Using your old photos as journaling prompts

Memory Lane is a nice place to visit

Journaling is an anchor for me in many ways. Sometimes it holds me in place in calm times so I can linger over my thoughts and enjoy them, and other times it holds my ship steady in the rough waters of life so I have some time to process difficult topics through writing.

I journal to recall and document memories and what they mean to me, re-live funny moments from trips, and process emotions both good and bad. I record many of life’s fun, random, and fleeting thoughts and ideas that might otherwise pass by and be forgotten to time. What did I think about a particular article or book I read? How did I like a day that I spent exploring a new place? What did I do on that trip I went on? I don’t want to forget those things because they’re the breadcrumb trail of my life, and I enjoy periodically going back to read what my thoughts were about such things to go along with the photos I’ve taken. I’ve written a previous post on how and why I journal that discusses more about these topics.

Dusting off the boxes of photos

Several years ago before my Dad passed away, we tackled the long-standing project of digitizing thousands of his old 35mm photography slides of our family from the 1960’s – 1990’s. He wanted the project done to get the photos out of the closet and into digital format where they can be easily enjoyed by the whole family in the future.

I was born in the mid 60’s, so the time period from then all through the 70’s is of particular interest to me because that was my childhood and I remember a lot of it well. Although people typically didn’t take nearly as many photos back then as they do today with cell phones and digital cameras, Dad did a good job of capturing many great memories over the years.

I have very strong picture-recall (for lack of a better phrase). Meaning, I might remember the details of certain things from when I was young in a fuzzy manner….until I see a photo of them. A single photo often brings back a flood of memories that can be surprising to me at times. It’s like when they used to release dozens of white doves to fly away from a box during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. That’s the exact feeling I have sometimes when I see an old photo, thoughts flying free all over the place.

I’m sure many people are the same way, which is what gave me the idea for this short article. Combining the ideas of photography, journaling, and the concepts of nostalgia and “tasting life twice”, yesterday I had the idea to grab a very old photo of my Dad’s from my computer, put it in an entry in my digital journal, and write about what it reminded me of. Wow, what an unexpectedly great experience!

Inside the little white box is…

I chose the photo above when I stumbled across it because I recall this day like it was yesterday, just from seeing this one picture. It was my Holy Communion Day, which was a beautiful spring day in 1974. The photo is of me opening a present from my parents in our back yard, which was my first ever mechanical watch. I remember opening that box so vividly, seeing the watch, and being stunned by such a gift. I thought “Wow, this is no toy! This is a nice watch!” It made me feel special that my parents would think to buy me such a gift at that young age.

I took it out and my Mom helped me put it on, and I wore it proudly throughout that day, staring down at it many times to admire it. I remember holding it up to my ear to hear it tick and wondering what was inside of it. I also remember treating it like it was gold. When my neighborhood friends stopped by later that morning to ask me to play basketball, I wore the watch while we played and I remember looking down at it many times to make sure it wasn’t breaking from the rough playing. It would have been wiser to just take it off, but there’s no way that watch was leaving my wrist! Perhaps receiving this first watch seeded my long term interest in watches and horology that I wrote about here and here.

The photo also reminded me of my home where I grew up, our yard, all the special times we shared there, and most of all my parents. I journaled about all of it in the entry that I created for this photo.

As I wrote, I thought to myself “This is exactly why we take photos, isn’t it? To go back and enjoy them over and over.” There’s not much point in taking photos if we never look at them and reminisce about the times when they were taken.

The nice bookend to this story is that I still have this watch, 46 years later! I’ve taken it out every once in a while as I’ve come across it over the years, and each time I wound it up to find that it still worked. Sadly, this time when I wound it while writing this article, I found that it no longer functions. But since it’s a mechanical watch, all it needs is a good internal cleaning and re-oiling and it will work like new again. Since I’m into watchmaking, maybe I’ll make that a personal quest of mine in the years to come…learn enough to get this watch working again!

