Wednesday
Mar
2013
13

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Joel Grimes!

by Brad Moore  |  29 Comments

The Human Condition

Life has its way of weeding out the weak, fragile and insecure. The problem is, there is not a person on this planet that is not to some degree exactly that. The truth is, the human condition puts us at a disadvantage from the very start.

It is said that if you are lost in the wilderness, the first thing you need to do is recognize you are lost. The great philosopher singer/song writer Paul Simon once wrote, “I am the first to admit it, but the last to know.” As a general rule, we are often totally oblivious to our human condition. When it is challenged, we panic, come undone and often just give up. But there is hope.

The single greatest reason we fail in fulfilling our dreams and succeeding in the marketplace is the fear of rejection. To overcome the fear of rejection, we need to understand our human condition, that we are all to some degree easily influenced by other’s opinions, and that we are not as strong as we might think. To prove how weak, fragile and insecure we really are let me give you an illustration.

Most of us have posted images on web sites such as Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, etc.. As a general experience, the majority of us receive positive feed back. We read things like, “this image rocks,” “love this,” “you’re the greatest,” etc…. Praise after praise. Then there is that one bad critique. Someone sticks the knife in and turns it. They say that, “your image sucks, it’s a total bore and you should quit taking pictures and keep your day job.” We have to admit, it hurts. When we go to bed at night what do we remember, the ninety nine praises? No, the one critique! Ninety nine praises and we come undone by one critique. You would think that ninety nine praises would easily offset one critique, but it doesn’t.

You may think you’re tough and maybe you have convinced most people around you that you are unshakeable. But the truth is we all have a breaking point, and in the end, come undone. It is a 100% guarantee that if you present yourself to the real world, you will be rejected. That’s right, a 100% guarantee! One person holds the power to steal your dream. One person’s discouraging words, one person slamming a door in your face, one person’s harsh criticism, and you quit, and give up on your dream.

How then do we overcome rejection? I like to look to music as an analogy to help put things in perspective. If you think about it, look at how many different types or genre of music we have available. No two people like exactly the same thing. Everyone’s taste is different. Even if you like jazz, look at how many flavors of jazz are available to us. The point is we all have likes and dislikes.

I have a teaching session called “Country Music verses Rap.” I don’t know too many people that are into Country Music that are also into Rap. This is life. So when it comes to creating images, why do we come undone when we present a “Country Music” look and a person who is into the “Rap” look, says they hate what we do?

Create anything and you will find an audience that loves it and an audience that hates it. We have to understand that the ultimate goal or end result is not to please everyone. It is a impossible task. The most important thing is whether YOU like the images you’re creating and does it fulfill YOUR vision as an artist? Master what you love, do it well and you will find an audience that will love it. To be successful, you don’t need the masses to love what you do.

I have included two images that have had many praises, but also have received their share of criticism. The image of Jessica that is extremely blown out would not have received glowing marks back in my college days. Back when creating a picture was more about getting the perfect exposure. But I love it. If fits me like a glove. I relish in the idea of pushing the envelope on how we define a photograph.

The image of basketball player Rudy Gay, where I have cut off his head, is another one of those images that received mixed reviews. When it comes to composition, we have all sorts of rules that we as a culture have deemed as acceptable or unacceptable. Cutting off someone’s head definitely hit a nerve with many of my viewers. But challenging the status quo takes a risk. Risk opens the door to explore new ground and gives us the opportunity to fulfill our vision’s as artists without preconceived ideas established by others.

So, follow your intuition and create images that you love. For every praise there is a critic. Accept the criticism with a smile on your face knowing that if you love what you are doing, then you are on the right track.

You can see more of Joel’s work at JoelGrimes.com, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and find his classes at KelbyTraining.com

Tuesday
Mar
2013
12

Want to Come Work With Us? We’re Hiring Now For Some Awesome Jobs

by Scott Kelby  |  121 Comments

Want to love coming to work every day? Come work with us at Kelby Training. We’ve got some BIG things we’re working on, and we need kick-butt people to help make it all happen. If that sounds like you, this could be the job of your dreams.

