Most Influential Blog 2012: Taking a Bow and Paying It Forward

I love writing and photography. Writing was my profession and my vocation for my entire adult life. Photography has been my hobby and my avocation for more than 40 years.

 I spent decades dutifully writing whatever my contract, client or boss wanted.  I needed to earn a living while trying to maintain my own standards. Although photography was occasionally professionally useful,  it has mostly been fun and it gets me out of the house and into the world.

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Blogging was a  gift for me. It opened the door to a bigger world. Blogging lets me do what I love while sharing it with others. Moreover, it fits my style. I used to laughingly say that I did my best work writing letters. Blogging is a lot like letter writing — focused and concise.

Writers need readers; readers need writers. It is the ultimate symbiotic relationship. Writing for yourself is a diary. You don’t need a blog to write for yourself. It’s just like publishing a book. If you bother to publish, you want an audience. Blogging is publishing. Having a blog tells the world you want to be noticed. If we didn’t want attention, we could keep our stuff on our own computers and it would be sufficient.

The point of blogging is sharing. It’s a statement we believe we have something worthwhile to share. We think other people will enjoy our work, maybe find it interesting, useful, beautiful, inspiring, entertaining or thought-provoking. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, if you don’t care whether or not anyone sees what you do, why would you put yourself on a public venue? Why display yourself and your work on the most public venue: the Internet.

I get a bit impatient with people who claim it doesn’t matter if anyone visits their site. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t blog. It would be an exercise in futility.

Starting a blog is easy. Fill in a form, find a name, pick a format and voilà, you’re a blogger. Maintaining a blog, developing it, designing, writing, sorting through your art to find stories or pictures you think are worth sharing, then doing it not occasionally but day after day requires dedication. Dedication comes from a need to share things that matter to you. So I openly admit what seems to be the dirty little secret of blogging: I want people to read what I write. I want people to look at my pictures.

I like it when others enjoy my writing and praise my photographs. Vanity? Call it whatever you like. It is the nature of artists to need art lovers, writers to need readers. I’m not trying to take over the world, but I like knowing I make a difference to someone. That’s my payoff.

It makes this award very precious.

Self-expression feels so self-indulgent. It’s the chocolate of life. To be given awards for doing something I enjoy so much … well, it’s the icing on the cake. Just when I thought I’d sampled all the dishes life could offer, I discovered a buffet of goodies I never knew existed.

I seem to spend an awful lot of time thanking Sharla at Catnip of Life & Awakenings. She has been so very generous in her support, in sharing and in being a friend — the rarest and most important gift of all. It has been a long time since I formed a genuine friendship. It’s tough to find like-minded people as one gets older and making a new friend … a real friend which Sharla has become … is a big deal.

This is as good as blogging awards get because it says I’ve made a difference. Influence is a word with profound implications. To be influential means you have changed someone or something. It tells me I matter, that I have, against all odds, continued to be relevant. I makes me happy, proud and encourages me to keep going. It tells me the effort is worth it. Thanks again, Sharla.

There are no requirements for this award except to pay it forward and pass it on to one or more bloggers who influenced you. You don’t have name all your awardees all at once, either. You can give the award over a period as much as six months.

On this occasion, I’m going to award this to a single blogger. I have to think on who else I would like to give it to. I need to ponder  on “influence” as opposed to “enjoy.” There are many bloggers whose work I admire and enjoy, but I think that’s not quite the same as influence.

The envelope please.

To the person who authors the first blog I followed. If not for him, I would not have begun blogging.

 I’d like to give this award to Andy at ATMTX Photography. Following his blog gave me the idea to start a blog of my own. He answered questions that helped me move forward as a photographer. He provided useful information from which I was able to figure out what equipment would best suit my style. Most importantly, his work encouraged me to experiment.

I had never considered doing cityscapes, nightscapes, architecture and objects rather than landscapes and casual portraits — the staples at which I’m good and which are easy for me. I decided to move beyond my comfort zone. This has improved my work and increased the fun factor in photography by 100%. Because of Andy, I carry a camera everywhere I go. He didn’t make me do it but led by example, the finest kind of influence. Thanks Andy!

Twilight

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I was in my office on the upper level of my house. I’ve got a great view of the east side of our property. It was a very bright day. The sunlight on snow was almost blinding. I can understand why skiers wear sunglasses. I often wish I could take pictures wearing sunglasses, but I can’t. Instead, I squint.

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The window at my left elbow had been distracting me all day. I had been intending to go out and shoot a few frames, but stuff kept coming up. Then I began writing and completely lost track of time.

When I next looked out my window, the sun was low in the sky and long shadows were spreading across the snow. I love the shadowy light in late afternoon. Realizing I had run out of time, I jammed my feet into my Uggs, grabbed my coat, stuck the little Canon into my pocket and hustled out.

“Be careful,” Garry called as I headed down the stairs. Snow is beautiful, but slippery. Our driveway is always treacherous, more so covered with snow that’s rapidly changing to ice.

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In the five minutes it took me to travel from my office, down the stairs, out the back door and up the drive, the sun had dropped very low. Lengthening shadows striped the ground. The sun was peeking through the trees. It was twilight. Very pretty and always a challenge to shoot.