2022 Photography Rewind - The Year of Change
Normally my blog posts looking back at the year are short on text and focused solely on where my photographic adventures went. Strap in if you want to read this years recap as it will be a little longer as I share some personal changes and stories. Of course you can choose the TL;DR mindset and just enjoy some of my favorite photos of the year... from what I have processed, there is still more to go through!
2022 has been a big year of change and firsts for me. Fortunately all of this is on the positive side. I have always been someone that has embraced change pretty well, looking forward to change rather than fearing it. As the saying goes the only constant in life is change. Things will change all around us even if we choose to do nothing. Personally embracing it when it lands in front of you or seeking it out when you know it's needed has helped me be successful in life personally and professionally.
Dick Proenneke is someone that has inspired me ever since first reading about his life's story well over a decade ago. He is one of many that during what we consider to be mid-life, pausing whatever they are doing for their career to decide where path of life will take them next. For him it was leaving the city and regular job to live mostly isolated off the land for the next several decades. While I love the outdoors, including quiet space away from others at times, I have no desire for that level of change. I do enjoy being with my wife and kids which I know they won't sign up for living in a cabin without electricity or running water in -40 Fahrenheit winter weather! The story of Dick is one that got my attention not only for the uniqueness of it but as a reminder that there are plenty of people in their 40's and 50's that decide to stop, look around, and then go forward in a different direction with their life or work.
For me that change in 2022 meant leaving the corporate tech space I have worked in for close to 25 years. All my roles and companies going back to the late 90's were in the corporate world ranging from smaller startups to large enterprise organizations. With this change I decided to focus my time and effort on my photography business full time. It's not an easy decision to make, and it's certainly not one I am making that will bring me a larger paycheck. If anything it's the complete reverse. I left to pursue something different that I really enjoy and will give me more flexibility in life knowing it will be a pay cut to make it happen. We can day dream all we want about how cool it will be to do something totally different yet leaving a well paying job and industry you have worked in for multiple decades is not easy. I have met many people that left the corporate space because they hated it. For me that isn't the case. I enjoyed the majority of positions I held, places I worked, and people I engaged with. It is after all what has helped me become who I am today. For a variety of reasons it seemed like the right time to give this change a try.
I started asking myself questions about where I want to head work wise even before the covid pandemic uplifted many of our lives causing us to re-evaluate what is most important to us. This unique time in history only propelled my desired for change. As someone that always chose to work in the office I was now working full time at home realizing that I could be home full time and make it work. While I hope to have many more decades of fulfilling vibrant life on planet earth, the reality is that once your well into 40's you start to see the world a little differently. It is after all why we term this "mid-life". I intentionally left off the word "crisis" because it doesn't feel like a crisis. The only piece I would take from that definition that applies to me is an increased desire for change. Some people in their mid-life go out any buy a fancy new car or other extravagant material items, then there are people like me that are fine still driving the most expensive car I have ever purchased (surprise, it's not expensive at all and is almost old enough to drink legally at the bar). I was looking for a more meaningful change.
Part of entering mid-life and evaluating potential change is also coming to the reality of our own mortality. It's something I rarely thought of prior to the sudden passing of our friend Sam in 2017. My wife and I were both friends with him and it was how we met just over 20 years ago. He was one of those always happy, bright and successful people. Before this time I was fortunate and no friend around my age had passed. Anyone else was always a friend of someone I knew or someone I hardly knew. It was a stark reminder to me that we really have little control of when our time is up and we better do all we can to enjoy the time we have. On the flip side the positive person that I am hopes I have inherited some longevity genes from my grandma who passed away in 2021 at the young age of 104! She lived a healthy fulfilling life passed her 100th birthday. If we can all be so fortunate.
For anyone reading I made this change career wise with a few things in mind. Just in case you are thinking of abruptly jumping ship tomorrow I advise against it! First, I have a general plan of what I am currently and plan to be working on. Part of the catalyst for change now was taking over my friend David Cobb's workshop business. As he starts the retirement transition from photography workshops it became clear in our conversations that I was the right person to take the reigns and keep it moving forward. There is a high retention rate for his workshops and I have really enjoyed getting to know the regulars, and newcomers, over the years. Second, I left the corporate world on a good note and with the reality if things don't work out photography wise there is always other opportunities. We live in a world now where there is less stigma for going out on your own or taking personal breaks vs the long held belief we must hold a job at an employer continuously from our early 20's to retirement age. Lastly, while I may be fine being a starving artist I am not okay with a starving home. I didn't make the change putting our home, food on the table, or our kids well-being at risk. If any of these become a risk I will go back to the corporate world. It's that simple. I have to thank my wife for her support in this change. Without it there would not be this opportunity I am embarking on.