These job openings are in-house at our headquarters in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida (our offices are way cool), so you’ll have to either (a) live here already or (b) move here (lots of people move to Florida even without having jobs here). Luckily, we have really great benefits and you’ll get the opportunity to really work your butt off. But at least you’ll be doing it with some of the coolest, most creative, most fun people anywhere. Details at the bottom of this post for how to apply.

Here’s who we’re looking for:

(1) Insanely great video editors
If you’re a total shark at editing, we need you. All the editors we have are freakin’ amazing, so you have to totally “bring it.” But if you can swim with this crew, you will have a blast (well as much of a blast as you can have editing videos of me, Matt and RC and friends but you know what I mean). I truly love our video crew, and their leader, and you will, too! Totally great working environment with a real team spirit.

(2) Marketing Geniuses
We just hired an awesome Marketing Director Super-Wizard Guy, and he is putting together an absolutely kick-butt marketing team around him. We want you on that wall. We need you on that wall. You’ll need to have some serious marketing experience, lots of energy, passion for what you do, and the ability to not only come up with great ideas, but make them happen. An incredible opportunity for the right person. You can start right away (the pay’s not half bad either, you get awesome benefits, plus there’s plenty of opportunity for growth). This is the job you’ve been waiting for. Seriously.

(3) App Developer
I can get a 14-year-old kid to make an App — for this job, you have to be at least 15 (kidding). Seriously though, we need a top-notch App developer that is more than someone who can just write code. We need someone with serious design skills, who thinks UI is an art form, and is totally committed to making a user experience that is clean, simple, functional and beautiful. We have a ton of projects just waiting for you. You can start tomorrow. I’m not joking.

(4) Other Warm Bodies
OK, that’s an exaggeration — they don’t need to be warm. We’re working on a few other positions that we’ll be posting very soon, so keep an eye out here on the blog and as soon as we get them fleshed out, I’ll let you know.

A little bit about us
Kelby Media Group is an awesome place to work, with a casual work environment, really cool offices (link to photos–part 1, and part 2), and you’ll have to opportunity to really make a difference, doing some really important stuff, alongside some really brilliant people already on our team.

We only hire kick-butt, highly motivated, really smart and creative people, so if you get a job here, you know you’re the best of the best (and we treat you like it).

If any of these sounds like a perfect fit for you, or someone you know, then come and work for us! If you post a comment here asking for our HR dept, we’ll email the contact info where to can send your resume (don’t send us a stuffy resume that sounds like you’re looking for a job at Bank of America. They’ll weed you out way before it gets to me, and I want you to make the cut).

That’s the gig. Although we’re pretty casual about a lot of things, we’re really serious about finding incredible talent — people with a great attitude, ethics, passion, and personality. If that sounds like you, I want to meet you. Soon!

Monday
Mar
2013
11

7 Quick Monday Things (and a big thanks to my readers!)

by Scott Kelby  |  14 Comments

1. Whoo Hooo —- three years in a row!
First up, I want to start with a really big thanks to the readers of my books, because today it was announced that for the third year straight I’ve been named the #1 top-selling photography book author in the US (according to data compiled from Nielsen Bookscan). Here’s a link to the official press release from my Publisher, Peachpit Press.

My humble thanks to Nancy Aldrich-Ruenzel (my Publisher), Ted Waitt (My Editor at Peachpit), Marketing Wizards Scott Cowlin and Sara Jane Todd, and all the crew at Peachpit and New Riders who make it a blast to write books. Also, a big high five to my in-house crew of some of the most talented and creative people on the planet, my in-house Editor Kim Doty, Tech Editor Cindy Snyder, My Book Designer Jessica Maldonado and Dave Damstra and his layout crew that all come together somehow again and again to do really great stuff. Plus a big “Hey You!” to our Chief Operating Officer Dave Moser who relentlessly rides herd over and shepherds all these book projects along.

2. I’m teaching at Nikon’s Booth this week in Vegas at the WPPI Conference & Expo
If you’re out here in Vegas, I’m doing a presentation today at 12:30 pm at Nikon’s booth called  “Shooting with Just One Light” so if you’re out here, I hope you’ll stop on by and check it out.

