Been on the road for a while in China so I’ve been reading and thinking about life since I’m out of touch with my wife and (when not working) bored with being away from home. When I travel for my engineering day job it usually means being away for a while, which can be both good and bad; new foreign places are great, but the experience is diminished without the family. At least I brought the camera… only I haven’t been able to shoot much because we’ve been really busy with work, and that leads to creative anxiety for me. Hence the reading for inspiration and ideas.

Lately when I have a little free time I’ve been reading David Duchemin’s website. I discovered him a while back when I read one of his books, but kinda lost track of him. I don’t really make it a habit to read many blogs but his posts are thought-provoking, and it’s nice to hear his common sense approach to his work. Normally talking to my wife provides plenty of inspiration, but right now with a 14 hour time difference we are usually conscious at different times, and Duchemin’s thoughts (rants) help me focus on what I want to do because he seems to think similar to me.

Anyway. I’ve been thinking about focus, both in terms of creativity and lifestyle. Recently Myesha and I came to independent conclusions about the same concepts (we usually do), her revelation was about wardrobe and mine was about stuff in general. I think I sent her a long text message about wanting to get rid of stuff that I don’t use, and that’s what I plan to do when I get back to the states. Anything I don’t use is going away - I’m not interested in carrying around things for the rest of my life just for the sake of carrying them, I’m too old for that.

In fact, the purge will go beyond material things. I’ve already started to improve the focus of my professional life (aiming only to optimize the time we have to do the things we love: shooting and traveling), and now it’s time to narrow the creative landscape. For me that means developing a fuller understanding of what I want to shoot and what I want to create. I consider that’s an ongoing process, so don’t expect some immediate and profound answers here today.

This post is about how these ideas of focus are manifesting in preferences and in my creative work. Among all the meetings and refinery visits we managed to carve out some time to visit the great wall north of Beijing. I had no preconceived notion of what we would find, except the memory of a good friend’s picture of himself sitting on the wall. (Let’s just say it was a picture I didn’t want to recreate.) Every day this trip in China has been a mixture of smog and fog, so visibility was just as poor as the contrast, and that’s what I wanted to shoot, not the wall. Even while thinking about it on the way there I didn’t care to shoot the actual wall, instead I was totally consumed by the fog (smog) and the blurry condensate covering everything, including the inside of the tram to the top of the mountain where the wall sits. Among my favorite shots of the day are the three above, all taken from the wall. In fact all the shots I care to keep have nothing to do with the wall itself.

After a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches in the chinese style (not good) we drove over to the sea shell temple, which turned out to be more of a quest for enlightenment than a lesson. The path to the several temples above (pictured in the middle below) goes up very steep mountains, and it’s long, so we were panting and shedding clothes on the way up. But before then was the 500 Buddhas in the woods (left), which was also interesting. My favorite part of the temple area was the main temple at the base of the mountain, very pretty with colorful falling leaves and incense burning everywhere. I made a lot of shots of smoke and leaves and artifacts, all of which I’ll keep to myself. Although I’m respectful, I’m not what you would call extremely spiritual, but I can understand why meditating has value. Visiting the temple provided a quiet moment to think about where to go with creativity, and to think about the kind of honesty required to decide what to do in life. If you don’t have that kind of peacefulness, then find it. For now, I’ll reflect and think more about where to go.