Animals have meaningful lessons to teach us when we pay attention. They have the ability to contribute enormous amounts of positive energy to human lives. When you watch a puppy trip over its own floppy ears it warms your heart even though you may be in a horrible mood. When you give affection to your dog or cat you’re able to stop, if only for a minute, your incessant thinking about an unappreciative boss or unhappy relationship. Animals live in the moment and they can bring you along into the present where your worries about the past and future cannot follow. Many of us have rare moments of elation throughout our day while a dog only needs to hear the words “cookie” or “walk” to celebrate as if they’ve just won the lottery. They don’t have to tell themselves a story about why life is great.
Unlike people, animals do not judge themselves unfavorably. A cat will lazily lounge for hours without guilt over what it should have accomplished and will demand affection that suits their schedule without feeling selfish. Their day is perfect as it is with no use for justifications or explanations. People tend to build walls around themselves with words and thoughts. They judge themselves as harshly as they judge others if not more so. Animals may communicate with some semblance of a language but they don’t use it to form positive or negative opinions of themselves. They just know how to be.
They also help us escape from our prison of problems. I was waiting on the tarmac ready to board a plane traveling from Nepal to India. I had taken the flight several times and it made me extremely nervous due to the poor condition of the aircraft. Frightful images kept flashing through my mind that I could not seem to control. I stood at the end of the line trying to postpone the inevitable when a troupe of eight monkeys jumped a fence thirty feet away from me. They sauntered by single file unconcerned with the aircraft, the luggage cars, the fuel trucks or the forty people standing there. They looked over as if to say “whatever” and marched across the entire runway. They climbed up the side of the terminal and sat down on the roof. I watched in awe with a huge smile on my face and forgot all about my visions of doom. A close encounter with any animal brightens my thoughts instantly.
That is why I love dogs unapologetically to the point that I sometimes offend people. On numerous occasions I have approached a mother gushing over her dog without taking notice of her baby. I realize my mistake by the perplexed or disturbed look on her face as I bend down past the stroller to pet the puppy. When I walk by a dog I usually send out strong vibrations of affection. That alone will sometimes make a dog wag like crazy and beam a smile back at me using its entire body. It’s a rare occasion that you walk past a person and they smile brightly at you for no apparent reason although it creates the same inexplicably wonderful feeling. Animals’ hearts are wide open and they help us open our hearts too.
People are devoted to their pets because they experience unconditional love and unconditional loving. We come home and can be our authentic selves without trying to please others. We are allowed to be flawed and are still accepted and cherished. Our pets help us connect to life. When you see the simple joy in them it reminds you of the simple joy in yourself. How amazing is that? So welcome the feeling of being alive by petting a kitten, listening to a bird song or watching a squirrel as it watches you.
The creatures of this Earth help us live better lives and be better people.
It is really very strange how perfectly designed the universe is for life. Everything from the minuscule to the massive, from atoms to stars appears flawlessly made just for us. We wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for a hundred coincidences. Science refers to this long list of cosmic close calls as the “Goldilocks Principle.” The name implies that the universe is neither “too this” nor “too that”, but instead is “just right” for life. How many explanations can there be for this astronomical collaboration? To my knowledge the most popular interpretations are that the universe exists solely because of chance or because of God. I am intrigued by a third alternative, which advocates that neither God as a supreme being nor the random roll of the dice satisfy the question.
The scientific community has been clamoring over the discovery of the Goldilocks Principle. The list of fortuitous circumstances includes the commonly accepted event known as the Big Bang. If the expansion of the universe had been just one part in a million more or less powerful, stars would never have formed. Also topping the list are the four universal forces; the nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force and the gravitational force as well as the constants necessary for the existence of elements, atomic interactions, liquid water and planets. An example is the constant, which creates fusion in stars. Without fusion we would be without heavier elements and therefore without life. Tweak electromagnetism and neither atoms nor the entire visible universe would exist. Other contributions include the Elementary Charge, Atomic Mass Unit, Electron Mass, Hydrogen Ground State, Neutron Mass, Planck Constant, Nuclear Magneton, Proton Mass, Bohr Radius, Speed of Light in a Vacuum and the Newtonian Gravitational Constant. Make itty bitty changes to any one of these and we wouldn’t be here.