3. Kelby Training & NAPP at WPPI 
We have separate booths here at the Expo in Vegas (Kelby Training for the photography side of things, and of course NAPP for the Photoshop side). We have free live presentations from a number of our Kelby Training Online instructors, so stop by and see who’s on stage Monday thru Wednesday.

4. I’m doing a lighting Demo Wednesday at B&H Photo’s booth
OK, it’s now officially turning into a busy week (but I love it!). I’ll be doing some fun lighting stuff with a live shoot for B&H on their stage on Wednesday at 12:20 pm at their booth, #921 in the Grand Ballroom.

5. Coming soon to a Photoshop User TV set near you — it’s “The Photoshop Girl!”
“The Photoshop Guys” (RC, Corey, Pete, Matt and Me) are excited to announce that we have added our own Jessica Maldonado to the weekly show as one of our co-hosts. Jessica has been designing (and performing mini-miracles) with my book covers and interior designs for years now and she’s one of the most talented Photoshop designers I’ve ever known, and that’s exactly why we want her on the show. She does such kick-butt Photoshop stuff day-in, day-out that we wanted her to share all that with our viewers (and it’s a way for us to steal her techniques). So, keep an eye out for our first “Photoshop Girl” joining the guys each week on Photoshop User TV.

6. Our buddy, and NAPP UK Evangelist Dave Clayton featured in German Photo magazine “Pictures”
None of us has any idea whatsoever what the article says, but the fact that’s there a picture of my buddy Dave, our mutual buddy the amazing Glyn Dewis, and yours truly just means one thing — it must be a very unflattering article. LOL! Congrats to Dave (absolutely one of the best guys on the planet), and here’s hoping that one day there’s an article about you I can actually read. Cheers ya Geezer! ;-)  (By the way, here’s the link to their site).

7. MC2 Tony D. Curtis named Navy Photographer of the Year
For those of you who remember my aircraft carrier shoot back in January, that name probably rang a bell, because that’s the totally great guy who helped me and my buddy Ed out when our gear got left back at the base and didn’t make it out to the carrier at all. Tony hooked us up with gear, hung out with us, shared tips and was generally just a really great guy and top notch photographer (and I’m thrilled to see such a talented photographer recognized as Navy Photographer of the Year). Also, before I learned the big news, I had already asked Tony if he’s be up for doing a guest blog post here on the blog, and he’s “All in” so I look forward to sharing more of Tony’s life, career and work here soon.

Plus, I mentioned Tim Walter in my post —- another talented photographer who helped us, and kept us from being run over by F/A-18s, and Tim won “Outstanding New Photographer of the Year.” A hearty congrats to both, and my thanks for your service to our country.

That’s it for today folks — hope I’ll see you at the Nikon booth today at 12:30 for my session.

Cheers!

-Scott

 

Friday
Mar
2013
08

Some Jet Fighter Shots From My Trip to Key West Naval Airstation

by Scott Kelby  |  30 Comments

On Monday morning I a took a short flight down to Key West, Florida to meet up with my buddy Jose Ramos, a military aviation photographer who was on assignment for Pilot magazine doing a story on Fighter Squadron VFC-111 (The “Sundowners”) based at Key West Naval Airstation.

It was absolutely beautiful down there (and the weather couldn’t have been more beautiful, with temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s), and on Monday, after shooting some takesoffs and landings from long range, Jose and I stayed late to get some nice light at sunset with some of the jets on the flight line.

One of the highlights of the trip was Jose and I having lunch with his good friend, and Squadron Commander,  Joe ‘Monty’ McMonigle. I told him about my carrier shoot, and since he had been flying off carriers for years he had some amazing stories, and I learned a ton about the process of landing on carriers. I already had an incredible amount of respect for carrier pilots but that went up a big notch after our talk with Joe. I seriously don’t know how these guys do it, but I’m sure glad that somehow they can.

Jose goes Air-to-Air
On Tuesday, Jose (who is rated by the Navy to fly in jets) got the chance to go up and do some air-to-air photography in the backseat of an F5 and he got just some absolutely sick shots!!!! He’s done that air-to-air stuff down cold (but when I heard some of the stuff they did in the air, I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to even raise my camera to my eye. Especially with all the screaming I would have been doing). But Jose has done this stuff a bunch, and he totally nailed it. Everybody was freaking out over the shots he came back with.