I left my most recent job in March of this year. A likely question is how's it going so far? One prior co-worker a couple months after I left asked me if I was enjoying my retirement and traveling to take photos all the time. I laughed, if that were only true. The year certainly involved more photography related trips and work than before, just not as much as I was thinking it would be. This is mainly because I was doing more around the house and with the kids than ever before. I even worked on a major project in the yard, something I would not have even thought about during my prior demanding day jobs. I would not change a thing though. The increased time with the kids is something I enjoyed and as cliché as it sounds, priceless. You know the chaotic three ring circus that happens every morning before leaving for work and school? That was something I rarely experienced leaving for work before the kids got up. Now I have been in it everyday which has been good for me. I will likely even miss it some when it's gone. There were plenty of times where I put work before family in the past and in this has been a chance to help bring it back into balance. Looking ahead 2023 is shaping up to be a busy year photography wise for me so to answer the question everything is going as expected since making the job shift.
For most of my life I have been an active person whether it be hiking, paddle boarding, snowboarding or you name it. I have done, and continue to do, a lot of different outdoor activities. Riding a bike prior to the last few years had always been a much more casual endeavor. Short bike rides with the family or my "long" ride of commuting about 8 miles each way on a somewhat regular basis, and then regular basis after buying an eBike.
Yet I always had thoughts of larger goals with biking, or more precisely said, longer goals. Many years ago I exclaimed to friends that someday I want to cycle Reach The Beach. This is a century ride (100+ miles) from start to finish. It means spending a whole day on a bike with a lot of elevation changes along the way. In this case over a vertical mile. Not only is the day itself a long strenuous one, it's the many days of long training rides you need to do for an event like this. I was recruited to sign up by a co-worker for the Icelandic Unicorn Cruisers team. How can you say no to a team name like that. Originally I signed up in 2019 for 2020 yet I need not go into why that didn't happen. The same continued for 2021. Then finally in 2022 the cycling fundraising event from Portland to Pacific City was back on!
I trained regularly with a number of rides in the 60 to 75 mile range. It gave new meaning to "honey, I am headed out for a bike ride, see you in a bit". More like see you in 6 hours. Given we had a much wetter spring than even Portland is used to there was a lot of time spent on the indoor bike with riding days as long as 40 miles. I was thankful for apps like Zwift to make it more interesting. The day of the 102 mile ride was amazing! Even though it started out in a unseasonably chilly down pour (nothing like being soaked from the waist down at mile 10 knowing I have 92 miles to go). Fortunately the skies cleared and dried up for about a 60 mile stretch of the ride allowing my clothes and body a chance to dry out too. My good friend Josh and I crossed the finish line together. We ate our celebratory burger meal in the windy cold rain of the coast before calling it a day. What a day to remember.
Coaching any of my kids sports teams was something I did not do. This was a combination of not knowing the sport well enough or not feeling like I could carve out the time. I certainly didn't think it would be a sport one of my girls would be playing for the very first time that I knew nothing about. Before we knew it the school year was about to start and our middle schooler said she would be trying out for volleyball.
Then started coming the emails from the head coach of what wound up being 2 middle school volleyball teams. The request was clear and dire, we need at least one more coach to help this year. Without another coach it will be hard to impossible to manage it all. It was somewhat easy to ignore the first request. I didn't know anything about the sport other than there is a ball, a net, and the goal is to get the ball over the net. Then the second request came because no one was raising their hand. I said to myself I have no excuse now to not help out. I sent my reply that I can help coach with the caveat that I know next to nothing about the sport.
I jumped through all the hoops to get approval for coaching which was like onboarding at a new job! Then I started to get to know the team and help out. I thought I would be thrown to the wolves yet fortunately their were a few other seasoned coaches there to help support me. I wouldn't be coaching a game on my own in week 1, thankfully for me, and for the girls.
In the end it was a a lot of fun to watch the girls grow their skills and friendships throughout the season. The excitement after completing a solid 3 hit pass for a point and the exuberance after the end of game buzzer when we had won. Whether I will coach again will remain to be seen what next year brings but if the need arises for my daughters team I will be there to support them again.
