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Wednesday, 09 March 2011


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Was it not Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Seems to apply here.

Can you post the other two? Please?

Mike, would you mind showing the other two pictures? I don't remember seeing them. Perhaps as hyperlinks? :)

I often go out and shoot whenever there's a major snowfall, not because I feel I have to, but because I love to. Even just walking in deep snow feels so peaceful. Time sorts of slows down. And if I come back with a few good photos, that's even better.

David and toto,
I can only post one of the other two, which is here. The third has never been printed. It's a 4x5 negative and I lost my access to a 4x5 enlarger shortly after I took it, and never got back to it. I don't really know where it is, except that It's "around here somewhere." Maybe I'll find it someday. (Maybe I'll have it scanned!)



I used to take pictures of these events that one just has to take pictures of until my great mentor taught me that it is best to take pictures of what is the most convenient thing for you to take pictures of. The reason for this is that you usually know more about it and you enjoy it more if it is convenient. I took his advice and my photography has improved by leaps and bounds. Subject matter never makes a great photograph. The inherent beauty of a snow storm is incredibly difficult to capture and the only photographer that will capture it successfully on a regular basis is the one who enjoys being out in a snow storm taking photographs, not the one that is persistent in forcing himself out there. If you don't enjoy the process, then why do it. How about trying to capture the atmosphere of your cozy living room while a snow storm is happening outside? It certainly hasn't been done as often. Just a thought.

Bart: You make me sick, Homer. You're the one who told me I could do anything if I just put my mind to it!
Homer: Well, now that you're a little bit older, I can tell you that's a crock! No matter how good you are at something, there's always about a million people better than you.
Bart: Gotcha. Can't win, don't try.

There are places I visit fairly often that are photo worthy.

At some I've already got what seem to me to be as good shots as are likely possible. Usually, I just take some more when I'm there. For some reason, it doesn't much matter if they are great, or even as good as I've already done. The process of making the shots and viewing the results just feels good.

Others have eluded me so far. Lots of shots; nothing really first rate. I just try again next time I'm there. Maybe one day I'll score, maybe not.

Then there's the sense of anticipation as I approach such a place. Will this be the time that everything aligns,or that I come up with a new inspiration, and finally capture what I think is possible?

Every time I approach that one rather ordinary seeming spot on a road in Mt. Desert Is., I wonder with anticipation if this will be the time when clouds, light and water will top the wonders I captured before.

When photography, or any other optional activity, is done for the enjoyment of doing it, with no sense of obligation, the reward is in the activity. Any particularly good results are just gravy.

If I ever stop enjoying it,I'll stop doing it. I hope that isn't soon. /;^>

I hear what you are saying about feeling like you have to get and out to take pictures of something. I gave myself a challenge this year to get out and photograph as often as possible this winter, so I strapped on my snow shoes, grabbed my camera and got out to make winter wonderland images, its been a lot of fun, I have posted most of my work on my Facebook photography page: http://www.facebook.com/gary.nylander.art.photography

I've been involved with two network marketing companies. The first was a dud but I learned some useful things. The second was an excellent company and I learned one more useful thing: I'm no good at network marketing. I quit.

However, the right type of person with the right company can make a go of it and in some cases -- if they work hard -- make some serious money. My cousin is an classic example; after 10 years she's earning over $400k pa. Not bad for a former clerk.

If people do want to get involved in NM, I'd recommend they do the following:

1. Verify there is money to be made. A lot of companies say there is but it's baloney.

2. Verify the products are great.

3. Give yourself a year or maybe two to understand the industry, learn some skills, get some sales.

4. If you're not making some money after two years it could mean it's not your thing. My cousin was making money in the first 3 months and that's typical of most NM success stories.

Mike, I also picked up on your comment: "we're always telling ourselves that persistence and perseverence are crucial to success". One thing to keep in mind is that NM companies brow-beat people with this message, to keep the punters hanging in there. Combat this brainwashing with my 4 recommendations above.

Nice two posts today Mike.

Totally agree with you about the demand estimation.

Regarding persistence, this is one of those articles that makes me think in depth about my approach to photography...


