Turning Point

Well, I survived Hong Kong. That’s about the best way to put it.

If you listened to my previous shows you heard my conversation with Mia Beales with Guilin Photo Tours and how awesome that area of China is. You also heard about my other plans and what I was going to shoot there in HK.

Virtually nothing went according to plan.

To back up a bit, my initial goal with my journey was to show the opposite of what you expect to see from Hong Kong. In my head, I called it the “softer” side of Hong Kong. And to a large degree, I was successful.

I was able to get out and hike some trails and photograph the lush landscape that you just don’t associate with Hong Kong. I was also able to find some fantastic structures along those trails, either where people live, or where they used to live.

I started on Lantau Island. It’s such a beautiful place. And I had planned a very detailed itinerary and even designed it as a booklet and printed it so I’d have a copy for easy reference. I’ve done this before and it’s worked well. The main benefit is that in planning so much I have all these options and photo locations floating around in my head. So as I need to, I can alter the plan on a whim. And I did and it worked great. I still got to all my locations on Lantau Island, just not in the order I originally planned them.

But that didn’t matter. I was having a blast exploring and seeing the side of Hong Kong that most people don’t even know about.

Their hiking paths are rather interesting, and very well maintained. Lantau is rather mountainous, and these paths, for the most part, are raised concrete and rock paths that are about three to five feet wide. They’re so easy to follow you simply can’t get lost. And every 500m they have sign posts with numbers on them. If you get into trouble you just call emergency services, tell them the nearest sign post and they’ll know where you are. It’s great.

I walked from the Po Lin monastery back towards my room in Mui Wo, about a nine mile journey. I only made it half way (to the main road) because I just kept stopping and shooting along the path and I was taking way to long to get this hike done. But I didn’t care. I was having the time of my life!

This continued for a couple of days until my videographer friend showed up. My other intent for this trip was to shoot a series of training videos and he was going to help. I had a script all written for the main parts and then we’d get some more candid items as well. He showed up on Thursday, so that meant Friday and Saturday were essentially “recovery” days, although on Saturday we went to Macau and in total we walked about 11 miles!

Then we got to shooting on Sunday and by Sunday evening we were doing wonderfully, things were really clicking.

However, I woke up Monday morning completely sick. Totally and utterly sick. To make a long story short, I got food poisoning so bad I had to go to the hospital.

I was upset, depressed, an assortment of emotions was running through me as I laid there trying to get better.

I cancelled my China Excursion. After all, I know my health is more important than getting any shot, and I also know myself. I knew that I had a good chance of being released on Wednesday and with my need to get on the train to China on Thursday, that was just going to be too much.

As I laid there I started thinking about a whole bunch of things. I had time, and thinking was about all I could do, that and watch meaningless TV. I thought about how this summer had led up to me going to HK, and what I planned to do after I got back. I became rather retrospective.

I began to think, “what’s important here?” What can I still get out of this trip to HK, and more broadly, am I doing what I need to do in life to achieve my goals? What are my goals?

And this is why this episode is called “turning point.” In that hospital bed I believe I was able to contemplate a few things and that started me down this mental journey of honing my ideas and getting things in line where they need to be.

In reality my first decisions along this line took form in November 2017, when my business partner and I decided that it was time to either make it or break it as far as my company, Brent Rents Lenses, is concerned. I’d been working on that for 3.5 years at that time and things weren’t going as planned there either. We set a plan in motion that would either see growth, or, as it turns out, demise. So in July I announced that the company was closing.

My job has also seen some changes. I’ve been working on reducing some of the “extra” stuff I do so I can spend more time on curriculum development. There’s so many things I’m responsible for that a regular faculty member isn’t and I’ve come to the point where I just had to start whittling away at things.

So things were well on their way and the groundwork had been laid for me to vastly simplify my life. Closing things down at work so I can focus on my research and course development coupled with closing the company… They were painful decisions, but in the end, smart decisions. But what does this have to do with anything and why am I thinking about all this in a Hong Kong hospital bed?

It boils down to one word. And that is failure. Or more pointedly, the fear of failure. I seemed that once again I’d failed. These other items I hadn’t really considered failure so much, especially not the decisions made at work to allow me to focus on what the school pays me to focus on. That was about reducing my overload. With the company, I’d come to terms with it. I was OK with it. Not a huge deal.

But as I lay there the prospects of yet another item that was flopping on its face and I could do nothing about it. It got me thinking. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing for me to do, but it happened.

I’m a man of faith. So my contemplation of these things certainly had a spiritual overtone to them as well. And I was in a faith-based hospital as well which did good for my soul, that’s for sure. The hospital chaplain visited and that certainly was uplifting, we actually had a few things in common.

So I started forming some new goals and reforming existing ones. And these were larger ideas, not just focusing on my time there in HK.

