Chuck Black Photography: Blog en-us (C) Chuck Black Photography [email protected] (Chuck Black Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:36:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:36:00 GMT Chuck Black Photography: Blog 120 80 Be a Headland of Rock Be a headland of rockBe a headland of rock

I was set up with my camera to capture the battle of surf and shore as the waves from the previous night’s storm impacted the rocks on the edge of Lake Michigan.  I wanted to capture that dramatic spray of water and clouds of mist caused by one of the grand collisions.  But often in life, what we expect is not what life has in mind for us.  We need to be open to new options and willing to accept what we are given.  By experimenting, I found that if I slowed my shutter speed down to several seconds in duration, the chaotic water blurred out in the frame and produced a tranquil, dream-like image.  The sprays of water as the attacking waves went airborne, became a dreamlike cloud of haze over the rock.

By stepping back and taking a longer view, I had turned a chaotic scene into a tranquil image.  How often can the same be true in our lives?  By stepping back from the immediacy of everything that is happening around us and thinking about how this event will look to us in a day, a month or a year how can we change our perception of the difficulties in our day?

I recently had a patient who was rendered unable to eat by an unusual gastrointestinal problem.  So unusual, that the textbooks and medical literature had no established course of treatment.  I took it upon myself to do what I could with little more than my own experience as a guide.  I took him to surgery and did what I thought would work.  I was pleased with the operation went, but the results were not as pleasing. The patient was still unable to eat and I suffered a brief crisis of confidence.  In the middle of this failure and set back it was tough. What if I had done the wrong thing and made everything worse?  What if I couldn’t fix this?  What if it wasn’t fixable, or worse yet it was fixable, but I wasn’t a good enough surgeon?  What if the family sues me?  I could lose my job.  I could lose my medical license.  Destitute and unemployable my wife would leave me and take the children with her.  I would end up dying alone under a bridge, be eaten by wild animals and no one would know or care.

That kind of catastrophizing is all too human.  It amounts to taking life’s challenges and turning them into tragedies. It is the kind of thinking that fans the waves rather than calming them. This is the opposite of what Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius advised us to do because it is neither accurate nor productive and it keeps us from practicing the creativity and open-mindedness needed to excel in the face of adversity.  So he advised us to be the rock and stand strong and resolute against a sea of chaotic thoughts.

To steel myself for the coming discussion with the patient and his family, I reflected back on the many times I had been in similar situations.  Times I had operated on patients and been through difficult post-operative courses where I thought things might end terribly.  The consistent element of those previous examples was that I kept working the problem, did the best I could, and they eventually got better.  I told myself that although things looked bleak for this patient now, that I would find a way if I kept working the problem.  And I did.  

In the photograph, I learned that in a long view individual waves blurred together and become a tranquil scene.  I have also learned the same is true in my work and life.  When things seem bad and problems appear insurmountable, I take a step back and remind myself of all the times I have been in similar situations and ultimately prevailed.  Then I remind myself that one day, this problem will be one of those things that I look back on as a great success. The trick is to get a little distance and take a longer view on your problems, and like the waves in the photograph, a more tranquil scene will appear.  


[email protected] (Chuck Black Photography) art artistic aurelius beauty color image inspiration lake landscape marcus michigan motivation nature photo photography quotation stoic stoicism water Thu, 16 May 2019 11:42:51 GMT
Good Luck vs. Bad Luck LuckLuck

