Call A Plan A Guess

Pulaski, Michigan

Pulaski, Michigan

Jason Fried at Signal vs. Noise:

Busting your ass planning something important? Feel like you can’t proceed until you have a bulletproof plan in place? Replace “plan” with “guess” and take it easy. That’s all plans really are anyway: guesses.

As my old boss used to say, plan the work and work the plan.

But I take the same approach to planning as I do for traveling: set up the ground rules and structure, and then let real life interject – as it always does.

Olympus Trip 35

Olympus Trip 35

If constraints help to fuel creativity, then consider the Olympus Trip 35 film camera my new constraint.

I picked up my copy on eBay from Light Burn Photo’s store last year – a great selection of re-skinned film cameras. The brown leather wrap is right up my alley.

Get this: You have four focusing zones. Close, near, far, and very far. That’s it. You have 1-6 meters to focus, or infinity.

And you can set the aperture, but the camera only has two shutter speeds: 1/200 and 1/40. The ISO dial goes from 25-400. Talk about constraints.

The results are pretty great, though, from what I’ve seen. I loaded a roll of Lomography 400 color film and picked away at it since the fall.

One niggle: the zone focusing is tricky to master. Quite a few of my shots had the wrong zone picked. I almost prefer full manual focus to this system.

It’s super small and light, and almost fully automatic, meaning I can take it anywhere and shoot. And boy, have I.

(Side note: film photography is saving my butt lately. It’s the one experiment that I can mess around with when I feel like it and not feel any pressure to post recent photos. It’s no-pressure photography, and I’m really digging it.)

A Kick In the Butt

What's True Is A Life

I’ll admit that getting going with new creative projects has been a challenge lately. With the move, and the new baby, it’s been hard to think and plan about doing a big new thing.

“Inspiration,” as most people understand it, doesn’t help. I don’t need to look at other photo projects, or read quotes from famous artists. None of that will help me take a step forward. It’s not how I’m wired. Inspiration, for me, is just a bunch of ideas.

But this morning, on the drive into work, I felt a spark as I was listening to Bill and Jeffery on On Taking Pictures. It wasn’t anything concrete, or the subject matter, or even their mood. I think it was just listening to two people talk about art and creativity that made me feel better about my situation. That little creative fire inside me that’s been so weak the past few months got a little brighter. I can’t explain exactly how it lit back up, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

What I need is a kick in the butt from time to time, not inspiration.

Photographs Just Happening

No One Will Go

Johnny Patience on his 365 project:

All of my photographs during the year just “happened”. Nothing was planned in advance. I was able to capture them just because I brought my camera with me everywhere, every single day. And sometimes, because I felt brave enough to ask a complete stranger for their portrait, and I didn’t get chased away.

Planned versus unplanned. Project versus un-project.

This idea of the 365 project keeps coming up, because I’m starting to see it as a worthwhile challenge to any creative person. “Discipline and constant work at the whetstones upon which the dull knife of talent is honed,” says Stephen King. Keeping at something, day after day, is intrinsically rewarding.

But what about a planned project versus a project like Patience’s? Bill Wadman, for instance, is doing 365 portraits this year. It’s a project with a set of restrictions: pictures of people, with Wadman’s new-ish medium format camera. There’s a schedule to set and people to line up. There’s structure.

Patience’s project – “capture real moments and make memories, to tell about the good and the bad times” – is a rambling, take-it-as-you-get-it 365 project. He takes the world, day to day, exactly as it is, and lets chaos and randomness dictate his project. Apart from one camera, one lens, one film, there’s very little structure.

My preference? One of each, which is my goal this year.

Days I Tried to Live

Soundgarden in Las Vegas, 2011

If there’s anything to get you off your butt and get in gear to accomplish something, it’s death.

Lately for me, it’s been that way with musicians and bands. Rock musicians die all the time, but the past few years, a few of my musical heroes have passed on. That makes it super important for me, as a live music fan, to see them in concert before they’re gone.

Soundgarden was my grunge band. Heavy, psychedelic, that banshee in a goatee as the lead singer – Soundgarden represented everything about heavy metal and classic rock that I loved. Luckily, I got to see them at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas back in 2011 with my good friend Driver.

Now Chris Cornell has passed. That makes me ultra mega glad I got to see his band before he died. And so it should go with a bunch of my musical heroes. For as much as I love the Smashing Pumpkins, I’ve never seen them live. Nor the fully-formed Pink Floyd (the closest I got was seeing Roger Waters in 1999). I think Cornell dying is good motivation for me to see who I can see, before they’re gone.

That philosophy extends to just about anything. See it, make it, love it – before it disappears.

We need reminders, don’t we?

Saturday In the Park

We wait all winter for days like this: sunny, decently warm, fresh breeze blowing.

In our new neighborhood, we’re surrounded by parks and playgrounds. Sparks Park – kind of Jackson’s own Central Park – is a block or two away, and we have several schools in the street next to ours, lousy with playground equipment. Our old neighborhood was very walkable, but it’s nice being so close to all this fun.

Now, when we go on walks around the neighborhood, the kids beg to go to one of the playgrounds. I have a feeling we’ll spend a lot of time here.

And that’s great. For today, we’re just happy to be outside.

Don’t Ever

Walk the Dinosaurs

Don’t be creepy. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t waste people’s time. Don’t ask too much. And don’t ever ever ask people to follow you. “Follow me back?” is the saddest question on the Internet.

Austin Klein, Show Your Work

As true for marketing pros as it is for artists. Maybe especially.

I didn’t plan on being a marketing/communications professional, but that’s how things worked out after college. Originally trained as a journalist, I used my liberal arts background and interests to become a little-bit-of-everything marketing pro. As long as I’m making things, I’m happy.

Journalism is probably where I get my skepticism of most things marketing. For a marketing professional, I don’t actually subscribe to a lot of marketing tricks. If it annoys me, as a user/customer, I can be sure it’ll annoy someone on the receiving end. So, I tend to not use marketing techniques that are onerous to the end user. No digital ads that follow you around, no cover-the-whole-page-in-an-ad news site takeovers, nothing that screams for attention.

Again: if it bothers me, why would I do it to someone else?

Klein’s advice is the simplest, bare minimum marketing advice I can share. Don’t be that marketing pro.