It involves my photography and it involves my work. And after having been back two weeks I think I finally have something that’s starting to take shape and something that makes sense. And after having been rather sour about the whole HK journey my thoughts were further galvanized. So here it goes. I figured I need a few things to happen. If I’m going to be serious about these things there must be some action. So I’ve identified a few of these things that need to happen, they are:

  1. I simply need to shoot more. I love the craft of photography. I love everything about it. However, compared to most of you, I rarely do it. I MUST do more. And so to do more of it, I welcome you all to post your planned outings in the Latitude facebook group. If you’re in the Pacific NW and I can make it, I’ll do what I can to get out there and join you. I was going to do just that with a listener who is currently at the Pendleton Roundup, one of the largest roundups around with over 75K people in attendance. There’s less than ¼ that number for their entire population! But alas it didn’t work out. My goal is to get out way more than I have in the past. And if I’m heading out on a shoot where I can have company I’ll make a mention in the facebook group as well.
  2. I need to write more. My blog and my podcast will possibly benefit from me writing more, but maybe I suck as a writer. I don’t know, but I’m going to do it anyway.
  3. I need to experience more. Whether it’s to travel someplace, alone or with the family. Getting out there is a driving force in my life. I need to do more of it.

And that’s about it. It’s rather simple.

My trimming things back this summer will ultimately help me achieve these goals. But I can’t do these immediately, at least not to the level I want to do them. I do have some projects that I must finish up before I can realize these three goals I just laid out. So, for the next six months or so I’ve decided to continue scaling back so that I can get these items out of the way and I can move forward. I’m pretty sure these “needs” will morph over this time as well and I’m OK with that.

However, I’m not going to be a hermit, so there’s a few things that’s happening now.

  1. I’m still going to focus on that training video we were shooting in HK. I think we got enough done that I can still pull something together.
  2. My Croatia workshop is the only big workshop I’m doing this summer. I’ll have more on that later
  3. I’ve started advertising on my site about custom private workshops. Whether someone has a need that requires a skype conversation or if you’re looking to travel to my neck of the woods, hit me up. I’ll plan an experience for you or we can plan it together.
  4. I’ve decided that attending the Create Photography Retreat in Las Vegas this March won’t be possible, at least presently. This decision hurts the most. But planning a workshop and the lessons I’d want to present will simply take too much time between now and January and I had to let something go. Hopefully my situation can change, maybe one of my projects will get done more quickly than I expected, and things can change. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  5. My printing course is also still on the docket. It just got pushed back a bit. That’s one of my many projects I’ve been vaguely talking about.

So that pretty much sums up my summer. One where pretty much nothing went according to plan and yet it’s all still falling into place. It tends to work out somehow J

My time in the HK hospital also got me thinking specifically about my approach to photography in general. I claim that I like to be “thoughtful and purposeful” in my craft, but am I really? I think I still too often fall into a “spray and pray” shooting category, and sometimes I admit that’s needed. I had time to get rather philosophical and I recalled some images from Michael Kenna. If you haven’t seen his work, you absolutely should look him up. He’s one of my ultimate photography heroes. He’s an absolute master at simplifying the scene so the only items that are left are the ones that matter. And the images are so incredibly strong. He shoots B&W film and that too is awesome.

I also turned to some of David DuChemin’s work. He too is an inspiration. You should look him up as well if you’re not familiar with his work.

With these thoughts in mind, I knew I needed to rework my approach to my own photography. I believe I was already leaning this direction with my work in Hong Kong but as I was getting frustrated at my inability to be “efficient” at getting shots I knew something was awry with my outlook and my expectations. I then started thinking about my Croatia workshop and how that really wasn’t fulfilling my expectations either. My previous plan had us bouncing all over the place and not spending enough time going deep and really getting what we need to get out of a location. Allow me to read my new description here:

Exquisite landscapes amidst rich culture and history…

For me, this is what Croatia is about. On this tour you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the very fiber of what makes you a photographer. Whether you’re a beginner and you’re starting to explore what that means for you, or if you’re a seasoned shooter, you’ll be challenged to create a body of work that only you can create. There will be up to six students, and with that, there will be at least six different points of view on how to best photograph our locations.

There will be times where you’ll feel frustrated. That happens frequently when we strive for perfection. I’ve crafted this photo workshop tour to provide ample time for you to not only discover a fantastic nation and its people, but to also discover something new about your photography. We do this through constant review and discussion as we’re shooting, and then with follow-up reviews afterwards. The plan is to spend enough time at each location to give you the opportunity to focus and hone your approach.

I’d love for you to join me on this great journey as we experience the best photographic wonders Croatia has to offer. There’s also an optional jaunt into Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina planned after the tour as well.

So the main part of the journey is about slowing it down and my intent is to provide more time at the best locations Croatia has to offer. However, I couldn’t resist offering a brief optional jaunt into Montenegro and a good look at two of the best items Bosnia-Herzegovina has to offer too.

All the info is available on my website. I’d be honored to have you along for the adventure.

Well I hope this hasn’t been too much of an expose of my inner most thoughts, fears and dreams. I suppose if you made it this far you weren’t scared off too much. Anyway, I so greatly appreciate your support through listening to this show, and I hope you’ll think it worthy of sharing it with others.

As for the immediate future I’ll be arranging more interviews with other photographers for the podcast. Those will happen later in October and November of this year. So my production will take a short dip as I get the school year up and running.

Thanks again so much for being here.

Until next time, happy shooting!

[podcast src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/7041904/height-orig/90/theme/custom/thumbnail/yes/direction/forward/height/90″ height=”90″ width=”100%” placement=”bottom” theme=”custom”]