As someone that spent the most recent decade working in wellness and healthcare tech I have tried to live healthy a lifestyle. For the most part I have. It's not been easy for me though with an ongoing health challenge going on over a dozen years now that has taken extra energy and mental stamina at times to keep the rails on the track. Fortunately I am always a determined person, so despite these challenges I have been successful in all areas of life. I won't get into the details here but those that know me pretty well or have worked with me know what it is. Not a serious life threatening illness or anything like that. Simply something that can slow me down regularly from operating at the level I am capable of. Yet there is hope!
I have gone in and out of years where I decided to put forth the energy to see if I can solve the mystery. This was another year where I spent time with doctors appts, lab tests, and more. While nothing is a done deal, I feel like I am on the right track to potentially bring some relief and allow me to push myself physically and mentally to the next level. Where I was over a dozen years ago. On the natural side what is helping so far as the year winds down is ensuring I get exercise, sauna, cold therapy, and adequate sleep. Everyone can say a resounding "duh" as it only makes sense this is good for us but it's not been that easy. When we are too exhausted and rundown from the day to day grind it can be hard to have the energy to do what is needed. All of these I did at some level before, yet maintaining them consistently when in town seems to be helping at the moment along with other medical related remedies in progress. I mention this all as a reminder for anyone reading that might have their own unresolved health challenge as encouragement that the solution could be just another push over the next hill your walking towards.
Speaking of pushing ourselves. One thing that has clearly become a challenge in our society is pushing ourselves for downtime from being always connected. Getting off the texts, email, notifications, social media, and instant access to everything. I am just as guilty as the next person, and the battles on the home front for what is right as a family. At my last gig I made the decision for most of my tenure to not have any access to work email or instant messaging apps on my phone. This is not typical for my role and was mostly a personal experiment. It was not easy as someone that relied on the always-on access, not to mention working on challenging projects for large clients. The end result proved I could still be successful at my job, including promotion opportunities, and my overall wellbeing was better. I am trying to bring a similar mindsight to my photo business while not going as far as removing apps and email from my phone. Fortunately getting off the grid from time to time is needed my work. There is a reason why multiple articles have been published over the last handful of years like this one talking about the ultimate luxury vacation now being one that is off the grid in the middle of nowhere. As a family we strive for a one week trip completely off the grid each year. We succeeded in 2021 and partially succeeded in 2022.
One of the top experiences is getting back into workshops. I ran a workshop business with Kevin McNeal for about 4 years through 2014. I really enjoyed working with participants, it was as inspiring for me, as it was for them. Yet the demands were too much on me at the time. I was burning out leading a bunch of workshops each year, working a busy day job, and trying to spend time with my family. Something had to give and that ended up being the right thing at the time by far which was photography. More specifically the workshop business. I closed shop and from there on out I did no more than a single workshop a year co-leading with David. Until this year! I am happy to be back doing it again.
I was fortunate to join the Out of Oregon photography conference as an instructor, put on by Out of Chicago. It was a week on the Oregon Coast filled with many amazing experiences such as working with eager participants and mingling with many instructors I only knew virtually up until this event. While different than the smaller workshops I typically lead, they have a fun lively vibe if you are looking to interact with a larger group of instructors and participants. Looking forward to more Out of Chicago conferences in 2023!
The Photo Cascadia team releasing another book in collaboration with the publisher Timber Press was definitely a proud moment for all of us. This one is called Washington, Evergreen - Land of Natural Wonders. It meant a number of new podcast and article interviews for the team, including a whirlwind trip to Seattle for a book signing and interview.
For me personally the one thing I really enjoyed unexpectedly was launching the Mystery Monday series. When I came up with the idea I wasn't sure how much interest there would be yet the engagement online has been great and fun to see. It's also a reminder how far the phone in our pocket has come along. Many of my posts are simply from my iPhone. I will be continuing this into 2023. Thank you to everyone that has been playing along.
One goal I set out on early this year was to meet up with more photographers, preferably in person. I would consider myself more extrovert than introvert and with that came my one main worry about the job change, larger gaps of time not interacting with others. Fortunately I was able to meet a number of peers in person this year that I hope to continue to engage with going forward, and meet even more in the future. It really is a fun vibrant community. Yet for me the biggest lift of interacting with others is my long time friends of Photo Cascadia. While we don't interact every day it's pretty frequent which has helped bridge the gap from an always on corporate job to being mostly by myself in my home office when working.
"We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves."
- John Glenn
I appreciate all of you that support my photography and business whether it's general encouragement to actually purchasing my work, or signing up for workshops. Thank you with much gratitude!