Note: This post may appear better on our legacy blog at: blog.alifestudio.com
So a few months ago I got a call from the music director at my church. He said, 'Hey Rodney, we are putting together an art exhibit in a few weeks, would you like to show anything?' My response was, 'Sorry man, I would love to, but all I have are wedding photos, some portrait sessions, and a few odd and end commercial things, I'm not sure how that would fit in an art exhibit.' Then he said, 'Don't you just shoot for fun?' Funny thing about that was for several weeks in a row I was asked that same question by different people at random times. It's a typical small talk question, 'What do you do for fun?' 'What do you like to do?' But, I was getting this question from people I knew, or at least knew what I did for a living. And the questions were more, 'When was the last time you took a photo for yourself?'
I took this as a 'sign' if you will. During this past 'off season' I was feeling fairly burnt out. Since 2006, when I started my business, I went from 1 wedding that year to way to many a year. I have personally shot well over 200 weddings in the span of 5 years. That's all of the marketing, all of the meetings, all of the engagement sessions, all of the print orders, all of the weddings, all of the album orders, etc. Over 200. I started to say last year that I didn't own a business, the business owned me. I eat, sleep, and breathe, my studio. I have to, it's how I provide for my family, and I love it, I honestly do, but in January, I was burnt out. By the grace of God, I had most of 2012 booked by then, so I took a sabbatical, if you will. I answered emails, phone calls, and did what I had to do, but other than that, I did nothing business related. I needed to. I desperately needed to. I realized a few things over my time off, and learned more during that time than I have in years. Most of them personal and private, but here are two which are universal, and everybody can benefit from:
1. I need one day off during the week, every week. The ancient principle of the Sabbath, you work 6 days, you take one off. It is a must for the 6 days you work to take that time off and rest.
2. You need to take time to fill your own heart. Jesus said to, 'Love others as you do yourself.' Well, if I treated others like I treat and love myself, trust me, people would not like me very much. I never take time for myself, or do things that would 'fill my heart', at least I didn't. Now I search for opportunities, because if my heart is not full, I can't help others, I can't love others in the way I should and need to be able to. Everyone has something that makes their heart sing, that longing for something that gives you instant joy. For me, I love mornings. (I know, it's an illness, and my wife hates it.) But I do, I love the sun of the new day, the warmth, the glow. The colors as the light beings to kiss the tips of the trees. To me it's a glimpse of eternity lost. I open my kitchen door and let the new day light flood in through my storm door as I sit at my nook table, drink my iced coffee, watch the morning light move across the mountain, and sometimes read a chapter of the bible. (Today was 1 John 3, if you were curious.) That is how I renew my heart everyday. It also says in the scriptures to guard your heart, that it is treasure worth protecting. I mean, heck, Jesus came and died for it, so your heart must be incredibly important. So, renew it everyday, fill it with some joy. For me it's an iced coffee at sunrise, but maybe for you it's a glass of wine at sunset. Giving your kids a huge hug, kissing your bride good morning, or kissing your groom goodnight. It doesn't always mean taking a trip to Europe, though it can, it can mean the little things that brings your heart joy. A great book to read on this subject is 'Waking the Dead' by John Eldridge. Life changing stuff. Yes, it is a quote 'Christian' book, but everyone can benefit from the principles within it. I highly recommend it, especially if you feel like you are burning out.
Ok, so again, back to the 'shooting for fun' thing. During the time when I was asked this, I was trying to figure out ways to 'fill my heart' back up, and of all things, photography kept coming up as a way of doing this. So I tried it, weird thing is, it worked. I went out and just shot for fun. Mainly landscape stuff, because that's how I got into this in the first place. I thought of it like I was taking God's portrait. That's how I challenged myself. I believe it's His creation, so like every artist, a little bit of Him is imprinted on everything He has created, so I went looking for those things. When it came to the art exhibit I was asked to contribute to, I went out and created something different, and I new exactly what it was going to be. There is an old church down the road from me with stain glass windows facing the west side. When the sunsets, light pours in and shines through the other side of the church, and it is beautiful. This was the final product:
Since doing this shoot, and doing my best to take care of my heart, I have fallen in love again with what I do. I am truly blessed to capture one of the most beautiful days in two people's lives, and to bring them just a little bit of joy. I love what I do.