A real vacation!
This blog marks the completion of my first “real” vacation since October of 2019. When I say “real” vacation, I mean back in an airport, on a plane, staying in local motels, and waking up at 4 am in the hopes of landing that once-in-a-lifetime sunrise image. The internet in rural Washington state was spotty and cell service limited. Yet, despite these modern-day problems, I could not have been happier or felt more “connected” – in a meaningful way.
The “hero” photo that accompanies this blog is from Reflection Lake in Mt. Rainier. It is an iconic photo and not easy to capture. The mountain is foggy in the morning. Nevertheless, we were successful on our fourth day of waking up at 4 am to see the sunrise and capture the moment.
As I think about the image and the effort that went into the planning and execution of the shot, I identified three themes connected to coaching. These are Pursuing a Goal, Connectivity Networking, and Leadership.
There is a great deal to unpack in each of these themes, so I would like to invite you to follow my blog over the next few weeks as I explore each theme in greater detail. As an enticement, each entry will be accompanied by one of my images from the trip.
This week we will explore the goal of capturing the iconic photograph above. I had a great deal invested in it in terms of capturing the scene and creating an image that reflects both my mood and what I saw while on the mountain.
Defining and pursuing a goal
Photographers and tourists make visits here for the iconic image of Mt. Rainier reflecting off of Reflection Lake. My goal was not to capture a one-of-a-kind image but rather to create an image that would convey my experience and share it with others.
Setting the goal begins long before climbing the mountain. It starts with creating the vision. Do I want the mountain in the center or off to the side? Where do I position the reflection of the mountain in the lake? What do I want the water to look like? What do I want the reflection to look like? How much of the scene do I want to capture.? How do I capture the tree line?
To draw a comparison to coaching, it is about exploring what is possible when identifying the desired outcome and then figuring out the actions I needed to take to reach my goal.
Preparation and planning
I would argue that beyond having a good technical knowledge of how your camera works and understanding the exposure triangle, the key ingredient is a vision of the outcome. It is adopting the mindset described by Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Begin with the end in mind.” In essence, define your goal or vision and set about creating a plan to get there.
To define my vision, I started by looking at the work of others. There are many sites that photographers use to study the work of others. An excellent place to start is 500mpx or Google images. The goal is to see what others have seen in framing their compositions.
As a coach and Thinking Partner, I believe that when you ask yourself challenging questions, you can arrive at better answers or outcomes. As I did, my planning questions that came to mind included:
What did the photographer see or chose to include or not include in the scene?
What choices did they make around angles?
How did they capture the light?
What do I want my final image to look like?
What lenses and filters do I need to bring?
What aperture, shutter speed, and ISO do I need to capture in the camera?
All of this parallels my coaching work with clients. First, it is all about understanding all of the challenges and opportunities available in the landscape in front of them. Next, together we explore what is possible as clients develop strategies and plans for what comes next. Finally, we evaluate progress made and reset when needed to achieve their desired outcomes.
Executing the plan
As a coach, my role may be to serve as an accountability partner for clients. We all can get stuck along the way in achieving the outcomes we desire. Some people can get stuck in goal setting and planning, while others can get stuck in the execution.
In my quest toward capturing an iconic image at Reflection Lake, the variable was the weather. As a result, my pursuit of this picture can best be described by lessons in patience, flexibility, and finally stepping up to the challenge of learning how to use tools like Photoshop better.
Mother Nature was not in a cooperative mood. Each day we left our motel at 4:00 am to capture the sunrise. The first few mornings were incredibly foggy, with mist on the lake and no mountain view. Finally, on day four, our patience and persistence were rewarded. Finally, we had a lake with a light mist and a big beautiful mountain.
While all of the elements for the scene were in place, the light was not optimal and the water a bit ripply, and as a result, the reflections, while visible, were not at the level of clarity, and the contrast was not as sharp as I would have hoped. Fortunately, these were challenges that I could overcome because I was prepared.
I was calm and relaxed. I walked along the path, scouting locations, and thought about the images I had seen in doing my planning in my mind’s eye. Unfortunately, the spot I was looking for that day was not optimal due to the conditions, so I kept on scouting until I found the location above.
My next step was to rework my plan and think about using the elements available to me that day to create my image. I was fortunate to be with a great group of people that shared an abundance mindset. I was able to talk to my fellow photographers about what I was seeing and what they were seeing. We compared the test shots we were getting and compared notes on the all-important camera settings!
Season to taste
As I was composing my image that morning, I really liked what I was seeing. I liked the position of the mountain in relation to the reflection. I also liked the arch created by the tree lines and the reflection on the lake, the sky, and the blue reflection in the water.
The next step for me and the most difficult was to do the post-processing. If you are familiar with my past blogs, you will note I am a big fan of Shirzad Chamine’s “Positive Intelligence. When it comes to post-processing of my images, I have VERY strong Avoider and Procrastinator saboteurs. I decided not to let my judge and saboteurs get the better of me this time.
I had my image! I had my plan! I traveled a long way, and I was determined. I have played around enough with Photoshop and Lightroom to give it a shot. The key was to eliminate the noise in my head and just relax and play with the sliders and filters until I found the combination that worked for me. My motto from here on out is that for me, when it comes to post-processing, there is no single recipe and as my mother used to say about her chicken soup – season to taste.
In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing a couple of more images and observations from my trip. I have touched briefly on the importance of Connectivity. I am also going to share a story about Leadership and the impact of a positive perspective.
I want to express my gratitude to new subscribers to my newsletter and blog. It is particularly gratifying to hear from so many of you that I have not connected with in quite some time. I have several virtual coffees set up this month, but there is always room for more.
Call to action
How are you? What is going on? Are you thinking about doing something new or exploring new opportunities? I would love to hear from you and start a conversation. To set up a virtual coffee, please click on the link https://bit.ly/virtual_coffeewithAlec
Let’s start a conversation.