Lessons Learned

I’ve always been the type of person who tries to see each experience and situation as a potential learning opportunity. I like to analyze things and find ways to make something better, to try something new or to see how it can change things in my own life. This year has been one of the biggest learning lessons for me. I’ve felt that in the past 11 months I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn more about myself, to learn about the world around me, to learn how to be better and do better and how to move towards the goals I have in life.

I learned not to take everything so seriously and that it’s ok to take a break. For the past few years I’ve put myself into the habit of creating an image or photograph every single day. Mostly because I liked it, but also because I’m stubborn and don’t like to feel like I’ve missed a goal. Eventually, the need to create started to creep up on my desire to create and I found myself scrambling to come up with ideas and making photographs that  I wasn’t proud of. I was shooting in the wrong light, in the wrong location, editing too quickly and making errors..all because I felt my own internal pressure to have something to produce for that day. It was as though my day didn’t amount to anything if I didn’t post a photograph. Combine that with working a full-time job, being in a relationship, training for a marathon and the regular daily stuff I was starting to burn out. Thankfully, I went on a trip to Indiana to meet and photograph with friends and photographers and the trip truly changed my outlook. I was forced to take a break from my self-imposed pressure and I began to feel as though tiny weights were  being unclipped from my mind. Suddenly I felt more passionate about photography, I felt like my world slowed down for  a second and that I had time to look and see and feel again. When I came home from that trip I saw my own photography journey as less of a sprint to get photos out and more of a marathon a long journey with many miles and views. I learned that it was not the end of the world if I didn’t post a photo each day, that if I wanted to go for a hike or meet a friend for coffee or simply stay in and watch tv all day, I could and that didn’t make me less of a photographer or put a negative mark on me in any way. It seems silly to me now to say that I once felt like that but I did and I’m thankful to have learned the lesson to slow down.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joel_r/7049510635/in/set-72157629005806697

I learned to distance myself from “the online bad guys”. I’ve spent much of my time in the last year trying to build up my photography business and online presence. Posting on Flickr, Facebook, Instagram and other websites has been the main driving point to where I am today and I wouldn’t have any many of the amazing opportunities had I not been so active in these social outlets. But, as I’ve learned this year, for every positive note and comment there can be someone looking to bring to you down. A few months ago I posted a blog post on my feelings around copyright infringement and uncredited sharing of my work. I wrote it solely for the purpose of sharing my own personal feelings and to get my mind clear on the subject.  Shortly after, an image of mine (which was taken and edited without permission) was posted on a popular Facebook page and things took a bit of a nasty turn. My friends and supporters of my work, quickly began linking my photography page and the post I wrote in the comments and by the time I became aware of the whole situation,  a sort of wildfire had broken out. While I appreciate people standing up for me, the other people posting comments on the post were not so enthusiastic and I started to receive some pretty nasty comments, messages and emails. Up until this point I hadn’t ever really experienced much of the negative side of social media. It took the wind out of my sail for a few days and I wasn’t sure how to respond.  It was my older brother who finally said something that helped. He said that “there are people in the world who have nothing to do  than to enjoy the anonymous act of making other people feel bad, because they can. They won’t think about it the next day or the next week even though you’ve been hurt. These aren’t the people who you should spend your energy on, it’s the people who support you that you should focus on”. Even though it seemed totally obvious, it made sense and it changed the way I looked at social media and my interactions with it. Now, when I get a comment or a negative message, I either try to ignore it or I try to find something positive to focus on instead,. This image below was inspired by a message that I received a few weeks ago telling me that I was self-centered and that I shouldn’t believe that the world revolves around me (I don’t think that at all…) so instead of feeling hurt, I turned it into inspiration to create.  The lesson of distancing myself from ‘haters’ is one that has taken a while and one that I’ve struggled with the most, but it’s helped me to become a more positive and focussed person.

I’ve learned to be more organized. If you know me, you will know that I am unorganized, a bit messy, and sometimes a little forgetful. I’ve always been that way and while I know that it drives some people crazy, it’s not something that I find I can fix easily. With that said, this year I’ve had to learn to become more organized. It started around March when, after being featured on a popular literature blog, I had a few busy days in my Etsy print shop. I found myself one day looking at our living room floor which was now covered in envelopes, prints, address labels and business cards and having a mild panic attack. I knew at that point that I was going to have to be more organized. Shortly after that I started making a weekly list, inspired by Alex Beadon. Each sunday I spend about 30 minutes going over the next week and all the things I have to do that week, broken down into categories:  mailing stuff, photo stuff, random stuff, emailing stuff.  I star the ones that have to be done right away and I highlight them as I finish them. It’s rather neat to be able to go back in the book and see all the things that I’ve managed to get done (or put off) for the past few months and even though I’m still fighting the messy desk and scattered email inbox, I feel much more in charge of my photography business.

