Monday Starter : 54

What I’m reading: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown - No, I haven’t finished this book yet! But I’m loving it so far.

What I’m listening to: People aren’t Dumb. The World is Hard by Freakonomics Radio.

A movie I’ve seen: Green Book - I took my son to see this movie and I’m glad I did. Inspiring, funny and moving. Beautifully performed by the two leads.

A quote I’m pondering on:Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” — Seth Godin

2018 : My least favourite year

Well that didn’t work. In a previous post dated 3 Jan 2018 (a year ago!) I said something about continuing to write on my other website:

It never eventuated.

I think I forgot. What have I done in the past 12 months?

2018 was a difficult year. It felt like a blur. I was all over the place. I didn’t have focus.

I think that I can only be “productive” (and happy) when I’m working on a project. I did a few. Here’s a list:

  • SOGIE/Siya Project (working title) - a photographic essay on Transgender/gender diverse Filipinos. Incomplete and ongoing. Yet to publish. We applied for a number of arts grants and were unsuccessful. We attempted to start a new grant application but we didn’t follow through. I do need to go back to the Philippines to capture more stories. The time we spent there in 2017 was too brief. Two weeks was not enough.
  • Piano lessons (self-taught) - I played for 2 months then stopped.
  • Auslan (Australian Sign Language) - I did 95% of Certificate IV. I just needed to hand in my Research Project and log book. I still haven’t done it.
  • Digital content and project management for The Equality Project (volunteer) - ongoing
  • Started a new business idea with my sister : Filipino restaurant pop-up - it was an idea
  • Started a new business idea with a friend : Luxury gifts for men - still an idea
  • Did a soft-launch of my personal branding photography business - I haven’t done any promos yet
  • I think 2018 was also the year I launched - I haven’t done anything further on it

Notice how the list above includes a lot of incomplete tasks? What did I achieve?

I promised myself to read more than 10 books but I only managed 5 or so and that includes a couple of audio books. I haven’t finished reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari because I started reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Some 3 months later I haven’t finished either book!

I’m not a good reader of books. My son will read 3-5 novels in one day if he can. He has read both of Yuval Noah Harari’s books: Sapiens and Homo Deus. He as also read numerous series of novels (some I should be reading) totalling over 10,000 pages in the past year.  He is 12.

On that note, 2018 was a wonderful year to witness my son embrace high school. He has grown up so much. Literally. It was so weird to drop him off at the new school on his first day. I felt sad, excited and happy all at the same time.

As a parent, we all want the best for our child and I am endlessly trying to find ways to add inspiration in my son’s life to make sure he makes the right decisions. It is such a precarious balance between control and freedom. I am never in the middle - I’m either one way or the other. But fingers crossed, my constant too-ing and fro-ing will even itself out.

So what I’ve found is that I become less productive or I should say less effective (as I’ve just learnt that this is the better word to use. I can’t remember which podcast I heard this from.) — if I’m doing too many things at once. I lose focus. My time and energy are spread out so thinly I struggle to do anything well. In addition, I drop the ball on possibly more important things like my photography business.

Did 2018 make me happy? At times, yes. But more often than not it made me feel anxious about my life. It was also tough financially. I didn’t do as much paid work as I normally do. I did more stuff for other people - for free. All of a sudden I remembered that I had a mortgage and bills to pay. Crap. And I’m nearing retirement! Well not really. But I want to retire in less than 20 years. How do I achieve that if I spent the last 12-14 months doing a whole lot of nothing? In 2018, I kind of went backwards.

That’s not entirely true. The “whole lot of nothing” bit I mean. I did achieve some great things I can be proud of. I helped run a conference. That’s no minor feat. I managed to travel overseas twice with my family and shot some personal work on film. I also grew closer to my sister and helping my 70 year old mother move to her new home was a blessing.

And I was a parent.

So what now? I’m moving on. I’m writing down all the things I want to do and not do. I’ll have a plan (like I always do) but this time I want to return to some things that worked. That includes re-starting my “Monday Starter” posts.

Ever since I stopped writing my “Monday Starter” posts each week - I became more blah about the way I do things. When I was undertaking that exercise in 2017 - I didn’t think much of its effect on my life. It was homework that made me stop and think about the stuff I had been consuming during the week. And it wasn’t just any kind of stuff - it was artful content. At least that’s what I thought. Movies, books, quotes, things that moved me. I need to do that again and continue to do so as long as possible.

So in 2019 I will restart my Monday Starter posts. I will call them simply “Monday Starter : ##”. The next one will be #53. Let’s see if I can do this up to #1500+. I’ll be in my 80s by then.

Next I will have a closer look at what’s important to me. And only do that work. 2019 will be a year of minimising tasks and doing important work only. That’s it.

As I get older I want a simpler life. How do I achieve this? It might take me 12 months to work it out. That’s ok. I have time.

Everyone celebrates the beginning of each year with “Here’s to a wonderful/fantastic/prosperous/eventful/amazing etc (enter year)!” or something to that effect.