Give it a try…

Grab an old photo of yours and try journaling about the memories that it brings back. You might be surprised at how easily your thoughts come flooding out, like the white doves coming out of their box at the Olympics. Enjoy the time spent with the process, it’s an opportunity for you to taste life twice.

Wisdom in A Beautiful Anarchy

Great advice and learning comes from many different sources

One of the components in my mission for this blog is to share things that I think are worthwhile, because I believe that “Sharing binds people together. One of the best gifts you can give someone is sharing something that you find valuable or interesting.”

With the above being said, consider the recommendation in this post a gift that’s both valuable and interesting. If you make some quiet time for yourself to listen to and consider the thoughts in the podcast below (which includes written transcripts), I can almost guarantee that you will:

  • View yourself and others differently
  • Challenge your beliefs and understanding about how you think
  • Learn how you can be more creative in every day life, and/or lead a more informed life in general
  • Understand the value of communicating, sharing, thinking, learning, adapting, and growing
  • Gain insight into why you are the way you are

For me, it started with the books…

The podcast I’m writing about is from a photographer named David duChemin. His photography books are how I became familiar with his work because I’ve purchased many of them over the years, but that’s only the tip of his iceberg. David’s career has spanned theology education, successful comedian, global humanitarian photographer, best-selling author, blogger, and podcaster.

David has a way of writing about photography that brings the artistic, human, creative, adventurous, and technical aspects of it together to capture your imagination and leave you hooked within his stories. Before you realize it, those stories are conveying gems of wisdom that not only apply to photography, but when you think about their essence, they apply to life itself as well.

The reason I purchased David’s books in the beginning was to learn and improve my photography, but I kept coming back to buy the next one when I realized how much more I get out of them than just photography insights. Through his stories about traveling, creating his images, connecting with people and places, and sharing all of these experiences with others, I have continually seen that much of what he writes about is the process of discovering the soul. Your soul. It transcends mere photography.

…and then came the podcast: A Beautiful Anarchy

Considering the high value I place on his books, I jumped right into David’s podcast called A Beautiful Anarchy when he started it. He describes the podcast as:

“A Beautiful Anarchy is a heart-felt kick-in-the-pants podcast for everyday creators and anyone who’s ever mud-wrestled with their muse. Hosted by photographer and author David duChemin, these 15-minute podcasts are an honest and sensitive exploration of the joys and struggles of the creative life.”

For sure, the foundational premise of the podcast is creativity and discovering how you can be your most creative at whatever it is that you do. How to open and awaken your mind, be more accepting of inspiration wherever it comes from, explore new paths, beat your creative obstacles, etc. Going further though, I found that after listening to his podcast that you can even remove the word “creative” from the phrase “creative life” in the description above, because to me it’s about more than creativity. Just like David’s books, this podcast is serendipitously about…life.

Even if you’re not a particularly creative person, give this podcast a try. Listen to the ideas and apply them to the everyday. Go down the path. You will not regret it, because after you digest a few episodes you’ll be tucking away many gold nugget thoughts in your head about how to be a better self and get the most out of whatever it is that you do in your life. I think you’ll agree that it’s worth the time spent listening. Enjoy!

PS – Save the podcast transcripts that David provides somewhere on your computer. Trust me, you’ll want to return to them in the future.

Nikon is offering free online photography classes during the holiday season

For those photography bugs out there who are always willing to learn something new and improve their skills, what could be better than free online courses? Probably not much!

To that end, for the second time this year Nikon is offering all of their Nikon School Online photography courses for free until December 31, 2020. The classes were last offered for free earlier this year when broad lockdowns began due to COVID, and Nikon offered the courses for free to give people something to do with all of their time.

The courses range in length from about 30 minutes up to 1 hour and cover a variety of general subject matter, so if you’ve got some house time planned during the last few weeks of December, give one of the courses a try to see if you like them. You have nothing to lose, and something to learn. Enjoy!