efficiency vs multi-tasking (or, the decline of a photographer)

70X/365: something new
My Photography has suffered lately. I’m not complaining really. I’m just taking stock, stating facts, and reorganizing as I so often do to make room in life for, well, life.

“Pretend you live for a living.”

–Buddy Wakefield

Flickr’s Navel Gazing Society (otherwise known as Explore) is certainly no measure of greatness. Neither that of a photograph, nor that of the life of a photographer. But accepting it as an indicator I present the following:

I had 46 photos hit explore from 4/5/2005 until 11/23/2007.  That’s 18 per year.

My daughter was born in 12/2007.

I had 14 photos hit explore from 11/23/2207 until 12/13/2008. That’s 13 per year. A pretty steep drop from before, but still one a month. A baby does that to you and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

My wife left in 01/2009. After a few months of depression I was left refreshed, ready to take on the world, and with a young child under my care for roughly 75% of my previously “free” time.

I had 0 photos hit explore from 12/13/2008 until now. That’s 0 per year.

Again, I’m not complaining. I’m just trying to work it out in my head.

You see, the thing is, I’m very efficient, yet terrible at multi-tasking. Let me do one thing at a time and I’ll do it quickly and very well. Make me do two things at once and I’ll more than likely fail at both of them. Caring for a child takes at least some portion of my attention almost all of the time.

I don’t have time to take the photos I used to. It’s not that I don’t have time to hold a camera point it at things and release the shutter. Many would argue that a child makes a beautiful interesting photographic subject. And, despite always carrying far too many things, keeping a camera (or three) on me at all times is something I’m quite good at. I take plenty of photos. But photography is about more than just pressing a button. It’s about seeking out the light. It’s about waiting for the perfect moment. Looking for light and waiting for a photo are two things incredibly hard to do with a young child. They don’t like to sit still. And, doing so while watching a child is multi-tasking. So, I’m terrible at it.

I also don’t have time to edit. Editing photos is a two part process. First, we throw away the junk. Then, we make the good stuff look better. This takes time. Lots of it. Sitting in front of a computer isn’t something a young child enjoys, unless they enjoy it so much that they want to help, at which point, you’re not getting the job done at all. The good news is, I can do this when she’s asleep. The bad news is, that’s the only time I have to do lots of other things as well.

Finally, I don’t have time to promote. I used to spend a lot of time viewing photos, commenting on photos, discussing photos, and sharing photos. I have all but stopped doing any of these things.

So, now to the important part. How can I get back some of what I had without losing the wonderful things I have now? Because I can’t multi-task, I have to find ways to make what I do more efficient and to find ways to allow me to juggle tasks better.

Of course, just because you’re not me or not in this same situation doesn’t mean that these tips won’t make you more efficient too.

1) Take fewer photos

With film, releasing the shutter on your camera was a commitment to spending both time and money in order to actually see the image. Photographers acknowledged this and very few were willing to release the shutter until they were sure they had it right. When digital came along the mentality shifted: it’s just digital. Click away! Sort them out later!

In theory, if you’re looking for a certain shot taking as many as possible helps ensure you get the right one. In practice, if one of them is terrible, the rest probably will be too. Multiple shots approaching with different ideas and at multiple angles is one thing and certainly a good idea. But taking photographs just in case they might be good amounts to nothing but waste.

By spending more time looking and less time clicking, I might be more likely to anticipate a shot. And having fewer photos will drastically reduce the amount of time I spend in Phase 1 of editing, and somewhat reduce the time I spend in Phase 2.

2) Bring a Photo Friend

Bringing along a photographically inclined friend, particularly one with similar distractions (i.e. children, in my case) leaves us both with the ability to explore an idea more closely. As something strikes me as worthy of further examination, being able to trust my child in the other person’s hands as I explore an idea more fully will let me free my mind completely for the task. And my friend gets the same benefit. Additionally, as children often become the subjects of photographs, it allows one of us to photograph while the other helps adjust and collect the children.

3) Involve the Children

This is only a small break, but every little bit counts. But sending the children seeking for the elements you’re looking for in your photo, their minds focus a bit more and it makes them easier to monitor. Kids are great at looking for shadows, sticks, flowers, trees, letters, numbers, and things like this. Just don’t ask them to look for soft lighting on the side of a fire hydrant with minimal background distraction. Or, at least wait until they are 12 or so.