Our highly unlikely reality is bizarre. It seems almost suspicious that we are in the right location, enjoying a perfect temperature and just happen to have a physical and chemical makeup that hit the bull’s eye dead center. Any person facing a firing squad of a thousand men would be a little surprised if every bullet just happened to barely miss. Would you really say it was luck? Would you be more inclined to think a divine intervention had spared you? Scientists are exceptional at making observations but leave the biggest wringer of them all, why life exists, left unanswered. The Big Bang theory asks us to accept that our infinite yet custom-made universe consisting of trillions of tons of matter instantaneously burst out of absolute nothingness. Then an accidental cocktail of molecules shaken for billions of years launched a fruity drink made of hummingbirds, rhododendrons and self-awareness. Is this really the explanation they expect us to believe?
The mystery of creation can easily be accounted for by an all knowing, all-powerful absolute being which we sometimes refer to as God, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva and Yahweh. It requires great effort to conceive of an omnipotent universal prime mover just as the concepts of eternity or the edge of the cosmos are impossible to comprehend. Although the existence of God would explain how all the tiny pieces of the massive puzzle fit perfectly together it doesn’t explain everything. I personally am more prone to believe in a boundless single creator than I am a random set of coincidences but it still does not answer all of my questions. Why did God create us? What existed before God? This is where faith comes in. Faith is trust or confidence in something. Faith is a belief without the need for proof. I am led by faith to the third possibility of life and am encouraged by scientific observation.
Quantum mechanics asserts that everything exists in an ambiguous state. It holds that a particle of matter has a chance of being in any location or in several locations all at once. Physicists call this erratic state a “wave function” which describes a single particle existing as a wave of probabilities. Even more bizarre is the fact that when you try to measure or observe this wave of probabilities the wave function collapses sending “ripples of certainty” through space and time as the particle chooses a single spot to exist. This experiment has been performed repeatedly for decades producing the same results. Therefore observation alone (or consciousness) actually changes physical reality. It seems possible then that consciousness can not only change reality but also create reality. The universe itself might exist in a wave of probabilities until forced by observation to choose a form.
What if we ourselves existed as pure consciousness in a state of infinite possibilities? Maybe we observed ourselves and collapsed our very own wave function, which sent ripples of certainty throughout the cosmos. What if we created ourselves? It is conceivable that life created the universe instead of the other way around. If this were true then of course when the universe collapsed into a specific state, it would have chosen a state that allowed for the consciousness responsible for the collapse. In this scenario consciousness is the imperative role that created the universe. This is not so implausible to those who believe in a mystical God and see both themselves and the creator as one in the same. I don’t expect people to immediately embrace this concept. I would however like people to understand that with enough repetitiveness even the most cockamamie idea can be accepted. Isn’t the idea of throwing a box of toothpicks in the air and having them land in the shape of the Taj Mahal also kind of ridiculous?
The question left unanswered is similar to that about God. What created consciousness? We are mere mortals and if you believe life is more than just a fluke, faith is necessary. Why then would consciousness want to bring about physical existence? Why would it desire physical form? Perhaps it’s very simple and it only wanted to experience itself. Imaginably consciousness brought about life so it could watch a hummingbird fly, smell a rhododendron, feel the warmth of the sun and be able to smile. It is possible that we are here because we wanted to create. If you believe you are here to create then you begin to understand how vital your imagination and perspective are to your creation. You may often find your experiences in life to be “too this” or “too that.” Whether you find this theory interesting or absurd it is essential to understand that you alone interpret your observations and you alone are able to create a world that is “just right.”
Your attention may turn possibilities into certainty.
You may have to work to be a good photographer but you have to fight to be a successful photographer. Surprisingly the fight doesn’t have to get bloody. You don’t need to claw your way to the top. The true fighting spirit lurks in a quiet corner where Buddhist monks are heavyweights. A creative mind and magnetic personality will only get you so far; success comes with diligence. Diligence is earnest and constant effort to achieve what is undertaken. This simple virtue seems to be in the back pocket of every successful person I have ever met.