Yes Mike, but do you ENJOY making winter pictures? I do recognise your basic frustration, i.e. others can do this or that much better than I can, so why bother at all? It certainly applies to me, I dabble in large format landscape photography, but on any subject, I can find better pictures than mine on flickr. It seems to me that your frustration stems out of the fact that you expect your pictures, your end result as it were, to serve some kind of purpose, to be sold or published. But if you enjoy the process of producing that result for its own sake, then surely that is all you need? If you see photography as a process rather than a means to and end, then it doesn't matter that others produce better pictures, that your pictures aren't published, and even, of which subject you're taking pictures in the first place (in this case snow). At the same time it can become a hundred times more fulfilling. So by all means, go out there, shoot some winter pictures, or not. But if you're going out there with the intention to produce a saleable winter picture, then you're going out for the wrong reasons.

An enjoyable, thoughtful piece. It dovetails nicely with the recent "10,000 hours of practice" theory when viewed through the lens of the recent "incompetent people don't know they're incompetent" theory.

But it's probably a case of the $100k man not needing to be persistent, and the $5k man thinking persistence is the only thing he can bring to the table.

Nothing kills success like the stink of desperation. It's the reason banks have marble floors and vaulted ceilings, and why BMW and Armani are in business.

Wrapping yourself in the trappings of success won't guarantee you'll succeed, but if you live and act like you're desperate for that next sale you will guarantee failure.

As for reasons to not take photos, "picturesque" will guarantee my lens cap stays on. I always ask myself if the subject of the image is crucial for the success of the image. That is a good thing for many, but it's not my style. If what the image is of is more important than the image itself, that's more like photojournalism or holiday snaps than I'm comfortable with (not to dis either of those, just not my bag).

By extension, the "why" of taking an image can similarly make or break an image for me. I guess it's a case of whether the subject or the photographer is instigating the capture.

This sounds a bit like the subject I emailed you about a while back, how so many people feel obliged to "be a photographer" these days. Your reply was along the lines of: If you gain pleasure from the process, rather than the results you hope to reap, then keep at it.

I don't feel obligated to take photos, the photos are all over the place, surrounding me whether I take them or not. But have you read The War of Art? Much of what the author discusses in his section on the amateur vs. the professional is applicable here.

I'm in broad agreement with your general idea around persistence. The real trick of course is to know when you cross over the fine line between not trying hard enough and being too persistent. It probably comes with being brutally honest with oneself, and with maturity.

"...I was annoyed, so I wrote him back a somewhat curt note of some length..."

Wonderful, and the sort of writing that probably only comes with years of editorial experience. I find editing my own writing to be a real chore, but it pays off. Shorter is always better. I don't know if you have seen the film A River Runs Through It, but near to the beginning there's a wonderful scene in which the father of the two boys gets the eldest son to edit, edit, edit and edit again a piece of prose, the result each time being clearer and crisper. The corollary of course is Churchill's line "I'm sorry for writing you such a long letter, I didn't have the time to write you a short one."

Great thread Mike! It relates well to many things. It's all about knowing your limitations!

Dear Mike;
Lovely story about snowfalls and persistence but so very true. As usual these kind of posts are typically in my humble opinion "Classic Top Ten" TOP posts. This is the reason my homepage on Google Chrome is always TOP.

Cheers Paul.

Far more troublesome to me than the nagging impulse to stop and take a photograph is the guilt and remorse of not stopping. It doesn't happen to me that often, but of the 2 incidents I remember I got mediocre but very satisfying images when I did stop (and the circumstances duplicated themselves several times since then).

All I have from the occasion when I didn't stop is the feeling that I missed out on the shot. In this case, the circumstances have never repeated themselves in about a year and a half.

Thank goodness I can still claim to be doing this for my own pleasure and that issues of persistence don't yet come into play (although they will eventually).

"Bart: Gotcha. Can't win, don't try."


That's not what I'm saying, though. I'm saying don't feel you have to try if you don't really want to.


"Yes Mike, but do you ENJOY making winter pictures?"

No, that's just it, I don't enjoy it. I do it only because I feel I should. If I enjoyed it, then I'd definitely do it.


Thanks Mike, that was said so much better than ever I could!

You nailed it right on the head Mike.

There is nothing noble about persistently digging your own grave as i've discovered recently.


Having been both a commercial/advertising photographer, and an image/photography department manager in my career, I've always tried to talk at length with other people in the industry with the idea of understanding their motivations for being in this business.

