Seven Steps for Improvement in 2014

A year ago I wrote a post titled ‘Seven Steps for Improvement in 2013’ and it remains my most popular blog post ever. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it was reblogged by the famous and widely followed photographer Matt Kloskowski of course but I also think the subject matter was one that resonated with alot of people right after the ‘New Year’ when many people kick those resolutions into high gear. So as we step into 2014 I thought it made sense to post the seven things I’ll be working on again this year. Some of them will repeat with 2013 – not because I didn’t practice them but because they are currently not completed and thus need to continue to be worked on.

1) Study the Masters – Constantly learning and there is no better way to learn than to read, study and try to emulate those who you aspire to be like. In my case I continue to visit the blogs/websites of several photographers almost daily – Stuck in Customs, Matt Kloskowski and Blame the Monkey. There is a tremendous amount of inspiration on those websites. Recently, though my favorite site is one that is run by Ian Plant called Dreamscapes. There are a number of tremendous resources on this site including free ebooks (such as this one from Yellowstone – I have to go back!) but the most valuable piece I’ve found is his book on composition called the Visual Flow. I’m reading it now and I must say the information contained in it is invaluable. He uses not only photographs but also famous paintings to explain how the composition of the elements within the frame leads to an effective picture. I can’t recommend the book highly enough because it is a fantastic read and very worth the $25 spent if you are serious about improving the way you take pictures.

2) Take More Interesting Photos – I was on and successfully completed an ambitious 365-day project with posting a photo each day. I made actually made it 515 straight days before I decided to stop trying to post one photo per day. A part of the reason I stopped putting a photo on the site each day was that some of the photos seemed to just be ‘filler’ for the website. Now that I’ve started to post a more reasonable amount 3 – 4 times a week I’m able to be more selective about which pictures I post. This also means that I don’t feel forced to take photos when I’m in a location just to post a photo from that spot. No offense to Rochester, Minnesota but I don’t find the scenery there nearly as interesting as that in say Banff National Park or Rocky Mountain National Park.

A River Runs Through It – Rocky Mountain National Park

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3) Improve my Creativity – My day-to-day job involves very little creativity. I spend alot of time in front of my computer working logically on problems with pretty clear cut solutions. There isn’t a lot of opportunity to develop creative solutions. Photography is my creative escape. A way to use and continue to develop that other half of my brain. Creativity is something we are all inherently born with – give a baby a block and they will play for hours but somehow as we get older and grow more logical we forget how to be this way. Creativity is beaten out of us by teachers, parents, whomever because the answers to exam questions involve formulating a logical, well thought out answer. I’m not complaining of course because my logic has served me well through my first 33 years but I do enjoy the hours behind a camera or in front of my computer being creative.

4) Travel More in 2014 – I love to travel. There is nothing I enjoy more. I love the planning that goes into going to a new destination, I love learning about new cultures, I love seeing and experiencing new things….thus I plan to travel more often in 2014 and when I do I plan to do it better. I mentioned in number 2 above the need to take more interesting photos and thus I need to go to more interesting places. Next week I’ll be taking a little side trip to San Francisco for a couple days to take some photos of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. We are also taking a trip to Belize and to Alaska. I’ll try to make it back to Banff and maybe even take a side trip – time permitting to Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks.

Winter Classic – Lake Louise, Banff National Park

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5) Travel Better in 2014 – Piggybacking off of number four above I’ll make sure to slow down and enjoy it all a bit more in the upcoming year. I’ve been better at that since picking up photography because thinking about the composition of the photo requires you to do that. However, I still have a tendency to try to cram too much into a day or a trip. I’m (slowly) learning but it takes time to unlearn things you’ve done your whole life.

6) (Finally) Transition to a new website and ‘teach’ more – I’ve been building a new website ( off and on for about nine months. It isn’t exactly hard to do but I just sort of start working on it, lose interest and then come back to it a few weeks later and start re-doing it. On that site I’m hoping to have more tutorial type things and maybe some videos of how I work on photos in Photoshop. I know my photos aren’t perfect of course but they are much better than when I started three years ago and since I’ve spent a lot of time self-teaching myself I think I’ve learned alot of basic stuff that I can pass on through this venue.

Bridge of Gold – Florence, Italy

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7) Become a tourist in my own town – I live in Chicago but I don’t ‘tour’ Chicago like I do when I go to other cities. In number five above I mentioned my tendency to try to do and see as much as a can in a single day while in a new city. However, when I’m home in Chicago my motivation to go and check out the historical buildings/museums/etc… stalls because I feel I can go do it another time. I love when people come to visit because it forces me to do touristy things I want to do anyways but never get around to doing.

Winter at the Bean – Chicago

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Chicago Skyline at Sunset – Chicago

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4 thoughts on “Seven Steps for Improvement in 2014

  1. Thanks for your interesting and truthful post. So many times we do get tired, add as you said “filler” pictures to many part of our lives. I to am on track to reduce the “filler” in my life this year — let’s see how human nature kicks in over time — it’s tough to keep present all the time.

    • Good for you Bob! Get rid of the filler and focus on the stuff that really matters. Human nature is tough though since like we said we tend to think about the future and the past while not living in the present. However, the more we can learn to live in the present the better off we will be. One day at a time!

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