Here’s what I want to say: “Here’s to an even more challenging year ahead!”

xo Adrian

Monday Starter : 53

What I’m reading : Don’t Panic! More Reasons You Don’t Need $1 Million to Retire Well by Nick Bruining - This book hasn’t been reviewed well. A lot of people seem to hate it with a vengeance and I don’t understand why because it’s really helped me comprehend my retirement plan. I guess if you’re looking for a “retirement-planner-for-dummies-book” - this might fit the bill. It provides a good context for Australians who are planning on their retirement. I don’t plan to retire just yet but I when I started thinking about it last year, I couldn’t get my head around superannuation and the pension system. Indeed I felt a sense of panic. This books explains everything with illustrations to boot. Some topics are a tad complicated but I gather I will pick up this book again when the time comes.

What I’m listening to: How to be happy by Freakonomics Radio - This one is a gem.

What I’m watching: The Colony on Netflix - The premise is nothing new but it’s well delivered with enough action and revelations to keep me interested. The acting is okay compared to The Flash (that my 13 year old son loves to watch) where the performances are a little silly and repetitive at times. 

A quote I’m pondering on: Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.  — Lao Tzu

Why I Shoot Film - Part I

A medium like no other

This blog post is not a film vs digital discussion. I don’t feel the need to justify why I use an outdated picture-taking process, but I do long to articulate and share the reasons why I am passionate about film.

For me, it is not about which is “better”. Digital photography has much to offer, but so does film. Yes, the latter is expensive, slow and often difficult to use well. And I want to photograph an entire wedding using this unwieldy medium? I must be crazy!

I can’t help it though. I love capturing weddings with analog cameras, and using film has revived me as a photographer. In 2009, after photographing weddings exclusively with digital cameras for three years, I’d become uninspired and overworked. Too much time in front of the computer editing my photos. Too distracted by following the latest digital processing trends, many of which didn’t last. I was burnt out and my passion for photography had taken a hike.

However, in that same year, I met the wonderful, kind, fine art wedding photographer extraordinaire, Jose Villa, and I attended his workshop in Mexico. What a great experience! I made new friends. I grew up as an artist. And Jose inspired me to return to my roots.

I remembered the reasons I became a photographer in the first place. I knew I had to return to what I loved - classic black and white, and natural colour with beautiful skin tones. I’ve always been obsessed with getting my skin tones right.

So I started shooting film again. It was a revelation. I’d almost forgotten that it was possible to create art with film. Indeed, nowadays we wonder how photographers captured anything back then. Yet the answer is simple. They worked with what they had. They just did it.

I shoot film because I love the process. Yes, film certainly can deliver beautiful skin tones, but for me, it’s also about the workflow and the deliberate process it demands. It forces me to slow down and curate my work during the moment of capture. It makes me stop and think about what I’m observing.

You’re probably thinking, “Surely you can apply the same principles while shooting with a digital camera?” Have you tried it? You can’t help yourself looking at your camera screen. It’s difficult to stop pressing the shutter and taking multiple captures of the same thing, without even noticing how many shots you’ve taken.

Maybe you could simulate film photography with a digital camera. Maybe you could modify a DSLR to act like a medium format film camera with a manual lens. Maybe you could cap the number of frames you take and apply a cost to each frame. Realistically though, when using a digital camera it’s unlikely you’ll apply the same mindful process you need to shoot quality film, 100% of the time.

I think this is partly because we’ve come to expect the instant gratification you get from digital photography. We can check the image in camera. It takes only a little time to process our images via our software of choice. Not so with film. Instead, I have to send the exposed rolls of film to my lab for processing and scanning. I don’t see the images immediately. In fact, I don’t see them for at least two weeks. I love that.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many applications where digital photography shines. Digital cameras are great when it comes to low light. Some weddings take place entirely indoors where the light is not the best and then digital is the only way to go. However, on average, I will aim to shoot about 80% of a wedding day on film.

Film photography is imperfect, organic, light and airy - qualities that lend shooting with film to the way I see the world. You might think it sounds naff… but I truly believe that film photography is a fine art. From start to finish.

I also shoot film because of its limitations. As an artist, I believe it’s important to be challenged and to engage in a creative practice that is thoughtful and authentic.

Above all, I would love my photographic legacy to be about keeping film alive for future generations of clients as well as photographers. Will you join me?

Adrian’s Monday Starter : 52

This will be my last Monday Starter post for the year. I managed to do one every Monday for 52 weeks! Hooray! I’m now going to focus my “writing” efforts on my new site

What I’m reading : Artemis by Andy Weir

What I’m watching: Travelers Season 2 on Netflix

A quote I’m pondering on: “The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.” — Seth Godin

Go see: Call Me by Your Name  — There’s something beautiful about first love and first loss. Beautifully depicted, haunting and challenging at the same time. Fantastic performances. I love the fact that they moved between three different languages effortlessly in the dialogue. And the ending!

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