I’ll leave the rest to the captions below, but a big thanks to Jose for having me tag along for the shoot, and to the men and women of the Sundowners squadron who couldn’t have been friendlier or more accommodating to us during our visit. Jose is still down there working on the story and by the time you read this, he’s probably in the cockpit for another air-to-air shoot. OK, not the best term, but you know what I mean. Hats off to Monty and the entire VFC-111 — thanks for your service to our country.

 

Above: The jets were all facing toward the setting sun, so to get the good light, we had to shoot from behind or beside the jets, because if we faced them, the sky behind them was kind of…well…gray and boring. 

Above: After the jets come back in from their last runs of the day, the ground crew takes over and that’s when I got this open-cockpit shot. 

Above: At about 5:30 pm and sun was getting low in the sky so we headed out to get some shots, and the clouds were totally cooperating with us. This is a E/A-18G Growler, a specialized electronic warfare variant of the FA-18F Super Hornet.

Above: Here’s the hanger. It’s a half-HDR shot (an HDR shot mixed at 50% with the original non-HDR’d image).

Above: Here’s an F5 fighter (used by the Navy to portray “Bad guys” in dog fights, ala “Top Gun.”). This shot is taken just after take-off (my only take-off shot. Long story) and the front gear hasn’t retracted yet (they go up after the rear. It’s an old plane).

Above: Here’s one of the F5′s taxiing out for a training session with the Growlers. It’s pretty warm down there so they keep the canopy open until they’re about to take off. 

Above: Here’s one of the two-seater F5′s that Jose goes up in for his air-to-air shoots. With a camera. You knew that, right?

Above: Jose is always doing these shoots, but nobody’s ever covering Jose, so I took on the job. Here he is headed out for his first air-to-air of the week (and yes, that’s a parachute on his back). Apparently, it’s more dangerous than shooting football. I’ve never had to wear a parachute. ;-)

Above: Here’s Jose (rear seat) before heading out. That’s ‘Monty’ Piloting the F5. 

Above: Here’s Jose looking very “Top Gun”

Above: Here’s me looking like I always do, standing beside an F5. Snooze. 

Above: Here’s a shot taken inside their F5 flight simulator. It was pretty amazing (I took this one from the platform where you climb into the simulator. I shot it with a 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/5.6. The lighting was pretty dark in there, but I wanted to shoot it with just the ambient light, so I shot it at 2,500 ISO handheld at 1/13 of a second. I fired a lot series of shots in High-Speed continuous to make sure I had one in focus (and sure enough, I did). 

Above: Here’s a closing shot. It would have been sweet if we could have gotten them to turn the jet around so we could have shot from the front or front side with the sunset in the background. Of course, we never asked (for obvious reasons). The squadron has just about adopted Jose (he’s been shooting and flying with them since was 18-years-old), so they would actually probably do it if he asked far enough in advance.

Above: It’s great to see such a great relationship built between Jose and the Squad, but Jose has worked very hard to earn their trust (plus he delivers some amazing images, which literally line the walls of the squadron’s headquarters, as shown above in this photo taken with my iPhone —- that’s Jose’s shot framed on the wall beside him). 

Anyway, it was a quick, really fun overnight trip, and I was already back home the next afternoon, but I gotta tell ya — shooting jets is just a blast!

sdfsdf

Thursday
Mar
2013
07

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  63 Comments

Pre-Conference Workshops at Photoshop World
If you’re going to Photoshop World Orlando, make sure you check out the Pre-Conference Workshops! These are workshops that happen the day before Photoshop World officially starts, and they last between 4-7 hours so you can really dive into one particular topic.  Spend the day learning Lightpainting from Dave Black, photographing Characters on Location with Joe McNally, shooting a live concert with Alan Hess and Scott Diussa, shooting a wedding with David Ziser, or maximize your Photoshop skills with any of the workshops from Corey Barker, RC Concepcion, Dave Cross, and Matt Kloskowski! There are even more workshops than the ones listed here, so go see what’s available here.

