11 January 2011

365

Bullwinkle
Nope. Not me.

I've seen some great ones. I've enjoyed visiting many who undertake
the project. Many friends and bloggers have done it and actually completed a year or more "Picture-a-Day" themes. Some of them have done such an outstanding job, all I can do is stand back in awe, eyes popped out of my head, and drool.

But nope. Not me. I will not do a 365. Period.

RockyI spent 14 years in the field of journalism. I spent many of those years being THE photographer or THE pre-pressman (actually, pre-presswoman, I suppose). I also spent a couple of years being an underling, vying for front page space on a daily basis. It was a HUGE feather in the cap of all editorial staff members to make the front page any day of the week. (Not just photos, either. Making the lead story was a gigantic continual goal.)

The first time I went out as a newbie, a seasoned and experienced pro saddled with the responsibility of training me, both of us assigned to shoot the very same assignment, an unvoiced competition emerged between us. I instinctively knew only one photo would actually see ink, as they said in those days, even though I'd never worked for a newspaper before. I remember the feeling when I saw the paper rolling off the press the next day with my photo four columns wide on the front page. I'll never forget that feeling. It may well be the highest I've ever soared, other than when I married The Lizard.

I was asked to train my replacement when I left that newspaper. My replacement had many more years under his belt than me, but he had never been a photographer for a newspaper. He was pretty green, another term they used way back then, and it didn't mean environmentally conscious or alien from another planet. He didn't know the first thing about processing film in chemicals, much less getting that film onto reels in the dark without kinking. He had no clue how to bounce a flash. And he didn't know why red came out as black in a black and white photo. (No one ran color way back then. We're talkin' days of the dinosaurs. Yes, I'm that old.)

I remember getting into the same mental competition with him as my very first front page shot. We were covering the same event, and I was his mentor. It would have been the right thing to do to let him win. Slack off and let him have the front page. I'd had my share by then. I wasn't going out on a sour note. We frequently received letters to the editor begging for more wildlife pictures. Everyone knew me. It wouldn't hurt me one bit to let him have that moment of glory.

New Mexico OryxBut what I lack on the bicycle, I definitely more than made up for behind a camera. I shot to kill, and I won, and I continued to win for the remainder of my two weeks as I trained him, and not one ounce of guilt crossed my platter. I wanted to go out with a bang. And I wanted to show my publisher what I thought of training a totally inexperienced replacement who was making, in his first two weeks, nearly double what I was making after eight years, because he was a family man and I was... childless. To heck with doing what was right. Back then, I just wanted to prove that I was worth what they were paying him.

If I had to relive that same experience today, the outcome would have been different. My attitude would have been different. I would be different. Front pages don't matter as much any more to me. My name in lights isn't the thrill it once was. And quite frankly, I can post any picture I want anytime I want because I'm my own boss and my own editor now. If no one likes it, no big deal. What matters is that I like it.

My, how I've changed.

And that's why you'll find no 365 here. I've done my time. I served my sentence. I even won my own self-imposed competitions.

There are enough deadlines, projects, goals and unreasonable requests in my life to keep my imagination and endurance active and churning. If my life had been different, if I hadn't spent 14 years trying to be "the front page," maybe a daily photo would be more of a challenge for me. Maybe I would be curious if I could pull it off. Maybe I would be just a bit more competitive.

Sometimes, when I'm shooting, for my own personal use, a big event that attracts hundreds of other aspiring photographers and wannabes, I still catch myself trying to outshoot. I still go into "front page" mode. I watch to see what angle everyone else is getting. I study their lenses. I try to make my shot different. I try to make my shot better.

But there's not a drop of competitive blood still flowing in my veins. Not a single molecule. Plenty of photo chemicals and newspaper ink still circulate through my core, but there's no ambition. None whatsoever. ;)


Porky

8 comments :

  1. Oh no, I have THE same feeling. I have left the busy ICT two years ago and now I do what ever I want to do.

    Nowadays I am not busy, I have no stress....less money and work but more life :)

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  2. No wonder you get such amazing shots of nature! That is soooo cool! I wish I had the time to do a 365. It could be interesting, especially since I just cut my own bangs last night. Haha.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with being competitive if you're able to say, with good grace, "Hey, good job" if you lose. It's definitely hard to do that, though.

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  3. as one who is doing a 365 on flickr I can understand, however, my goal was to take a year to off and on celebrate a very cool trip to DC. 39 of my 162 so far have been from that trip including last night's Carol Burnett's curtain dress. I am glad I long ago stepped away from all the groups at flickr and have formed a small tribe that has become quite supportive in what will likely be my first and last 365.

    since you speak of a new training attitude, any chance you can east and be my return to cycling coach this spring????

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  4. That's an absolutely amazing moose photo, although I know that accolades weren't the point of your post!

    Funny, those of us with some competitiveness in our blood never really lose it. I used to be a very serious road bike racer. Part of why I don't ride the roads anymore is that I can't turn off the competitive part of me. I'm able to be much more mellow on a mountain bike. But, every now and then, some testosterone-addled guy decided to lay down the gauntlet when we're on the same trail, and I feel the need to show him that I can still fly. Nope, not me either ;)

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  5. Wow, this post was very uplifting and inspiring. I feel the same way as you described in the paragraph before the last one! (But Ive never had a job with a newspaper!) but you've really touched my heart and mind in this one.... And thanks for stopping by my blog ;)

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  6. I was so enjoying your story of the newspaper biz, especially your front page win, until I read about your replacement making double when you'd been there 8 years. Bastards! Pisses me off! Your wildlife photos are the absolute best. You're amazing and I'm so grateful that you share you talent with us through your blog!

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  7. What a great post, and great explanation how you've arrived at where you are today.

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  8. I feel 365 is too big of a commitment, I only allowed my husband to talk me into it for the book I hope to compose about being a survivor - then I'm beck to whenever the urge strikes, lol. I love every one of your photos here and did not know this about you! Great to get to know you more!

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