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.

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.

Sometimes Those Little Extra Touches Make All The Difference

Antarctica XI, 2005

Sometimes those little extra touches make all the difference in the world.
On my first voyage to Antarctica, I was thunderstruck by its immensity. The vast untouched silent spaces were overwhelming. It was a supreme challenge to suggest this sense of scale in the comparatively small images I was producing. This was even more challenging in an environment without human figures or man-made objects.
One of the ways I approached this challenge was to make images filled mostly with space and populated by tiny objects. You can create a powerful sense of scale if you can present large things as being tiny without creating a sense of distortion at the same time.
Some objects bring magic with them. Include the sun, moon, or evening star and you’ve added a magic moment. The bigger you make them, the stronger the magic moment becomes, but no matter how small it’s always magic. Did you ever notice how when a tiny figure is included in an immense landscape picture that the images becomes about the person? I’m always amazed at how something that occupies 1% of the total image’s area can make such a difference.
I marvel at how we overlook the dramatic distortions inherent in making small images of very large things, like mountains. On the one hand, this strikes me as funny, in both senses of the word – comical and strange. On the other hand, this is magical; you can hold the earth in your hands. Suspension of disbelief is responsible for much of the magic of looking at realistic images.
Initially, this image was made without the moon, which was added later. The moon makes this image stronger in many ways, taking it up a notch. The moon also changes the nature of this photography. Without the moon, this image can be seen as a literal, historical document. With the moon, this image becomes an aesthetic object with a heightened emotional emphasis; a poem rather than a piece of non-fiction. While both versions hold up, I prefer the version with the moon. I choose which version to show based on what’s appropriate for a given use. For instance, I show the version without the moon in my editorial body of work Antarctica. The same means are not appropriate for all situations.
Questions
What small things could you include to make a big difference?
Which small things make the biggest difference?
Does how you include them increase or decrease the contributions they make?
Is their inclusion appropriate for what you are trying to accomplish?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

The 7 Best Argentinian Wines On Our Antarctica 2013 Voyage


Seth Resnick loves wine. So does Greg Gorman. The two of them have taught me most of what I know about wine. Through them I’ve come to appreciate wine in new ways and with a new depth of understanding. They know that if they drink wine with me, I’m going to ask a lot of questions, to learn as much from them as I can and to appreciate the wine I’m drinking with them even more.
On many of our Digital Photo Destinations workshop adventures, Seth and I share wine with our participants. On our 2013 Antarctica South Of The Circle Voyage we bought enough wine for the entire group to try a new wine at the start of each evening meal. As we embarked from Argentina, we selected only Argentinian wines, mostly reds, found at our favorite wine store in Ushuaia – Quelhue. Something that we looked forward to each night the wine started conversations, lifted spirits, and strengthened our community.
Here’s a list of the seven best wines we had during our voyage; each ranked on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest). You might enjoy them too. I use the iPhone app Wine Notes to record my impressions and usually include a picture of the person I drink the wine with along with the label in each entry as part of this journal. These are my only opinions (with input from Seth). Be mindful that I like my wines like I like my people, with character.

9.1            Malbec                                    Achaval Ferrer / Finca Bella Vista             Perdriel             2007
A truly elegant wine from old vines in volcanic soil riddled with complex flavors that are so beautifully blended they are hard to separate and keep changing from beginning to end and through its extremely long finish. It’s often appropriately referred to as a “chimera”.

8.9            Cabernet Sauvignon            Luigi Bosca                                                                          2010
Big, bold, full-bodied. Beautifully balanced structure with a great beginning, middle and end, with a long finish. Red fruits, cherry dominant with hints of chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon and distinctive earth flavors.

8.8            Malbec                                    Tapiz                                                            Black Tears            2008
Smooth full body with great mouthfeel (maybe a touch chewy) and solid structure and tannins. Big berry flavors, currant dominant. Complex layers. You can taste that it came from volcanic soil.