I was attending a meeting of my local photography club where each member brought three recent photos to have them critiqued.  One of my photos was this image of Rome.  I was daydreaming as I gazed out the airplane window as my aircraft made its descent into the Eternal City.  As I watched, the clouds parted, and this dreamy image of Rome appeared.  The early morning light and shadows in the background made for a unique opportunity.  
I always travel with my camera as a carry-on and keep it under the seat in front of me.  Quickly I pulled my favorite toy out of its padded bag, pointed it out the window and grabbed three frames of this scene before the clouds closed back in and it was gone.  
When I explained this backstory to the audience, one man in the crowd groused, "Don't you hate it when people just get lucky?"
I was a little taken aback and not sure how to respond.  Fortunately, I didn't have to.  A well-respected member of the group stood up and addressed the audience.  He asked, "Was it luck that he had his camera with him?  Was it luck that he knew how to set the camera quickly to get this shot before it was gone?  Was it luck that made him push the shutter?"  He paused for a moment for dramatic effect and then answered his question, "No, none of that was luck."   Then he went on to point out that there were hundreds of people on that airplane and although many of them could have seen what I saw, I was probably the only person on that flight who had created a photo.
As I reflected on that encounter, I realized that what the elder statesman of the photography club was saying is that luck is not a random thing.  Instead, luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity.  Others on that airplane may have had the same opportunity as I did, but only I was prepared to see the potential in that opportunity and skilled enough to capture it in the brief moment before it was gone.
So in response to the curmudgeon in the third row, it was luck if by that you mean it was the combination of preparation to build skill and opportunity.
Without preparation, an opportunity is as fleeting as magenta and golden clouds on a hazy morning in Rome.

How many opportunities pass us by because we are not prepared?  Work on building your skills, and you will see more opportunity.

"Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality."
-- Eliyahu Goldratt


[email protected] (Chuck Black Photography) Art Artistic Beauty color good Image Inspiration Landscape Luck motivation Nature opportunity photo art Photograph Photography preparation Quotation Rome Sunrise wisdom Tue, 09 Apr 2019 12:01:30 GMT
What a Man Can Be, He Must Be. What a man can beWhat a man can be

Think of a tree.  A beautiful and majestic creature, the tree knows that its purpose in life is to grow tall and bear fruit.  It strives to do just that with total commitment. 

Humans are very different.  Our growth is of the mind and soul.  We are capable of much more than a tree, but there lies the paradox. A child can grow to be an NBA star, artist, architect, scientist, astronaut or some future career yet to be dreamed up.  We are capable of so much that it makes it hard to know what we are destined to strive for, and in the confusion, we settle for less than what we are capable of becoming. 

Maslow warns us that if we settle for less than what we can be, the result will be an unhappy life.  In my personal experience, he is right.  For years I told myself that being a surgeon was all I was capable of doing.  I tried to convince myself that being a doctor was enough.  But I was wrong.  As my career built, rather than feeling satisfied with my professional success, I felt dissatisfied with my life.  That was because I am capable of doing more than one thing.   

For years, I had the nagging feeling something was missing.  That something was an outlet for my creative energies.  As a teen, I pursued photography.  Photographing the natural world was an extension of my love for the outdoors and the beauty I found in nature.  But when I went to medical school, I thought I should get "serious" and put away "frivolous" pursuits like playing with cameras and make art.  So for the next two decades, my camera collected dust on a dark, closet shelf.

But I was never able to squelch my artistic tendencies.  The margins of my printed agendas for serious hospital meetings ended up adorned with silly sketches of trees, mountains, sailboats, and caricatures of other people at the conference. And in spite of my best effort to deny it, I still had a creative side that needed a means of expression.  

I found my outlet in an old hobby with a new twist.  Digital cameras were entering the mainstream, and I became an early adopter.  The first camera I purchased was a boxy, ungainly contraption with limited capabilities.  Despite its limitations, the digital camera did have one advantage over my old film camera, the ability to "develop" photos on my computer. Now a whole new level of creativity was available to me. 

Rediscovering photography allowed me to tap into something I was capable of being, something I needed to be.  Photography has allowed me to live out Maslow's advice and became more of what I can be.  Doing so has moved my dissatisfaction with life into a happy and more open experience of being alive.  And that is what life is really about, coming alive.


[email protected] (Chuck Black Photography) Abraham Maslow Art Artistic Beauty Cabin Flower Image Inspiration Landscape Maslow Nature photo art Photograph Photography Quotation Mon, 11 Mar 2019 12:03:23 GMT