By the title alone, you may be thinking that this article has something to do with composition and perspective in photography. While that may be a useful topic at some point, that’s not what this is about… not directly anyway.

I’m speaking more about the big picture stuff here. Life in general.

My life has been in a state of drastic change over the last five months, and a lot of ups and downs have come with that change. The whole situation allowed me to really evaluate what was and was not important in my life. So here are a few thoughts on photography from the viewpoint of a hobbyist.

MY UNINTENTIONAL DISAPPEARANCE

Five months ago, I had no intension of putting the camera down or stepping away from my blogs. But life happens and I wasn’t left with much of a choice. Back in August 2010, I announced that I had packed up from San Diego and moved back to North Idaho where I grew up. That one event sparked a drastic change in my life.

Not only did we move (which is a painful and expensive process in itself), but I also decided that it would be a good time to become self employed as an engineer. It made a lot of sense because we live so far out in the boonies, the commute to the nearest city would eat up several hours of my day. I got all set up to pull work from my previous employer to get me off and running.

But then I started looking for work with other clients — more previous employers, previous associates and bosses, local companies. This takes a lot of time, and I don’t get paid to do it. But I did land a few other jobs via my contacts and I ended up being very busy. Not just a little busy — I’m talking 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. Of course, that type of thing doesn’t go on forever, but there was a solid month where I couldn’t leave the house, watch TV, see friends, etc. Honestly though, I’m not complaining… the paychecks make it worth the effort.

It hasn’t been all profit though — it takes money to make money. The move alone set me back $15,000 out of pocket between all the house stuff and the move. Then I had to drop another $8,000 on a piece of software for my engineering business. So yeah, a couple hundred bucks for Photoshop looks a lot different to me now. At any rate, I’m finally starting to get caught up with the money situation.

In short, I’ve been busy either working or trying to scrape up future work for myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way though — I absolutely love working from home, setting my own rates, deciding what to work on, and wearing pajamas and slippers all day. So far, it seems to be working out and I plan to continue being self employed as long as I can.

THINGS THAT FELL OFF MY PLATE

With the self employed gig keeping me busy, I really had to evaluate what other activities were important enough for me to spend time on.

My family has to come above all else, so any small amount of time I have off has to be directed toward them. And now that I live across the street from my parents, next door to my grandmother, and within 30 miles of my brother and the in-laws, I have more family to spend time with on a regular basis. It’s great though, I do enjoy being back home (as does my wife).

The next two biggest things in my life are photography and blogging. With everything else going on, I just haven’t been able to justify spending much time on them. Sure, I posted a couple things here and there, shot a few rolls of film from time to time, but nothing at the level I was at before the move. Hell, I even managed to acquire a bunch of “new” film cameras and darkroom equipment in the last few months… but I’ll get into that on the film photography blog later this week.

Part of me feels terrible for letting things go for so long, but I always remember to take a step back and look at the big picture.

BIG PICTURE FOR A HOBBYIST

I’m not a professional photographer or blogger. Not even close. I make about 30-40x more per month with engineering than I do with photography and blogging combined. So when push comes to shove, it doesn’t make sense to spend a bunch of time on my hobbies. The first priority has to be putting food on the table and paying the bills.

I enjoy doing both of these things, and I don’t see myself giving up either of them completely. I just need to come to terms with the fact that they are, and will be in the near future, only a hobby. Just for fun.

The other interesting thing about photography and blogging, for me, is that they continue to make a small amount of money even when I stop doing them for several months. The blogs have been earning consistent numbers for the last five or six months — I even picked up a couple of direct advertisers and saw some spikes in affiliate payouts. Photography has been fairly even too — a couple of small sales plus a signed print.

So I don’t get terribly stressed out when I have to step back from my hobbies for a while… they seem to just keep going on their own at some moderate level. Of course, by taking time off, I’m not growing these hobbies. My goal is to eventually make a decent income from blogging and/or photography so I can decide if it’s a viable career path, but engineering is my primary career and money maker right now.

LESSONS FOR MY FELLOW HOBBYISTS

Most of you can probably relate to having photography as a hobby/passion. And most of you can relate to having ups and downs in your life.

So when you find yourself short on time, don’t sweat the small stuff. Photography shouldn’t come before the really important things, like your family or your job. Even if you have a lot of followers on a blog or on Flickr, most of them will still be around when you get back to it.

And taking a bit of a break from time to time might not be a bad thing. I’m getting to the point where I really want to get back into things — shoot some photos, get the darkroom up and running, post some stuff on the blogs. If you feel obligated to pursue your hobbies in rough times, they’re not fun any more.

Of course, it’s a different story for those making a significant income from photography and/or blogging. They don’t have the same luxury of choice — it is an obligation. As a hobbyist, be happy that you can choose where to spend your free time.

This is getting drawn out, so I’ll end it there. My big message here, is that I’m still alive and I plan on continuing with the photography and the blogging. I’ll be too busy for these hobbies from time to time, but I’m still around.

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I am glad to see your passion for photography still surviving well after such a big journey in life.
I agree that its better to post when you fell you have something as opposed stressed out trying to make a self-imposed schedule.
I am enjoying it more now that I don’t have a fixed pattern.

Do you have any 4×5 or larger formats?

Niels Henriksen

January 10, 2011 8:32 am

No large formats yet, other than my DIY camera that has been on hold. I can’t imagine I’ll pick up a LF any time soon. Too much money that could otherwise be invested in building the darkroom.

January 10, 2011 9:51 am

Great to hear you are doing well :) I can definitely relate, my camera has not been out since September (I think), though I got a film camera for christmas and shot four rolls with that to experiment.

