Rust

In an effort to spend more time with my photography and writing, several years ago I started working half time. This was a big and risky decision. It may end up being a financial disaster, but it was an experiment I had to try. I felt that, if I played the game the way I was supposed to and waited until retirement to pursue my photography, my body or my mind might not be able to handle the travel, the hiking, and the adventures required by the style of photography that I wanted to pursue. Carpe diem, tempus fugit, and all that. So I dove in.

So far, the experiment is working. Half-time work, half-time pay. Half-time photography, zero pay. Of course, the reward for my photography is only measured in the currency of experience and by that metric, I’m a wealthy man.

As you can imagine, people constantly remind me how lucky I am. Guilty as charged. I am indeed a lucky fellow. However, such bliss comes with a down side. As you can imagine, switching back and forth between two worlds can be difficult. Imagine the challenge of getting up to speed on projects at work when I enter something that is halfway complete. It takes some time to really get into the flow, move beyond self-doubt, and feel like I’m contributing at 100%.

Surprisingly, I’ve found that an analogous situation occurs when I move from my work world into my photography world. For example, earlier this week I was compelled to get out and photograph some ice patterns. I decided to go to one of my favorite spots (the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains NP) and immediately realized my photography skills were severely rusted due to lack of use. First, I didn’t know where my gear was. Then I couldn’t remember how to use some settings on my camera. Most importantly, once I was on location and in the moment, I couldn’t see anything. Not literally, of course, but I couldn’t see any images. Whatever creative eye I previously had, I felt like I had lost it. I couldn’t compose a simple photograph. I was really frustrated! I had found some awesome ice subjects, but I just couldn’t create an image that I liked.

So now I know that it also takes some time to get into the flow of photography. In this case, it required a second day. I returned to the same locations in Tremont the next day and continued to chip away at the rustiness. In the end, I finally created some images that I like. Here are two of them. I like the way they depict the cold in different ways. One is soft and warm and painterly. The other is cool and sharp and graphic. I didn’t intend it, but I think they complement each other well. One evokes cozy memories and the other frigid chills. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not you like them. I hope you do!

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