Involving them in the 1st phase of editing (and parts of the 2nd phase as well) is also a good idea. You’ll need software that allows you to rate photos quickly and with at least 3 or 4 different levels of rating (junk, keep for fun/memories, good, awesome). With this in place, children love to look at photos from an adventure they just took. Especially if there are photos of people and things they recognize. Making a habit out of unloading a photo card in the same way we unload our backpacks after an adventure will bring a child to anticipate doing so.

4) Involve Friends for Promotion

Nothing makes me want to photograph MORE than knowing that my work is enjoyed and appreciated. Promotion allows this to be fully realized. Friends can be a fantastic resource for promotion. Between Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Buzz, Blogs, and Email your friends can quickly and easily help get the word out about how wonderful a certain photos of yours is. Take the time to share with your friends and ask them to do the promotion for you.

And, if you are the friend of a photographer *cough, ahem, ME!*, share their work. Expose their art. Most social media outlets have icons you can drag to your browser toolbar to make sharing as simple as clicking a button. Here are some for Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, and Tumblr.

I hope this helps you with your photography. Do you have any other ideas to share that can help get better photos with a partially distracted mind?

here we go

(since I took the time to set it up, I decided I may as well test the new blog by email feature. So, this entry was sent via email.)

I’ve been up since 4am unable to sleep. On the plus side, I managed to get a lot done.

All of our clothes are packed. Except Socks, Underware, Shoes, and Belts.

I drank an entire pot of coffee.

I put a Wonderpets movie, 2 Wonderpets episodes, and 2 Backyardigans episodes on my iPod for C to watch. She doesn’t watch TV, so I’m just hoping the novelty will keep her entertained. $2/episode seems like a lot, but whatever.

I got a handle on arranging some of my music. This means my iPod now has better music than before and is filled closer to capacity.

I sorted out a few Facebook and website things in order to make updating while traveling easier. I don’t know why, but I love being able to do so, That being said, you should now see “Jim Reverend”, “Daniel James”, and “Amorphous” pages on Facebook. Fan them. Livejournal updates will not happen any more. I give up. And revjimweb on Twitter should have all of this, assuming everything is lined up right.

I still need to pack our plane bags, the above mentioned items, and all the random other stuff we’ll need: Laptop, cameras, batteries, sippy cups, blankets, toiletries, stuffed animals, books, etc. I figure I should be able to get to that with C awake. And she’ll be waking up any minute now.

The plan is to go to my dad’s at some point today, hang out there, sleep there, and then get to the airport tomorrow at 5:30am. I’m ready for the adventure. I really think C is going to enjoy it too. Hopefully, she’ll take my attitude toward travel which can be summed up like this: let things go as they go, you’ll get there when you get there, talk to people, watch people, and don’t be afraid to look stupid.

Kyro was a huge lifesaver to me this morning. I honestly don’t even know what he was doing awake or what state of inebriation he was in, but it really doesn’t matter. I was stressing out big time and helped bring me some clarity.

My biggest concern right now is that the kiddo might be sick. I really hope not. I took her temperature while she was asleep and it was 101. So, if she does have a fever, it probably isn’t much.

Enjoy this photo. It’s a picture of her at the park a few days ago.

Posted via email from revjim’s posterous

too nice to stay inside

Celeste under monkey bars

Celeste under monkey bars

It’s such a beautiful day out today.

I have a lot to do to get ready for our trip anda messy house to clean.

I should pick up C from school, take up both straight home, make a quick dinner, and get to the cleaning and packing.

But, at the same time, it seems really unfair to keep either of us couped up inside when the weather is so nice.

So… I think we’ll just enjoy the weather, eat out some place reasonable, and deal with the packing once the sun goes down.

The path of happiness is always the right path to take.

What do you do when the weather is so nice?

keeping forever

cookie monsters

cookie monsters

Rows and rows of empty boxes,
waiting for their fills.
Peace, alone, time to waste,
and this handful of pills.

I used to keep a small paper notebook with me at all times. Throughout the day I’d often pull it out quickly to jot down an idea, a daydream, the remnants of a short story flashing through my mind, the chorus to a song, or a quick blurb of prose that seemed profound. Once or twice, I’ve even tried to write while driving or quickly at a stop light. In fact, I really should have gotten one of those personal recorders but hearing my words in my own voice after the fact always ruined it for me.

