Creativity and How To Earn It

So I’ve been in a rut the last … meh. I dunno. Few months? Years? By education and experience, I’m a technical writer. That’s what it says on my several thousand dollar piece of paper that I earned several years ago. Over the course of the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve noticed that I’m not a fan of “2nd person imperative/3rd person indicative” writing. It leaves 0 room for creativity (unless you want to count the little trade secret of how every writer has his/her “signature” in every document they write. Don’t ask, cuz they’ll never tell what it is.), and it gets rather … tedious. I have a good eye for detail, so it lends itself well to my writing out things like procedures, instructions … we’re talking 100+ steps on how to make a peanut butter sandwich. That’s how I knew I could find a niche in tech writing.

 

Aaaaaand so what? At the end of the day, it doesn’t make me happy. When it’s all said and done, I get bored *super* easily with it. So when this new job came along that *isn’t* tech writing-based, I was super stoked. Beyond excited. Hyped/amped/revved … and so on and so forth. I started late last year, jumped right into it with some white papers (hey, they’re not procedures … anything different is good), and that’s about it. I asked my manager when he would have some time to review what he feels are my specific roles and responsibilities, and that just never happened. So I’ve gone department to department to department (ad nauseum), asking what I can do to help. I have a strong writing and editing background, so I can proofread, format, edit, and whatever else needed. And for a while, there was work coming in.

It’s stopped, and now I’m back to being bored. I *literally* have nothing to do at work. And it sucks. Most people would think, “Dude! You’ve got it easy! You can just surf and do whatever you want?! Don’t look that gift-horse in the mouth!” Except it’s not that simple. By moral code, I have a difficult time knowing that I’m getting paid and not producing anything worthwhile or useful to my employer. So … there’s that dilemma. Yah, I have surfed. To CNN. To Fox News (gotta keep a balance, right)? To some hockey-related websites, football sites, related message boards … and truthfully, it’s not as fun as you’d think. Well, okay … it’s not as fun for me. I’m sure I fall squarely into the overwhelmingly vast minority on this one. That’s fine. I get it.

 

So I’ve been in this rut. Work-wise, blog-wise, life-wise … it’s been a kind of downer. And I’m tired of it. I *have* to get out of it? The question is: how?

 

Right now, my wife is on a hike with one of my daughters. She and some friends are going to this waterfall that I would love to visit, but I have my standards when it comes to photography. I know exactly what shot I would want to get, and sadly, I don’t have the necessary filter right now. I will by Tuesday or Wednesday, but that doesn’t help today.

 

What that *did* help me with, on the other hand, is to come up with a list of things which I enjoy doing and feel that I do relatively well. Things like photography, writing, tie-dyeing, video game playing (when I actually sit down and play, anyway … and if I’m being honest with myself, it’s rather just an escape than any kind of creativity jump-starter) … these are highly marketable skills. Yes, tie-dyeing is a highly marketable skill. People will pay good money for well-patterned shirts.

 

Here’s what I realized today: I stayed home from this hike because a) I’m in this funk, b) I wanted to just sit around and watch something on Netflix, and c) I didn’t really want to trudge up this this waterfall if I didn’t have what it takes to get the picture I want to take. Yah, I could take a great shot of the valley below, or get some nice scenic pics … but I can also get those the next time they go up, at which point I’ll have my new filters (thank you, Amazon!).  So I’m at home, writing this blog post and listening to Dream Theater’s Awake CD.

 

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I don’t *want* to listen to other people’s music, or look at other people’s photos. I want to make my own mark. 20 years ago, I bet these guys in Dream Theater were sitting around thinking, “Man, there’s some excellent music out there, but I bet we could make excellent music too.” And so it is with me: I  *can* take excellent pictures. I *can* make excellent tie-dyed shirts, and they don’t have to be a peace sign, or a smiley face, or a mushroom. 2 years ago, when I had a booth at our town’s festival, I made a ladybug shirt that was just mind-blowing. I’m not saying that to brag: I’m saying that because at that point, NO ONE had actually dyed a ladybug. At least, not one that was posted online that I could find. And it took some work, yah … but the finished product was just amazing.

