The Highway – Update

General Store, Luckenbach TX

I’ve written before about shooting from the car. I enjoy driving and I do a fair amount of my image captures during car trips. My advice has been to avoid freeways or major highways when you do this. On a recent driving trip I decided to reevaluate this. To drive some freeways to see if they still have the same effect on me. Spoiler alert: the highway is a creativity killer.

Please understand that my advice here is from my personal experience modified with my personality. Even more than most of my articles. Your behavior may be completely different.

Highway anesthesia

What I had found and observed was that driving a freeway is a mind numbing and deadening experience. The miles roll by at high speed. My attention narrows to mainly the road and cars ahead of me. The goals become to get to the destination, pass that traffic in front, and don’t get a ticket.

I may pass by beautiful or interesting sights, but there is too much inertia to stop. He impetus to push on down the road was powerful. It would require something truly amazing to break into my coma and pull off, let all the traffic I passed get ahead of me, and look foolish with all the passing cars staring at me. So I seldom do it.

On the freeway, I may see something potentially interesting, but I can usually talk myself out of stopping. I can convince myself it wasn’t really great. That I will find a better view down the road. Or that it is too dangerous to stop here (maybe a valid objection).

Whatever the reason or excuse, the whine of the wheels is hard to interrupt.

A test

I just got back from a 2700 mile driving trip through parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. That is a lot of open miles. I decided to check to see if my anti-freeway prejudice still holds. To see if I can overcome the bias against stopping.

I drove over 300 miles on freeways or major divided highways. Well, I did not stop for a single picture during any of those miles. I told myself I would stop when I wanted to. I thought about it. But nothing I encountered could inject enough energy to make me do it.

In fairness, a lot of this time I was not in what would be considered pristine landscape areas. But I consider the test valid, because other times, in the same general areas, I got some interesting pictures while driving smaller roads. I believe the difference was the attitude I have when driving smaller roads.

i examined my reactions as carefully as I can and verified that driving freeways causes a different mindset. I am reluctant to stop or to go back to shoot an image. It is hard to break the rhythm, to stop. The highway is hypnotic.

A comparison

Here is a comparison of a specific subject. I drove through huge areas of wind turbines. In one case, on a back road, I stopped and took some side roads and even walked in some fields and got some interesting shots including the turbines, Another time, driving a high speed highway, I drove by a perfectly composed scene, with a single stark white turbine out in a field, with a perfect clear blue sky. The turbine was parked and it was perfectly positioned with one blade pointed straight down and the other 2 lifted in a perfect, symmetrical “Y” and directly facing me. But I drove by it. I wouldn’t bother to stop. I still kick myself about that missed opportunity.

One of the main differences was that on the back road, it was easy to interrupt the trip for promising pictures. On the freeway, even a very interesting image couldn’t convince me to stop.

Another subjective comparison: there are people I know who would pay $1000 to avoid driving across Kansas. I can understand that. But a partial solution is to get off I-70 and take back roads. When I do this I am much happier and I usually come back with some decent pictures.

Why?

I wish I could give a definitive explanation of the root cause of this. If I could, I might be honored as a respected psychologist. But I’m not and I can’t.

I have theories, though, based on my on reactions and introspection. Remember, anything I say here is unscientific and may only apply to me.

I believe the way I travel sets a context, a framework of perception and decision making. On the freeway there is the implicit goal of making progress. Getting to the destination as soon as possible. Minimize stops or interruptions. I’m in a rhythm and I don’t want to break it.

Driving down the freeway and seeing a picture causes a conflict. Now 2 sets of goals are in opposition: speed vs. interrupting the trip for something that actually slows things down. The conflicting goals have to be weighed and balanced. But even if I decide the scene was worth stopping for, the moment is gone. I’m a mile down the road and it would take miles of driving to backtrack to it. And it is much easier to justify that it probably wasn’t worth it and let the momentum carry me down the road.

On a small back road, though, the pace is slower, the traffic is light, and I have put myself in a position of committing to looking for images instead of covering as many miles as possible. Traveling this way also seems to keep me more alert. I am more actively engaged with my surroundings and paying attention, not only to the road, but to everything around. There is a constant background thread of playing with compositions in my mind as I drive by them. It is very educational.

