Self and Soul

Life is busy and hard. It’s far too easy to waste your time staring at social media or binging the latest Netflix series.

Isn’t it time to do something that makes life a bit more exciting?

We’re adding a new category where we will submit stories about the skills we’re actively working on. Whether it’s writing, photography, blogging, camping, hiking, cooking, traveling more, or tips on getting out and getting more involved in your community.

Why is this important?

Self-improvement is always essential, but it isn’t straightforward. New Year’s resolutions get abandoned faster than products in an Amazon shopping cart.

Accomplishing goals has a variety of health benefits. Check out this Ted Talk.

Heather, my wife, wants to check off all the hikes from “50 Hikes with Kids: Oregon and Washington.”

I want to improve my photography skills significantly. It’s my goal for this year. There are a handful of others, but improving my photography will help some of my other goals as well.

I snapped this photo of an Ofrenda on the roadside near Bisbee, Arizona

After I left journalism, I left all of it behind. I left writing behind. I left photography behind. I exchanged it for a career and hobbies I didn’t particularly enjoy. I didn’t touch a camera for a decade. I actively tried to convince myself photography wasn’t worth it and even wrote about it.

My wife wanted a DSLR a while back and asked me my opinion. I had always used Nikon’s because that’s what I learned on initially. I recommended that she buy a Nikon because despite not touching one for a decade, I assumed that would be what was most familiar to me.

I was wrong. I had pretty much entirely forgotten how to use a camera. My wife was frustrated at my inability to help her. Over the next few years, that camera pretty much stayed on automatic. I wanted to support her in her hobby, so I bought books and Udemy courses that she never touched for the most part. She did get pretty good at photo editing, which has always been a weak spot of mine.

I also bought her backdrops, lighting kits, all the bells, and whistles. Well, the affordable bells and whistles anyway.

Then one day, the editor of the magazine I had been working at mentioned that he sorely needed new headshots, but that he wasn’t particularly interested in paying a professional. Eager to help, I told him that I have all the stuff to take professional headshots and that I even worked as a studio photographer for a while. And a few days later, I had all of it in the office, and I was snapping headshots for him.

He was supremely happy with them, stating, “These are better than the ones I paid thousands of dollars for.”

A few days later, he inquired if I would give a talk at a travel writers conference on photography. I declined, but he was adamant and convinced me.

Young Woman Tourist In Scotland
I took this one of Seattle abandoned during the ongoing pandemic.

I spent the next few months pouring over the courses I bought my wife. Taking my wife’s camera with me everywhere and reteaching myself how to be a photographer.

I gave the talk, and people enjoyed it. I felt pretty good about how it turned out. I was back to being hooked. I started taking that camera with me everywhere and shooting everything I could.

My wife’s interest in her DSLR was replaced by her interest in her iPhone’s camera, and her DSLR became pretty much mine.

My skill needs some work, though, and there is a wide variety of types of photography I want to learn. Some take quite a bit of skill and some requiring a bit of luck.

I want to figure out how to take night sky photos. You know the fantastic photo’s where the milky way is shown crystal clear against a darkened landscape image. I want to get more creative with animal and landscape photography blurring the motion of water or freezing a hummingbird’s wings in flight.

I also desperately want to improve at editing my photos.

I’m starting with the problematic first—Astro Photography.

What are you’re goals? What things do you want to accomplish? Share your self-improvement journey on Sojournlist.

Share your interests and goals. Detail your journey. Share your failures and your successes. Inspire others and find inspiration.

Instead of another year of streaming and social media, let’s make it a year of Self and Soul.


Written by Corey Dembeck

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