All of these workshops have limited space, so once they are full, they’re full! And there are only 7 days left to save $100 on registration for the conference, so you really don’t want to wait to sign up. And make sure you book your room at the Rosen Centre Hotel so you can stay where the instructors stay!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a full conference pass!

Mastering Beauty Lighting & Fashion for Portrait Photography
Joel Grimes, who is known for his creative edgy lighting and compositing, is back and showing the softer side of his lighting techniques with his latest class on KelbyTraining.com, Mastering Beauty Lighting & Fashion for Portrait Photography! In this class, Joel takes you from the creative process in the beginning, through the different lighting modifiers he uses for fashion and portrait photography, and all the way to the end with the post processing that helps create a beautiful finished image.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of this class!

Kelby Training Live
Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Joe McNallyMatt KloskowskiRC Concepcion, or Ben Willmore? Check out these seminar tours!

The Digital Photography Book Unleashed with Scott Kelby
Apr 3 – Philadelphia, PA
Apr 30 – Chicago, IL

Photoshop CS6 for Photographers with RC Concepcion
Mar 15 – Tampa, FL
Mar 25 – Houston, TX
Apr 10 – San Francisco, CA

Photographic Artistry with Adobe Photoshop with Ben Willmore
Mar 19 – New York, NY
Mar 20 – Washington, DC
Apr 12 – Portland, OR

Lightroom 4 Live with Matt Kloskowski
Mar 22 – Phoenix, AZ

One Light, Two Light with Joe McNally
Apr 24 – Minneapolis, MN

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free ticket to one of these events!

Sports Photography Workshop with Peter Read Miller
Legendary Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller is hosting a sports photography workshop in Denver from April 8-14! You’ll spend six days photographing high school and pro sports, all the while learning from Peter and other industry experts that will be on hand to help you get the best photographs possible. Events will include football, mountain biking, track, basketball, boxing, and more! Not only will you photograph the action, but you’ll be learning how to use studio strobes, speedlights, and remote cameras to get unique images as well. You’ll also have a one-on-one portfolio review with Peter so you can see how to take your images to the next level.

Get all the info for the workshop here, and sign up for it here. And, leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy of Peter’s upcoming book, Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography from Peachpit Press!

Winners
Photoshop World Full Conference Pass
- Jason Strickland

Kelby Training Live Seminar
- Alex Alegre

Growing Your Business with Scott Kelby Rental
- Sandryte

Dave Black KelbyTraining.com Rental
- Jerry W.

That’s it for today. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday
Mar
2013
06

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Pete Collins!

by Brad Moore  |  34 Comments

Ok, so when you get asked to be a guest blogger for Scott, one of the first things to do is check out the competition and see what others have done. The top blog posts as far as comments and reshares have been from Peter Hurley… Seen here hamming it up in our studio:


Photos by Pete Collins

And Zack Arias’:


Photo by Zack Arias

I wanted to be considered as insightful and popular as them. So I did some studying on what they did to get such a good response and it became quite obvious… It is all about the hair! If I am going to get the greatest response and win the top honor as the “coolest, hippest blogger on earth,” I am going to have work the hair angle hard. So without further ado… I give you Peter Bob Ross Arias!

Take that hair club for men!

Now that I have established my hair cred… on with the blog!

The opening paragraph was done in jest and a bit over the top (sorry Bob Ross!), but I wanted to use that to illustrate a point. We are killing ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We ask constantly ask ourselves… “Am I as good a photographer as _________?”, or “Do I communicate like ______?” We find ourselves on the unending treadmill of trying to catch up with this artist or photographer, and feel like a failure because someone we know is doing it “better” than we are. Please stop doing this. If you don’t read any further than this, I hope you will take this thought with you. “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”

Warning: If you proceed to read further I will attempt to talk about what hinders us from being creative and alive. I will talk about feelings and ramble on some about our hearts etc… because I truly believe that is where our work comes from. So if you aren’t interested in any of this… no problem, just look at the pictures and perhaps take a look at the list at the bottom as it is a bit more no-nonsense… well, sort of. :D  Yes I do realize that some of you are hoping to hear amazing photographic stories or maybe juicy gossip that Scott is really Keyser Soze, but that is for another post… this one is a little more about what drives us.