What I've found, is there are an amazing amount of people who are in photography, and constantly snapping away! Everything is a potential subject, everything is a potential sale, everything is a chance to improve their technique. They cannot stop! But it doesn't seem like it's because they have a love of the process or the result, it's because they have ADHD, or some other type of functional disability that I have no knowledge of, that makes them feel ill at ease if they are not constantly, and mechanically involved in the process of doing this. This is no different than people that have to touch every third light pole they walk by, or avoid sidewalk cracks.

I've seen a program on PBS a few times, regarding one of their stable of freelance photographers, and he seems of this type (funny a lot of the magazine and photo-journalist types seem to meet this standard). When he wasn't gone on location, packing to leave to some other exotic location (telling himself that he needs to do this so he can document species that may disappear tomorrow, and yet getting ill from foreign viruses and almost dying); he was torturing his family by going out and forcing them to pose for hours on end until his daughter was crying. Didn't seem like his family was very happy, and it seemed like he was happy to leave them on these trips. It also seemed to be entirely mechanical. Not for love of the thing, but nervous energy.

I've always lamented not spending more time in my earlier years with my pals, or meeting that significant 'other', and just devoting too much time to the industry; mostly because I was admonished by bosses I then respected that I would never be a success if I did not do such. I also realized at a later date (maybe too late) how 'damaged' these people really were.

Which I guess brings me to this, I don't think, because I call myself a photographer, that every beautiful or meaningful situation I'm involved in needs to be spoiled by trying to take a picture of it. I realized years ago, that struggling to take a picture of a beautiful sunset I'm looking at can never be better than sitting there and watching it, and maybe talking with whoever I'm with. In a way, that seems far more healthy for my inner self. So, I've leaned to never feel bad about being in awe of a situations beauty, and not wanting to spoil it by trying to record what can only be a weak representation of it.

Thanks for another universal truth in your column about persistence, Mike. People often get advised to work on their weaknesses, whether at school or at work. But no matter what you do in life, you're probably going to have to work hard at it.

You end up much happier working hard at something you enjoy rather than at something you don't. And the work will have its own rewards as well as the results.


Wow, that is an absolutely beautiful photograph. Good job on it!

"Yes Mike, but do you ENJOY making winter pictures?"

No, that's just it, I don't enjoy it. I do it only because I feel I should. If I enjoyed it, then I'd definitely do it.

It will seem obvious, and others have made similar suggestions above, but that's the answer then. If you don't like it, why bother. You will SUCK at being a winter photographer if you don't like doing it. I take pictures of many things, the subject isn't that important, but I will never do weddings, because I hate wedding photography. By the way, in the Bahamas I shot a series of a wedding party hanging around waiting whilst the hired photographer was doing his thing. That series got me an honorable mention in the International Photography Awards 2006.

But I digress.

Mike, having earlier commented about editing, I found the clip from A River Runs Through It. http://movieclips.com/cMG3f-a-river-runs-through-it-movie-learning-to-fish-and-write/

Wonderful film, and some truly stunning cinematography of a beautiful place. I have never been lucky enough to visit Montana (or indeed anywhere else in the middle of the US - I've been a coastal visitor to date). One day, I hope to get the chance to take both my fly rods and camera there.

Rock and roll I gave you all the best years of my life...

(Kevin Johnson)

Now, if I could only manage to combine the right light, inspiration and what small measure of skill I have, I might be on to something that is more than just standing around, waiting.

Mike, great column! One of your best, IMO.
Thanks, John

Thanks for all the nice compliments, too, y'all.


Bravo, Mike. Spot on.

When I read "Moby Dick," what I took away from it was that there's a difference between WALKING away and RUNNING away. Ahab should have walked away from that whale. He had a wife, a daughter and a nice home in Nantucket. Who cared about some stupid cetacean?

You hit on exactly what I felt--that we're expected to "stick with it" too often.


Good photographs happen because one is in the right place at the right time. One should always be open to what is out there. Searching for a particular photo because one feels one ought to rarely works out successfully.

I read your blog regularly, but don't often comment. Just wanted to say that this was a superb post - enjoyable, well-written, relevant to photography (but not too much). And I love the photo.

