New Direction

Yesterday I drove 850 miles.

On and off, the entire way, I was thinking about this image. I’ve posted this before, but it has taken some time to sink in. You know how things sink in over time? Like gnats buzzing around your head on a camping trip, at first a small annoyance and then at some point they become the entire focus of your existence.

As many of you know, on December 1st I stopped shooting commercially. No mas. No portraits, weddings, magazine work, commercial shoots, etc. I needed a new direction, and so far the grand experiment has been enlightening, making me think I should have done this ten years ago.

However, it’s not enough, just stopping the work for others focusing only on the work for me. Within this shift lies another, smaller, but I’m realizing perhaps more important, micro shift. The direction of the work. And when I say direction I mean the content, the style in which it is created and the method of presentation. Again, this image has been what haunts me.

So over the drive, a drive that started near the ocean and ended in the mountain peaks, I thought only of this photograph. What it means, how it was made, why I made it and how I wanted to share it with those that want to keep it for themselves.

In essence, I had time to isolate myself and think critically about what I was doing with my creative life. You might think this happens all the time, but it doesn’t. In fact, it feels rare. Like many of you, my life is cluttered, cluttered with mostly good things, but cluttered none the less. So when I get a break, like this drive, my mind, like the landscape, opens up. And then it narrows down.

This morning, as I checked my Twitter feed, someone wrote to me and said that my magazine, Manifesto, had changed their photographic life and direction. Now for me, there are few things that could be happier to my ears and eyes. If I can make something that has this effect on someone then I feel I’m doing something right.(Issue #2 on the way)

Over the past few days I’ve been scouring sites about design, something I know little about, but something I feel is opening up another opportunity for me, the opportunity of a new direction. I can’t tell you how good this feels.

Now the challenges still remain. In fact, the challenges of my new life and my new direction are what are so exciting. Every minute of every day my mind races with the possibilities. I feel that this change of professional focus, and micro-direction with the work, are only two of the many changes to come.

As I sit here in the cold, crisp air, my notepad is filled with sketches, dimension and direction. A map lies open with notes around the edges and the future fills my stomach with butterflies.

27 responses to “New Direction”

  1. Mark Olwick says:

    I know the feeling, Daniel. It’s exciting with a hint of apprehension mixed in. I’m excited to see more of the new direction as I love the image in the blog.

    Best fo luck,


  2. Godspeed, good man. Godspeed.

  3. Riccis says:

    Best wishes on the new journey, mate! Can’t wait to see its results.

  4. I love your blog! Thanks for keeping it up.

  5. mike a says:

    excellent post, it’s time I started shooting things for myself, the way I see them and stop worrying about what others think. You have inspired me to take on that personal project I’ve been thinking of for a while. Good luck Daniel and don’t worry about screwing it up , life is full of do overs

  6. Sean says:

    I genuinely feel excited when I see you’ve posted something new. What you write here easily has the power to send people in a new direction. Me included. Since I started reading, and after you recommended On Being a Photographer (the other book you recommended is on the way) the way I look at photography has changed completely. For the better.

    Go for it. And if you mess up just try again. And again.

  7. Randy says:

    Thank you for sharing this! You are an inspiring person.
    Please keep me (us) informed…
    I share your “driving” clear thoughts exercise, maybe from those long summer trips as a kid, hours & hours ti look and think and imagine or dream.

    • Smogranch says:

      Yes, time without distraction, email, phone, etc, CRITICAL in my mind. Critical thinking has been a theme rising to the top in the past few weeks. We need it and often times don’t get it.

  8. Larry says:

    Here is an article that talks about what has happened to downtime and the fact that our creativity is being drastically compromised by the technological advances we find ourselves with today.

    • George Balle says:

      “I tweet therefore I am”… It is a choice. We can stay connected or disconnect. If the world is counting on me to save it by responding to an email or text with in moments, or even hours, then you are all in trouble. I now don’t take my lap top on business trips so I will not sucked in. I take a book and a camera. For those of us who do something other than an creative endeavor for a living we need to schedule time to decompress and focus – the modern day tune out and turn on. Unfortunately SWA just made it harder by offering WiFi on their major business lanes…. With all the standard distractions of life compounded by the bombardment of instantaneous communication and information the ridicules notion of scheduling creativity is becoming a reality.

    • Larry says:

      George. I’m in complete agreement. Unless there is a need for the laptop specifically it no longer makes the trip. A notebook, a camera, several rolls of film, the phones and a book (hardcover) make the bag lighter and me more efficient. If an email needs a lengthy response a phone call is made.

      On the planes, to avoid the people that think they are the most important people in the world by shouting their conversations in order for the entire plane to hear, I have noise canceling head phones to somewhat drown them out. At some point I expect that the making of calls will be allowed in flight. I dread that day immensely.

  9. Michael Erb says:

    I get excited just reading what you have written. Within your words are emotions. Those emotions are real for people who desire to create. Perhaps that is why I can feel them spilling over. Or perhaps it is because I felt them once before. Regardless, I wish you the most creativity (I had to say something other than best) and look forward to more.
    Is the reading list Sean mentioned in the community forum?

    • Smogranch says:

      Ah, the reading list…nope, don’t think so. On Being a Photographer is one book. The Education of a Photographer is another. The last book, Words Without Pictures, which I THINK is by Charlotte Cotton, published by Aperture I believe but don’t hold me to that.

      I’m glad you find the site exiting, motivating, etc, that is all I could ever ask for.

  10. Brendan says:

    So true- time is the main and best ingredient in so much of what we do. Many thanks for your blog Daniel, please continue doing the right things: it has helped me get my general thoughts in order and inspire me to change direction and take a leap of faith this year, and try to become a photographer, not just a keen amateur.

  11. Paul Gero says:

    Keep sharing…you’ve got a ton to offer…

  12. Wayne Olson says:

    Glad to hear it and am looking forward to where the new path leads. As others have said, you have much to offer and, even though you might describe it as simply just trying to find your way, I hope you continue to think out loud, so to speak, as you do it.

  13. Enjoy the ride Dan. The journey is always great when the destination is not completely known nor resolved.

    Thought I’d add a couple of books to the reading list that I encourage students to read:

    1. Why People Photograph by Robert Adams
    2. Beauty in Photography by Robert Adams

    In addition to being an exceptional photographer, he has provided an eloquent and thoughtful voice to photography and how we may want to consider the medium.

    3. The Pleasures of Good Photographs by Gerry Badger

    Terrific collection of essays about what the title infers. A critic who truly enjoys looking at pictures.

    • Smogranch says:

      Holy Crap, Paul T checking in. You are the man in my mind.

      I’ve read one of the books you mentioned, but years ago, and frankly I don’t remember it. But, it was during a time in my life when getting a tan and attending every single party within a hundred mile radius was #1 on the list.

      Thanks for reading and adding to the site.

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