Social Interaction.

     Photography has always been a learning process. From the moment I found this art form I loved having a vision and fulfilling it with a click and some minor adjustments. For those of you who don't know, I started off only doing nature photography, which honestly consisted of anything that wasn't people. It wasn't because I didn't like portraiture but primarily due to the anxiety I had, and still do to a lesser degree, when taking photos of people. I'm confident in my technical skills but the social interaction was something I've had to learn to be comfortable with. I'm sure some of you might be thinking that this explains some of my inept social interactions or a very small minority of you might not know what I'm talking about. Regardless, I'm far more comfortable with the unnatural interactions photography brings about but it has proven to be an immense challenge for someone as introverted as myself. It almost seems ironic that I'm drawn towards photography when everything within me want to be alone with my thoughts and vision. Unfortunately, the reality is that in order to be profitable in this industry networking and social interaction is needed in order to craft a successful media career. 

     I want to expand on the underlying premise of desiring solitude but knowing social relationships need to occur in order for us to be healthy. So many times growing up I literally prayed to be more extroverted due to the anxiety I felt from just having a conversation with people was literally painful. At the time, I hadn't labelled this undesirable phenomenon as introversion and most people observed it with the negative connotations of rude or stand off-ish. There are still times where I understand that I'm being perceived this way but feel much less anxiety or obligation to act in these scenarios. Having grown up playing lots of team sports and regularly attending, the most dreaded day of the week with the most surface level social interactions imaginable for a young person, church, you would think I'd slowly grow out of the shy 'kid' stage. However, I never really out grew it, rather, learned to live with it and take each conversation as a learning experience where I can improve. The most useful insight I've learned is that people, including myself at times, love hearing their own voice talk about what it happening in their life. We are all guilty of it and I don't think it's always a bad thing so, for you introverts out there, aiming to continually redirect or uncover what people passionate about is a wonderful way to converse. By unveiling what people care about and want to share with others is immensely gratifying. It feels like I've solved a puzzle whenever people light up about a subject that we managed to meander towards in the dialog. Sometimes this might result in a one sided conversation with the person going way deeper into a topic than expected but remember there is a value in conversation and you don't always need to be the benefactor. 

      With all this said, here are a few of my first wildlife images with my 100-400mm lens where I was able to be alone and find a moment of solitude. Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear from those of you who can relate and how you manage social anxiety or being an introvert in an extrovert culture.

Hippie Heretic.

     Recently I was described with two simple words: hippie, heretic. Other than being a wonderful alliteration, these two titles are often avoided by mainstream culture due to the various implications they have. At first I was surprised with such a succinct, presumed assessment of my values and beliefs but after thinking about how titles define and shape our perspective of others and ourselves, I found it more so enthralling. This post is going to be about titles. The simple words we use to fit people within a context we can make sense of and lends to our survival.

     Whether you’ve been titled something that has made you feel delighted or something that has caused you to do everything you can to withhold tears, we all know the drastic effects simplistic words can on our mentality. Fascinatingly, the crude categories we fit ourselves into have virtually nothing to do with how we exist in reality. Sometimes we work towards putting up a persona that allows people to join us in somewhat of a fantasy ideal that we’ve set for ourselves and when we convince everyone of this idealistic self, it can result in a nearly euphoric ecstasy. This may even lead to feeling like we genuinely accomplished a grand achievement in altering others perspectives of us. However the relief of being able to ignore that old self who took on other names can bring about an identity crisis if not managed with integrity. These new titles we desire to adorn our superficially revitalized public and personal image need to be thoughtful and, more importantly, analyzed by people we trust and love.

     This shared life event of recreating our titles occurs regularly at different time periods for everyone. Probably one of the first times I remember desiring a title to be part of defining me, was in middle school. Not only were there an exorbitant amount of hormones starting to flow through my body, but also it’s a time for many where we start to form narratives of how we want the world to view us.  Personally, I wanted to be known as the athletic, intellectual who was capable of achieving anything. Looking back at how I naively set this delusional expectation for myself it ended up sustaining my insecure ego for the following few years. At the time, aspiring for others to see this as a suitable title for me made it incredibly rewarding whenever I’d receive compliments in either of these categories. Reminiscing on those years is an out of focus blur but I can still relate to people that age who are trying desperately to have the appropriate titles attributed to them. I was one of the fortunate minorities to have a title I enjoyed and I know many who aren’t so fortunate. Remember, they have no standing on how we actually need to function in reality.