A vote for persistence: leadership literature asserts that when you've got your eye on small gains--selling Mike handsoap--persistence doesn't pay; it frustrates. However, if you set your goal really big, then persistence is almost the only thing that scores you a win. Consider Mandela, Gandhi, Churchill, Lincoln: persisters all when reason would have told them to quit. You see it in the arts, too. Monet obsessed with the light; Matisse hunting timeless truth with color, and maybe even Steve Jobs and Vivian Maier out in the urban wild looking for something they'd missed in earlier hunts.

Mine is more like a biological urge that stirs in the chest and rises to the eyes. No kidding. It's a physical thing and I have to go out and see and shoot. No specific event triggers it. It wells up when I have not shot for a while, like a food craving. It's in the blood, I guess.


Your Bart retort, "don't feel you have to try if you don't really want to." shifts your piece a little. Perhaps your neighbor was selling NM because he really wanted to, not because he's good at it, makes money at it, because his mother tells him he has to, whatever. Perhaps he just wants to do his thing. Anyway, deciding to stop is a huge question, What Next?

I know the feeling. I was in Madison on business this week and woke up early Wednesday morning to get back to Chicago for a meeting. After clearing 6 inches of snow off the car, I headed out onto the Beltway and then to I94. The snow covered forests along the way looked amazing and I sooo wanted to stop and shoot. But I had to get to the meeting.

"Perhaps your neighbor was selling NM because he really wanted to"

Nah, he thought his $100k-a-year ship coming in was right around the corner, and he'd just read some business book or other that told him he had to keep hammering at every prospect until he scored the sale, that's all. The usual rah-rah you-can-do-it stuff. His problem was he just didn't have the knack of separating the "prospects" from the "suspects."


Excessive perseverance is a source of quite some evil on the political world stage, too - a characteristic misfeature of Gadaffi and the RIAA alike.

Success seems to come about either through preparation (I saw a bunch of crap photos of a standing stone, thought I could do better, went and did it); or through no preparation (I pointed a LF camera down a hole in the ground where it was so dark after sun-down I could barely see what was on the ground-glass); through trying; or through living "in the moment", making a shot with which you are "one" at the time of lifting viewfinder to eye.

I'm not sure that says much for success, really, except to suggest seeing - and valuing - what *you* bring to a given photo. (Oh, and b*gger trying to conform to existing genres: I don't know whether I'm a landscape or closeup-nature photographer at the moment, which tells me the pigeon-holes are in the wrong places.)

Great article.

I am not an accomplished photographer and, at age 50, have finally realized why not; I am constantly looking for that "great photo opportunity" while not fully understanding what constitutes it. Recently, while reviewing those photos of the Old West at the link provided by this site, I realised that all of them are nothing more than folks and scenes typical and ordinary for the time/place they were taken. Even so, every one of them impressed me as being better than any photo I have ever taken. It got me to thinking: I bet the guy that took them didn't think they were anything special; he probably just threw them in a box and forgot about them. Now, for some reason I will probably never be ablt to define or understand, everyone that I have directed to the site has the same response: "Great photos! I loved them!"

I am not, and will likely never be, Ansel Adams...............I think I will just grab my camera and start taking pictures.....when I feel like it and without concern about what others may think of the results. Maybe the person who will appreciate them the most has not even been born yet. I will do that person a favor and go with volume.

"Ditto" to Jack. Nice post.

like now, I feel the urge to comment, but is what I say worthy, necessary to anyone but me?
mmm, heck, I'll just post this and see.

"I think I will just grab my camera and start taking pictures.....when I feel like it and without concern about what others may think of the results."

Good for you! My guess is that your photography is just about to improve. And probably your enjoyment of it, too.


I've always been driven to photograph, draw or paint whatever I see. I don't know why, I just know that I'm never happier than when I have a camera, pencil or brush in my hand.

Looking at the results is a different story. I'm never happy with the finished product unless I went in with a clear idea of what I was trying to accomplish.

After 6 years and two parking tickets, I've decided not to shoot Horsetail Falls in "prime" time any more. It's been done, done well, by me and by others. Now it's time to move into other times to shoot Horsetail Falls, when the crowds have gone and parking is easier.

Another meaning of "iconic" is "done to death".


"Do you ever feel like you have to go take pictures of something?"