My travel style

My preferred travel style is to only plan on making 300-400 miles a day at most. I avoid nearly all freeways and large divided highways. I then give myself permission to stop whenever something interests me and even to turn off for side trips according to my whim. Unlike the typical male, I will even turn around and go back when a light bulb goes off and I recognize I have passed an interesting scene.

As an extreme example on this trip, we got from Colorado to New Mexico via roads – well hardly what you would call roads and you would be hard put to find them on a map. My Jeep was caked with mud and I left it on a a badge of honor while visiting in Texas. But we saw very interesting things and I got some good images.

My wife knows, on a driving trip, to bring lots of books and magazines to read while we are stopped. I am very fortunate to be able to create this environment for myself. It would not work for everyone. As a matter of fact, most would probably hate it.

For fun, the image with this article is from back roads in the Texas hill country. It is the old General Store in Luckenbach (yes, that one). Not my normal style, but it was fun.

Slow down

My recommendation is to slow down and give yourself permission to stop for anything interesting. I fully realize this will not work for everyone. But have you tried it? If you are on vacation, can you take an extra day or 2 for your art? What do you have better to do?

I have practiced this on most driving trips for years and I can completely recommend it. Your mileage may vary. It is a very personal choice.

Take It Out

Near minimalist image. All distracting elements removed.

A lot of times, our image can be improved by taking out some of what’s there. This point of view tends to come with experience. When we start photographing the tendency is to go wide and try to get “everything” in the frame. It is a learned discipline to restrict our view and take out distracting elements.

A subtractive art

One way that photography is fundamentally different from most other arts is that the sensor in our camera automatically records everything it sees. Other arts construct an image by consciously selecting and adding elements to the frame. If you don’t like something in the scene you are painting, don’t include it.

This creates a very different workflow and thought process for photographers. I have to be aware of everything in the frame in real time. That is, I don’t have the luxury of easily picking and choosing what I will include. Unless I am very careful everything the camera is pointed at will be recorded. Yes, I could spend many hours in Photoshop removing the things that distract, but I don’t like doing it like that. Besides taking a lot of time, I believe it is better to be careful when composing the image capture. I feel better as an artist to get the captured image as close to the desired result as I can get it.

It takes lot of discipline to make myself aware of every bit of the frame. Even those far away corners where distractions seem to lurk. And those mysterious things poking in from the edges must be seen and dealt with. And that trash in view. Being aware is crucial. I must move or reframe to eliminate distractions.

You are responsible for every part of your image, even the parts you’re not interested in. – Jay Maisel

Elimination

Photography is much more about elimination than inclusion – John Paul Caponigro

Mr. Caponigro is on to a great truth here. I find when I am composing a shot that I’m caught in a strong tension. “What should I include?” fighting with “what should I exclude?”. Usually this battle plays out quickly in my subconscious. I have a lot of experience. But even so, I sometimes find myself blindsided. I look at an image and think “what is that doing here?” when I was blind to a distracting element.

I find that the decisions to eliminate things often are more taxing that the ones to go ahead and include them. When you are unsure it seems safer to include it, just in case. This is usually the wrong attitude. If you are not sure it should be there eliminate it. Taking things out, to some limit, usually makes for more clear images. Anything that competes with the main subject and composition should be very suspect.

Minimalism

Does the desire to take out distracting elements lead to minimalist images? Maybe. Not necessarily.

Minimalism tends to be an extreme. To me it can be a bleak and harsh discipline. My work is not minimalist. I love the richness of excellent textures and compositions that may include a lot of elements. Simplicity and reduction of distraction are different from minimalism.

I would characterize minimalism as a mind set. The process is to take out absolutely everything that is not completely required for the image. My attitude is to strongly consider eliminating everything that seems to be distracting. I allow for occasional riots of seemingly useless complexity when I thing it adds to the image.

The image with this post is borderline minimalist. If I had removed the grass and the hints of field it probably would qualify for minimalist in my mind. I don’t care. I don’t like labels.

Ambiguity

Less information often leads to more interpretation. – John Paul Caponigro

Have you noticed in some paintings or songs or stories that less is actually more? Less complete information leads to some ambiguity. It allows space for the viewer to fill in what’s missing. Viewers like to be challenged a little, to have to work some to figure out an image. It is engaging and stimulating. It also allows for their private interpretation to be applied. They may well create a story that is different from what the artist envisioned. That is wonderful. It means the image is big enough to encompass multiple points of view.