     From a young age we learn to conform within the cultural and social structures around us. As useful as this is for early development, it increasingly seems like people yearn to remove any sort of connection to their family of origin, their once foundational ideals, or even the ways of living well in a location. A classic example of this is when someone who grew up in the church abruptly abandons their Christian title in exchange for what the culture anonymously directed them towards. Instead of worshiping God on Sunday, they are often now oblivious to the new form of worship, which point towards whatever their new, self-satisfying, title may be. Just to clarify, I’m not only referring to the stereotypical party scene that lures countless young people away from more positive experiences, but even now in my twenties, the more ‘enlightened’ lifestyles fill young adults with idealistic aspirations. Of course I fall into the trap of idealism from time to time but I think there are healthy ways to work towards idealism without it transforming your title for an illustrious elitist cause. Anyways, it doesn’t matter what alternative is chosen to replace our early life teachings and titles that accompany it but the reason I think this shift occurs is because it’s easier than genuinely learning what our own tradition has to offer on a deeper level than maybe even our parents taught us.

     Immediately some people who have experienced transitions where their titles have significantly changed after rigorous, intentional, and thoughtful analysis may object to the claim that it’s easier. Of course I understand that objection, however, in some situations I’m not sure if an unaffected effort was given without already wanting to change. The thought might even be that by abandoning our original titles to a belief system that allows for perceived growth and a fresh new way people observe the showman we exude could lead to a better life. Again, I know there are genuine reforms in what we believe but in many case I really think it is easier to just entirely move to a new tribe that gives us a fresh title. Even though I’ve observed myself and others change their beliefs in a way that would omit previous titles in exchange for alternative ones, I have to remember our minds will do what they can to survive. If we adopt a new belief system because our older one is not working it might merely be due to the desire to excel in a new community rather than work through the baggage our old one possesses.

     This might be a controversial post and one where you think that I’m beyond under qualified to write on but this blog has always been a platform to process thoughts and share with you my personal photography work. I’m always so thankful for those of you who take time to read it and support my image making. Too often it’s easy to mindlessly take people’s support for granted in a way that we aren’t even aware were doing, which is why I perpetually try to let you know how thankful I am for you. Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts on the post and what you think of the photos below from Cold Lake Provincial Park, where I lead a nature photography workshop March 3rd. If you’re interested in attending one of my workshops where I partner with LICA, just let me know because I have one coming up on March 24th!


Vile Vegetarian.

     Reading the title you were probably either slightly insulted or intrigued by what sort of objection I might have against vegetarians. The reality is that I've been a vegetarian for a few months and don't have any objections to it, nor do I think other vegetarians are vile; arrogant at times, sure. Since making this dietary shift I've had a pretty consistent reaction from people. The first question after a perplexed facial expression is usually "why." I won't go into the why because I don't want this post to be about my personal experience but rather how we observe people who live differently than us.

     The way our brains work is that we compartmentalize the information given to us so that it makes sense within the context and culture we know. When information doesn't fit within one of our predetermined compartments or have an easy understanding often we tend to label it as wrong, illegitimate, or even discardable. After living in a culture drastically different than my own for a short six months, I was forced to try and break this habit of thinking things were wrong because it was different from what I thought was 'right'. I'm definitely not a pro when it comes to this but I am more aware of the times I start to discredit someones opinions or ideas because it doesn't align with what I think would be optimal. At one point I thought people who were vegetarians just wanted to bring attention to themselves through this declaration of not eating one of the core staples in our North American diet. It wasn't until I dug deeper by earnestly reading, watching, and listening to people's reasoning for being vegetarian that I made the 180 degree switch over to what many people in my circles see as the 'dark side'.

     Ultimately there will always be an option A or option B and what I hope people start to practice is the hesitation to villainize or immediately start justifying their stance. Rather listen, discuss, and be intentional in actually comprehending why someone is capable of holding an entirely opposing view of your own. There's a plethora of influences that form how and what we believe so take time to build that understanding and relationship with people before tossing them into the 'wrong' compartment. If you have any questions or want a follow up post about why I decided to go vegetarian just let me know, if not silence is often louder than words (haha). 

Soul Medicine.

     This post won’t be nearly as extensive as my last two but it’s something that I think is pretty relevant to our current culture. On Saturday I had the privilege of going down to Drumheller for the afternoon. The sole purpose of the trip was to create images that aligned with my desired photographic style. With my only company being my camera and tripod it was an introverts dream day. Just a side note, the images below are from a trip to Two Jack Lake during Fall but nonetheless work well for the point I want to highlight.