All the time, Mike. Most recently was our "Great Blizzard of 2011". I've always felt compelled to play in the snow so it wasn't a big stretch. (See my main page slideshow for some of the results.)

Grabbing a camera to take advantage of an interesting situation is, after all, a big slice of the fun of photography, isn't it?

But Tom Kwas's earlier remarks are noteworthy. There is often greater and richer reward in just enjoying an experience rather than trying to bottle it. The images in your memory will always be better than those on your camera.

The relationship between photography and mental health is also a multi-faceted subject. With regard to this thread, there is most definitely an element of obsessive-compulsive disorder that compels some people to become ultra-snap-happy. The compulsion to always carry a camera is often cited as a attribute of commitment, but its also often an attribute of o.c.d. .

Well, gotta go wash my hands now.

Mike mentioned his musician friend who has been trying to make a go of it for 20 years, without much success. So, why would a person keep at it for so long? I also have a musician friend who quit his job at a bank a few years ago. On top of that, his wife quit college to paint. To this day, they are poor as church mice. Still, I consider them to be some of the most successful people I know. That's because they are doing what they love. Maybe it just depends on how you define success...

@ Nikhil

Truer words ....I will die with a missed image in my mind. Rounding a high bluff in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, the St. Lawrence River at dawn was laid up before me. The river was as smooth as glass and a single freighter was passing a point on my side of the river, perhaps a mile away. Its wake coiled behind it like petals opening. I stabbed my foot on the brake and left some rubber. But, my young lady guide was disappearing around a turn at the bottom of the hill at speed and I knew not where we were going except that the gates to the fishing boat would close at 5:30 AM. Too my everlasting regret I pulled away to catch her. Naturally, as the cosmos was right to ensure, the salmon fishing was forgettable, the potential image of a once in a lifetime scene, isn't.

I see a lot of well-intentioned (I presume) advice floating around that probably addresses the common cases, and is blatantly wrong for a bunch of other cases.

You've done a nice job, I think, of laying out some thoughts on the boundary between "persistence" and "obsession".

Sven's point that NM successes, at least, are very commonly evident in the first three months is also relevant. I can accept the "10,000 hour theory" as a rough concept (which is the point, I think; the number isn't that magic), but so far as I can see, that's not about beating your head against the wall for 10,000 hours; it's about continuing to work hard and drive yourself as your successes increase. Richard Thompson was a spectacular 16-year-old guitar player (according to one of the people on the History of Fairport Convention album, anyway), and I'd bet money he was surprisingly good just a month after he started playing. Thing is, he just kept going.

We really should talk to people more about "hard work" than about "talent", I think. Some people do seem to get some parts of various skills "for free"; I've heard lots of talk about this among fiction writers for example. But all of them had parts of the skill set they just had to sit down and bull their way through over and over until they started to get it. Telling people they're "talented" probably does little good (telling them specific work they've done is good is probably valuable). Teaching people how to work at something will help them all their life.

Which is not to really differ with your thoughts on persistence; picking which things to persist at, and working effectively on the things you've chosen, is clearly the path to success, and often to happiness.

:) you are my favourite blog.

After your thoughtful essay and many of the posts relating to it, what more can I add? How about this: Nice photograph, Mike; I wish I had made it.

Wow, that kinda blows my mind a bit. What an interesting way to look at things, I relate and realised immediately I need to make a change on a similar situation... wow, it seems so clear now.


I loved this post! I know the feeling of wanting without the preparation. The way I resolved it was to start carrying my Panasonic Lumix LX5 with me at all times instead of trying to remember to take my dslr with me every day. The eye-opener was that even though I had the LX5 with me, I still didn't always take a photo of something that intrigued me. These days I just enjoy looking and snapping when and where I feel like it without remorse or guilt.

If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got.

Good post Mike.

I bought my first 'serious' camera (Canon EF) after grad school (1974) when I lived in Madison, WI. A short while later I took it out in bright sunshine the day after a heavy snowfall. Parked my car and walked out across a nice field of snow...or so I thought. Several feet across, the ground gave way, dumping me chest deep in frozen, muddy water. The camera, by sheer reflex, instantly went above my head, leaving me to cling with opposite hand to a nearby branch. Shivering, with icy, smelly water and mud inside my boots and clothes, I made it back to the car. Camera was intact, but my brain was left with a somewhat altered view of winter wonder.

