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Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Photographers

(© Ian Plant) The New Year is upon us, a time for past reflection and future resolve. Everyone feels that urge to put their mistakes behind them, to make amends, and to start fresh with a clean slate. If you’re like me, however, you probably find the process of making resolutions to be a challenging one: not only are resolutions difficult to keep, but sometimes they are difficult to come up with in the first place. I’ve thought long and hard about my resolutions for 2013, and I’ve decided they’re good enough to share with my readers—so if you are having a tough time with your own resolutions, feel free to borrow a few of mine. Here are my top five resolutions, starting with number five and working my way down to number one.

“Red Dawn”—Isle of Lewis, Scotland, United Kingdom.

5. Have an adventure.

In this past year, I swam with sea turtles in the Caribbean, kayaked into sea caves on Lake Superior, backpacked along a remote Scottish coast, trekked in the high Andes, and traveled deep into a desert wilderness to explore rarely visited slot canyonsbraving high winds, crashing waves, tropical heat, altitude sickness, and a whole host of other fun stuff in order to capture the world’s natural beauty. You don’t need to wrestle with crocodiles or hobnob with cannibals to get your kicks, however, you just need to get off the beaten path and try something different—like spending a week in the Amazon rain forest or visiting the wind-swept mountains of Patagonia (in case you haven’t already guessed, these happen to be on my 2013 workshop schedule—for more information about my 2013 workshops, check out Be Inspired, a free no obligation PDF download). I’ve made it a top resolution to get into the wild more often this year, and to travel to new inspiring places. For 2013, who knows where I’ll go? Wherever the wind takes me, I hope.

“Liquid Suspension”—Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, Belize.

4. Make room for “me” time.

As much as I enjoy hanging with my workshop clients and photo buddies in the field, I find I make my best images when I’m alone. Part of this is practical: shooting alone means no tripping over someone else’s tripod, or someone walking into your foreground. There’s another, somewhat more sentimental side to this as well: sometimes you need to channel your inner-John Muir to really find yourself and your artistic vision. For me, this means more solo wilderness adventures where I can plumb the depths of my personal vision. For you, it can be as simple as spending a few hours alone photographing your favorite local photo spot. Sometimes you need some peace and quiet in order to hear your inner voice.

“Sudden Dawn”—Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin, USA.

3. Push your artistic boundaries.

This one should be a lifelong resolution. Stagnation is the death of art—if you’re not constantly striving to evolve creatively, you might as well give up. One area where we can all improve is composition. Luckily, my new eBook Visual Flow can help you do just that. Readers tell me that the book has helped them see the world differently—in the words of one reader, “I don’t think I’ll ever look through the viewfinder on my camera the same way.” Of course, books and workshops can only take you so far. Your best path forward is to get out there and experiment with new techniques, new angles, and new ways of seeing the world around us.

“Brush of Autumn”—Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

2. Spin out of control every once and awhile.

We spend so much time trying to control every little aspect of our photographs, carefully setting white balance, aperture, and shutter speed, securing our camera firmly atop a steady tripod, and waiting for the precise moment to trigger the shutter. Injecting some chaos into the creative process, however, can be healthy every now and then. One way to do this is to experiment with long exposures, letting moving elements such as clouds or blowing foliage paint a wash of color across the scene. Or, you can move your camera instead, and experiment with intentionally blurring your photos in order to achieve an impressionistic look. Or try something altogether crazy and new. The results can be unpredictable, but that is entirely the point—only by trying wacky stuff that no one else would ever think of trying to do can you push the creative envelope.

“Autumn Abstract”—Acadia National Park, Maine, USA.

1. Be inspired.

Above all, find your inspiration again. With all the hustle and bustle of modern life, it can be an easy thing to lose. Art cannot exist without inspiration, so you had better hold on to it with the fierceness of a mother bear defending her cubs. You can find inspiration anywhere—you can find it just as easily in the details of dewdrops on a spiderweb as you can find it in far-flung exotic places. In the immortal words of Albert Schweitzer, “Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” Take his advice to heart, and go out there and find your inspiration.

“Frost and Fog”—Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.