It's been a busy start to the year, much busier than this time last year. This time last year, I couldn’t have handled it. Professionally and personally, I was drained. So drained in fact, that I started 2017 by taking a sort of sabbatical. Owning AND operating a business is hard. And this whole balancing life and work thing is a learning process that is ongoing and ever-changing. In this season of life, I have been lax in my blogging endeavors. I hope to remedy that in the coming weeks, as I’ve got some fun things to say and some cool work to share. In the meantime, I thought I would share a very quick update on where I'm at a year later and how taking a sabbatical has changed my work life.
The biggest takeaway from my sabbatical is that I don't need to be taking sabbaticals. There is no reason to let the stress of work and life build to the point where I am forced to take extended breaks from something I love and am deeply passionate about. An extended period of work and stress can rob someone of the passion and joy they feel in doing something they love. A more realistic, achievable and functional solution is to make sure that throughout the course of the year, work and rest are carried out in equal proportions. Everyone's proportion is different and finding mine and maintaining it is a constant challenge. But a keen sense of self-awareness and the discipline to listen to what your body and mind are telling you can make achieving this proportion a reality.
I also looked at my business as a whole and chose to focus more on specific areas of photography. The reality of 2016 was that I spread myself too thin and worked myself into a frenzy, shooting all the weddings I could book along with commercial and portrait photography. So in 2017 I started limiting my wedding photography in order to free up more of my weekends so that I could have more time with family and more time for myself. As of right now, I don't book more than 12 weddings a year and ideally, only 10. This frees up my weekends for the aforementioned activities (or lack of activities) and it also allows me to focus more on the wedding clients that I do work with. Wedding photography has always been personal for me and if I don't have the time to connect with my clients on a personal level and enjoy the experience of photographing them and celebrating with them, I'd rather not photograph weddings at all.
Right now, my primary focus with photography is Commercial work and the limited Weddings I do. I still do some Senior and Family portraits here and there, as well as some Graphic Design and occasional Video work. But Commercial Photography is my predominant area of focus. And it's a lot of fun. The variety of work as a Commercial Photographer is seemingly endless. Products in the studio, athletes in the outdoors, doctors in the hospital and delicious food are just a few of the things I've already photographed this year. The best parts of Commercial Photography are the opportunities to learn about other businesses and trades, the varied creative approaches I get to take when photographing for commercial clients, and being able to work during the week instead of on the weekends.
Lastly, taking a sabbatical afforded me the time to intentionally disappear. I've always been an outdoorsy person but I had let my life overtake that part of me. The habit of always working kept me chained to my computers and my devices. My time away brought a renewed sense of peace and awe when I escaped to the outdoors. And that in turn only made me want to spend more time outside. Last year, I finally replaced the beloved Novomobile with a newer, updated vehicle...a truck, to be exact. I had always loved the idea of driving somewhere remote and sleeping in the back of a truck. The day after I bought it, I bought a camper shell for it and the day after that, I made my own dreams come true by driving out to the Buffalo River area, driving up a mountain, falling asleep in the back of my truck and waking up to a beautiful sunrise. Best night's sleep ever. Since then, I've been working on perfecting my truck camping routine by addressing everything from food prep, to storage, to proper bedding and off-grid power. In the future, I plan on having a mobile work setup where I can drive to a beautiful location, get some work done and then, do a little fishing or reading before heading back to civilization.
As always, I am grateful for the opportunities that come my way and for the people that present them to me. Thanks and Happy 2018.