Act the way you want to be

Sokcho - Shot with Nikon D90, 10mm, f8, 1/50, ISO 200

Here’s a photo that I shot with my Nikon D90 and a wide-angle lens in January 2011. It was taken in a town called Sokcho, on the east coast of South Korea. Last night I spent a good 90 minutes or so working on it first in Lightroom, then in Photoshop. Why? I’m not making any money with it. It does not have a higher purpose. It’s not going to make me famous. In fact, I’m fairly certain it will have no impact at all on my life – or yours – so why spend all that time? After all, I could have just posted it online as  it came out of the camera without any of this extra effort.

One answer to that question is that I am proud of my work. Granted, I’m not a professional but I hold myself to a certain quality, and if I don’t live up to that expectation it is me who suffers the most. I can cheat others but never myself. I want to look at the picture I have created and say that it is done according to my best ability. If I publish something that I know I can improve with my current set of skills, it always comes back haunting me later.

Steven Pressfield, in his brilliant book The War of Art talks about becoming pro. He does not tell you how to do it, but he argues that if you don’t first start acting and behaving like a pro, it’s unlikely that you will ever become one. “Act the way you want to feel” said a happiness researcher.

Pressfield is an acclaimed author, so for him being a pro meant writing an hour after hour every single day, even when he hadn’t yet published anything and there was no guarantee that he ever would. For me it means having certain standards when it comes to the photos I publish. More lately it has also started to mean that I rarely leave the house without a camera with me.

However, perhaps the most important reason for spending last night immersed in this image was that for those 90 minutes I was engaged, in a state of flow, and generally enjoying myself. I was creating and time lost its meaning. This, I think, is worth pursuing. What have you done to feel the same?

Left: after post-processing - Right: straight out of camera

Ps. If you really like this photo, it is available as a high-quality digital download and a print here.

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