All posts tagged photography

8 things I’ve learned after 1 year on a 10,000 hour creative quest.

By Brad Beckstrom


Just over a year ago I embarked on a creative project I called my Big Audacious Quest. My plan for this ambitious creative project is to master something I’d walked away from years ago, photography. The idea was to have this quest be about more than just photography. I felt that I had gotten into a creative slump over the years and wanted to create a body of work that would not only help me breakout creatively, but also write about it, and share what I learn. I also wanted to see what kind of impact things like photo sharing sites, digital cameras, social media, and photo management tools would have on my efforts. These are all things that were not around when I was first passionate about photography in the early 80s. So, after a year at this, here are a few of the things I’ve learned.

  1. How to define mastery on my terms.

To start I needed to define what becoming a master photographer would look like and put some clear goals and milestones in place along the way. In many ways, my quest is an actual journey so I also wanted to add some geographic elements to my goals as well. First, I had to address this whole mastery thing. In his book Mastery, Robert Greene talks about the origins of master craftsman guilds as far back as the early Middle Ages. Green gives examples of journeyman apprentices and masters on their own 7 to 10 year journeys. Green, Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) and others talk about the 10,000 hour rule as the time investment required to truly master something. There are plenty of people who poke holes in this theory, especially as it relates to creative fields, but I feel these authors at least defined mastery and gave readers an idea of the type of time investment required.  For me, it was a great place to start. There’s no guarantee that investing 10,000 hours in something will make you a master but it allowed me to put some goals in place and begin the journey. So, I took the core elements of my quest: photography, geography, creativity, and time and put the goals down on paper. At the end of some crazy back of a napkin calculations on what 10,000 hours would get me, this is what the quest looks like.

100,000 photographs

10,000 photographs published

1,000 places explored

100 cities

10 years in the making

1 amazing journey

  1. How to hit walls

Sometimes going gangbusters at the beginning of a project can be the kiss of death, especially when you hit a wall. I knew if I was going in to stay on track, I would need to publish about 1,000 photographs a year from 100 places in at least 10 cities per year. Publishing can include, blogs, websites, photo sharing sites, and photo books.  After my first year, I’m ahead of my goal on certain items and behind on others. Over 2600 photos published, from 90 places, in 27 cities. Starting out I purposely kept the number of photos to publish goal relatively low as I knew i’d likely get ahead of the goal and later hit some obstacles that would slow me down, like a big work related project or the 3 months of crappy weather that we’ve had recently. Dealing with some of these obstacles has helped me put a daily practice in place so I can keep a few balls in the air and pivot between projects as needed.

  1. Don’t compare your beginnings to someone else’s middle or end

Read more…

Never Pay For Cloud Storage Again.

Claiming your one terabyte of free space in the cloud. 

cloud storage

By Brad Beckstrom.

It’s out there. The land rush is on. Free space. I’m not talking about a few free gigabytes of space, I’m talking free terabytes (1000 Gigabytes).  If you’re like most people you have a lot of photos. They are probably out of sight, scattered around in all kinds of places, shoeboxes, disintegrating photo albums, old laptops, photo apps, and smartphones. Especially smartphones. As cameras in smartphones get better (Over 800 Apple engineers worked on the latest iPhone camera) we are taking more and more photos.  We take photos of family, friends, pets, projects at work, that dent in our fender, photos of our stuff (a home inventory with photos can come in handy with the insurance company after that next natural or household disaster).  

Wouldn’t it be great if we could store all our photos in one place and have them automatically tagged and categorized by date, topic, location, and then easily decide which ones to share with family and friends and which ones to keep private?

I recently got a crash course on photo storage options as I’m working on a project to publish 10,000 images over five years. I needed space for personal photos, work photos, and photographs for the project. If you count photography as a hobby and shoot high-resolution and raw images, up til recently online storage wasn’t a great option. Less than 100 full size image files from a modern digital SLR can take up more space than 65,000 pages of word documents. (about a gigabyte) High res scanned images can be even larger.

