(I almost titled this post, "What I Learned When I Shipped Off My Nikon To Get Fixed", but decided that was too long).
There's a real sense of freedom in knowing that I am good at what I do, that I don't need to have others say through "likes" or "thumbs up" or gaining new followers to remind me that I'm good. I don't mean that in a conceited way, either. I just mean that I finally feel confident in my ability now as a photographer to say that about myself. I began blogging a year after we moved to Arkansas as a way to keep my far flung family and friends back in Virginia up-to-date on our new life in the Natural State, but when I began blogging in earnest, I also started to notice the fantastic photos some of the bloggers I was reading included in their posts. That led to wanting to learn how to make those same kinds of photos so that I could include them in my own blog posts.
That was all it was at the beginning. I wanted to learn how to make macro pictures, how to make sunbursts through tree branches, how to make water flowing in a creek look like silk, how to capture motion, how to take better pictures of the kids and of our life. I wanted to learn. But somehow, over the years, I got away from that as I discovered the hypnotic world of Flickr and 500px and Instagram and other social media outlets. Suddenly, I began caring more about how many followers I gained, how many likes I received, whether or not I was featured on the "Explore" pages of Flickr. I spent an inordinate amount of time on-line commenting on other people's photos, on their lives, on their technique. I got so wrapped up in all that, that my own creative outlet that photography was for me began to grow stale and I began to lose confidence: I wasn't good like everybody else who lived these fantastic lives and photographed their subjects and adventures exquisitely and then shared them on-line.
I had completely forgotten why I picked up a camera in the first place until this past Tuesday when I had to send my Nikon D5 to Nikon because I managed to get one of the wireless transmitters that screws into the front of the camera, stuck.
"Stuck" as in stuck like glue or cement or concrete or anything else that you need a jackhammer and a prayer to get un-stuck.
Driving home from the camera shop that was going to send it in for me, I was close to tears. I felt like crying over the stupid thing I had done and now my camera had to be sent back to the manufacturer because of something that was my fault. But as I was battling the lump in my throat, a delicious sense of freedom also began to creep in. Maybe somewhere deep inside of me I finally let go of all that competition and envy of others that I had let inhabit me over the years and I could finally get back to how things were in 2006 when I first picked out a template on Blogger and put fingers to keyboard and began writing about my days as a new Arkansasan. I was reminded that it was a camera that got me started, not followers or random strangers that live inside my computer. It was such a refreshing wake up and one that I've been savoring ever since.
With this newly discovered freedom, I am also beginning to let go of a lot of my social media accounts. I've done away with my Facebook fan page and have logged out of Facebook altogether so that if I "have"to go visit it, I have to really think if want to (because who can remember all their different passwords for all their sites on the computer?). I've already deleted my old Instagram account (but created a new one where I'm being very choosy over who I follow); Flickr went away months ago, but I am keeping 500px and Pinterest for the sheer inspiration I can find on those two sites. I have a folder at the top of my browser window called "Mind Sucks" where I keep all my social media sites. It's slowly beginning to get thinner and thinner. It's not because I don't have time, it's just that social media is so noisy and so full of "OOHH!! Look at my picture!! Look at my video!! Look!! Look!! Look at me!!! Notice me!!!" I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with social media - - - if you're a photography business or any type of business, then InstagramFacebookTweetPinterest away! I'm not seeking to go into business (although I would love to be able to shoot sports at Fayetteville High School. Maybe this will be the year I can do that finally!) and I've given that idea a lot of thought, but after thinking of all the time I'd miss with my family, the weekends and evenings I'd have to give up to photograph other people, I decided against going into business, instead focusing on learning to take the best photos of my own family that I can.
I think that all of us want the approval of others, to get those "likes" and "thumbs up" and views on our thoughts, pictures and our lives. But I also think that we let that get in the way of having coffee with real people inside a real coffee shop and not over a phone scrolling through our social media feed while holding a mug of coffee first thing in the morning. You can't see the twinkle in your friend's eye or the dimple in her cheek when she laughs, and you most definitely can't talk with your hands, as I am wont to do. I am a firm believer in living my life and not watching Life from the sidelines. Just because I'm 51 doesn't mean I'm giving up, heck, I'm just getting started. I have a clear sense of what it is that I want to do now, a clearness of mind, of re-connecting with that long ago blogger newly transplanted to Arkansas. I will be real to myself, real to my family and real to my friends. I will continue my learning because that is truly where all the fun lies.
And I will continue to count down the days to when I get my D5 back.