My fear of bluebonnet photography.

My attempt at a Texas Bluebonnet photo.

In Texas, bluebonnets are a big deal.

In the Spring, they grow like weeds along the side of the road. Hundreds of millions of selfies are taken amidst them each year, primarily utilizing 20' selfie sticks that allow for dozens of family members to be in the shot. The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas, so don't even think of picking or damaging them, or you might get cuffed and sent to the pokey.

Texas Bluebonnet Rattlesnake

Texas Bluebonnet Rattlesnake

Ladybird Johnson started the push to seed bluebonnets during the Highway Beautification effort back in the early 70s. Now the whole thing has gotten completely out of hand. Natural habitat is so overgrown by the blue weeds that whole new species of animal life has evolved. Want proof? Witness the Texas Bluebonnet Rattlesnake.

OK. Enough with the tall tales. 

Perhaps I exaggerated a wee bit about our "beloved" bluebonnets. Clearly, I have an attitude. Ready to get Freudian with me for a minute and get to the bottom of my fears?

I am a photographer and business owner. Hence, I am forced to strike a balance between the "creative Joe" and the "business/marketer/bookkeeper/salesman/strategist Joe." I've been a business owner for 20 some-odd years and, as you can see, I've got the hair to show for it.

I've been through feast and famine in my work. Quite honestly, I think the Good Lord gave me more creativity than business sense. One mentor put it this way: "Kid, you're the one out there in the middle of the field, looking for things that sparkle."

The creative Joe wants to be unique. To have a different look. To be a "true artist." To make a stand for what I believe in. Sure, it is common for artists to be be opinionated, but when fear creeps in, the result isn't pretty.

What does fear have to do with bluebonnets?

Fear tells me that bluebonnets are cliché. I gag at the thought of having to take family photos in the middle of a field of them. I feel sad for the Texas Hill Country painters who keep churning out idillic scenes of hilly pastures slathered in bluebonnet paint. I say to myself, "I had better close that door, else I become nothing more than a copycat and a sellout."

On one end of the spectrum, fear tells me that I'm not good enough, smart enough, salesman enough, creative enough, or social enough. On the other end of the spectrum, fear fools me into thinking that I am somehow superior, over-qualified, and under-compensated. 

Fear convinces me to say no. Fear makes my world tiny. When I'm in tons of fear, it feels like I'm living in a small closet. Living behind a closed door. 

Yes Man. 

Yes Man is a funny, lighthearted movie in a way. However, the underlying message is profound to me. 

Please tell me you've seen Yes Man. Jim Carrey NAILS this movie. Yes, it's silly at times. But the lighthearted tone of the movie is only a ploy to deliver something truly meaningful.

Plain and simply, I believe God is in the "yes." Let me give you an example: I've never thought of my photography career taking me to certain niche segments, such as real estate and architectural photography. Everybody knows, my thing is "people photography." That's where I shine. That's where I get the pats on the back. 

But, a fellow photographer has generously included me in a few jobs focused on real estate that are outside of "my domain." Opportunities with him came up, and I figured I'd check them out. A little of this, a little of that. I really like this guy. He's a marketing wiz, and definitely a "yes man" when it comes to opportunities that take him out of his comfort zone. 

But then the fear started to set in. "Is this leading me down the wrong path?" "What about my portraiture work?" "What if I don't get paid enough?" "Shouldn't I be focusing on a niche instead?"

Analysis Paralysis (I'm the poster boy). 

Analysis paralysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A person might be seeking the optimal or "perfect" solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, while on the way to a better solution. (Wikipedia)

The solution: letting go, and acknowledging that I'm not in charge. 

I look at miracle after miracle in my life, and notice these common themes:

  1. I don't know what's best for me, but God does. 
  2. Everything is interconnected, and happens in a certain order. 
  3. Sometimes I plant seeds on one side of the field and flowers spring up on the other side. The Creator's world isn't linear. 
  4. When I seek His will, He answers; but usually just for that day.
  5. I lack power. I get exhausted and depressed trying to "figure things out." 

A close friend told me to say this on awakening, as my sleepy eyes begin to open: "Good morning, God! Joe here, reporting for duty!" When I remember to say these words, my head gets screwed on straight. Before all of the stinking thinking invades my thoughts, I am reminded that I am happiest when I go about my day playing the role that He assigns. When I do my best to be a giver, rather than a getter. 

So Good Lord, If you want me to do family bluebonnet shots, I'll do the best damned bluebonnet shots I can. Want me to get up at 5AM to shoot a realtor's new listing? Bring it on! I want to learn. Want me to photograph an outdoor August wedding? Yes man, yes man, yes man!

Joe Van WykComment