How is 2016 going for you? We’re almost 2 weeks in, now. Still going strong on those bright, shiny resolutions? Or beginning to lose some steam?
Personally, I had a slow start to the year. We were away from our house, visiting family, for 2 weeks over Christmas break, and despite my best intentions I did not get around to the goal setting and organizational planning that I had intended to focus on. Then we arrived home in Alabama and I realized that the kids started back to school the Tuesday following the New Year, not Monday as I had been counting on. And all the introverted Mamas who need their alone time sigh in commiseration… Needless to say, I’m on the slow boat to starting the New Year, and I’m mostly ok with that. I’ve never been an awesome resolution keeper and so this year, I want to keep things simple. I’ve set some intentions, and while I will set big goals to aim towards, the plan is to focus on the small things and celebrate them as I go.
Changes in behavior and routines take time. I’ve never felt as though big, grand, sweeping changes stick with me. It is the little things, like consistently doing the dishes after breakfast, so that I start the day with a clean kitchen, that work their way into my life and end up making a difference for the better. I could set a goal of “keep a sparkling clean kitchen,” but aiming for such a grand goal feels slightly unattainable. However, I can, and have, changed my behavior in a small way (doing the dishes after breakfast) resulting in a similar positive outcome. The clean kitchen at the beginning of the day motivates me to keep it tidy as I move forward. Once that sink is clean, it’s hard to see it fill up with dishes, again!
How can you apply this to photography? Is there a certain area of picture making that you’re wanting to grow in? Perhaps this is your year to really nail down focus. Instead of writing down “nail focus, 100% of the time” on your goal sheet, try finding a smaller step towards the same end. Think about what exactly your issue with focus is. Are you struggling with back-focus? Perhaps you need to look into micro-calibrating your lens. Are you finding that your depth of field is leaving important pieces of the subject/scene out of focus? Maybe you should make a commitment to experimenting with a slightly more closed down aperture setting. As you look at your problems, spend the time to pull back the curtain and see what is really behind the issue. Once you focus in on where change is needed, make a commitment to taking a small step towards improvement.
Create a new small ritual
Routines are not just for toddlers! The ritual surrounding my morning cup of coffee is soothing and centering. I make the cup of coffee in exactly the same way, everyday, and I know exactly what to expect as the scent wafts up to my nose and the warmth of the cup seeps into my hands. A recent addition to my roster of small rituals is spending 10-20 minutes on yoga every weekday. It has historically been really tough for me to commit to a highly organized and structured exercise regimen. Having created the small ritual of dropping the kids off at school, then coming home and immediately spending time breathing, strengthening and stretching has given me the impetus I needed to move, without feeling burdensome.
With regards to photography I have a few small rituals that keep me organized. After I import a card full of images into LR and check that everything looks good, I immediately place the card back into my camera and format it, to erase the files. Reformatting each time I erase images helps to keep the card clean. When files are erased individually, tiny fragments of data can be left behind that may eventually add up to a corrupted card. Happily, I started the ritual of reformatting early in my photography journey and have never had to deal with a corrupt memory card. Another small ritual that creates ease in my photography is that I have a base settings group that I return my camera to each time I shoot. I shoot indoors most often, so I know what settings I’m most likely to use in a general daytime scene, and those are where I place the dials after I have finished shooting. I generally leave my camera at f/2.8, SS 1/250, ISO 1600 and WB 5560K. Experiment with finding a grouping of settings that will allow you to quickly grab and shoot in your most frequently photographed scene.
Celebrate the small things
Why wait until something big has happened to celebrate? A celebration need be nothing elaborate, but I truly do think that the more often we take time to acknowledge and feel grateful for the good things that happen, the more likely we are to be in the mindset of openly welcoming those good things. Whether in your personal life, or when something awesome happens with your photography, share it with others. Did you conquer something small that had been plaguing you? Share your solution with someone. Did you just realize that you’d been following through with a new small ritual for 2 weeks? Throw yourself a mini party consisting of 5 minutes of whatever-it-is-that-you-most-want-to-do. Don’t forget to celebrate the small successes in the lives of those around you, too. Your child learning to tie shoelaces, your spouse making it through a first day at a new job, a friend posting a picture that shows a lighting situation that was previously mystifying to them- these small successes are what make up a life. We could all use a little more happiness and celebration.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed with the seeming burden of starting a new year “right,” give yourself a little space. Think about some small steps you could take, develop a new ritual or two and purposefully find small successes to celebrate. Here’s to 2016!