Don’t pay for cloud storage. Read more…

Cultivating Beginner’s Mind. Sometimes it’s great to have no idea what you’re doing.

the frug beginners mind

By Brad Beckstrom

Beginner’s Mind (Shoshin) is a concept that’s frequently used in Japanese martial arts and Zen Buddhism. It refers to having an open mind, lack of any preconceptions about limitations, success or failure.

When you dive into something new, there’s a special kind of energy cultivated by beginner’s mind. The excitement of a child with fresh finger paints and a blank canvas for the first time.

Late last year I found myself in a creative slump. I needed something new to snap me out of it. I wanted to cultivate the excitement of beginner’s mind. I needed a major creative overhaul, another book or seminar would not cut it, plus I’d already done all that. Sabbatical? Nope, tried that. I needed something epic, uncomfortable, difficult. I needed to tell people about it, even write about it, share it with the world. I decided to embark on an epic quest.

To start, I needed to think back to the first time I experienced beginner’s mind. Maybe not all the way to childhood, but possibly something as a teenager. I remembered a gift my parents gave me when I was 15 years old. It was a 35mm SLR camera. After the first roll of film I was hooked. I had beginner’s mind. I needed to get that back. My creative quest would involve photography.


Times had really changed since the last time I’d used a camera creatively. Images have become the language of a generation. There are 15-year-olds with iPhones doing incredible work, with a million followers on Instagram. It was a totally different game. Fantastic images are being created and instantly shared using smartphones, apps, and social media. People were skydiving above the Taj Mahal with HDR cameras and GoPros strapped to their head and chest. Would some old dude wandering around cities with an SLR camera matter to anyone?

beginners mind 2

You know what’s great, I didn’t care, I had beginner’s mind again. This creative quest is not about getting likes or being a professional photographer, it was about a creative journey. In my beginner’s mind, the only person who has to  like my photos is me.  Charles Bukowski said it this way: Read more…

Tapping into your creative broadband.


Misfit Creation

By Brad Beckstrom

When you start a creative endeavor, secrets begin to reveal themselves. The secrets may be things you had heard about but had not experienced. They may be things that others in your field know, but you’re just beginning to discover.

You can be well read, attend conferences, work in the industry, stand over other’s shoulders and give direction, but the secrets won’t reveal themselves until you begin. Until you begin hands on practice of your craft daily.

epic wall

We are all creative, but that creativity often lies dormant until we tap into our creative broadband. This creative broadband is not just important to artists, it’s equally essential for a professional athlete or a standup comedian. Here’s how Jerry Seinfeld put it speaking about professional athletes:

“I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.” 

Jerry Seinfeld still does stand-up in small comedy clubs around New Jersey and New York. He’s constantly working on new material, testing it out with small audiences. He’s creating content on YouTube, getting feedback from larger audiences. He doesn’t need to do this but he knows he has to. He has to keep banging away at the core elements of his craft, combining them and connecting the dots. Finding out what works, no different from a young comedian just beginning to refine his act.

The cool thing about this is, regardless of your level of success as a musician, comedian, major-league pitcher we are all in the same boat with Jerry. If we stop, assume we’ve risen above the small, the less significant or less important, we fail. Read more…

Going where you’re wanted….

Discovering towns, or entire countries, that will hustle for your business…

By Brad Beckstrom

Ventnor City Pier Looking Towards AC

I was in a jam. I usually take the family away for a few days around my birthday. This year some plans fell through and we skipped it.  I was getting some heat from SuperK about getting away for a few days in July. The reason I was getting heat wasn’t because we don’t travel, we travel a lot. However, lately I’ve been visiting cities like Bangkok, New York, Seattle, Portland, Baltimore and Fargo as part of my creative quest to photograph 1000 different places in 100 different cities. The family was feeling a bit left out.

So, I wanted to make good on my promise and scrambled to find something very quickly. Read more…

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