And finally, I’ve learned the true value of friendship (cue “awwwwws”). I’ve always had a difficult time feeling totally comfortable around people and in most cases feeling like my friendships were working. I’ve distanced myself from a lot of people in the last few years and through this have found myself rather isolated. Thankfully, this year I’ve been so fortunate to make and build some truly incredible friendships with people who I feel not only understand me but also think in the same way I do. Through the benefits of social media I’ve been able to collaborate and have incredible conversations with friends from around the world and I’m so thankful to have been able to attend three meetups (soon to be four) and be able to build these friendships in real life. I think I started to forget the value in friendship and the value in not being totally introverted. I don’t think I can ever say thank you enough to the hilarious and inspiring friends that I’ve been so fortunate to make this year.

So, as this year comes to a close I look back and feel that as difficult as it was (even though some of it was self-imposed) I’ve come out of it all with a better understanding of myself, of what I want in my life and how I can get there. I feel that I’ve grown up this year, that I’ve validated myself and become more confident in my own mind and in my photography and that I’m heading in the right direction.
Thank you to all of you, who read this blog, who leave me positive and uplifting comments and messages and who continue to help me learn and grow.

October Monthly Recap

Well that month sure went by fast! Here I was just a few days ago trying to type up the random events of September when all of a sudden pumpkins were being replaced with christmas decorations and the last of the leaves are barely clinging to the trees!

October was an amazing month though. It felt like a month of clarity for me, one that allowed me to see where I want to be headed and to acknowledge that I’m not quite there yet. I’ve come to enjoy the journey of self-discovery, to enjoy those moments of “THIS is what makes me feel alive!” and to look for those chances to feel them again.  This month was full of those times.

Thanksgiving Meetup

I already dedicated an entire post to the amazing weekend I spent in a cabin with some of my closest friends and favourite photographers. It was really an opportunity for me to not only try out new ideas and concepts and think on the spot but also an opportunity to solidify that this is what I want to do with my life. I want to photograph, I want to create art and share it. I want to see new locations and use them in ways that maybe nobody else would have thought to. This meetup was a much-needed break in my life and I can’t really put into words how much these opportunities push me and help me grow.

Phlearn Interview
Shortly before I left for the Thanksgiving meetup, I was contacted by my lovely friend Angela who happens to work at Phlearn.com, an amazing website created by Aaron Nace devoted to photography and teaching artists. I’ve long respected Aaron’s work and the opportunity to be interviewed for the website was truly an honor! You can read the interview here: http://phlearn.com/phlearn-interviews-joel-robison

Zombie Walk:
What’s October without a friendly neighborhood Zombie Walk!? I had a great time spending a few hours with some fellow  zombies roaming the streets of Cranbrook!

photo by Mountain Culture Photography

Magazines/Book Covers:
At the beginning of each month I try to sit and think “I wonder what will happen in these next 4 weeks” and most of the things that end up happening are never the things I would ever assume! This month I was fortunate to have a lengthy interview (complete with cover!) with a Russian photography magazine.

I also discovered that one of my images licenced through Arc-Angel stock images was purchased as a book cover in Holland, how exciting is that!?

I was also featured on the cover and inside the 8th issue of fourx5 magazine, an AWESOME photography and design magazine, you can download the issue here:
http://gudstufphotography.com/fourx5_issue08.pdf

Winning Relay Race
Normally I try to stay pretty consistent with my running (I’m training to qualify and eventually run in the Boston Marathon) although this summer and fall were so busy that I hadn’t actually managed to keep on track with any significant races or runs. I decided about half way through the month to sign up with a friend to complete a relay linking my town with the next town over, a distance of 25km. My portion was 14km and while it was a bit cold starting off in the snow, our duo ended up being the fastest team and we’re now the proud owners of a rather awkward and oversized trophy!

Milestones:
Last but not least, this month I hit two pretty big milestones in my online photography journey. On my Flickr account, I reached 5 million overall views of my photos and my Facebook photography page has reached 10,000 likes. For me, these numbers are motivating. They tell me that people enjoy what I do and that my work matters. It helps me to stay on track, to keep moving forward and I just want to say thank you to each and every person that has ever looked at my work and appreciated it.

This month, while mostly cloudy and grey weather-wise was full of bright memories, humbling moments and chances for me to grow and learn and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 4 weeks!