I probably should've Googled that title before using it. I'm pretty sure somebody has it Copyrighted, because that is all the rage these days. Ever since the days of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten it seems everybody is taking whatever it is they like or are good at and make it a metaphor for life. I'll be the first to admit that it's a bit "Chicken Soup for the Soul"-ish. Canned stories that are meant to force emotion out of you. I hate forced sentimentality. Which is why I almost talked myself out of writing this blog post.
But I the more I pondered on it the more I felt it needed to be written. I had an amazing day today at PhotoCamp Utah and I am bursting. I need to take a moment to reflect on and be grateful for the time I spent. I need to take a moment to be still and to really internalize the messages the universe sent me today or else by tomorrow it will be life as usual.
The biggest lessons I took away from PhotoCamp today have very little to do with photography. I did learn about light modifiers and speed lights and composition and photoshop-and these things will help me be a better photographer. But I learned so much more, that if I let it, will help me be a better person.
Today's first lesson came from the morning's first keynote speaker, Bruce Hucko. He was talking about spending time with the Navajo years ago, teaching art and photography to kindergarten students. He showed a picture of a young child jumping high in the air and talked about how all the mesas in the landscape and how the children would run and jump and how when friends would come visit him they would watch the children with worried expressions and say "Aren't you going to tell them to be careful?" Bruce's response was "Why would I put doubt in their minds when they know they can do this? They've been playing on these mesas since the time they could crawl."
And that's when it hit me! Doubt is a learned trait! A child thinks they can do anything! Every child thinks he is a great artist, a great singer, a great story teller, a great climber, a great dancer, a great photographer. I quickly took stock of the ways I may be planting the seeds of doubt in my own children. How often do I force my own doubts and fears upon them? And why do I do that? I teach them to compare themselves. I teach them to second guess their abilities. I am the one who teaches them they are "not enough". And I don't want to send my children that message anymore! Because they ARE great!
The next lesson I learned came during the "Take Hot Shots not Head Shots workshop taught by Todd Keith and Renee Lee of BellaOra Studios. Renee was talking about photo composition. She was talking about all the extraneous stuff that ends up in our photos because we aren't paying attention. She said "If something is not adding to your photo, it's distracting from it." That hit me like a ton of bricks! How often do extraneous "things" end up in my life because I'm not paying attention? I've been feeling run down and worn out a lot lately. I keep promising myself I'm going to cut back, slow down, simplify. But not going to this will hurt so-and-so's feelings. Not finishing that will let so-and-so down. And so on and so on. But to what end? Anything not adding value to my life or the life of my family is distracting from it! Things have GOT TO GO. If they are not fulfilling or leading me to the life I really want to be living they are merely a distraction. It is beyond time to simplify and get back to what is important.
While all of today's presenters were awesome in their own right and I learned so much from each one I have to say that the highlight of the day was keynote speaker Zack Arias. I can not think of enough superlatives to describe his presentation. But on thing in particular that he spoke about stood out for me. He showed example after example of gorgeous pictures and then would tell us that just to the right of frame was a dumpster. Or that just behind was lovely wall of vines was broken bottles and that the whole area smelled of urine. Or that spitting distance from a lovely green hill a couple is standing on is a massive construction site. As I listened to him talk I realized I walk through life with a MASSIVE wide angle lens. I focus on the dumpster, the urine, and the mess. Motherhood really is just one giant mess. And most the time that's exactly what I'm focused on. I walk into a room and see the crayons strewn all over the floor and miss the one of a kind art project that is lying next to them. I walk out into the yard and see the sand from the sandbox dumped all over the patio and completely miss the imaginative play my children are engaged in. I look at childhood and see all the mess and miss all the magic. I need a change in perspective. I need to focus on the beautiful.
At the very end of the day, when many had already bailed out, Anna Day gave a brief but moving presentation she called Journeys and Destination. Earlier in the day Bruce Hucko had alluded to the fact that life is about the Journey when he said a good trip back home to Moab (from Salt Lake City, a 4 hour drive) takes him about a week. I kind of chuckled and secretly cringed inside a bit at the overused cliche. But Anna's presentation brought the idea into sharp focus for me. She showed image after beautiful image and talked about how this was NOT the image she had come to get. One beautiful picture of a butterfly on a purple flower she caught while desperately heading towards a bathroom. How often do we miss the MOST SPECTACULAR parts of life because we are barreling towards some specific destination? For me right now I often find myself saying things like "well, as soon as all the kids are potty trained" or "as soon as all the kids are in school" or "I can't wait until the kids can do such and such for themselves" There is always some point in the future I am trying to just survive to and in the meantime I am missing this journey. I'm missing the superheros and princesses and galactic battle ships. I'm missing the joys of mis-matched socks and mispronounced words. In the rush to be somewhere else I'm missing the now.
I feel a debt of gratitude to all the fine folks who worked hard to put on today's event, an event pulled off entirely by volunteers! A very special thanks to Jeremy Hall whose baby this really is.
And a heartfelt shout out again to Zack Arias who came out to Salt Lake on a completely volunteer basis, sacrificing time with his family to spend a little of his time with us.
Archives of some of today's workshops, included Zack Arias Keynote speech, can be found at the PhotoCamp Utah website
AAAAAND last but not least-you can go here to see the video that inspired Jeremy Hall to send the email that brought Zack Arias to PhotoCamp Utah! Don't miss it!!!!!