Fast forward 37 years. Late last Fall, I photographed a nice rural Maryland scene with some run-down but picturesque shacks
near the woods by a stream. The scene glowed in late afternoon sun, but I thought at the time that I should return in winter after a snowfall, but before any tracks were visible. I made a note of the location and plotted a car route from my house so that I could find the location again with a place to park. I kept the note on my desk.

This February was my opportunity; nice snowfall, with clearing the next day for car trip. I didn't necessarily expect a great photograph - experience told me otherwise - but there was something rewarding about following up on the plan. I did, and the bonus was that the resulting print was as good, perhaps better than my Fall print.

Sometimes we get lucky. But, a little motivation helps.

I read your blog nearly every day in my usual routine of 'keeping up' with equipment intros and themes of consciousness in our profession.

And every so often, you pen a jewel like this that just puts the icing on the cake.

Persist. Please. And thank you!

As usual, a thought-provoking article, Mike. Thanks!

"Far more troublesome to me than the nagging impulse to stop and take a photograph is the guilt and remorse of not stopping. It doesn't happen to me that often, but of the 2 incidents I remember I got mediocre but very satisfying images when I did stop
- Nikhil Ramkarran"

For me, it's always worth stopping if possible. This caught my peripheral vision as I sped by. The post sunset light beckoned in the rear view mirror. I stopped and went back. It was by far the most popular image with my photography friends from this day trip. It will long be a favorite of mine. Next, I'm hoping, a shot of it with sun filtered through fog that is lighter and wispy inside the trees.

"Good photographs happen because one is in the right place at the right time. One should always be open to what is out there. Searching for a particular photo because one feels one ought to rarely works out successfully.

- David Saxe

Amen, brother!

"Mine is more like a biological urge that stirs in the chest and rises to the eyes. No kidding. It's a physical thing and I have to go out and see and shoot. No specific event triggers it.
- John

"I've always been driven to photograph, draw or paint whatever I see. I don't know why, I just know that I'm never happier than when I have a camera, pencil or brush in my hand."
- Clay Olmstead

Thanks John and Clay,

I'm not sure what goes on in me is quite like what either of you have described, but "a biological urge that stirs in the chest and rises to the eyes." and "I'm never happier than when I have a camera . . . in my hand." start to put words to something in me that I've not thought about in words before.


Well said. I got a similar realisation years ago: "if something is way too hard to do, it is probably not the right thing to do."

If you're on the right track, the higher self works with you, and it's never too hard.


I understand the feeling completely. I feel the most pressure to take photos at family gatherings. I feel like I am obligated to take photos. So I will usually half heartily snap off a few dozen frames at family gatherings. The fact is that I like to photograph bands, fashion, and liquids in my studio. I don't care to take family photographs. I have actually contemplated not bringing my camera to family functions.

The story about your persistent neighbour reminded me of these:

"That boy's gotta lotta quit in him." - Ron White.

I figured out decades ago that I'm not a cold weather photographer and don't do much other than the obligatory Christmas "refrigerator" snapshots of the grandkids once the temperature falls below 40.

Timely article - I have a new Pen waiting to be used and abused and Michigan spring just can't get here fast enough to suit me. (4-6 inches of snow predicted for tonight).


This notion of persistence is the malformed cousin of the American worship of the Work Ethic, that hoary ideal that everyone, with just a bit more effort, can be good at "whatever you put your mind to." So there are legions of frustrated people frantically trying to "improve" their weaknesses, when they should be building on their strengths. Americans don't like to acknowledge that genes are primary.

This notion is similar to the idea, beloved of teachers and parents, that every kid, no matter how dim, is educable if only enough resources are thrown at him/her. Result: gifted kids are underserved, while the average and mediocre, or worse, suck up disproportionate resources to little return.

Well, for someone who apparently doesn't like taking winter photographs outdoors (and I count myself among them), you take a hell of a good winter photo. That makes me think the issue you're dealing with is not persistence but desire. There's nothing wrong with following the path of least resistance if it also brings the most pleasure, comfort, satisfaction, and financial reward.

Is that Cabin John Parkway?

Mike, how about offering the print for the next round of TOP sales, I guess you will need someone to print, if your darkroom is not set to go?