January 10, 2011 12:34 pm

Sounds like we have similar situations. I might have shot about 6 rolls in the last few months, but most of those were rolls of Kodachrome that had to be sent in before the end of year deadline for processing.

January 10, 2011 1:54 pm

welcome – back :-)

January 10, 2011 2:02 pm

Thanks! It’s good to see that a few of my old pals are still lurking about.

January 10, 2011 7:55 pm

I can totally relate to this. I can’t seem to find the time to pursue my hobby anymore because I am trying to move ahead in my career and maybe someday be lucky enough to work from home myself. But as they say, the road to success is always under construction! It takes time, and unfortunately this means that I have much less time to dedicate to my passion and improve. I’m hoping things will take a turn for the better soon, who knows!

January 10, 2011 11:59 pm

Yeah, that work thing always gets in the way, doesn’t it? But keep at it and I’m sure you’ll end up where you want to be.

January 11, 2011 12:08 am

Hi Brian,
glad to see that you are alive and kicking. Also great news on how freelancing have worked out well for you. The PJs…. not good news though ;)

looking forward for seeing your big comeback

January 11, 2011 12:25 am

C’mon! PJ’s are the best! Nice warm slippers too.

You still out there on your own too? You took the plunge before I did.

January 11, 2011 1:10 am

Oh, I think you will love working for yourself – my husband’s an engineer too and he’s been working for himself for 25 years. Just squirrel $$$ away for slow times – hey, if you’re getting work these days, that’s a good sign. Sounds like your life is going beautifully!

Love your blogs and look forward to reading many more in the future – when you have time ((~;

January 11, 2011 6:16 am

I love it so far! I’ll be pretty happy if I can make it 25 years on my own. That’s really amazing.

I hear ya on the slow times thing… it’s the worst feeling when you have downtime between projects. Luckily, I haven’t had more than a few days in a row without work since I started. Most of the time (even right now), I’m working for multiple clients at the same time. I’ll definitely take the extra work while I can get it!

January 11, 2011 11:14 pm

I think we all go through those up’s and downs in life, in work, in life and even in our photography itself, but it’s always nice to come back to familiarity. I am a member of a particular Flickr group that I used to contribute to on a regular basis but due to changes in my life lost touch for a couple of years. When I finally got back to it, it was like I had never been away and it was so nice to see the same old names still contributing (plus a few new ones of course.

January 12, 2011 4:06 am

It’s definitely like that on my blogs too. I’ve taken short leaves in the past, and the “regulars” are always there to greet me when I return. That kind of thing certainly makes it easier to get back into the swing of things.

January 12, 2011 4:54 am

I recently went through something similar and took a break from blogging and keeping up with my photography. That’s what RSS feeds are for though. You can take a break and I’ll still find you when you return. :)

January 12, 2011 5:34 am

Speaking of feeds… I have about 1000 photography-related feed items to sort through, read, bookmark, and share. Yikes.

January 12, 2011 6:55 am

What type of engineering, Brian, if I may ask? My husband is a mechanical engineer (very handy for me when I get confused about camera works). We thank the gods for being employed (knock wood, right?!). He’s been working with his school buddies (MIT) since he graduated – pretty crazy (good) if you think about it.
There will be lean times, but don’t panic! Use those times for photography and family, as I’m sure you will from what I read. Sounds like you are well connected.
Much good luck to you!

January 12, 2011 7:32 am

Also mechanical. My specialties are medical devices, injection molded parts, and machine design. My first job was at an R&D department with a Johnson & Johnson company, so that kind of work sort of stuck with me. Though, right now, I’m working on designing massive drilling machines that attach to big excavators. Go figure. In fact, I’m working with two of my college buddies right now — it’s all about who you know!

January 12, 2011 10:00 pm

It IS about who you know, and a good education and talent, too – which you obviously have! You and my husband do exactly the same work – that’s great – he has a pretty wild mind. As extra work he was at the MIT Media Lab in the Biomechatronics dept. working on prosthetic ankle design – really cool. He will probably go back there some day soon – I can’t get him to move away from the place!!! Well, I’ll leave you alone now (considering the zillions of tasks you have planned between work, family and photography) and once again wish you luck. Look forward to reading your blogs. I’m a former dancer now trying to get my photo knowledge up to speed, so thanks for all the info…

January 13, 2011 6:06 am

Wow!! Sounds like you really have your plate full, glad to hear self-employment has been good. I guess podcasting will also take a back seat for now then? My work has also kept me from my photography, but what I do is use my iPhone with apps like instagram to share and keep my photographic passion going. (if you decide to use it, it would be great to see you on there I’m @CWDaly on there). We will be here to read you when you do come back every now and then. All the best to you and your family Brian.

PS. Jim Goldstein is also on instagram

January 28, 2011 3:47 am

Brian,

Nice of you to post this update. As you can see, I’ve been on a hiatus too since I started freelancing and then started my company 4 years ago. I keep planning more activity on the website, but life just keeps wresting control. ;)

Still, there is hope, I guess.

All the best with your new business. From what I’ve seen, you’re one of those people who will make it work.

Oh, and I agree with Udi – PJ’s not great for morale while working at home ;)

March 4, 2011 10:47 pm

I think its always important to keep you finger in your hobbies even if your not committed as you once were, i go through stages of loosing interest in various hobbies but always return with more fire and passion.

May 5, 2011 9:47 am

I think you have done very well to get through all that has transpired and still hang on to your passions, even though they had to take a back seat for a while, you are right, life does get in the way sometimes. Good luck!

June 13, 2011 6:32 am

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