Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shoot Daily

This is the eighth in a 10-part series of posts on some simple actions that always lead to happiness!  Read the original post that frames this discussion HERE.
My favorite pic of the Tetons I have taken. Shot from the south in the Snake River Range.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  That seems like an understatement to me.  Images are powerful.  They evoke emotion.  While it is true that you can paint a picture in a reader’s mind with well crafted words, the reader’s ultimate interpretation will still be unique.  Not true of an image.  What you see is what you get with a photograph.  It will be filtered through the lens of the viewer’s personal perspective and emotional/mental state at the time.  Now combine heartfelt words with an amazing image and one can really stir someone’s soul.
Up high in Cascade Canyon on a stormy summer afternoon. Teton NP.
 I really wish I had discovered photography before the digital age enveloped gear, software, etc.  I believe I would be a better technician when it comes to manipulating, arranging, and combining the variables that impact the final image of a photograph.  If I had learned this craft in a darkroom I believe I would have a better understanding and command of all the aspects of light.  The essence of a photo comes down to light and the context in which it is captured.
Moose Family at Marion Lake on Crest Trail in Teton National Park
 It is easier now than ever to capture your view of the world through the viewfinder.  Every electronic device it seems has a camera incorporated into it.  No more film to develop.  Take and store 5,000+ images on your iPhone.  Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media outlets are exploding with images.  It seems everyone is capturing and sharing more images now than ever in human history.  There is also powerful software to fuel the endless creativity of the modern-day photographer.
Bison in Yellowstone National Park
 This is the area I am a bit weak in.  I have no formal training as a photographer.  Mostly I just shoot lots of images and adjust the direction I go through trial and error.  Since I moved to the Tetons 18 months ago I have shot almost 15,000 images.  I believe that if I beef up my technical skills I can really take my pictures to another level.  The one area I feel I am strong in is composition.  I have a pretty good eye for capturing an image from an interesting perspective.  I believe you can learn this skill, but I also think it is an artistic instinct that really great photographers possess as a part of their gift as an artist.
Sunrise on Flat Creek near the National Elk Wildlife Refuge
One of my goals over the coming months is to take a course in advanced photography techniques.  I will also pair that with a course and some study in Photoshop.  I am very fortunate to be in a place where Mother Nature provides a spectacular back-drop for me to use my abilities to capture some truly breathtaking scenery.  With some beefing up of my technical skills and some updated editing software ability I can get closer to reach my full potential as a professional photographer.
Sunsets over the Big hole Mountains never disappoint.
I do have one other hurdle to overcome before I move any of this forward.  Not too long ago I dropped my camera on the concrete while climbed off a jetty while shooting pics of the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog and Alcatraz Island!  It bounced.  Hard.  Ouch!  I can no longer look through the viewfinder and see what I am shooting and when I shake the camera something small inside rattles like a broken child’s toy.  I was going to upgrade the body sometime soon anyway, but was not anticipating having to do it right away.  I fear that the cost of repair is probably more than the body is worth.  It would probably more prudent to take those funds and invest in an upgraded, used body right now.  I am on a serious budget at the moment.  If anyone has a gently used Canon for sale please let me know!
One of my favorite shots of Teton Canyon and the magical full moon.
Writing, photography, and an intense connection to the natural wonders of our amazing planet:  These are my three passions that I am working to create fusion among to share my view of life and the world around me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Create your Ideal Scene

This is the seventh in a 10-part series of posts on some simple actions that always lead to happiness!  Read the original post that frames this discussion HERE.

What if I told you that you could create exactly the life that you have always dreamed about?  Possible or Impossible?  Whichever answer you chose you are correct either way.  If you think that it is impossible or not “practical” then you fall into the category of people who have given up on your dreams for your life.  Please read on if this is you because it is never too late to go for your dreams!

Ali.  Need I say more?

We grow up as kids with our parents, family, and educators telling us that we can be anything that we want to when we grow up.  Dream big!  Somewhere along the way between high school, college, and the first few jobs in the “real world” things change.  Society expects us to “grow up” and “be responsible” and “get a real job”.  It is now time to leave those childish fantasies behind and conform to the norms that friends, family, and society in general foist upon us.

