About three years ago, in January of 2008, I bought myself a late Christmas present: a Nikon D40 DSLR with the 18-55mm kit lens. Oh, I’d fancied myself a photographer for many years, since buying a Yashica 35mm film camera in the late ’70s, but something made me decide to get back into it. Boy, am I glad I did.
Needless to say, this has been a banner year for me in photography but, rather than looking back, I’d like to look forward to 2011 and what it might bring. Every year, the company I work for has each of us put together a list of goals for the coming year, both personal and professional and, for last couple of years, my personal ones have had much to do with photography. So I thought I’d take that idea and bring it here to my blog and share them with you. I think it will keep me honest if I have some of you following along and making sure I’m making progress, and you may find that there’s something I want to do that you do too, and maybe we can work together on it—or at least share our progress with each other. Just having a “buddy” can sometimes help get you through the tough parts of a project.
First, a few guidelines. (Don’t panic. It’s only a few.) To be helpful, a goal needs to be achievable. Stating that one of my goals for 2011 is to photograph on the surface Mars would be pretty tough (though I am keeping that one on the bucket list). However, don’t limit yourself to obviously achievable goals, either. Forcing yourself to stretch a little and to get a little bit out of your comfort zone is a great idea. For me, writing my ebook was a perfect example of that kind of goal. Okay, I was more than a little outside of my comfort zone, but it was still a good goal.
The other thing is, goals need to be measurable. Just saying, “find more time to shoot” doesn’t really help you if you don’t know how much “more time” is. Sometimes, of course, you can’t help but be a little vague about what reaching that goal means because, frankly, being to specific can be a little bit crazy. If your goal is to become more familiar with your gear so you can react and shoot faster in certain situations, I don’t think you necessarily need to time yourself as if you were field stripping a weapon. (Maybe you do?) At any rate, I have a couple of goals where I just want to think I’ve gotten a little better at doing those things and don’t plan to create spreadsheets and databases to decide if I achieved it.
In the end, though, don’t be too married to any of your goals. You might find that opportunities arise that you hadn’t thought of, and just blindly sticking to your goal list instead of adding or replacing goals will cause you to miss out on something great. Be firm and don’t give up easily, but be a little flexible, too.
So here we go. My top ten goals for 2011 are:
10. Find more time to shoot. Wait, what? Oh, okay. Specifically, shoot for at least two hours for one day every weekend with a specific goal in mind. That’s 104 hours of focused practice. More if possible, but only two hours to meet this goal. (No. I’m not starting a 365 project. I have my reasons.)
9. Get better at using my camera. Specifically, spend 10 minutes every day learning one feature thoroughly, e.g., exposure compensation or follow focus. Be able to do the most common things without thinking about it.
8. Teach a local photography class. Already on my way here. I start teaching a 12-week intermediate photography course at the local arts center in February.
7. Lead a local photographic workshop. Similarly, I’m teaching a Saturday photography workshop at the local arts center in February, March and April, separately from the class.
6. Have a gallery showing (or two). Last year in June, I met some folks from a local gallery who expressed an interest in showing some of my photographs. We’ve kept in touch, but the timing hasn’t been right. This year, I’m going to work with them to find that timing and have the showing.
5. Lead my local Worldwide Photowalk. This one’s pretty easy. I’ve done this for the last two years and it’s great fun. It’s also a great way to meet new photographers and learn a little more about the craft we all love.
4. Collaborate. This one is pretty vague in that I don’t have any firm plans at the moment, but there are ideas floating around in my head that I’d want some help with. There have been whisperings in the ether, and hopefully something will come of them.
3. Write and publish at least two more Craft & Vision ebooks. I’ve already started the second one and have some notes and ideas for the third. (Hopefully, Craft & Vision agrees.)
2. Write and publish a print book about photography. No, not a self-published book using Blurb, but a real, honest-to-goodness published print book, through Peachpit, New Riders or the like. This is my “reaching” goal for 2011, much like my “publish an ebook” goal for 2010 was.
… and my no. 1 goal for 2011?
1. Savor every moment of the journey. We all know that there’s no destination here. As David says, it’s not like you suddenly wake up one day, you find your vision, and you’re done. It’s an elusive thing that changes nearly every day and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Over the last year, photography has allowed me to meet new friends, reconnect with some old friends, and generally expand my horizons. But most importantly, it’s made me a better person. Broadening your perspective through new people and places lets you grow as a human being. It can seem like a cliché, but there really is a much bigger world out there than you can fully imagine. It’s full of people and places and perspectives that you simply have to experience and experience them deeply. I’m not naive enough to think that we can all join hands and teach the world to sing, but I really do think if we all took some time to understand each other just a little bit better, many problems would disappear.
There we have it. Oh, one other thing. I’ll report back to you with progress once a quarter. Goals are no good if you write them down and then stick them in a drawer until December. You have to remind yourself sometimes of what you set out to do, even if it’s only to say, “I haven’t done anything with that one yet.”
What are your goals for 2011? Take a minute if you will, and tell me about one of them in the comments. Who knows? Maybe we can work together on something. (Or maybe I’ll just steal your ideas and make them my goals. Hmmm…)
Happy New Year, everyone. I sincerely hope you achieve everything you set your mind to… and more.