23 July 2019

Travel: Reward or Education?

View from Finca Neblinas del Bosque, Miraflor, Nicaragua near Esteli. 

"Travel is not a reward for work, 
it is education for living." 

This was a meme I saw on Facebook a few months ago.

It was layered over the top of a nice picture of a guy standing on the banks at a bend in a river that cuts through wooded mountains. Scenic, right?

I don't get into a lot of memes but THIS one, I enjoyed and I thought it was very thoughtful as well as thought-provoking. It's got me writing about it, so it must be. The easiest analogy that I can think of that explains my reasoning is a comparison to READING. As with travel, not everyone is a reader. However, I know that no one will say to me that their life is just fine having never learned to read. You read every day even if its just the street signs as you drive, the menu at your restaurant, or the prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet to make sure you're taking the right one. The question is whether or not what you read is meaningful, inspires you, and is nurturing.

A quick Google search for "benefits of reading" gave me a few articles that basically agreed on 8 primary benefits. Now, in no way am I suggesting I have mastered all of these. I'm still learning! But, let me relate them to travel and how I think I have benefited from hitting the road. Maybe you can relate, as well.

Miraflor, Nicaragua near Esteli. 
Mental Stimulation/Improved Focus 

This was probably the first immediate benefit I can recall. Traveling abroad brought my focus front and center. How many times have you driven to work and back home and don't even remember the drive? All your senses become immediately engaged when the different smells and sights catch your attention. You instinctively become more aware.

Stress Reduction 

Traveling, by nature helps promote a sense of well-being. Sometimes you just need to get out of your own element for a bit of a perspective change. Nature walks can have the exact same effect but they don't last as long. Traveling helps me take my mind off negative circumstances by changing how I view those circumstances which have not really changed at all... only my perspective of them has been altered. Problems may still be there when you get back but you are much more refreshed and replenished to deal with them.

Knowledge and Education  

Again, this is primarily about perspective, and a little bit more. You can only learn so much in a book about riding a bike. And if you ever involve yourself in a conversation or try to form an opinion about a group of people that you have never met, I think you should really hold your thoughts to yourself. Learning about a culture first-hand is the best thing you can do. Talk to them. Finding solutions is best done when you know both sides of the story. Not only that, I get an expansion on my world history, geography, culture, and the local landscape.

Members, Black Souls Biker Group of Esteli, Nicaragua photographed in Somoto

Increased Empathy 

Empathy - noun - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
synonyms: affinity with, rapport with, sympathy with, understanding of, sensitivity toward, sensibility to, identification with, awareness of, fellowship with, fellow feeling for, like-mindedness 

Is there ever a situation where too much empathy is a problem? You can feel how you want about your neighbor or other people, but one specific potential benefit of travel I would hope everyone could take advantage of is this one. Getting to know a culture or somebody with first-hand knowledge and understanding is a blessing. You are afforded the opportunity to see that their dreams, aspirations, problems, and hardships might not so different than your own. Taking an opportunity to see and experience things for yourself instead of depending on second-hand or biased information can offer you a truth that may not otherwise be available to you. At least this way, you KNOW!

Here are a few more benefits that were listed:
  • Stronger Analytical Thinking 
  • Tranquility and Better Sleep 
  • Vocabulary Expansion
  • Entertainment 

Ranch at Night near Somoto, Nicaragua

For any of this to stick, Travel has to be a way of life. Your education continues for the rest of your days. So KEEP Traveling! VACATIONS are a reward for work. Maybe I get too much into semantics here, but I differentiate Vacation from Travel. Going to Cancun to an all-inclusive resort for a week and never leaving said resort is NOT travel. That's a vacation no different from Disneyland. Traveling, on the other hand, is a state of mind that is more about a life experience that brings you to another land and or people. It blesses and changes you, and hopefully, you have the opportunity to share inspiration and knowledge in like manner where ever you go.

10 July 2019

How To Make a Crappy Photo GREAT with ONE Click!!

"Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for the unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual."

~ Edward Weston

Maybe because I use photoshop and am often reading or view tutorials on editing, I get adds that tout some software that lets you improve your images in one click. But I have my own sure-fire one-click method to improve your image in 4 easy steps:

Step 1: Rethink the original shot. Ask yourself should you even have taken that photo in the first place. If the answer is YES, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Click the shutter button on your camera to take a better friggin' photo.

Step 3: Don't worry about Step 3, just take a better friggin' photo.

Step 4: Revisit Step 3 if you somehow got this far.

Alright, I confess. I can't stand these 1-click wonder photo improvement guarantees from people trying to sell photo editing software or apps. I am a fan of good photoshop work or even good photo editing tools on your phone. I don't even care if it takes ONE CLICK to do it. But a crappy shot is a crappy shot. Trash it. Taking a better shot is the only thing that fixes a crappy shot. Take another shot instead of trying to fix a bad image with filters. In the military, we used to call such a notion as polishing a turd. Don't polish turds. They are still turds and likely polishing them will only make them look worse.

Full-disclosure. I am a photo traditionalist. I come from the old school of film and darkrooms... you know...Pre-IG/FB. I know that photography has not always been accepted as an art form and I definitely care about the Art of Photography and detests anything that diminishes it, cheats the business of it, or otherwise disrespects it. Edward Weston was one of the early pioneers to bring Photography to the forefront of the art debate. With the help of wife/model Charis Wilson, he was first to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship Grant to go out west and photograph... well, the West! He received this award twice, actually in consecutive years.

"Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for individuals who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

I would rather proclaim to would-be shooters to get better! Often photographers complain that everybody with a camera is a photographer nowadays. I've tried to always take a higher road and encouraged my fellow artists in a more optimistic fashion. When I see them polishing turds though... Well, I am not as positive and optimistic. I'll call you out in a second. Why diminish your skills? Why cheat the game? Just do better!! I don't fear photo advances that might, in turn, create lower barriers to entry. I can't prevent them. They will happen, so we may as well treat them as opportunities to further distinguish ourselves and challenges us to stay atop our game.

I think photographers who shot film, developed in a darkroom, and made actual prints are the ones who are most likely to be irked by this. Those who have only shot digital may not be put off so much. I may sound like the old man in the neighborhood kicking the kids of his grass. I get this. But you know, I wonder how many photographers have actually never printed any of their own work. Digital images dominate FB, IG, and the such. Millions upon millions of images are being created every single day. How many actually get made into physical tangible copies that you can hold in your hand or hang on a wall?

I will try, going forward, not to get agitated when I see these ads or when beginner photogs ask me about such "tricks" and if they work. But for those of you who actually want to improve, I say learn the principles of light! Get understanding on how to utilize the Manual Mode on your camera, (or for goodness sake get one that HAS a manual mode). Study the greats. Play with artificial flash! You may be surprised at what you find out that comes to be considered great. Don't be fooled. Some of our greatest shots were not tack-sharp or great resolution. And mistakes like light leaks or concepts that ran counter to "rules" in photography are actually what defined Perfection! The irony! Bob Ross called them "Happy Little Accidents".

And with that, I will come down from my soapbox and leave you to your fun.

Thanks for listening.