 

The couple of weekends ago, some friends of ours went on a drive with us to this tiny town in Northern Utah to get some pictures of the night sky, specifically of the galactic center, which after sunset was sitting at about 55-60 degree angle relative to the horizon. I captured a bunch of RAW images, brought them home, and started playing with the RAW editor in Photoshop. And by “started playing with,” I mean for the first time. Ever. I tinkered, looked up some Youtube vids, and did the best I could. And … yah, the images looked okay, but at 100%, something just looked off. Like, WAY off. I couldn’t figure out why all my pictures looked like Picasos.

 

I sent the RAW files to a buddy of mine who’s been shooting in RAW forever. He thought they looked great, with the settings he was using. That made me wonder why mine sucked, which led me to believe that it had to be something in the settings that I had screwed up. After re-opening and re-investigating, sure enough … fixed them, sharpened them, and now they look 100 times better.

 

Now … I told you all that about the picture not to brag, but to prove a point: creativity can be a product of a stream of consciousness that just flows out of you, but as a general rule, if you want to to look its best, you have to go back, re-evaluate, study, learn, fix, and accept that you can get better at anything you want, IF you put in the time.

 

To that end, I have some dye bottles to fill. Lots and lots and lots of bottles …  :)

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Review

Yesterday was pay day I got paid a couple of months ago. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten paid since then, but since this is just barely getting posted and I originally started this back in January, I thought I’d clarify. You know … for all you millions of followers.

 

ANYWAY, pay day in and of itself is cause for a rousing round of applause. That particular day got exponentially better as I stopped at the local Jamba Juice to meet up with a kid who was selling his Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 lens. His reasons for selling aren’t germaine to my point. What is germaine is that I now own it.

 

“Why, exactly, did you feel the need to drop good cash on this lens?”

 

Good question. Indeed, it’s a bit of a gamble, considering Canon’s propensity for not playing nicely with all 3rd party lenses. However, it’s hard to ignore all the positive reviews it’s received, and for the price that this guy was selling it, I figured the risk was worth it.

 

My main reason for needing wanting it is plain and simple: night sky photography. I take pretty good pictures of the sky. I have a stellar (see what I did there …?!) picture of the constellation Orion, setting in early May in 1995. When I developed the film, I noticed a bright pink dot in the middle of the “sword.” My astronomy professor said, “Oh, that? That’s the Orion Nebula.” WHAT?! I’ve been hooked ever since. I’d like to get a telescope at some point, but for now, I’m happy getting pictures of “the big picture.”

 

And the picture doesn’t get any bigger than capturing a jaw-dropping picture of the galactic center. I swear, I will capture a good an amazing picture of this thing someday. All with practice, right?

 

Oh. And patience, since it doesn’t even begin rising until about March (edit: Hey! That’s NOW!!!), and even then it’s at like 4 am. That’s *just* about the time that the eastern sky is starting to get that pre-dawn haze of the rising sun. I’ve consulted Starry Night enough to know that the optimal time to start getting pictures of the galactic center is around the middle of April. Especially if you want to do this:

 

 

So to the review. Please keep in mind that I’m shooting with a Canon T2i, so the reality is that my crop-sensor is going to actually yield the 16-24mm equivalent of a full-frame sensor camera (I’m eyeballing you, Canon 6D).

 

Build

 

This thing is built like a tank. It feels solid, as you would expect a metal-body lens to feel. It has some quirks to it, definitely. The widest aspect to the lens is achieved by rotating the zoom ring clockwise. With all of my other lenses, minimum focal distance is achieved by rotating the zoom ring counter-clockwise. But whatever. It’s not a thing at all. Interestingly, the autofocus vs. manual “switch” is an entire ring that’s located toward the very front of the lens. So really, it’s not at all a switch in the traditional AF/Manual switch sense. Maybe it’s my limited exposure to it, but after playing with it extensively yesterday and part of today, yah … it’s cumbersome at best. Not a big fan. Maybe as I become more used to it, I’ll like it. We’ll see.