Enjoy the creative stimulation of the frame. Deciding what’s in the frame is composition. Where you put the frame is cropping. Keeping things out of the frame is selection, selectivity, defining the subject. Less is often more. Use your judgment and don’t be afraid to take it out.

Rule of Thirds

Faithful Rule of Thirds crop. Works for this image.

The famous Rule of Thirds. I use that name here, even though I don’t like it. It has become almost a deep seated religious belief to some. Let’s examine it. It is a good idea, not a rule that can’t be broken.

What is it?

Briefly, the Rule of Thirds says to divide the frame into a 3×3 grid of 9 equal squares, like a tic-tac-toe grid. Important features, like horizons, should be placed on one of the grid lines rather than centered. Also, the grid intersections are “special” and powerful. Place major subjects on one of the intersections.

Theory says that aligning subjects with this grid creates more interest and tension than most other arrangements. This are not really wrong. The Rule of Thirds is generally good advice. The fault is in the application as a prescription rather than just good advice.

The image with this article is faithfully cropped to the Rule of Thirds. The horizon is on the upper line and the gravestone is aligned along the right one. It works for this.

Origin

The rule of thirds was first written down by John Thomas Smith in 1797. And he was quoting remarks by the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds from 1783. It goes way back.

Reynolds says:

Analogous to this “Rule of thirds”, (if I may be allowed so to call it) I have presumed to think that, in connecting or in breaking the various lines of a picture, it would likewise be a good rule to do it, in general, by a similar scheme of proportion; for example, in a design of landscape, to determine the sky at about two-thirds ; or else at about one-third, so that the material objects might occupy the other two : Again, two thirds of one element, (as of water) to one third of another element (as of land); and then both together to make but one third of the picture, of which the two other thirds should go for the sky and aerial perspectives. This rule would likewise apply in breaking a length of wall, or any other too great continuation of line that it may be found necessary to break by crossing or hiding it with some other object : In short, in applying this invention, generally speaking, or to any other case, whether of light, shade, form, or color, I have found the ratio of about two thirds to one third, or of one to two, a much better and more harmonizing proportion, than the precise formal half, the too-far-extending four-fifths—and, in short, than any other proportion whatever.

They were very wordy back then. But basically, he is describing what we still call the Rule of Thirds.

Even further back

But the basis of what we term the Rule of Thirds goes much further back, probably to around 450 BC. It was known as the Golden Ratio in ancient Greece.

The artists back then worked out a mathematical description of their concept of beauty. The ratio was key to the design their temples, such as the Parthenon. It is surprisingly similar to the ratios of the Rule of Thirds.

I won’t go into depth on it, but the Golden Ratio is about 1.618. It is actually an irrational number, which means it never repeats. Like pi. Sounds weird, but if you use the ratio to divide a frame they way they suggest you get something like

Golden Ratio
https://www.pixpa.com/blog/golden-ratio

As you see, the proportions are roughly 2/3 to 1/3. Like the Rule of Thirds.

To a large degree, beauty is universal.

Why does it work for photography?

It works for photography for the same reason it works for painting or architecture or other media. It creates compositions that are both balanced and dynamic. They are balanced because the 2/3 to 1/3 split creates arrangements that for some reason are pleasing to most people. Having the horizon or major features offset from the center creates more interest and avoids boring, static compositions. Following the grid also helps to introduce a certain dynamic layout that gives interest to an image.

It touches us on a deep psychological level by keeping our images less centered and boring. Having things off center helps emphasize what is important to us, e.g. more sky or more foreground, and it gives our minds some work to do to balance the elements. Viewers like to have to figure things out a little bit.

The Rule of Thirds is very pragmatic. It has proven itself for a long time. All photographers should learn it when they are learning composition.

Learn it, use it, learn to see by it’s pattern. When you are starting you need to learn the normal conventions. This is one of the oldest and most fundamental. Internalize it. Unlike most artistic opinions it is backed by centuries of use.

Is it a rule?

No, at best it is a guideline, a “rule of thumb”. It contains good advice for most compositions. But composing is an art, not a science. Don’t take it too literally. Do what feels right to you as an artist. But know why you are doing it. If you don’t understand the Rule of Thirds then you will not know when it should be broken.