Let me walk this out for you with an example in my own life. I was asked to write this blog, and I got excited and immediately I started to plan what I was going to do. Thoughts start to swim around of all the things that I can talk about or show. Then I get the brilliant idea of doing exactly what I did at the top of the post. Comparing how other folks did their posts. Suddenly, the excitement I had for sharing my heart and idea with you turns into fear of “not screwing up” and not being rejected. Now I start to feel pressure and the idea that I don’t have what it takes starts to grow inside of me. The voice in my head/heart tells me that I am lacking and that I should just give up and do something safe and boring, or better yet, find an excuse and not do anything at all. The problem with listening to that voice is that my heart and creativity die a little each time I give into it.

So I try to ignore the lump in my throat… and no longer feel excited… scared yes, excited… not so much. What is safe and accepted? You folks like videos… so I should definitely do a video and it shall be really cool! I will create this masterpiece video that shows the behind the scenes here at Kelby Media Group, and highlights the creative process that goes on here and how I get to be part of this. Great idea, but then the doubt kicks in… I haven’t done a lot of videos and editing on that big a scale, and it won’t look as cool as Zack’s… I mean he had a smoke machine and mannequins! Ok, so let’s settle for something safer.

How about I do a neat time-lapse drawing that will amaze and astound all who see it! Yeah, that will be easier I have done those before. But, what should I do? What should my subject matter be? What is normally easy to decide becomes impossible when the pressure of comparison is added to the mix. I need inspiration: that mystical illumination that quiets the voices and brings new wonders to our minds! Desperate, I start to work on playing with words like Inspiration that all have the word ration in them… even though I am feeling anything but rational right now. It might be cool to draw these words over time and do some neat stuff with them.

But then I start to worry that this is dumb and suddenly I don’t like the order of the words so decide that what I need to do is develop a new creative font. Why? So that I can dazzle you guys with my talent and to make up for my lack of hair. Granted this is already late in the evening, and the blog post hasn’t had the first word written. But a cool font is all this needs to make this abomination turn into glory. Hours later I have created something… and boy is it something, I just don’t know what it is and I am pretty sure it won’t work for this. Help!

So now I have spent hours scrambling to find that just right combination of hip creatively breezy elements that will amaze you and have you resharing this blog for years to come. I have visions of folks talking about my blog as The Blog of 2013! Whispering in cubicles across the globe “Hey did you see Pete’s blog?” Of course it would be in different languages according to local dialect, but you get the drift. How is that for pressure? This is no longer a blog… it is my life’s destiny and the fate of the free world depends on my ability to produce something earth shattering. (Please tell me, you have been in a similar situation… Letting your feelings overshadow the importance of a task until it becomes all encompassing. Yes, you there in the back, I see that hand… thank you for sharing.)

So I step back and try to regroup with a Coke… or three and some chocolate. Yep, that calms the nerves right down, don’t mind the seizures. But while I stare at the blank screen, my lack of coolness taunts me. I start to think about my situation and how many times I have been in this very same state of pressure when I am trying to be both creative and safe. How many times have I been so wrapped up in trying to be accepted that I lose the ability to fly. By flying I mean to go where the heart and mind take us without the constraints of worrying about what others will think, or limiting our art to what others will like.

I bet you are like me and the best art you produce is when you are doodling while on the phone or waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. Why? The pressure is off and the only reason you are doing it is for the pure joy of it. Life Example: My kids don’t make a picture and then throw it in the trashcan or hide it… they want us to display it and stick it on the refrigerator because it is something they put their heart into and they see it as good. But, as they get older, comparison creeps in and starts to tell our children… “Your sister draws better trees than you,” or “That dog looks stupid!” The result is that they stop drawing altogether or they draw “safe” pictures that are acceptable. But their hearts wants to draw wild things. And guess what… we are just kids in grown up bodies.

This reminds me of an idea I have for a kids book that deals with our needing to forget our past hurts and failures so that we can be free to live, love and fly. I call it Dilbert the Forgetful Elephant, because the way most of us deal with life is a lot like how an elephant deals with captivity… but more of that in a minute… I can’t talk to you now; I have an idea for this blog! Yes! I laugh at my angst earlier… I am now inspired and I start sketching elephants that will amaze you: and to be honest they looked better in my caffeine soaked brain than they do on paper. I need to study how elephants look and how to draw them. But at least I am excited about the direction this is taking.

