Zen Balance of 2013

posted on: January 14, 2014

When I look back at what I set out to do in 2013, I basically established a goal of not having any goals and just going with the flow, taking whatever comes my way and moving through it as gracefully as possible.  So, what happens when you decide to just take what the world gives you and not create too much of a plan on your own?

I was just coming off the adventures of 2012, and decided to go with the flow by taking all of the freelance gigs and last-minute opportunities that came my way, which meant many more headshots, portraits, and general event work that happened on weekdays, which gave me many more weekends to enjoy- though I still managed to shoot about 6 weddings in between my own and the weddings I shot for others. and delivered every wedding on time or EARLY!!  In fact, I'm pretty sure I delivered ALL client projects on time or early this year- which is a huge accomplishment in any business, but especially in a creative one.  My workload was well-balanced, my systems and backup systems were working well, my contractors and outsourcing companies all delivered as promised, and appropriate expectations were kept.  It feels SO good.

Since I didn't blog much of my work over the last year, here are a few images from a few of the shoots in 2013 (more were shared on my Anne Ruthmann Photography Facebook page, and still many others have only been seen by the clients who hired me):

When I met Meg Ruby, and she told me about her love of Yoga and Sound Healing, as well as her experienced level of performance as a pianist, I immediately had this image in my mind and knew that it needed to be created as a signature portrait to communicate her as an artist that crosses traditional lines of thinking.  Not all shoots are able to come together as I imagine, but in this case, they did- and then some. ;-)

When asked if I could take student head shots for a career fair, I initially estimated I'd make it through about 45 headshots in 3 hours with just me shooting and an assistant to proof the images on site, but by taking some systems I had created during my holiday photo booths and applying it to this situation, I was able to capture 60 LinkedIn worthy head shots in the span of 3 hours, with digital file delivery of all images 3 hours after the shoot.  Win!  No awkward head tilting or plastic combs neccessary.

I love community celebrations!  The Vietnamese New Year Party was so much fun to photograph, with tons of colorful cultural traditions and great performances- like all of the excitement and action of a wedding, but many more focal points.

I photographed more lovely families this year than I have in previous years as part of a midwest family photo tour I did in the spring, as well as having more family clients in Massachusetts.  I gained a serious appreciation for the Cianci family whose household immediately went from 2 to 5 people overnight!

I enjoyed covering the New England Music Awards where I got to hear a lot of emerging talent from the local area music scene.

I decided to make February a month of giving (in addition to the hired shoots I had), and I donated shoots to several people whose stories inspired me.  There was no contest to enter, no strings attached, just giving something special to several people whose love was inspiring.  I've donated my time and my services in some way every year, but often there's been an announcement and some kind of contest or submission process, so this was a bit different by seeking out people to give to, rather than having them seek me.  All of the people I donated to were a tiny bit skeptical and hesitant to receive of a photo session out of the blue at first, but I'm grateful they accepted so that I could capture their love and generosity in images.

Stephen King Cover & Article Photos
Of the many great events I got to cover for UMass Lowell in their  2012-2013 year, I was very honored when requested to spend the day with Stephen King and document his interactions with the university community for their Alumni magazine and other PR materials.  All of the images I'd previously seen of King played up the stereotype of a cold horror writer, but what I found in my time with him is that he's as light-hearted, witty, and humble as he is thoughtful and deep.

There were many shoots I loved and didn't get to blog or write about, so they'll just have to be fuel for future posts.  I actively took a step away from blogging to help tone down my marketing efforts until I felt more settled in my new home.  Of course, the biggest change on both the personal and professional front of 2013 was moving to New York City.  That took a LOT of going with the flow and letting go of any expectations I had about staying in New England along with leaving lots of wonderful friendships, a great photography community, and gorgeous scenery (as well as all the furniture that wouldn't fit in a Manhattan apartment.)

My favorite images from my trip around the Ring of Kerry in #Ireland are in the photos on http://facebook.com/AnneRuthmannPhotography
Other notable moments were getting to spend more time touring Ireland's beautiful Ring of Kerry and Cork County, which was so lovely but ended on a not-so-lucky St. Patrick's Day by getting a sprained ankle at the top of Loughcrew and needing to hobble all the way down the hillside on a rainy (muddy) day.  Luckily, it was at the end of the trip and I had already taken all of the images I was hoping to capture- funny how those things seem to work out that way.  I also had oral surgery after moving to NYC, of which the pain and swelling lasted almost as long as the sprained ankle.  No amount of meditating or deep breathing was taking care of that pain, so I gave in to medicinal intervention until the pain was tolerable.  There were a few more painful things that happened in 2013 that I'm not sharing, but life is a balance between the painful and amazing moments.

The last few days have given me a much better understanding of the excitement and release that happens when people cross the Sagamore Bridge and enter Cape Cod for a vacation.  As we cross back over this bridge and into our working week, there's an equal
More good memories from 2013 included celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary, seeing a brother-in-law graduate med school, and a brother graduate college.  I finally experienced what makes spending the weekend in Cape Cod so special and why everyone breathes a sigh of relief after crossing the Sagamore Bridge.  I got to explore Owl's Head, ME with some very lovely and talented female photographers, as well as revisiting Loon, NH with more amazing female photographers and even discovered America's oldest general store.  When I look back at it all now, the painful moments seem overshadowed by so many lovely moments, though I know that wasn't how it felt while in the middle of everything.  Thankfully, my documentation of those moments bring back everything that was good and eventually any physical or emotional pain I can recall will simply be replaced by the loveliness.

There's this moment after crunching numbers from the year, while doing my business income and expenses, that I get to take stock of what effect my approach to the year had.  Sometimes, during the year it can all feel very out of sorts as a freelancer and small business owner, which is why a healthy savings account can help maintain sanity, but when I look back at the year in numbers, it's never as bad as it seemed at the times I was worrying, mostly because it balances out with all the times I wasn't worrying at all.  My expenses show a direct correlation to my refusal to work from the apartment we had in Lowell (I was shopping for a new studio space until we found out about moving to New York), as evidenced by an almost daily visit to Starbucks, Brew'd Awakenings, and sometimes both in the same day!  Instead of studio rent, I was pretty much paying rent to the coffee houses, and when I wasn't working there, I was at LTC where it was much quieter.  Amazingly, not working from a home base didn't seem to have a big impact on my ability to be productive, since all of the projects were delivered on time.  I missed having interns to touch base with weekly, but I did meet a few more interesting people by working in public nearly every day, and there were some really good opportunities and connections that even helped me gain more work in New York.

Could I have been more profitable had I been more goal-driven with networking and marketing, or more frugal with expenses?  Certainly.  Would it have made me any happier?  Doubt it.  I'm lucky that all of my previous efforts and goal setting allowed me to have a year of just going with the flow, because it was only having everything else in play that allowed me to operate that way.  I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but if you're normally incredibly goal-driven, there may be some personal and professional insights gained from letting go of the reins and taking whatever comes.  If you usually aren't in control and take whatever comes, it may be time to start setting some goals and taking control.

How was your 2013?  Did you blog about it?  I'd love to read about your 2013!

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