I don’t keep that notebook any more. I’m still filled with ideas. I still get those quick flashes of clarity. I still find myself tapping into the mind of some imaginary someone and then falling back out again. I still find ways to frame my own situation in the lives of people who are not me. But, I don’t keep the notebook any more.

Much like all the photos I take, there is just never enough time to sort through them all, polish them up, and show them off to people that might enjoy them. In a lot of ways, both the notebook and the photographs are for me alone. But even then, my time is so short, I rarely take a moment to look back over them.

So all of these notes and all of these photos stay with me. I carry them from place to moment as if packed tightly into box after box after box. A few times in the past, either by choice or by accident, I’ve emptied all of those boxes. Seeing them that way brought a sense of peace but, in the end, it was mostly just lonely.

So instead of emptying the boxes, over time, I’ve just stopped filling them up. I take fewer photos. I jot down fewer notes. Yet I maintain the illusion that I’m keeping these days with me always because there are all of these boxes forever following me around.

It’s just an illusion, though. I feel as though sharing my words, my thoughts, and my photos with others will cause them to live forever. Whether it’s peace, clarity, happiness, sadness, arousal, understanding, or knowledge, when something I’ve done carries forward into another life, it’s as though that thing lives on forever like a beneficial virus being passed from carrier to carrier.

With this in mind, it seems simple enough to just share these things, even unpolished. But that conjures up new fears. What if being so prolific and unfiltered in those things causes it to suffer the same fate I often do here in thought? What if all of these photos and moments and thoughts and dreams and ideas so precious to me become nothing but brain vomit to be kicked through and cleaned off of shoes and feet with disgust? What if it just gets in the way? Not only would I have trouble accepting that, it would have an effect the opposite of my intent.

slowly twisting in the wind

with each new shade

I see you there

  • There is a certain peace that comes with the understanding that something I was afraid to try wouldn’t have worked out anyway. With the sadness of loss comes the satisfaction of knowing.
  • I’m taking Celeste to the Texas State Fair this weekend. If I go on Friday it’ll be a mad dash to pick her up from school and get out there and I’ll probably drive and park and all of that. But if I go on Saturdaythe DART Light Rail now has a Green Line that runs to Fair Park. I’m thinking about parking in Plano and taking the Light Rail down. Maybe stopping for a late lunch at Mockingbird Station along the way.
  • Celeste hasn’t slept well for many nights. I know she has a sinus and ear infection, probably due to the change in weather, her teeth coming in, or both. I prefer not to give her Antibiotics every time she gets an infection but if this lasts much longer I’m going to take her in.
  • As a way of increasing myaerobicactivity andneutralizingthe negative effects of electronic sedation without having to totally cut myself off, I’m in the market for a stationary bike, elliptical, or otheraerobicexercise machine. I’d prefer to get myexerciseunder the big blue sky or a blanket of stars. But, often the only time I can find for it is once Celeste is asleep at which point leaving the house isn’t an option.
  • At some point in the past this site changed from a technical blog about web development and gadgets to a photo blog (which has moved). It has since changed again to become a blog about parenting, health, clean food, and life. I’m finally okay with that.
  • I’m finally starting to accept Kyro’s advice: I’ve lived a lot and experienced many things. Talking to a girl I don’t know shouldn’t be difficult. Even if I happen to have a baby on my hip.
  • My In-Laws will more than likely be visiting Celeste during our trip to NY/VT. I am strangely okay with this. During my marriage to Jess I lived in great fear of their disapproval. This no longer plagues me. I see them simply as a set of people wishing to share Celeste’s life. They are good people, they bring a positive influence to Celeste, and there’s no way that’s a bad thing.
  • I overspent in the past month. Which really isn’t a good thing to do before a vacation since I’ll likely overspend then too. So I’ve got myself on lockdown for now.
  • I need to find someone to care for my kitties while Celeste and I are in the Northeast. I hate asking for favors.
  • Tonight is my first Tuesday without Celeste on the new schedule. I’ve got a light dinner, cleaning, web site editing, and photography on the slate all in small, undefined portions.
  • I think my new glasses were made wrong. They hurt my eyes. A lot. So I have to go get them looked at today. If there is something wrong with them, hopefully they can get them fixed before I leave for the Northeast. If not, I’ll be wearing contacts and my old glasses. I have a picture of them, but I’d rather not put it here. Let me know if you want to see. Don’t worry, I’m fully clothed. ;)

first train home, I’ve got to get on it

finer details

finer details

It’s saddening and maddening to realize that, these days, nearly every frustration I face is merely a byproduct of a time and work based society without control over our own timeline. Our ancestors did not face these stresses. At one point did we become so dependent on progress that we failed to realize that what we have now is worth living.?

