Next Chapters

I’d like to show you how two events helped to propel me into changing my thinking and improving both my life and my photography.


Here’s what I looked like as a young tyke

On Valentines Day of 1984, my mother passed away. I was in high school at the time and lived with her and my brother, as our parents were divorced. That day I was forced to start a new chapter in my life. I suddenly started to think a little more independently and started to focus a bit more on how my future might unfold.


Multiple exposure light painting lit using flashlights and sparklers

After high school, I enrolled in college where I tried to conform to the expectations that I receive an official education (since I didn’t have an obvious alternate path), find a reliable job and build my career. Near the end of my college experience, my live-in girlfriend decided to leave me and move in with my best friend, which was quite a shocker. That was the second jolt that caused me to re-evaluate my life and correct course. At the time, I was planning to become a graphic designer and continue on a traditional trajectory toward career success. That’s when I decided to start another new chapter in my life.


I’ve followed the full length of Route 66 many times. Here is one image of a series I hope to one day publish in a book on the subject

At that time, I stopped focusing on using design to make a living and started focusing on how I could design my life. I realized that I was in the driver’s seat of my own life, and should be steering it in the direction of my liking, regardless of what other people thought was the right thing to do.


Stitched panorama of waterfall in Iceland

That’s when I quit my job and started teaching Photoshop full-time. I designed a brochure, rented the Adobe mailing list, did a mailing and waited to see if people would sign up for my seminar. I had no idea if anyone would show up, but was happy to see that dozens of people decided to give the seminar a try.


Two monks at a temple in Burma

After being jolted twice, I didn’t need any more external motivation to get me to design my own lifestyle and start a never-ending quest to optimize my life. Back then, I would read at least 52 books a year (one a week) in an attempt to feed my never-ending thirst for knowledge.


Northern Lights shot in Iceland

I’ve shifted enough that I now make creating new chapters a regular part of my thinking. Here are a few other the other chapters I’ve designed over the last few decades:

1) Moved from Minnesota to Colorado to enjoy the mountains and get to a mellower climate and great views, even though I didn’t know anyone in the area.
2) Moved into the mountains of Colorado to escape the city (which I was visiting three times a month with my seminars).
3) Moved onto a tour bus so that I could explore America and photograph all the areas that I’d been dreaming about.
4) Found a special woman to share my life with and began to adapt in an attempt to create an optimal lifestyle for both of us.


Packed all my possessions into a tiny trailer and went off to live full-time in a tour bus

My next chapters will include restoring and then living on a vintage bus (details at creativecruiser.com) and eventually living on a yacht that is capable of taking us around the world.


1963 Flxible Starliner that’s being restored and will eventually become our new home

I would have never imagined that I could design my own lifestyle as much as I’ve been able to, but it all came down to having the desire and not being afraid of taking chances.

Photographically, I’ve had many chapters, all that seem to overlap, and I’m constantly searching for my next chapter. Some of the things that I’d consider to be photographic chapters include: experimenting with light painting, exploring HDR photography, following the full length of Route 66 multiple times, developing unique panorama techniques, and using Photoshop to help direct a viewer’s eye through my images.

The above video is of a 14-shot stitched panorama that was created in Bagan, Burma.

I’ve found this “next chapter” mindset to be one of the most life-altering things that has ever influenced me and I think that adopting it has the potential to radically transform your life. What’s it going to take for you to start designing the next chapter of your life?

What is calling for the largest change in your life? Your mind, your relationships, your finances, your body, your photography? How important is that compared to watching TV or playing X-box games, or doing whatever you do to merely fill your time?


Canons in Moscow

Here are a few books that have been essential in my process of taking control over my destiny: Linchpin by Seth Goden, The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez


Birds at Bosque Del Apache, New Mexico

-Ben Willmore

blog: WhereIsBen.com
photography: TheBestofBen.com
training: DigitalMastery.com
vintage bus restoration: CreativeCruiser.com