8.4            Tannat                                    Quara                                                                                    2009
Really big, complex, and earthy (especially on the nose). Fast, but lingers long with hints of cinnamon and tobacco. It’s unusual to find this grape on it’s own instead of blended.

8.4            Cabernet / Malbec            D V Catena                                                                         2010
Red fruits (cherry, raspberry, strawberry) with a hints of mint and eucalyptus. The smoky earth flavors from ashy volcanic soil gives it rich character.

8.4               Cabernet Sauvignon            Gascon / Finca Escorihuela Gascon            Reserva            2009
Elegant, rich, full, classic cabernet that doesn’t hide the earth it was grown in.

8.3            Malbec                                    Tomero                                                Gran Reserva            2008
A classic Malbec in every sense.
Wine is just one of the things that makes our workshops unique.
Find out about our 2014 Fly Antarctica Sail Across The Circle Voyage here.
Only 9 spaces are left.
 

Antarctica Crossing The Circle 2013 – Day By Day




My daily log of my most recent voyage to Antarctica is now live.
Feb 10 – 20 Seth Resnick and I lead an intimate workshop aboard the Sea Spirit to cross the Antarctic circle with many highlights along the way including sites we’ve visited many times before Deception Island, Half Moon Island, La Mer Channel, Plenneau Bay, Cierva Cove, Neko Harbor, Paradise Bay and others we’d never seen like Torengsen and Cuverville Islands. The locations never look the same twice, changing dramatically with season, weather, and light. On this voyage, at first calm and sunny, the weather turned windy offering many moody images.
You can see many more images and read the stories behind them here.
Plus, you can compare them with images and stories from 2011 and 2009 too.
Find out about our next voyage Fly To Antarctica / Cross The Circle 2014 here.

Free Screensaver – Antarctica


My free screensaver features beautiful images and fascinating facts on Antarctica.
Download it here.
Antarctica is stunningly beautiful! Explorer Roald Amundsen said, “The land looks like a fairytale.” The coldest, windiest, driest, highest, most isolated continent contains 90% of earth’s ice and 70% of its fresh water, regulating global climate and sea levels.
Learn more about Antarctica here.
Preview my book Antarctica here.
View my Antarctica alumni’s work here.
Find out about my 2014 Fly To Antarctica Sail Across The Circle workshop.

The Changing Antarctic Light


As I set sail on my fifth voyage to Antarctica I’m wondering what the light and weather will be like this year.

In 2005 we had crystal clear skies that lit up with sunset color for 4 hours.

In 2007 we had weeks of low hanging clouds and low lying fog.

In 2009 we had high thin clouds that diffused the light with a golden glow.

In 2011 we had rain, sleet, hail, snow – if it was wet it was in the air.
Now, in 2013, I’d love to be surprised with something different. But what would that be? A combination of the intense color of 2005 and the sculptural form of 2007?


Each voyage, I’ve hoped for at least one calm passage across The Drake. They have a phrase to describe this body of water –  “lake or shake”. I’ve only seen the “lake” in the colorlful photographs of Eliot Porter and I’d love to see it with my own eyes and make my own photographs. Though I’d be happy to continue “paying the price” to visit Antarctica, I’ve had enough “shake”, which is one reason we plan to fly to Antarctica in 2014.
Discover our 2014 fly to Antarctica sail south of the circle workshop here.