My three step manifesto is going well. I had one failure with #3, but I’ve since course corrected.

C’s mom and I have a new schedule we’re trying with her in the hopes of offering both her and us some more stability. So with the exception of one day a week (Tuesday) and the weekends (which are always wildcards whether I get to spend time with my daughter or not) my days with and without her are now set and are the same every week. I’m slowly picking out what’s going to work best for us. I think that Sunday nights, the only “school night” on which I never have Celeste, will be reserved for me-time. So I’ll put no requirement whatsoever on myself to keep with with any obligations outside of the bare minimum. And I think I’ll reserve Tuesday, the only alternating “school night” for larger projects at home — crafts, cleaning, shampoo making, etc. It’ll make it easier for me to have a set day to postpone larger jobs to in order to help me forget about them and enjoy the rest of the week. And for really large jobs that Celeste can’t help with, I’m only ever, at most, two weeks away. Otherwise they consume me.

This new schedule isn’t the best ever. But it’s certainly a big step in the right direction. As has always been the case with changes like this, I’m now struggling with figuring out how I’m going to manage it all and still put in the time required of me at work. One day at a time, I’m getting out of this.

If I didn’t have the back and forth with Celeste to adhere to, I really think we’d be better off and far happier in a tiny little town with enough land to keep a few chickens, a few goats, and a small garden. Especially if I could find a like minded person or two to share the work load with. Ideally, I’d have a big enough property to put 4 or 5 small houses on with some interesting common areas.

Panic is setting in about our trip to New York / Vermont. Not so much that I won’t be able to make it, but that I won’t be able to live up to the expectations that others are no doubt placing on this trip. I, for instance, have things I’d like to do that have nothing to do with any of my family there. They can come, of course, but it’s more for Celeste and I. I’m worried that our “schedule” will be too much for others to handle. I’ve already gotten two cases of stress. The first was me telling my mom that I was going straight to my grandmothers when we got off the plane. I asked her if she could have dinner for us so that we could see her sooner (knowing she’d want that) and she said that we were getting in too late for her to eat. So then I told her that we’d stop somewhere on the way in and go straight to my grandmas to unpack, say hello, bathe, and get to bed, to which she objected because she wants to see us right away. After I agreed to stop at her place and pick her up for an hour or so and then bring her home, she objected because she wanted to stay at my grandma’s until Celeste went to bed, not realizing how late that might be and not understanding that, once Celeste goes to sleep I won’t be able to leave until she wakes up again.

Ugh. I think I should stop being soprolific. I don’t think anyone actually reads all of this anyway.

Dreaming of Alligators

snap snap

snap snap

Last night I had a disturbing dream. This always seems to happen when I can’t find a way to get comfortable in bed.

I was talking on the phone with Emily. Celeste and I had just been some place and Emily was mentioning that there was another place near where we were that served tea that might be fun to visit with the kids one day. So, Celeste and I were taking a walk though a small park that joined the two in order to go check it out.

As I walked through the park I was holding Celeste in one arm and still talking to Emily. I looked over through some trees to the right at a pond and saw an Alligator there, just coming out of the water. Before I could run he snapped at us catching Celeste’s left leg in his jaws just below the knee.

Here’s where it gets even stranger. The alligator didn’t bite all the way through. In fact, if he would just open his mouth she would more than likely have nothing more than a few puncture wounds that would heal quickly. So I was holding Celeste with an Alligator attached to her leg and had a choice to make. I could kick at him, maybe getting him to let go, or maybe pissing him off so much that he attacks us again, this time, no doubt, much worse. I could pull Celeste out of his mouth, more than likely leaving her leg seriously damaged and then run like hell. Or I could just wait to see what he does next, hoping that he opens his mouth and leaves us alone.

