Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reflecting on 2008

I wrote this before New Year Day, but wanted to let it "age" before posting to see if I had additional thoughts.

This is the time of the year when we look back on the year and consider the ups and the downs. I think it is human nature to give ourselves a mental "score" as to how our year went - how well we met our goals - or how poorly we followed though on our good intentions. Every year brings new opportunities - some of them we follow through on, others either don't live up to their expectations or our efforts on them may fall short of the mark. Sometimes it is our own inner weaknesses that prevent the greatness we hoped for. Other times it is external events that limit us.

I use Google Analytics as one way to "score" myself on my progress. I was looking at my blog entries at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. I was surprised to note that at the end of 2007, I had 4,024 visits, 5,798 page views from 2,090 visitors from 77 countries. At this point for 2008 I had 7,927 visits, 11.778 page views from 6,158 visitors from 102 countries. Interestingly enough, a lot of the new traffic to my blog occurred from my Hurricane Ike posts. Hummmmm . . . does this mean I need to find more newsworthy, natural events to photograph? That will be a challenge!

My photography has had its ups and downs. I'm still struggling in the marketing aspects of being a professional nature photographer. As a Christian, my inclination is to maintain a humble view of myself - promoting oneself seems "boastful." It is also easy to get discouraged when you attempt to put your work out at the stock photography sites and nothing sells. However, using Alamy's Measures, in 2007 I had 239 views and this year I had 519. I joined Digital Railroad, and did upload a number of images there, but I don't know whether there was more I could have done to get my images viewed better there. Sadly, Digital Railroad is now history. My guess is that I still need to get more images up on the stock sites, but I lack confidence that where my first love is in photography (nature) is not necessarily what sells at the stock sites. I did more portrait work this year, but I have not decided if that is a direction I want to spend more time pursuing. The best news is that I had two photos in Nature's Best Backyards contest make the magazine and I had photos exhibited in 2 different gallery settings. I have a third photo that has been selected for exhibition in 2009. And I've been contacted by another photographic agency to submit for a calendar for 2010.

We did not get to travel as much for my nature photography this year, but I did have some good opportunities. Colorado in June gave me some mountain goat shots that may do well for me. Hurricane Ike was amazing to photograph - although I learned some things I would do differently were I to try to cover another hurricane. I'm thinking about and have started putting together a book with the Ike photos. My fall foliage trip yielded some shots that I have great hopes for as well. I definitely need to do more photography closer to my home.

While know that I did not take advantage of every opportunity to submit my work (yes, that is the biggest thing I need to work on in 2009), 2008 had its own challenges. The world economy is affecting everyone's budgets right now. Henry's mom was in failing health and we have spent more time in Amarillo over the last few years trying to be helpful both to Henry's parents and to Henry's sister who lives near them. It has been sad to watch the struggles that are a natural part of the aging process. Plus, there is that nagging reality that it won't be that very long until we experience those same struggles. Already, our bodies are not as strong as they once were. Arthritis and stiff joints are a fact of life. Exercise helps, but sometimes it feels like an uphill battle to keep the body agile and active.

Hurricane Ike has been a big event as well. Because we have property in Galveston, we spend time there each year. A catastrophic event hits harder when it devastates an area you are familiar with and love. We went to Galveston and experienced one of God's most powerful natural events - a hurricane. I still read the Galveston paper online daily. I rejoice that so many business are back up and running. But I mourn for the people who lost everything they had and still have no permanent place to live. We live in a time when we expect instant gratification, we want everything back to normal NOW. But the reality for both Galveston and the New Orleans-Mississippi area hit by Katrina, it takes a long time to recover from all the problems caused by massive hurricanes. We expect too much too fast. We are impatient. I believe that Galveston will recover, but it will take years, not months.

The world's economic problems seem to be the worst in my life time. It is easy to get apprehensive and anxious when no one knows how long this economic downturn will last or how bad it will be. The news from around the globe has been mixed as well. While things seem to be getting better in Iraq, things are worse in Afghanistan. The strife in the Middle East and in Israel has heated up again. The terrorist attacks in India have created new tensions between India and Pakistan. Hearing about life in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe breaks your heart. While there is calm in Kenya after the violence at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008, there are still tensions that could still erupt into violence again. One article I read this week talked about tensions building in Bosnia.

Regardless on how one voted, I think it is a good thing for America to have elected the first African American president. I want the black community to have success and positive things. I think that Barack and his wife, Michelle, are very accomplished people who are worthy of my respect. Since I believe that God is ultimately the One who puts people into power, I have to believe that He has a purpose for Barack Obama's presidency. For many reasons, I hope and pray that Obama will be a strong, successful president who accomplishes great and wonderful things in his time in office. He is certainly taking office at a time when many difficult issues and conflicts need attention. May God give him wisdom, leadership, and success as he works through the difficult decisions he will have to make.

From my reading today in Alexandra Stoddard's Grace Notes:
"I regret nothing." Edith Piaf

I've learned a great deal this year. I feel it has been productive and also enjoyable day to day. What a wonderful thought to live our lives with as few regrets as possible.

What kind of year did you have? How would you rate it? No matter how many challenges you've had, no matter what pain you've endured, did you do your very best? Then have no regrets.

While I don't know what 2009 will actually bring, it is part of my nature to anticipate good things happening. I would rather look back at 2008 and concentrate on the positive things rather than dwell on the things that "might have been."

I wish for all my readers a wonderful, blessed, and prosperous 2009!

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