 

Picture Quality

 

It really depends on how well the autofocus wants to work. Nothing tack-sharp as of yet, but I’ve been shooting at the widest aperture on the widest angle. If I zoom in to 16mm and shoot at 3.5, pictures become noticebly sharper. The problem I have with that is that I already have a 17-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens. 1 extra mm is not justification for buying a whole new lens, in my book. However, only having it less than 24 hours is also not a case for writing off the lens as a lost cause. I have some ideas that I want to try later in the day that will test the lens further. That should help me get a better feel for what its capabilities are

 

Now … if I’m using the manual focus, the story becomes definitively different. I can get pretty sharp pictures by tweaking the focus a hair each picture, until I get a desirable shot. I also tweak them in Photoshop and DXOptics for fun, just to see how the in-camera jpg pics compare to what I see in my mind’s eye for post-processing.

 

Conclusion

 

 Like I said, there’s some playing to still be done with this thing. In the couple of months that I’ve had it, I’ve become more familiar with how it likes to focus, and what its strengths/weaknesses are. Also picked up some invaluable general night sky photography tricks (e.g. using a laser pointer to help focus in relatively pitch black conditions; setting focal distance to infinity also helps; MANUAL focus; etc).

 

Overall, this lens is a keeper. I’m also looking at upgrading my camera body from Canon T2i to a Canon 6D in the near future. From all reports and reviews I’ve read, that should help a lot with the focusing and noise reduction on images shot at ISO 1600 or greater. We’ll see … but that’ll be a review for another day.

To Those Who Suffer from … Well, ANYthing

I read a friend’s blog post today. I won’t divulge the name here; it’s not my place to share. However, it has me doing a lot of introspective soul-searching about who *I* am, and how *I* view life.

 

In short, I consider myself a rather happy person.

 

That is, by no stretch, a bragging point. If anything, I say it with a wipe of my forehead and a whisk of my hand to rid myself of the beading sweat. I say it because I just got lucky in that regard. Now … having said that, I think that I have had my bouts with depression. Nothing long-term or ongoing, but indeed, I’ve felt actual, physical pain from being in a funk. So I have to ask myself: is that what depression is? Was I, at that point, actually depressed?

 

I don’t know. I’m not really in a position to say with any degree of certainty that I was. Or wasn’t. I know what and how I felt, and I hated it. I hated feeling like I hated it. I hated facing the fact that I felt compelled to try to determine what this “funk” was. I hated that I didn’t want to be around anyone, including my wife and kids. I hated the fact that I wanted nothing to do with blogging. Or photography. Or Facebook. Or tie-dyeing. Or … anything.

 

But for as bad as I felt, at no point did I ever consider offing myself … and I think that’s why I feel safe about saying that, even if I was mildly depressed, I wasn’t nearly as badly depressed as I could have been.

 

Which brings me to my point: my friend’s blog post.

 

See, this person has been to the “contemplation” end of depression. This person has put on the brave face in public, and wept furiously when alone. S/he smiled at people, but inwardly frowned the ultimate sad face. Did any of this person’s friends know the depths to which this person had experienced depression? No. Because this person chose to keep it personal. To keep it close. To not expose.

 

To not let on just how bad the hurt had grown.

 

Now … that was this person’s way of dealing with it. Others act and react differently. Ask yourself this : on any given day, how many people do you see who are grumpy, sad, crying, or otherwise engaged in what is so obviously an emotionally/spiritually/psychologically tough time? A few? Dozens? ONE?

 

And here’s the logical follow-up–the one question you must have to ask yourself: what are you doing about it?

 

Do you just … I dunno. Walk by? Obviously turn the other way? Pretend your fiddling with your phone to avoid the awkwardness?

 

What if that person is literally praying for someone to just say hi? Or what if that person has just decided that their life has no meaning, and that their only relief is at the bottom of a ravine after a jump off of a very tall bridge, or at the end of a gun barrel? WHAT IF YOU ARE THE ANSWER TO SOMEONE’S PLEADING?

 

Why would you not try to help? Why would you walk by and not offer someone a shoulder to cry on? Or a listening ear? Or whatever it is they need? Why would you walk away

 

One word: don’t.

 

Don’t just walk away. Don’t turn a “blind” eye.

 

Another word: help.

 

Be that listening ear. Offer that small glimmer of hope. Give that hug.

 

Yes, it may take leaving your comfort zone, but the end result … wouldn’t it be worth knowing that you helped someone? Maybe saved a life?

 

People, all I’m asking is for some common decency. ALL of us have hurt at one point. Some of us have hurt exponentially worse and longer than others. You know how that one small painful experience was for you; imagine living every day like that.