You enter an image in your local camera club competition. It gets down-voted because it was not composed according to the Rule of Thirds. Talk to them. Find out if they have a valid artistic opinion about this or if they are just being legalistic. If they are legalistic, sorry, it is time to leave this group. You have outgrown them.

If you post an image on social media and it gets negative comments because it is not “Rule of Thirds’ compliant, then just ignore the comments. You are the artist and the only one who can decide how to compose your image. If you intentionally broke the rule for a good reason, then good to you.

Break the law

As a guideline, it should be followed when it makes sense and abandoned when it doesn’t. Yes, the Rule of Thirds can make your compositions generally pleasing to most people. That is why you should pay attention to it most of the time. It is time honored and proven.

Maturity and experience will help understand that there are times when the rule should be abandoned. For instance, for a very symmetrical composition, off-centering it to follow the Rule of Thirds would probably look weird and damage the impact of the symmetry.

Or in the case where you have a subject you want to fill the frame with. Do it. That supersedes the rigid rule.

Or let’s say you are a photojournalist who has just captured a unique event that the world needs to see. Didn’t have time to compose according to the Rule of Thirds? No problem. Most people would agree that a strong or important subject overrides the rule.

Basically, if you understand the “rule” but feel you have a good artistic reason to break it, do it. You are the artist.

Create

Ultimately, that is what it comes down to: you are the artist. If you understand composition and believe you have a better idea than the Rule of Thirds feel free. You may be right or you may be wrong. Either way, you made an artistic choice. That is what you need to do.

Composition rules are based on principles of perception and gestalt psychology. They usually make sense and any artist should learn them and internalize their application. But creation sometimes involves taking a new direction, abandoning norms, breaking rules. Do not insult your viewers by being ignorant of the norms. Rather, delight them by occasional creative rule breaking. Be an artist.

Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist. —  Pablo Picasso

Improvement

Results of an experiment

In a recent post I quoted Todd Vorenkamp saying “Search yourself for improvement, not your gear”. I believe that our improvement needs to come from within us, not from better gear. What is your plan to make yourself a better artist? Do you have one? I am an Engineer. I know that nothing gets better by accident. We all need a plan and strategies to improve ourselves. I am not saying we need a 5 year plan or a 10 step process. But we need to consciously strive for improvement.

Study

Whatever you believe in and value and spend your life doing, you should be a lifelong student of. We are lucky to live at a time when we have so many channels for learning available to us.

If you were an aspiring artist in the 16th century you would have to apprentice to a master. There you would spend several years doing grunt work and menial tasks while studying the basics of drawing. Eventually you might advance to a stage where you were trusted to add some parts to a painting the master started. Someday you might be trusted to make copies of the master’s work. Now after 10-15 years you could be deemed ready to go out on your own. Of course, all you know is your master’s style. You don’t really know what you want to be yet. A pretty poor system in my opinion.

Now, though, there are an abundance of schools and online classes. There are books and magazines. There are mentors available and unlimited examples to view online. Most of us are reasonably close to good museums where we can examine great art at will. We could spend all our time studying and never make an image if we are not disciplined.

Online classes

I have gotten lots of good information from classes at CreativeLive and Kelby One. B&H Explora has a great free library to view, among all the sales stuff. Anything by Julieanne Kost is extremely worthwhile. Some other great instructors are Dave Cross and Ben Willmore. I do not receive any compensation for these plugs. Many of these things require subscription. It is worth paying for good instruction. For free stuff, there is more on YouTube than you could ever watch. Be careful. Be wary in deciding who you are going to listen to, especially on YouTube. It’s the wild west.

One reason I love Julianne Kost, besides that there may not be anyone on the planet who knows more about Photoshop, is that she said “I don’t want a recipe, I want to learn to cook.” This is wise advice. A lot of training presents recipes to do exactly what the instructor did. I don’t want that. I want to know how to fix my own dishes, to create my own recipes. She is good at presenting her training from that point of view.

The real thing is to do it continually. Learning should be a habit we cultivate for our whole life. We never know all of everything. It might be harder to find new and deeper things to learn, but it is there. I suggest you commit to study as an ongoing process, not an event.

Critique

I will put this here, even though I am very bad at it. It has been a long time since I went for a formal critique of my work.