When my yearlong, round-the-world Unknown Photographer adventure fell through, I took it pretty hard. It was a travel photographer’s dream and I wanted to be a travel photographer! Who doesn't? Things rarely turn out like you plan and you have to roll with what comes your way. I started thinking about my next steps and it became readily apparent that my creative process was a little messy.
“Should I start a new photography business? What would I enjoy doing the most? I have to clean the house. I can’t afford a studio. I could create a boudoir portfolio! I could shoot my neighbor! I need to look into trains to Vancouver. I don’t know any make-up artists. What about starting a website? Blogging every day is hard. I could blog twice a week? I have to calibrate my monitor. I wonder what the temperature in Aruba is right now? I need to buy more blueberries. Who just texted me? I’m going to the store.”
When your mind is working like this you can see how easy it is to get sidetracked. How many times do you let yourself get sidetracked before you put a plan into action? The world of endless possibilities is a fantastic place but it is also the perfect breeding ground for feeling overwhelmed and immobilized. Self-doubt and procrastination are the enemies of possibility!
I can easily get caught up in an all-or-nothing mentality. When I try to figure it all out or get it all done today or do it all perfectly, I get nothing done at all. I’m realizing that answering all of the questions is not the hard part. It’s taking the time to sit down and answer them.
This is where the importance of earnest and constant effort comes in to play. I need to start with the simple task of scheduling four hours at the same time every day to sit down and do the work. When I say, “do the work,” what I really mean is just set aside the time as if I were going to a regular job. Even if I have no idea where to begin or what I want to accomplish that day, I just have to show up. And I have to trust that if I show up, the answers will get answered, the creativity will start to flow and the inspiration will come. I need to turn off the phone, stop tweeting and do the work!
If you’re trying to become a better photographer you need to pick up your camera and practice every day. If you want to start a photography business you need to sit down and work on the business every day. I have no problem brushing my teeth every day or buying a soy chai latte. The reason I don’t procrastinate in buying a latte every morning is because it isn't life changing. The more important the work, the more likely I am to procrastinate.
If you are procrastinating it is probably a good sign you have something important to do. There are two opposing forces inside of you. The force that wants to move forward and do your best in the world and the force that wants to watch another episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. I’m not afraid of hard work but I can certainly find something unimportant to do when I am not sure what to do or where to start.
When I said you have to fight to be a successful photographer I meant you sometimes have to fight yourself. We all know we can be our own worst enemy. Steven Pressfield sums it up in The War of Art when he says you have to “slay the dragon every morning.” Something seemingly so simple is the key to my success. I’m putting a lot of faith into this process. I’ll let you know how it turns out! I would appreciate any tips or advice from those of you who already do this. I am a strong woman looking at a wide open future and I'm ready to fight!
There is nothing like an exotic location to get your heart racing for a photo splurge. The first time I went to Kathmandu, Nepal, I couldn’t put my camera down for a week. I was obsessed! There came a point where I had to force myself to relax and enjoy the sights without taking photos. When you travel to a new place there seem to be photo opportunities in every direction all at once. It’s hard to control yourself and you feel like you’re getting high off a photography rush. Don’t you wish you felt that way every day walking out your front door? Maybe some of you do, but for others it can be a challenge to keep the spark alive!
When I travel anywhere I get this insatiable need to photograph. So, where does it go when I’m walking through my own neighborhood? If you could see your neighborhood, town or city as if seeing it for the very first time, what would you photograph? Let's put it to the test! I challenge YOU (you and me) to walk out your front door with new eyes and find something cool to shoot! It is an opportunity to stretch your imagination! We get visually numb to the sights we see every day so this will definitely be a challenge.
This is a great exercise for photographers because it gets us out there shooting and it helps us see our surroundings from a new perspective.
If we challenge ourselves to see something new we never know what we might find. Just another reason to get out and shoot! If you accept the challenge please post your photos to my Facebook page. I'll post my photos soon!