Compare & Contrast Contemplative & Active Modes

Antarctica LIV, Plenneau Bay 2007

In 2007 I visited Plenneau Bay, Antarctica, which lies just past the famous La Mer Channel. This was the only Zodiac cruise where all the workshop leaders (Michael Reichmann, Jeff Schewe, Stephen Johnson, Bill Atkinson, Ian Lyons, Seth Resnick and I) rode together while Chris Sanderson recorded the event on video for Luminous Landscape. Locked out of this area by ice in 2005, we were delighted to have access to the area many people call ‘The Iceberg Graveyard” because the shallow bay frequently traps ice.
We found a floating sculpture garden made of ice in a stunning array of forms. We found frozen sea creatures, both real and mythical. We found Viking ships and space ships. We found pyramids and grottos. One iceberg impressed us above all the others. We first approached it from one side hoping to glide across the pool of water in its center and through an arch on the far side, but we discovered the arch was too shallow to pass through. Double backing, we then approached it from the opposite side. We gasped collectively when we saw what another angle had to offer. The ice had been sculpted in what appeared to be a Grecco-Roman façade complete with a central arch and accompanying rhythmically repeating columns. To this day we still have a hard time believing that this was a naturally occurring form and not man-made. This was one of those unforgettable moments that changes the way you see and think about the world as you become aware of possibilities you hadn’t previously dreamed of.
Despite the rich subject matter, it was challenging photographically, as we had hours in an area we could have spent days and consequently moved through it rapidly, which forced us to work like action photographers. At one point in our magical voyage, I teased Michael that he was encouraging very bad habits – shoot first, ask questions later. But I made the best of it knowing that I would never see this again and while I was doing so I realized that this push outside of my contemplative comfort zone would encourage me to acquire skills that would prove useful in other situations. They have been useful in many other unforgettable moments.
Which mode are you most comfortable in?
How can switching between contemplative to active modes help you?
Find out more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.
Learn more about Antarctica here.
Discover my Antarctica workshops here.

7 Benefits Of Returning To Locations




Every voyage I’ve made to Antarctica has revealed new dimensions in the subject – weather, light, seasonal changes, annual variations, and my growing understanding of the region have all contributed to this.

 

With so many wonderful places to go, why would you return to the same location more than once?
Let me count the ways.

1    You’ll see more of and learn more about a place.
Increase your understanding of the places you photograph and your photographs will become more interesting.

2    You’ll have an opportunity to get the images you missed.
Try making a shortlist of the shots you missed when you shoot. Even if you never return this activity will prompt you to be clearer about why you missed the shots and you can take steps towards remedying this in the future. If you do return, you’ll have the beginnings of a working plan that will greatly increase your productivity and success rate.

3    You’ll have an opportunity to refine the images you made.
You may have made images that barely made the cut but would shine if they were reframed or made with different equipment or in different conditions. For this reason, I recommend you review not only the images that worked on your previous trip(s) but also the ones that didn’t asking yourself why they didn’t and what you could do differently.

4    You’ll see new things as your vision matures.
Having first found the images that come to you more naturally, you’ll later find yourself challenged to look for other kinds of images, which will stimulate your creativity and increase your visual versatility.

5    You’ll see changes in the place.
Time reveals. Weather, time of day, seasons, and the accumulation of years change a place. They change us too. These changes can become a wellspring for many images.

6    You’ll learn more about yourself.
While it’s true that you can learn more about yourself when you experience new things, it’s equally true that you’ll learn more about yourself when you re-experience them. You’ll find that your relationship with a location will change over time, as you experience more and mature. You’ll see not only how a place has changed but also how you’ve changed – and how the place has contributed to your growth. These types of insights are harder to achieve in new locations. Because the perspective with which you look at thing is different, the types of things you learn are different.

7    You’ll get to spend more time in your favorite places.
Just as you can’t go everywhere, you can’t return to every place. Return to the places that call you. Passion kindles the fires within, which will be visible in your images. Passion energizes and recharges us. A large part of the reason we do the things we do is because we enjoy them.

Unfamiliar locations challenge you to see new things in new ways, familiar locations challenge you to see the same things in new ways.

Just because we see new things doesn’t mean we will see in new ways, in fact the times when we are grappling with so many new variables are often the times when we fall back on our habits. When we see the same things again we are forced to see in new ways and/or deepen the ways we see them.

Even with a lifetime of adventuring, you can’t see it all. Your question is do you want to see a lot or do you want to see deeply? You’ll want to strike a balance between the two, surveying the many opportunities before you and choosing to return to one or a few of the places that call you the most. Exactly what balance you strike at any given moment is up to you.

 

Learn more in my Storytelling resources.

Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.