Reminds me of the Dish Network person that called the other night. He wanted to save me money on what I spend on TV.

I said, "I'm not interested."

He said, "But I can save you X% every month."

I said, "Really?! I don't think so."

He caught on quick, because at that point he said, "Let me guess - you don't spend anything for television now, do you?"

I said, "Nope."

He sincerely apologized for interrupting me and wished me a nice evening. I thought, you know?, he'll do all right. He understood that he didn't have a customer based on his current pitch, dropped it as soon as he found out, and went on. And he did it courteously.

I think it's a common human struggle to figure out just what it is we are good at and like to do and can make a living with all at the same time. Much of our decision gets based on feedback from others who 1) tell us we're good at something; and 2) pay us to do more of it. The internal conversations we have with ourselves helps us sort through what it is we like, but often it's greatly influenced by those other two. And often we get distracted by everything else that's going on in life, which makes it all not so simple.

I think it's Rock Creek Parkway, but I've forgotten now--it's been almost two decades now since I've been back to DC, although I lived there for years.


I'm like your neighbor, only with a camera.

What a dilemma.

I feel that way every time I try to improve my handwriting. I go through phases of writing for an hour or two a day using various bits of paper to jot down random things I hear from TV & radio. I was hiking with my wife last week and she found a small bit of paper in my backpack that said "Bite me"

I can't recall writing it. It was much neater than my usual handwriting. Mind you, it tends to go down hill after the third word.

Optimism seems to be eternal in some people.

When you buy a lottery ticket, you think of the guy who won the last one, not about the 10 million who lost.

A similar thread runs through all the self-help "do what you believe in" gurus. Sounds nice but what if the thing you believe in isn't worth a damn.

Like with statistics, it's easy to skew the data by not including all the outcomes. Sure, there's hundreds of books written by successful people who followed some formula that they claim in universal. Do what I did, they say, because I am so smart. Thing is, you never get to read the books by the tens of thousands who followed the advice who didn't make it, because those guys don't write books.

Sometimes you stop to take a picture and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you make beautiful pictures, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you convince yourself that you could have.

A belated tack-on: I saw this on an office whiteboard 10 years ago- left by a brilliant young guy who'd left the company in frustration: "winners never quit, and quitters never win, but if you never win, and you never quit, you are an idiot..." Read about him last year in a Paul Krugman piece, he's running a hot Indian company that does banking through cellphones. Again, thanks for a great piece....

Great post and I understand, like so many others, the pressure. For me the problem always arose when I visited a new place. Normally I was travelling with family and spent too muck time feeling that I should be taking more pictures. After all, I may never be back here again.

My moment of enlightenment came while visiting the Alte Pinakothek in Munich (I think - it might have been the National Galley in London, or the National Gallery in DC).

I watched at least three people on that visit walking round the galleries carrying camcorders. Almost everything they viewed was seen through their camcorder. They had travelled half way round the world to experience one of the the world's great museums second hand. They could have stayed at home and watched someone else's video on You Tube and got the same experience.

Since then I've become ever more aware of this phenomenon - tourists who seem to feel the need to record every moment of their visit and end up viewing the world through a little LCD display.

I was cured. I still have a camera with me but now I'm much more concerned to enjoy the immediate experience of a place and to enjoy the company of friends and family on the journey.

Now here is a bigger test: Go to the zoo without taking your camera! Or go on holiday without one. Before I knew my husband, he took the overland trip from London to Katmandu (when you could) and then on to Australia and it was a set decision of his not to take a camera as he wanted to experience the countries en route without looking through a lens. Forty years later, I think he regrets that decision as his memories of that trip have faded with time. As for me, I could not go to the zoo or on holidays without my camera gear. I'm afraid its in my blood.

"...it's something somebody else could have done better."

If successful snow photos are determined by how well they sold, then objectively, snow is an income-generating photo opp & some shooters would be figuring what kind of snow photos are salable & take as many of those kinds as reasonably possible. Pondering this or that is permitted while persistently shooting.

I know many friends who enjoy taking pictures using their Nikon D-SLR cameras. Some of them also like to bring their camcorders while on travel and I find them very professional on what they do even though they did not take photography classes.

Persistently performing the same action again and again and expecting a different outcome is one of the definitions of insanity.

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