This scenario is how I see almost every difficult choice I have to make. And similar choices are currently at the forefront of my mind.

In my dream, the last part of it, from the bite onward, continued to repeat itself. Each time I’d try something a little bit different. The outcome was never good. In one scenario, we managed to break free from the Alligator only to find his friend waiting a few seconds down the path. However, in my dream, waiting it out was never attempted. Trusting the Alligator was simply not an option.

Texas Coast: Day 4

(This is Texas Coast Day 4, Saturday, September 6th.)

Kids and Dogs

Kids and Dogs

The plan was to go to a park, then take a nap, then have lunch, then go to a petting zoo, then have dinner.

Breakfast was had but by the time everyone was ready to go, it was already time for lunch. So we went to get some food. Afterwards we stopped at the grocery store, took the scenic route through Beaumont home, and then put Celeste down for a nap.

Celeste and Gumbo

Celeste and Gumbo

When she woke I got her ready to go to the petting zoo, but when we got there it was a sad sight to see. There was hardly anyone there, only a couple of sad animals in very small cages plus ponies that walked in circles. So, we decided it wasn’t worth it, and went to the park instead. It was particularly hot that day, so our trip to the park ended quickly.

We made one last stop at the grocery store and then went back home.

Lots of people came over that night for dinner and good times. Celeste swam in the back yard pool, and really enjoyed the Gumbo that was made. We all stayed up late to watch Bonnie spin fire and then sat and talked late into the evening while the toddlers had a dance party in the living room.

All in all, a good day.

Texas Coast: Day 3

(This is Texas Coast Day 3, Saturday, September 5th.)

The bucket

The bucket

We started the day out with some breakfast cooked at Justin’s Mom’s house where we were staying. After breakfast, we headed out to an Alligator Farm. We saw Crocodiles, Alligators, Cayman, Snakes and Turtles. A tour guide gave a nice long talk about the animals and even let us touch them. We left the tour because it was rather long and everyone was getting antsy. We were going to eat on site, but the wait was too long so we picked up some BBQ to eat back at the house.

The pink chair on the shore

The pink chair on the shore

After Celeste’s nap we headed back to the beach. This time we’d be meeting lots of other people there. There were 5 toddlers in all and the beach was full of cars and people. I dug a hole in the sand to serve as a private toddler ocean being continuously refilled by the oncoming waves. Celeste had a blast looking for seashells, rolling in the sand, playing in the waves, and walking down the beach and dancing yo other people’s music. She particularly enjoys Tejano.

As the sun was setting and we’d had our fill of sun and sand we packed up and headed back to home base, stopping at dairy queen for a quick meal.

Texas Coast: Day 2

Celeste watching Poi

Celeste watching Poi

(Since I’m now a day behind, I’d better include dates to keep things clear. This is Texas Coast Day 2, Friday, September 4th.)

We started our day with an awesome breakfast. Then did some grocery shopping, visited some people including three adorable toddlers, and then came home for a nap.

After nap, we headed out to the beach for a late afternoon / early evening swim. Celeste loved it. She didn’t open her eyes underwater, was not afraid of the waves, and had a blast looking for seashells, watching the birds, and playing in the sand. When it got dark enough, Bonnie spun Poi on the beach and Celeste watched in awe. It was a LOT darker out than this photo makes it look. Bonnie loaned me her Canon G9 which I had on a tripod and took a 1 second exposure to capture this.

I got bit up pretty bad by mosquitoes in the last 15 minutes before we left. 20 bites or so in all. I’m usually almost immune to them. Celeste, who was in my arms, didn’t get any bites at all. So I guess I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of going with the flow, I was starting to get stressed out about sand and baths and dinners and drives and all of those other things. I tend to be a beacon of peace and anti-stress… until I’m not. It’s like a lightswitch. At any rate, in the middle of all that stress Celeste, who probably sensed it, bit me. And then shortly there after the mosquito attack happened. So, with all of that together, I was in full blown panic mode, which is not good.

Aside from not quite being curvy enough, Justin was a good surrogate wife for the evening, though. He calmed me down, made some jokes, and had fun with Celeste until I got back to my usual self. We sat down for a good dinner, Celeste discovered a love for Ranch dressing, and then we headed home.

A good day, all in all, despite my panic attack.