Stay on Track! (But don’t be afraid to jump tracks.)

When we Come to It - Varina Patel

Maybe you think I’m contradicting myself with a title like this… but I’d argue that I’m not. It’s so easy to derail your own efforts. You want to move forward – but which way is forward? If you can identify your goals, it’s easier to move toward them. Take the time to think about where you want to be in 5 years… 10 years… 30 years.

When I was in high-school, I already knew that I wanted to be a photographer. At the time, I wasn’t taking any photography classes, and my job had nothing to do with photography… I was working as a camp counselor. 🙂 But I knew where I wanted to go. I bought my first camera, learned to work in the darkroom, studied art and art history – and then my path was diverted. My parents weren’t convinced by my plans to be a photographer, and they insisted that I change my major. I did so – but I never lost sight of my goal. A few years later, freshly graduated with a degree in information technology, I started shooting for stock. Then, I worked as an interior photographer for a big hotel chain, and I started doing portraits on the side as well. I wasn’t there yet – but I was traveling in the right direction. I was looking for opportunities to get my foot in the door. I wrote a few articles, sold an image to a magazine here and there, did some presentation for local groups, taught some classes, started a photography blog (this blog)… I was headed in the right direction.

Over those years, all kinds of opportunities came my way – not all of them related to photography. I chose the ones that kept me on (or at least near) the path I wanted to follow. But I couldn’t have made the right decisions along the way if I hadn’t known where I wanted to be in the end. I was getting closer to my goal.

But don’t think that it was smooth all the way. Stock photography looked promising for a time, but after a while, it was clear that it wasn’t what I wanted to do – so I changed my focus. Commercial photography looked like a good way to pay the bills, but I grew to hate it – so I jumped tracks again. After years of following leads and meandering slowly in the general direction of my goal, I discovered that I had found the track I really wanted to be on… nature photography and teaching. And here I am, doing exactly what I want to do – and making a solid living doing it. It took hard work, dedication, and a the willingness to adapt. But I made it. And so can you.

Start by identifying your goal, and then work your way toward it – one step at a time… Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans as you discover new things, and get to know yourself better… Put one foot in front of the other – even when your path seems to lead up-hill… And one of these days, you’re bound to get where you’re going. Just don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.