I know it can be valuable. I remember years ago when I was in a camera club the critique was good discipline. As I matured, I also learned that you had to carefully evaluate it, because most critique was normative. It was trying to mold me to fit the biases of the group or the evaluator. Use at your own risk. Be smart about it.

I hear there are some good critique sessions you can submit your work to for evaluation. I have not done it, but I would if I found one I trust.

Possibly the most valuable thing about critiques is that they get you used to hearing negative comments about your work. This, in itself, is good training.

Experiment

There is a big difference between 20 years of experience and 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. A lot of people get trapped by their success. They become known for a style and feel they have to keep doing it for fear they may lose their audience.

I believe an artist grows and evolves throughout their career. Your interests change, your style may change, certainly your point of view changes. How will you follow these changes unless you give yourself permission to experiment some?

That doesn’t mean you have to suddenly make an abrupt 90 degree turn and go a completely new direction. Experiments may be personal. Most of them will fail. Some, though, will have a glimmer of a new idea, a new viewpoint. Follow up on them. Keep pushing.

A willingness to experiment and play is healthy. It will keep us fresh and creative as an artist. Evaluate what you have learned about yourself from the experiments and decide what to keep and build on.

A note about the image with this article: this was the result of an experiment. I liked it. Other people seemed to agree, since it went into a gallery and sold.

Be open and flexible

Are you willing to entertain new ideas? New technology and techniques? New points of view that are alien to your normal thoughts? You don’t have to buy in to them. You don’t have to adopt them.

Stretching yourself with new ideas is kind of like yoga for the mind. You stay flexible. When a mind becomes rigid and inflexible it shuns new ideas, new thoughts. The creative place within us requires fuel, new possibilities, new ways of looking at things. Otherwise we stay in our comfortable rut.

Creativity is like anything else with our bodies. We have to work at it to develop. If we don’t exercise we lose the ability to move and we get unhealthy. Likewise, being open to new things is an attitude, a habit. We can work to get better at it.

Think about it

We should be our own best critic and our own best evaluator. If you’re an artist, how can you not obsess about your art? It is a major part of your life. It should occupy a lot of your thought.

I am an introvert and an Engineer. That gives me an ability to look at my work fairly objectively. I know that will not be the same for everyone. We are all different.

But whatever talents we have, we need to learn to be able to evaluate our work fairly. You see what other artists do. You know your own work. What you do has to stack up against your own expectations and your evaluation. We never think we have arrived at the pinnacle. And we shouldn’t. Hopefully we will always be growing.

Thinking about where we are and where we need to go will help us plot our course. Being realistic will help keep us from deluding our self and also keep us from beating our self up. Don’t be negative. Improvement is a lifestyle. Look for new ideas. Embrace new points of view. Experiment with things that are very different that what we normally do. Grow.

What’s not here?

Your equipment is probably not holding you back significantly. Learn to think. Creatively visualize new things. Try new techniques. Grow into the artist you want to be. Then you will do wonders with that expensive new camera. 🙂

Talent

Different view of aspen forest

Not everyone can do everything. When your parents told you you can be anything you want to be, they weren’t being entirely honest. Each of us is suited for some things and not for others. We each have certain gifts and talents. It is wired in to us.

I could never have been an NBA basketball player or an NFL football player. I don’t have the strength or physical traits or athletic skill – or the killer drive to succeed in sports – that is required. No amount of work on my part would have overcome the deficiencies i have.

Some things come easy

How do you know what your talents are? One way is to look around at your peers. You will probably find that some people struggle with things that seem easy to you. Many of us have trouble recognizing this. We think if we can do it then everybody else can, too.

Let me give one example. I am OK with math. I don’t love it, but I do it comfortably. A career in Engineering helped a lot, but there was also a natural inclination. They are related. You wouldn’t succeed in Engineering without being comfortable with math. It is frustrating to me to see people struggling to figure out simple things when it should be easy for them to calculate or even estimate an answer. I have trouble understanding that inability because I don’t have it.

But this is supposed to be about art. I find that composition and exposure come easy to me. Yes, I have studied for a very long time, but it always felt like it wasn’t a problem. I still enjoy reading about principles of perception, and leading lines, and contrast and using the frame, and exposing to the right and all the other “theory”. It is comfortable and familiar and valuable. I do not struggle a lot with this. When I see someone who seems unable to get it together, and who worries way too much about what camera settings to use, I’m afraid I just have to walk away. I can’t relate to their mystery.