Enjoy the photos of Nepal! I took them all the first day I landed in Kathmandu!
I think it’s about time I start charging what I’m worth. For the past two years I’ve been hoping someone would hand over a magic equation I could use to charge my clients the right amount. I need to build up my confidence when it comes to getting paid! I’ve listened to photographer’s who are successful and I respect and they all have a similar message: Charge what you’re worth! How do you know what you're worth? I've decided to come up with my own equation I can use every time I send a client the bill!
Know Your Value + Play the Game + Always Hustle + Have Confidence = $$$
Know Your Value
First thing’s first, you have to know your market. You should know what photographers in your area are charging for the services you provide. Use the market price as a starting point and add or subtract depending on your experience. You have to know your value. You have to take all of your experience into consideration when you’re billing a client. Your value includes the hundreds of hours you’ve clocked shooting, all the money and time you’ve spent researching, buying and learning to use gear, the money and time spent on photography education, all the hours learning new software, all the hours spent editing and all the money you've spent on supplies, travel and living expenses while pursuing photography. You take all of that experience with you to every shoot.
Peter Hurley charges $1,200 for a headshot. If that sounds crazy to you it’s probably because you have no idea how much time, energy and money Peter has spent living, working and breathing photography. He talks about his pricing in The Art Behind the Headshot and explains what he’s bringing to the table every time he charges a client. He knows his value.
Play the Game
Knowing the market isn’t enough. You have to be able to play the game. It’s really just the psychology of marketing. Ultimately you need your client to think you're worth a little more than they can afford. In fact people who think they receive a discount seem to enjoy a product less than those who pay full price.
Patrick Hall from the Fstoppers was telling us about bidding on commercial shoots in a Google+ Hangout the other night. He said to ask each client the price range for an assignment to avoid bidding too low. If you bid low on a commercial shoot with a big budget the client won't think you're good enough. Playing the game isn't easy but you have to remember people are more emotionally driven spending money than you might think. They want to believe your service will somehow make their life better or make them sexier or much happier. It is all about the perception of the value of your services. The way others perceive your value depends entirely on how you present yourself to them. It's better if you truly believe you are worth more than your client can afford but if not you had better learn how to play the game and fake it!
Jasmine Star, one of the most successful photographers I know said that if you aren’t hustling for clients, you’re not charging enough. She said you should always be pushing yourself. You do have to hustle in this business! Working for yourself is not a piece of cake. Success is rarely handed to you on a silver platter without a lot of hard work. You can never be complacent. You have to put yourself out there over and over again. I recently decided that I should always feel a little uncomfortable with the amount I'm charging my client. If I'm not a little nervous handing my client the bill, I'm not charging enough.
If you lack a belief in your ability it might be time to dig deep. When you work for yourself it’s critical to your survival to know what you’re worth and be confident charging it. Some of us know the value of our work and some of us are plagued by insecurity. If you find yourself wondering why you still lack confidence charging clients you may need to work on your values around money. We are all raised to think about money differently and this effects how we earn, save and spend it. Having confidence is believing that there will be enough work and enough money to go around. For me, having confidence in my ability as a photographer means believing I can be self-sufficient! Being self sufficient means working for myself and spending my time and life the way I want to and that means freedom!
Know Your Value + Play the Game + Always Hustle + Have Confidence = $$$ = Freedom
Any advice you folks can give me on this topic would be greatly appreciated! How do you charge what you're worth? I'd love to hear what you think about my equation. What did I forget? How can I make it better?
We have a winner! Thanks to everyone who joined the contest and submitted their worst photo ever using selective color. The competition was stiff as you can see by visiting my Facebook page.
And the winner is…Jesse Hoorelbeke!
Here’s the worst of the worst!
Congratulations Jesse! Your "I am the 18%" tee will be mailed out to you ASAP!
