A few weekends ago we had some nice sunny weather and I decided to once again head out and see what I could see along a stretch of the Sturgeon River Trail system. A couple episodes back I had explored briefly a stretch of this same trail but turned and headed back as I was hearing wolves howling fairly nearby and figured it would be the safe thing to do. It’s truly a unique experience having your photo hike cut short by howling timberwolves and realizing all you have to defend yourself if it came down to it was your camera gear!
This time, I had a mission.
This time though, it was a nice sunny day, horrible conditions for photography as it was dealing with that mid-day sun. But there were other people out enjoying this same trail so I felt a little better since the slight increase in traffic would likely mean less chance of encountering wild animals. This time, I had a mission.
I figured it’d be kind of cool to take you guys along
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an overly important mission, but I thought it would be something fun to go check out and share with the viewers of my YouTube Channel(which by the way, you should just go ahead and click this link and then hit subscribe because why not, it’s totally free and I put up new micro adventures once a week from my treks around North Eastern Minnesota!). Anywho….where was I…oh yeah, my mission. I noticed on the map at the trailhead that there were a few different small pavilions or shelters along the trail at various points so that cross country skiers and hikers can have a place to get out of the weather if need be. I’ve seen these little shelters on many different occasions but as I said, I figured it’d be kind of cool to take you guys along and show you as well. So off I went.
I was feeling stuck and I was feeling a bit of that “Why am I even bothering with this” mentality.
Now full disclosure, this video got long. Really long. So I decided to split the video into two episodes. Also, full disclosure, this day was a very difficult one for me. I was super happy to be outside, hiking and enjoying the mild temps for February. I got some good exercise as the trail, while groomed for skiing and therefore packed so that walking was easier, had ben completely trampled over by a lot of people out snowshoeing. Add to that that the sun was warm for a change and there was around 3-4 inches of sloppy, sugary snow on top the normally packed trail. Walking was doable but difficult. But photographically, I was feeling defeated. I was feeling stuck and I was feeling a bit of that “Why am I even bothering with this” mentality.
It’s not all about the likes or follows, the hearts or subscribers. I get that.
I’m going to pull back the curtain here a bit. Not in an effort to gain sympathy or to whine about anything, but to share with you guys some of the struggles that I think really all photographers go through. I’ve been working hard on my YouTube channel, trying to build an audience. February was 6 months in and while I know these things don’t happen overnight usually, 6 months of hard work feels like it should have amounted to more. I’ve been shooting photographs seriously for around 10-11 years now. Working hard to learn my craft, to hone my skills and to be able to better exercise my creative voice. But after many long years of work I feel like I just can’t seem to figure out how to get that work out to more people. It’s not all about the likes or follows, the hearts or subscribers. I get that. But when you pour yourself into an artistic pursuit like this, challenge yourself to be the best you can be and yet you see no growth in terms of audience…well it takes it toll now and then. Especially when you start the dangerous game of comparing your work and your audience stats to others. That is never worth doing, but we all do it at some point.
Is it garbage? Am I blind and my work really really sucks? Is there something wrong with me that I can’t seem to gain a following?
For me, I was frustrated because I feel like my photo work is solid. I’m not so arrogant to say it’s great or that it’s better than someone else, but when you start to fall into that trap of comparing yourself to others you will inevitably find those other photographers, those other artists, whose work is the happy snaps on an iPhone type of work, and they have 2, 3 or 10 times the following you do…well, I don’t know about you, but it makes me look at my work and wonder. Is it garbage? Am I blind and my work really really sucks? Is there something wrong with me that I can’t seem to gain a following? That’s where my headspace was as I set out on my hike to try to clear my head.
Just get to work, I told myself.
I worked very hard that day. Putting myself in terrible lighting conditions. Forcing myself to try to make the best photographs I could with the veil of self doubt blinding me. Forcing myself to try to just put my head down, forget about the outside world and the likes and comments and follows. Just get to work, I told myself.
I reminded myself the the photos and video be damned, I had a beautiful day outdoors
Did it work….well not at first. I finished my hike and sat down at my car feeling defeated still. Feeling like a total fraud. I got home and waited a couple days to look through the photos and the video footage. I put together this episode, part one of my search for the pavilion, and I still felt like it was utter garbage. But…I rolled up my sleeves and began to work through the editing and I reminded myself the the photos and video be damned, I had a beautiful day outdoors and I enjoyed being in nature so it was a win. I’ll take that over sitting inside beating myself up any day of the week.
They say that in order to enjoy the light you must have shadows
As I wrapped up the edit on this video, part one of my search for the shelter, I can’t say that I felt any better about the actual photos I made during this video. But I can say that I felt better about the whole experience. They say that in order to enjoy the light you must have shadows. I believe this very strongly. This may not be the “feel good, everything is always awesome in the world of a photographer” type of post. But it’s real. We’ve all faced this doubt, this struggle with our creative self worth. We’ve all experienced the envy of those who put no effort in yet seem to attract followers and an audience as if they were dropping $100 bills out of their pockets every 5 seconds.
We’ve all searched for the shelter
We’ve all searched for the shelter, to get away from the unrelenting chipping away at our own creative self esteem that happens when we gaze too long into the dangerous pit of comparison. We don’t always get clear of that pit, but with a positive mind-set and a “put your head down and get back to work” attitude, we can begin that climb and begin to find that shelter from the storm within us.
Please do enjoy the video and the photos this week and stay tuned for next week and the conclusion of the adventure and remember I’d really appreciate it so very much if you could pop over to the YouTube channel via the link above and hit that subscribe button if you are enjoying my work. On to the show.