So I Google “drawing elephants” and God being the gag writer that He is… wouldn’t you know it, the first three hits to appear are from my friend Aaron Blaise, animator and illustrator extraordinaire who has some wonderful lessons on drawing elephants.

If you haven’t seen his work, make sure to check him out at AaronBlaise.blogspot.com

Crap! Just when I was starting to feel ok about what I was doing, now I am going to compare every sketch I do with his. My sketches start to lose all life and joy as I try to sketch like Aaron. I know what he has done is good, I don’t know if what I can do is good, so I try to slip on the mask of another that I know is accepted, because that will mean I will be accepted too. Won’t it? I have shared this drawing before, but it still is one of my favorites that I have made to remind me of our tendencies to hide ourselves behind masks that in turn imprisons us and keep us from be real and alive.

The problem is that creativity lives in the land of freedom. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and start living. The story of Dilbert is an offshoot of what is probably an urban legend that goes like this… “when elephants are very young, trainers use rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break the rope so they never try to break free.” It is a great illustration of the mental bonds that we can place on ourselves in regards to who we are and what we can do which we place upon ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.

So I wanted to create a story about an elephant that is forgetful, and as a result forgets that the rope is stronger than him and flies away. (Now you will have make the mental jump with me as I use the idea of an elephant as a balloon to represent the natural pull to fly as rope/string dangles beneath him representing what use to hold him back).

If I can stop comparing myself with others, I will be truly free to be creative and the result will be a better me.  It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy… the less I worry about others the more of me shows through, and the unique beauty that only I have to offer is seen and cherished by the ones who get to see it, which encourages me to show more… etc… etc… The world does not need more masks and copycats, the world needs more folks that are truly alive and free to create.

Yeah, yeah Pete we have heard this before… be free and be real… yada yada yada. Well, to be honest, I don’t mind repeating it because I need to hear it daily, if not hourly because I forget. I fall right back into the trap of comparing and I shut down and cling to the easy road of mediocrity. The world is filled with mediocrity; we need folks who are brave and reckless enough to be excellent.

Photographers don’t’ worry I haven’t forgotten about you. Below is an excerpt from a blog post that I started a while back that I never finished because something shiny came along and distracted me, but I think will tie in with what I hope is the heart of my thoughts today, which is don’t settle… don’t make excuses… fight to go beyond mediocre. Strive for joy and life… learn to fly!

“Over the past while I have had the privilege of watching Scott, Matt, RC and others like Joe McNally and Joel Grimes give photo critiques. I have also been able to watch the comments that go on during those critiques and I have noticed a societal trend. Often there is a rush to excuse why something isn’t right, or to try to give the benefit of the doubt due to exigent circumstances. But, is our goal to be ok? Mediocre? If so, then here are some ways to keep attaining that safe yet heart killing standard.

Don’t worry about telling a story… who cares if it is boring.

Don’t worry about what is in the corners… distractions and lines add excitement.

Don’t change the angle of your shots… tripods should always be shot at comfortable heights that every other photographer uses.

Make the same shot as others… You’re ok, so I’m ok.

Only shoot when it is convenient and then blame the bad lighting for why it is not better.

Limit your shooting to your surroundings and then ask for a break in judgment because the locations are boring. It takes to much work to go somewhere else to shoot.

Demand fairness and equality even if your images are not good and not special. Your heart was in the right place, even if your camera wasn’t.

Mediocrity can be attained by everyone, and that may be why we are not happy with our work when we settle for it. You are created in a dynamic and special way, and when you listen to the voice of comparison and settle for safety and excuses, you cheat the world of the special vision and voice that you have to offer. I need you to fly so that you can remind me to fly. I am one elephant trying to help the next one loosen the ropes that keep us tied down.

The question at the end of the day, and the end of this long post is… are you going to stay tied down to that stake of comparing what others are doing, or are you going to forget about what tends to hold you back and fly?

You can see more from Pete at PeteCollins.com, and follow him on Twitter and Google+

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