There’s been a running joke in our Google+ Hangouts lately about selective coloring. The consensus seems to be that it’s never a good idea and can’t possibly be done well. They’ve even taken it so far as to say it’s a crime against photography! I’ve kind of been playing devil’s advocate. I think it's possible to make selective coloring tasteful. I thought it would be cool to have a contest and get everyone to post their best image. Just to show everyone in the Hangouts that it can be done. But then I thought, why would you want to try to make them good when it's so fun making them REALLY BAD?? Lately I've seen some pretty good examples (like the photos below) and it got me wondering just how bad does it really get?
Let’s put it to the test!
Let’s have a contest to see who can create the absolute WORST example of selective coloring! It can be of anything as long as you keep it clean! Just use a photo you have taken.
Post your images to my facebook page HERE!
Whoever posts the worst example of selective coloring will win their choice of an Unknown Photographer tee or an "I am the 18%" tee from UnknownPhotographer.net. What's the worst you can do? Selective color your hearts out!
This is going to be funny! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!
Although we didn’t reach our goal, the Unknown Photographer Kickstarter project was a huge success! It’s an incredible feeling to have a big dream and put it out into the universe! It’s even more astonishing to have friends who support that dream. How cool is it to have raised the money we did? YOU PEOPLE ARE AWESOME! We want to thank all of you for believing in the Unknown Photographer project! The fact that you were willing to be part of it just shows us that we should stop at nothing to make it happen.
So what if there are obstacles? Aren’t there always? Sometimes you have to be careful because when the obstacles arise, the self-doubt creeps in. When self-doubt becomes the loudest voice in your head you just have to get LOUDER! Obstacles are a chance for us to regroup. They help us look at things from a different perspective. The path towards our goals isn't a straight easy freeway. It's more like a trail in the woods. It always twists and turns. Just because we aren’t going straight doesn’t mean we aren’t moving forward.
You have to be flexible with your dreams! Sometimes they are in disguise. Part of being successful in this life is knowing that we may end up going in a different direction than we first thought. The path you’re on may lead you somewhere unexpected and your dream may look completely different than you imagined.
We believe in the Unknown Photographer and we’re going to stay on this road wherever it ends up leading us. Our original idea may change a little depending on the funds we raise and the response we get from all of YOU! We thought we were going international for a year but because of the overwhelming response from photographers in the US, we’ve decided to revamp the show a little and spend some time here. We're still going global! Check out all the details about our plans for Season 2 on the UnknownPhotographer.net FAQ.
Is this a big crazy idea? Yes! You people are just as crazy as we are and we love you for it! Thanks again to everyone who donated their hard earned cash towards our Kickstarter project! Thanks to everyone who has supported us with their tweets, posts and shares. THANK YOU!
I'm going to keep following my dream of traveling the world, connecting with the people in it and photographing it all!
"The Unknown is what makes life interesting. Come with us and let Unknown Photographer inspire you as we seek the unknown through photographers' eyes.
A travel/photography show like no other, Andy Strachwsky & I will circle the globe for an entire year uniting people and places through one universal language: the power of photography.
Armed only with the gear on our backs, a passion for exploration, a love of life and a desire to share the gift of knowledge, the possibilities become endless. In each of our 30 destinations we will discover unknown photographers, share their photographic techniques, explore their culture and document their stories.
Come with us on our journey around the world for one year, discovering the unknown!"
We're going to start the trip in Asia and work our way West through India, into the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America and landing in Mexico on December 21st, 2012 to end the year at the Mayan ruins.
View Unknown Photographer Show Tour 2012 in a larger map
We're so excited about this adventure! We're so excited to meet as many of you as possible!
- Hong Kong
- Sri Lanka
- South Africa
The Art of Flight may be old news to some of you but I just can't help myself. It's the best movie I've seen. I love the cinematography and the ultra slow motion which gives it a surreal quality. It's the ultimate extreme sport movie. One of the reasons it keeps your heart racing is because the rider is facing death in every single shot. I've done a lot of backcountry heli-boarding in Alaska and I know first hand, how many ways you can die in mountains like these. All the more reason to appreciate what it took to make this movie because you know for every shot shown there were twenty others that didn't make the cut. Either because someone didn't land the trick or ragdolled down a 55 degree face. This type of cinematograhy is hopefully the future of documentaries.