is it better to stay in one mode?
When is it better to move to another mode?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Engage Your Inner Coach

Refraction LX, Penola Straight, Antarctica, 2009

A voice inside my head was grousing, “There’s nothing here. It’s not good enough. You’re not good enough. Someone else has done this before. You’ve done this before. You’re uncomfortable. You’ll have better luck next time.” I’d heard it all before. So I changed my inner dialog, “There’s something here; you just have to find it. You know how much you like the surprise when you do. You have a unique sensibility. You’ll bring something new to the situation. You can do it. It will be great. You’re enjoying this.” If I hadn’t shifted the tone of my self-talk I would have given up before I got started, instead I stuck with it, for hours, and succeeded, many times. Refraction LX was just one of that morning’s successes.
You’ve heard it all before too. “You’re just like … you always … you never … you’ll never … why try …” As Carla Gordon said, “If someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago.” We’re told that to improve and reach our full potential that we have to be our own worst critics. It’s true that there is a time and a place for this – but it’s limited. Don’t make it a full time occupation. If you do, you may never get where you need or want to go.
Professional athletes and performing artists have coaches and directors who not only train them but also encourage and inspire them as well. So do many CEOs and salesmen. So do many people from many walks of life at different times in their lives and stages in their careers. They may even engage different types of coaches at different times for different needs. When was the last time someone coached you? When was the last time you coached yourself?  Even if you’re lucky enough to find the right creative coach who can help guide you to perfect practice, they can’t do all the work for you; you have to do the work too; after all, in the end, they’re training you to do it yourself. You can’t afford to wait and find your perfect creative coach. Instead, become that person.
Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Take note of your previous accomplishments. Set tangible goals for the future. Chart your progress along the way. Provide yourself incentives. Reward yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments – both verbally and visually, privately and publicly. Be specific using precise language. Give yourself pep talks. Frequently use positive affirmations. Don’t think you can do it? Tell yourself you can. And then do it. Watch your self-talk – and change it for the better. It’s a mindset. If you want better results create a better mindset.
When you talk about yourself or your work, do you use positive or negative words? The words we use can be very revealing about our orientations, attitudes and beliefs. Many times, when we speak about ourselves, if we speak about ourselves, we downplay our abilities and accomplishments. It’s true that no one likes a raving egomaniac. But, there’s a real difference between arrogance and confidence. Confidence is attractive and inspiring; arrogance isn’t; neither is insecurity. Don’t let your insecurities get the best of you. Be careful not to talk yourself down, cut yourself off short, or fall completely silent. Instead, learn to speak simply and directly about yourself and your work and above all share your enthusiasm. Not feeling it? Act as if you do. With just a little practice you will begin to feel it. It’s true we should all beware of over confidence. And, critical feedback, the right kind and the right amount, is useful for improving performance too. Peak performance and growth take the right balance of positive and negative feedback. But ask yourself, “How balanced are you?” If you’re like most people, you’re not very balanced at all. Change this and you’ll tip the scales in your favor. This takes constant monitoring and recalibration but you’ll soon see substantial changes that make it not just worthwhile but invaluable.
How important is this? Consider how much money is spent every year on motivational resources like books, videos, lecture, workshops, and more. The figures are enormous. That’s how important it is to other people. Ask yourself, “What’s the price of not doing it?” That’s far greater. Don’t pay it. Just do it.
Questions
What is the state of your current self-talk?
How many ways can you improve your self-talk?
How many ways can you make your self-talk more energized?
How many ways can you make your self-talk more meaningful?
How many ways can you measure the results of improved self-talk?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.