I am telling you right now to not listen to any of these people!  Who says that the pursuit of one’s dreams has a time limit or an expiration date?  What is it the age? 18, 21, 25, 30?  Pick a number.  The higher the number the more pressure to conform by those who have already given up on their dream!  Is that who you want to listen too?

The PIXAR movie Up.  A great tale of life and dreams.

I am a parent.  I have three amazing kids aged 16, 13, and 9.  I have always told my kids that they can do anything that they want with their life.  It is theirs to live.  My expectations for what they “should” be doing do not matter.  As long as they are happy, healthy and fulfilled by their daring pursuits of their dreams in this life I will always support them and be happy.  Many people feel that once you have kids that you should put your own dreams on the back burner and make it all about your kids.  Personally, I think that is a horrible example and message to send to your kids.  I do not want them to ever stop pursuing their dreams in this life.  Not when they have kids or when they become a grandparent. 

Everyone should dare to dream big all the days of their life and have the courage to pursue those dreams.  What would you do if you know you could not fail?  What is the worst thing that could happen if your plans in pursuit of your dream do not initially work out?  The key to success in life is to fall seven times and get up eight!  I am 42 years old.  Those of you who follow my posts on a regular basis or know me have seen the journey I have been on the past 3-4 years.  After 15 years of slowly surrendering my dreams I finally reconnected with my true self and found the fortitude, courage, and sense of adventure to go for it!  There were many people in my life that criticized me or discouraged me from my new direction.  These were the ones who had too long ago surrendered their dreams.  I did not listen.  Instead I surrounded myself with like-minded spirits and other positive messages to buoy me along way of my new fantastic voyage.  My journey continues.

I stood on this exact spot after running 2,448 miles across Route 66 in 18 days.

So, for the last 3-4 years I have been working to create my ideal scene.  How did I get started?  First I dared to dream and threw out every limitation as to what was possible that I had gathered along my journey up to this point.  If I was considering something that seemed unrealistic I would ask myself:  “Why not?  Who says I cannot pursue this.  What is the worst thing that can happen?”  There was a book that I came across that was very timely to this renaissance I was experiencing at that time a few years ago:  The Type-Z Guide to Success- A Lazy Person’s Manifesto for Wealth and Fulfillment by Marc Allen.  This is a great read.  I go back to it again and again.  His viewpoints obviously run counter to the Type-A mentality that permeates much of our consumer-driven society and the pursuit of what I call “stuff”.

One of the first exercises that he has the reader do is to stop and take out a blank sheet of paper and write “Ideal Scene” on the top of the page.  He then encourages the reader to describe in great detail EXACTLY what their ideal life looks like.  A day in the life so to speak.  What does your life look like from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed that day in your ideal life?  Where do you live?  What do you do?  How do you spend the different parts of your day? Relationships?  Car?  House?  Describe it all exactly the way you want it to look.  I am not going to tell you about my ideal scene here because this is not about what I consider to be ideal.  This is all about you and the world you seek to create for yourself.

He follows it up with several other exercises that keep you moving this idea of your ideal scene forward by breaking it down into some specific goal with specific action steps.  All of this is done in a very relaxed, but proactive way supported with lots of positive affirmations of your goals.  I like this approach because it employs time-tested methods of goal setting along with a Zen-like approach to being in harmony with one’s true self.  I could elaborate for a couple of thousand words on this, but instead I will just encourage you to read the book.  It is a quick easy read that is powerful, and poignant.  My copy is beautifully dog-eared, tattered, and full of notes and highlights.  Its sits on my kitchen table as I speak.

Part of my ideal scene involves lots of travel!

Has your life become something completely unrecognizable from what you had hoped for it to become?  Do you feel like you have lost control or direction of your life and are helpless to change the course as you are swept along by the fast moving current?  This is one of my favorite quotes by Paulo Coelho:

“What's the world's greatest lie?... It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.”