     Everyday I’m thankful for having something that I feel so fulfilled doing. If you you’ve been reading my posts for a while you might remember that as I grew up I often had intense anxiety about what I was to do ‘when I got older.’ This anxiety never really left me but more so motivated me to search out that thing that I could never get tired of. Originally I assumed it was sports since that’s all I did with my time. However, after being injured and not capable of performing at the high level I was used to, my plans were redirected. It was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to work through but in reality it was like hitting that jackpot. If it weren’t for this blessing in disguise, the new drug called photography wouldn’t have encompassed me. Maybe it’s just that I was enabled to explore a creative outlet and put in countless hours of learning something new that allowed me to take my mind off the disappointing injuries. I’m not too sure exactly but considering I hadn’t viewed myself (and still don’t) as a creative person this was an avenue virtually unexplored.  Almost immediately I knew this was something that I wanted to do for a lifetime. I’m not sure how long I’ll be fortunate enough to do it as a career but having something that rejuvenates my entire being is unbelievably comforting.

     Generally, I don’t think people are aware of the thing that rejuvenates and gives them life. Even for myself I probably wouldn’t have found photography in the context I did if it weren’t for a drastic realigning of my life’s direction. Being self-aware is something that I admire in people and see that people who know themselves tend to exude wisdom. The only problem is that self-awareness isn’t something that can be taught. I’m not even sure if it can be learned over time but I want to encourage everyone reading this to try to dig deep and find that thing that brings you life. Maybe you already have it and if you're so fortunate to have that I’d love to hear what it is and how you found it (seriously I’d really like to hear your stories). As always, thanks for reading and sorry last weeks post wasn’t sent out in the email (things got messed up after the redesign).

Oh and if you were wondering whats with the boots, I'm a brand ambassador for Bluprint Comfort and those are a few product shots I made. Most comfortable shoes I've ever worn!

Fantastical Food Pt. 2.

If you haven’t read last weeks post, I recommend going back and doing so for some context. 

      A trend that I’ve noticed in many peoples’ lives is that if they were brought up with any sort of extremes in their life, almost inevitably, they’d flip the opposite direction as a teenager or young adult. I’d like to think I’m exempt from this paradox but in many regards I’m recognizing it in myself. Fortunately, I was raised in somewhat of a balanced home (yes mom and dad you guys did great, give each other a high-five or something) so the effects are minimal and due to my inquisitive mind I’ve learned from wise people to always question both sides of any story. Essentially, I think that’s how I’m at the point I am now; always questioning and increasingly aligning with the minority within the social circles I’m part of. Maybe I just need to find different circles but even in high school when everyone partied and thought it was ‘cool,’ I thought it was a waste of time and money. There’s a plethora of other examples of this in my life but it seems consistent throughout the years. I’m aware, or more so cautious, of the reality that I could just be a contrarian, always wanting to go against the social norm, but when it comes to forming an opinion on important matters I think it might be an asset.

     As I mature I’ve reflected back on events that have occurred throughout history and more times than not travesty followed right after something that should have been intensely questioned, simply wasn’t. I’m sure you could list a surplus of case studies so I wont get into it but if that’s the reality shouldn’t we oppose the set standards more? With all this said, I want to get back to the topic of food and hope you’ve been reading everything I’ve said so far with our western perspective of food in mind. As Wirzba adamantly opposes in his book, Food and Faith, our western culture has diminished food into nothing more than sustenance that we need as cheaply and quickly as possible. Before this period of rethinking food I would’ve aligned with the default consumerist mind set of food only existing as fuel for our bodies to use up and burn. It was also due to Food and Faith that I made the connection that since food is one of the most intimate things we experience it should be observed with more reverence. Not only do we ingest matter that has been grown from the earth but also for people who eat meat another being is consumed. A creature that inhaled and exhaled, ate, and existed in many of the ways we do. I don’t recall what context I heard this thought, but why do we decide that eating cows, pigs or chickens is entirely fine but then dogs and cats are off limits. Why is it the cows and pigs get the duty of being perpetually killed to be mindlessly consumed? I don’t have the answer, even though I’m sure there might be one, but I’m unsure if ethically we can justify the treatment of millions of animals being grown for us to devour.

      I want to continue with these food posts while I’m thinking through a lot of the things I’m writing about but they take a lot of time due to the amount of thought I have to exert. If you have any comments, questions or insight I’d love to hear them. I should also mention that I’m currently trying out vegetarianism to see what that would look like and possibly understand things a little better so if you have any advice or personal experiences send me a message. The images below are from a fun day hike I did with Paul in the beginning of winter at Elbow Lake and wedge pond. I don’t think I mentioned it but last weeks photos were from Crescent Falls. Thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your time of sharing these thoughts and ideas I’m working through.