 

Challenge of the week: find someone you don’t know at all and wish them a good day. Or buy his/her coffee/hot chocolate/morning drink. Or smile at everyone for an entire day.

 

Help. Help everyone.

On Your Mark … Get Set …….. GO!

And we’re off on the 2014 blogathon! In an ideal world, I will update this every day with something amazingly cool–not just with music, but with stuff that I simply enjoy doing. This will involve game reviews, iPhone/iPad app/game reviews, tie-dye techniques that I use, shirts and other things I’ve made, music reviews, concert reviews, hockey-talk, my own personal missives on any of these subjects or others … I’m going all-out.

I don’t know if I’ll have a set agenda like some bloggers (read: CRYSTAL! She’s SO organized! I could only dream of reaching her level of awesomeness), but I do have a goal: EVERY DAY write something new.

Today marks the beginning. This is it. Get ready, world.

I’m sure I’ll post more later today. This is more of an announcement than anything else, and I needed to start somewhere.

2014

Things are gonna change. Just watch. And read. You’ll see …

I’ve said in the past that I’ll probably expand this site to be more inclusive of other interests. That time has come. Still working out the details, but for now, just know that things are in the pipeline.

doTERRA Links

Okay, you twitterific kind of personage. Here are those links that twitter is rejecting.

 

Digest Zen

 

More Digest Zen

 

Everythingessential has a TON of info about everything EO related (as far as it relates to doTERRA, but since they’re all I use, it works well for me. :) ).

Any questions, you know where to find me. :)

Back into Blogging. Again.

we’ll see how long this lasts, but it may stick around a lot longer this time cuz I have everything figured out on my phone and tablet. now I can blog anywhere. question is: will I?

yah … probably. I have a lot on my mind lately, and it’s good to write. it helps flush out ideas, right?

we’ll see.

Indiegogo Campaign: Help Samantha Crain Get a New Guitar

Okay … now I’m just pissed. How does someone steal a guitar out of someone’s car?

Stay classy, Columbus.

Anyway, I’ve started an indiegogo campaign to get her some funds for a new guitar. She works herself to the core to make her music–often working jobs around her town to support her efforts. She cannot buy a new guitar every time someone steals hers.

Oh … did I mention that this is the 2nd time in 6 months that this has happened? Yah.

So I’m hoping this little campaign helps her. If not, I tried. Her music is incredible, and she’s a great person all-around. She deserves some help.

Help her, folks. She could use a solid.

New Music Friday: The Return

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s back. Why? Hey … why not, right? :)

 

So this is what I’ve acquired in the last week or so. Don’t judge. I don’t judge your musical tastes. Not much, anyway …

  • Dido – Girl Who Got Away
  • Audio Fatigue – Starting Backwards
  • Camera Obscura – Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi
  • Goldroom – Angeles EP
  • Daughter The Wild Youth EP*
  • Daughter – If You Leave*
  • Soulsavers – The Light the Dead See
  • Amy Macdonald – This Is the Life

 

* Special thanks to my buddy Tim for the hook-up with Daughter. Great new band. Really liking the atmospheric, moody music and  her breathy vocals. Loving the whole vibe. He also added me to a music group on Facebook that shares new bands and stuff. Video and/or name only–nothing illegal here, of course. No, seriously–nothing shady.

 

So I find that I have a lot more time on my hands lately. Not so much a lot more money. In fact, literally no more money. Do the math; I’m sure you’ll come up with the answer. Anyway, I’ve decided to dedicate at least a portion of my day to writing more, since a) I really miss it; b) I *really* miss it! I like sharing my thoughts about what I’m listening to, or what I’m finding in the app world, or whatever. So … yah.

Concert Announcement: Marissa Nadler

Well isn’t this day just getting better and better! Find out that the Flaming Lips are playing the Twilight Concert Series, and Dido has a new CD out! Now, to top off that bit of good news comes this bit of awesomeness.

 

I FINALLY get to see one of my favorite music artists perform! Marissa Nadler will be in SLC on June 26. She’s playing at the Urban Lounge–one of my favorite venues. Tight, intimate, and thesound is phenomenal.

 

And she’s playing with Camera Obscura, another one of my favorite bands. That’s going to be a fun night! It’s too bad that it’s an over-21 venue. I’d take the girls to go see that show.

 

Tix available here.