What Conquering My Fear of New Technology Taught Me About Life

Photo by Janet Mills

I’ve been blogging for 8 years. Professionally, I tout the Internet as a visual medium. Yet, rarely do I include my own photos in my posts. Instead, I use Creative Commons images or seek permissions. What’s up with that? Truth be told, mastering photography terrified me. Not the technology, mind you. But the time investment to hike the technology learning curve. The idea of cashing in what slivers of free time I have in exchange for agonizing late night sessions in Photoshop left me cold.

Enter Catherine Karnow. She shoots for National Geographic and other travel magazines. Her proposal was simple. Italy, 10 days of dawn-to-dusk shoots, plus intensive editing sessions, would transform me from a rank novice into a crack photog.

I’ve worked with Catherine before. Some of her photos helped LitLamp win awards for client publications. But it wasn’t my trust in her promise that made me take the leap. It was my own disgust at having lost my will to grow. My pride had formed a callus that wouldn’t let me take on tough challenges.

I was nervous, not to mention humble, when I showed up in Umbria the first day of the workshop. Having taken bum advice from a local camera store, I showed up with the wrong equipment. It felt worse than being underdressed at a fancy party. I gratefully accepted the loan of a powerhouse camera and tackled a series of shoots that left me hungry for more: night shots, panning, action shots, food and architectural shots, and soulful portraits. Days flew. The work was all consuming, leaving me no time to second guess or think about the client projects waiting back home. I concentrated only on learning.

My focus paid off. I emerged with a terrific set of shots and a new set of skills. Best of all, it renewed my courage. I recently hosted a coffee klatch for brandmakers who are marketing-minded geeks, both upstarts and silverbacks, eager to swap insights on branding in a digital culture. I’ve embarked on new research about what digital culture is doing to consumers’ sense of identity. I taught myself how to change the oil on my lawn mower. I agreed to give hybrid session workshops (live and virtual), meaning I’ll have to master a whole new presentation style.

Next year, I plan to join Catherine in Vietnam. It may as well be the moon. Which reminds me of this quote about rewards inherent in risking what’s difficult:

“We choose to go to the moon and other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

John F. Kennedy