Some things come hard

Being easy is not the measure of your talents, though. Some things we are capable of doing come hard. It can take a lot of work to develop the ability. I would go so far as saying that if it took hard work to develop that talent, that is better. You will appreciate it and value it more when you succeed. You will probably know it better because you had to work at it. Things that are easy are not very personally rewarding.

If you feel you have a talent for something, don’t give up. Not until you have spent a great deal of time and effort on it. Sometimes talent isn’t recognized until we reach a certain stage of life. Perhaps it has to build on other things or we have to get to a point of maturity to appreciate it.

One thing that came hard for me is giving myself permission to really experiment. To play far outside the norms and the conventional rules. I am getting better now. Hopefully I will continue to grow in that creative direction. I feel a pull that makes me think I should.

My background was very literal and hyper realistic. It was a struggle to break out of that. But I discovered I like the other side as well. Maybe more. Now I am comfortable with intentionally blurring things. I can composite images and play with more extreme colors. It seems the further I go off the normal path of photography the more I like it. Is this a talent? Hard to say. Maybe it is just a preference. I’m not sure where the line it.

At some point, though, we sometimes have to decide we were wishing for a talent we don’t really have. If we have done an honest job of trying and it is just not working, time to change direction. In the process we have learned something new about ourselves. I’ll mention this later, but I found that I have very little talent for drawing or painting. I had to abandon that.

Do you need talent?

Do you need talent to be an artist? A sensitive topic, and I will probably offend someone. My feeling is yes, you do. The mechanics, the rules and patterns can be learned by almost anyone. What is the difference between someone who can barely take a usable selfie and another person who makes what people recognize as very good art? I don’t know. It could be creativity, or knowing how to use the tools better, or natural skill. For lack of a better term I will call it talent. Something separates the very good from the rest.

But, and this is significant, I believe most people can learn to do a lot. You don’t have to be the best in the world to enjoy doing something. Get over thinking everything is a competition with 1 winner and everyone else a loser. Do what you can. Relax. Enjoy what you can do.

Study yourself

To grow, it is necessary to curate our talents like we would our art. We should evaluate and refine and seek to understand. It is a life-long process.

I see it as a past/present/future sequence. We must honestly evaluate where we have been and what talents we have discovered. We also need to realistically assess where we are now. Are we content with what we are doing? Do we feel we are making the most of what we have? And looking to the future helps us plan a path forward. Where do we want to go? What talents will it require? This obviously is wider in scope than just art. We are evaluating our life.

To be realistic, I’m not talking about forcing myself into a lotus position and doing navel-gazing for days. I would probably need the rescue services to pry me out if I ever got folded up that way. The idea is that we need to be self-aware. We are the only one who really understands what we feel and like and what our goals actually are. I believe we should be intentional about our life.

Optimize your strengths

One of the big disservices of the corporate world is the annual review. We and our manager and maybe our peers are supposed to review what we have accomplished and assess our strengths and weaknesses. A lot of focus is on coming up with a plan to improve our weaknesses.

Sounds good, right? Sounds like the self-evaluation I recommended. What I finally figured out over the years is that it is a normalization process. The corporation is trying to make us interchangeable parts they can move around at will. This optimizes their goals, not mine.

It finally was clear that, if you are a top performer, you get rewarded for what you do excellently. You very seldom get down graded for your weaknesses. It became my goal to optimize my strengths. When my weaknesses were pointed out I could say, yep, that is a weakness, and be confident that it will not hold me back.

Relating this to art, it became clear to me early on that I had so little talent for drawing or painting that I would never be happy pursuing that. Also, I have a relatively short attention span for working on an image. I want to see results quickly. I did not want to spend weeks working on a single painting. But I was compelled to create art. Finding photography worked for me as the outlet that I needed . That became a whole world that was creatively satisfying and challenging. By following my strengths I can honestly consider myself an artist.

Our talents are our strengths. They make us unique. We should try to be very aware of them. We should cultivate them and be looking to develop new ones. I believe we all have a lot of potential. No one but you can really know you. Keep pushing yourself. Learn new things. Try new directions. Find those buried talents and bring them out. Be all you can be.