I do believe life is a wonderful combination of destiny and free will.  We ultimately have a destination we are bound for, but we have choices to make along the path.  We can move ourselves from one current of life and change our direction 180 degrees at any moment of our choosing.  Do it now.  Take out a blank piece of paper and dream big!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Treasure and Grow Relationships

This is the sixth in a 10-part series of posts on some simple actions that always lead to happiness!  Read the original post that frames this discussion HERE.

I believe people come into our lives at a particular time for a particular reason.  There are no coincidences in life.  Some people are just better at slowing down and appreciating and being present for what is happening right now.  Sometimes people come into our lives because they are supposed to teach us something we need to learn or experience as we move forward in our journey.  Other times they appear so that we can give them a gift of some knowledge, experience, or perspective that they need in their journey. 

Sometimes that interaction is very brief.  That person may pass you like a ship in the night if you are not paying attention.  It could be a two minute conversation in the check-out line at a store or a cross-country flight sitting next to them on a plane for four hours.  One never knows where inspiration might come from.  The key is to be present enough to appreciate these opportunities when they present themselves.

Where the river of our lives merged back in 2010 in Denton, TX.

Here is a great example.  In 2010 I was driving to the airport to crew a friend at the Badwater 135 across Death Valley.  As my car moved 70 miles per hour down the freeway I whiz past a guy on a touring bike that is loaded down with a sign on the back that said “Coast to Coast”.  I was on my way to a sweet little adventure, but I thought to myself that this guy is really deep into one right now here in the middle of North Texas.  I could have continued on my way, but something told me to stop and find out more about this guy’s story.  I pull over a few hundred yards in front of him and greet him with a smile.  Almost an hour later I am back on the road.  Turns out this guy was one of the most interesting people I had ever met.  Frosty Wooldridge.  He was placed alongside that road at that moment in time because I was supposed to learn some things from him relevant to my journey in life and the transformation I was going through in my life at that time.

Frosty’s Walden Pond of the Rockies.

Frosty and I remain friends to this day.  A month ago my brother and his family moved to Golden, Colorado.  Guess who lives 300 yards away in the next neighborhood?  Frosty!  Coincidence?  I think not!  Serendipity.  I was there to see my family and reconnect with my friend Frosty just 2 weeks ago.  We went on some bike rides, shared a meal and great conversation in his home with his amazing wife Sandy, and did an overnight hiking/camping trip with him and a friend to his favorite place in the Holy Cross Wilderness.  The place was Whitney Lake at 11,000 feet elevation.  This place is Frosty’s Walden Pond of the Rockies.  It was pure magic with the fiery quilt of color Mother Nature had spread out for us to traverse during our journey.

Was it coincidence or fate that hot summer day in Texas a few years back when our paths crossed?  I think not.  I have learned many things from this amazing man who has truly lived a remarkable life.  He continues to inspire me and encourage me to live my life in that same robust manner.  I also feel I have given him some gifts in our friendship as well.  I look forward to many years of inspiration and additional shared adventures with my friend.  The point being this:  What if I had just whizzed right on by and not taken the time to follow my gut and instinct and take the opportunity to meet this person? 

It is all happening Here and Now!

I want to make one other point about building and nurturing relationships.  One has to be fully present and engaged when we are interacting with all the people in our lives.  Sometimes we are too busy multi-tasking or thinking about work or other things in our cluttered minds.  We also allow technology to get in the way.  In some ways technology like cell phones, Skype, FaceTime, etc. can bring us together with people that are important to us that may not be in the same place at a particular moment.  I also believe that it has led us to become insulated and isolated from many of the people right in our immediate presence.  Texting or playing a silly game on an electronic device while at a table in a restaurant is more common than meaningful conversation.  Next time you are in a line waiting anywhere notice how many people are head-down lost in their device(s).  Here are a few reminders about how to be more present and engaged:

  •  Turn off devices and all electronics
  • Take a 30-minute walk with someone (No devices!)
  •  Share a meal or a cup of coffee outside in a sunny spot (No devices!)
  • No multi-tasking physically or mentally.  Focus on the one thing you are doing with the person right in front of you at that moment.

One of my favorite places to Be Present….Pendl’s in Teton Valley