Reflections Part II – Connectivity and Networking

First, I would like to thank all of you who reached out to me and complimented my images from Mt Rainier that I shared in my last blog and newsletter. My hero image for this week is of a sunset on the mountain. I am sharing this image for a few reasons; like last week, it is a story of perseverance, patience, looking at a range of possibilities and angles, and having the courage to be vulnerable, all wrapped up in the idea of Connectivity and Networking.
I know that is a great deal to unpack, and I ask that you stay with me.

Enjoying the journey and the people you meet.

There were and are so many things that I continue to be grateful for about our recent trip. Of course, I love my wife with all my heart. Still, after so many months of isolation from others due to the pandemic, it was great to meet new people, reconnect with others and share an experience that did not involve staying in one place and looking into a webcam and computer screen.
We all took precautions as we were concerned about the Delta variant, but we rode together, ate together ( indoors and outside), and shared a cold beverage. We talked about photography, our experience with the pandemic, the places we have visited and where we plan to go, and other subjects that new groups typically cover when you are in the mode of connecting with new or reconnecting with casual acquaintances.
Making connections and building our networks are critical to learning, growth, exploration, and unlocking what is possible. It is essential when you are meeting new people in any range of situations whether you are an extrovert or an introvert like me to lean into the conversations going on around you. I find that while you may not have something to say at the moment there is value in listening to the ideas of others as a means of engaging in future conversations. There were a few people I felt I had nothing in common with day one that became key sources for insight for collaboration during and after the workshop.
I have attended far too many multi-day online conferences over the past 18 months and my share of happy hours on Zoom over the past year. While these events and programs virtually put us in the same place and the facilitators did their best to connect us, there is no substitute for being there. Bonding over coffee or a beer or having a casual conversation in a quiet time brings a new dimension to our experience.
Please do not get me wrong, virtual learning and connections are fantastic and benefit from making new ideas and people accessible, but it is two-dimensional. I prefer the third dimension of being physically in the space and connecting with others.
Connectivity leads to Trust and Exploration, resulting in growth.
Using the metaphor of photography, the trip, and this image helps me to introduce the point. As I noted in my last blog, the weather was not very cooperative; while it never really rained, the fog appeared to be deliberately following us around. This creates an atmosphere where there seems to be a fair amount of free time while waiting for conditions to improve.
These are the moments where we get to know one another, make connections and develop the roots of trust. Most photographers I have met possess a mindset of abundance. They enjoy talking about where they have been, the techniques they have tried, and equally as valuable what they see as they set up to compose a shot. This attitude leads to creating environments of trust and, in some instances exploring new techniques on trying something a bit different and learning from the results.
This environment of trust, influenced by an abundance mindset of the group, created the space where I could push myself into places I have not been as a photographer. To keep the cliches rolling along, I felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable and share my work with the intent to push myself to grow.

Lessons from the photograph

Lesson number one is planning and patience. When taking an image at sunset, you arrive early to scout locations, sort out the conditions and compose the image in your mind. Then you wait. But waiting is not just idle time. I use this time to talk to my peers. Observe what they are doing to prepare and understand what they are seeing and what they want to accomplish in their photographs. They do not necessarily see what is in front of me the same way I do, which adds to the anticipation of the moment.
Lesson number two is to take risks – In this situation, I observed how others set up. Some were down low, others were up high, while others took a bit more chance and got a unique angle by balancing their tripods onto the railing over the bridge. I tried multiple options and opted for the third. One of my new friends helped me get it all secure. It was a bit uncomfortable having my camera dangling over the water, but I decided to take the risk. I trusted him because he did this once or twice before to help me take a chance.
Lesson number three is to adapt. My goal was to catch the sun like a big red ball dropping behind the mountain while capturing the scene in front of the water cascading toward the waterfall. But then it happened just as the sun was falling into place it happened. The clouds and fog began to arrive as if on cue to “ruin” my shot. Fortunately, as the old saying tells us, “luck favors the prepared” I looked at the fog rolling into the left and then figured out how to use this added variable to the image. Fortunately, given my earlier choice to prop my tripod on the rail, it paid dividends in creating the angle I had by trusting myself and the suggestion of others.
Lesson number four be vulnerable. One of my biggest challenges as a photographer is that I avoid post-processing because I am not comfortable with the subjectivity of others evaluating my work. As I played with the image, I started to push my comfort zone and try some things in post-processing to bring out the reds and blues and create a fire and ice vibe—way out there for me and several miles beyond my comfort zone. I allowed myself the gift of vulnerability to trust my new connections to get feedback. I accepted it from the place of abundance from which it came, and I am incredibly proud of the result.
Bringing it all together
As I think about what this photograph means to me, it is about taking risks and pushing myself in post-processing. I was motivated and supported in my journey by both a strong desire to try and a connected, newly created network of supporters grounded in trust and abundance. Making new three-dimensional connections help motivate me to explore new directions.
The final point that I will make is that all of this does not just happen by chance. Building connections and trust are also dependent on the environment around you. Creating that environment is the result of effective leadership. Our fantastic trip had some hurdles and challenges to overcome. Fortunately, our leader was prepared and confident to take on the challenges ahead of him. In my next blog, we will explore the leadership lessons learned on the mountain.
Thank you
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