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Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

I’ve only recently discovered that Imposter Syndrome is an actual thing, is more common than you might think and that I have a bad case of it in just about every aspect of my life.

According to Wikipedia, and I paraphrase,  it’s about feeling like a fraud, – about to be found out at any moment – even if you’re good at what you do. And no, you don’t have to be a spy to suffer from it.

I’ve been working in IT for 15 years, but I can’t shake the feeling that one of these days someone is going to figure out that I don’t know much about vfilers, that I’m not fluent in every programming language every invented, that I haven’t been reading up about node, or how bitcoin works and why anyone cares. Of course, they probably have figured that out already and get together in groups to laugh about how I act like I know what I’m doing. Or not.

Yes, I’ve been taking photographs at monthly Long Dogs walks for the last four years, but someone is soon going to realise that I only have a crop sensor camera and that I am only just learning about studio lighting.  And yes, a few people have paid actual hard earned money for prints, canvases and calendars with my images on them, but that’s just because they are really nice people with hearts of gold who don’t want me to feel bad, right?

Yes, I’ve been writing promotional emails and blog posts for a while now, and people have commented that they enjoy reading them, but that’s just family and friends, and some dachshund crazy people, and the odd stranger.  Kind of a captive audience.

Yes, one of my Redbubble designs has sold 35 times and had over 7000 views, but that’s for charity, and no one is quitting their day job over 35 sales anyway.

…and that’s the way the though process goes. Something good happens, but that’s just because…. diminish, diminish, diminish.

I should state that this post is absolutely not about fishing for compliments. In fact I feel even more fraudulent when people say nice things about what I do, which may seem counter intuitive. I almost flinch when someone says ‘you’re so talented’, or ‘you have a gift’.  I realise people say theses lovely things because they genuinely mean them, so why can’t I take that and glow with pride rather than think I’ve manged to somehow pull the wool over their kind and generous eyes? Maybe because I know it isn’t talent, it’s practice, and I have so much more of that to do.

Someone I respect very much advises the mantra of ‘fake it til you make it’.  Wise words to live by. I’m just not sure if I’ll ever get to the that comfortable place of feeling like I’ve made it.

So why am I writing this?  Partly because I now know I’m not alone in feeling the way I feel. And that gives me the  opportunity to let others know that if they feel this way, they are not alone either.  Also there is good news. Now in my forties I don’t let this feeling of being an imposter stop me from doing things as much as I used to. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Even when I feel like a fraud; that the next thing I do, say, or show will expose me as the newbie I really am, I do it anyway. I write it, I publish it, I share it, I say it. I don’t sit quietly by and let the opportunity slip past to be regretted. Why? Because even if I’m terrible at it, by putting tit out there, by giving it a go, I have a chance to improve.  I’m getting better, I’m learning new things and I love and enjoy the things I do. That makes me a very privileged and lucky person and I’m thankful for that.  If people end up liking the end result (outside of work where that’s a requirement), well then that’s just a bonus.

I’m sure I self deprecate more than is useful. I don’t know if I’ll stop doing that, but I do catch myself at it once in a while and try to stop. With photography I feel the added burden of being trapped between the sense of not being good enough to charge, and not wanting to be frowned upon by those who make their living from it by doing it for free. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue and all that.

Some people are wonderful at marketing and self promotion and I am deeply envious. I still apologise for my art, writing, photography, knowing it could be better, but the important thing is that I don’t let that stop me from putting it out there.  And that means I get the gift of feedback for which I am immensely grateful. I have left perfectionism back in my twenties and thirties and I’m a happier person for that. It also means I’m going to publish this post today rather than dwelling on it for 6 months.

I am aware that there will be people out there who will agree with my inner voice that I am actually an imposter and don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about. Everyone has critics after all and pleasing everyone is impossible. Funnily enough, I don’t worry too much about those people. After all, they have me figured out already so there is no disappointing them.

Lessons Learned–Antarctica 2016

Lessons Learned–Antarctica 2016

The measure of a trip away to me is the question, if money were no object, would you go there again?  

When it comes to our trip to Antarctica the answer would definitely be yes. In fact Birdlife Australia are adverting a trip, including South Georgia, for November this year and I would love to win lotto and go.

There are things I would do the same and others I would do differently, so on the off chance I ever do get the opportunity to go again I’m going to write them down so I don’t forget.  Some of this might even be useful to someone else one day. Who knows. The Project Manager in me knows a thing isn’t over until you’ve reflected on the Lessons Learned, so here goes.

Great Expectations
Research, planning and pre-preparation
Photography
Travel
Gear List

Great Expectations

Expectations can make or break an experience. Set them too high and you’ll be disappointed  Expect something to be bad, and most likely it will be. Finding the sweet spot is tricky. On a trip like this there are also expectations of yourself.  We were spending a lot of money on travel and gear, so I was carrying a the weight of my expectations of myself and my photography along with everything else.  Luckily that didn’t add to the actual weight of our baggage so we got through the whole trip without paying excess luggage fees.

Everyone I spoke to before I went was saying how great it was going to be, so there really was no way or lowering expectations about Antarctica itself.  That was fine as it did not let us down. There were others on our trip who had clearly set themselves the expectation of crossing the Arctic circle, and there may have been those who desperately wanted to see Adelle penguins. As we didn’t end up getting far enough south for either of those because or mangled thumbs and uncooperative weather those people may have felt they didn’t get everything they wanted from the journey.

For me I was expecting to see icebergs and penguins. And we did.  What I wasn’t expecting was to get snowed on and that was a magical surprise. I wasn’t expecting to get sea sick, but took medication to be safe and it was fine.

Research, Pre-planning and Preparation

When imagining a new trip I usually think I’m going to do a stack of research about where we are going and the things to do when we get there. After doing the basics to determine travel and accommodation logistics I tend to get distracted. On this trip I delegated the planning for the two city stays, Santiago and Buenos Aires, to Kingsley. Whihc meant we basically ended up winging it.  I was a little frustrated by that at the time, but in retrospect I’m quite mellow about it.  We had a lovely time and saw some interesting things.  Could we have done more?  Sure, but we weren’t there to check things off lists.
I was very pleased with how my hotel address and exchange rate cheat sheets worked out.
I printed out a business card with the name and address of each of our hotels on it before leaving home On arrival in a new city we just handed this card over to the taxi driver and away we went. Much less stressful than an experience in Berlin where the taxi driver started taking us to Potsdam
when we wanted to go to Potsdamer Strasse.  Left both him and us quite upset and rattled.

The quick exchange rate cards likewise saved us doing much mental arithmetic and went easy on the iphone calculator.

Offline google maps were a definite must have. We were also glad to have Global Roaming turned on when we got back from Antarctica to a distressing SMS about one of our dogs going walk about back home (all safe and sound by the time we got back) 

Photography

Over all I was happy with the gear I took and how it functioned. I was glad to have two camera bodies with me despite the extra weight.  It gave me the confidence to get the camera out on the zodiac and in all weather with the knowledge that in the worst case scenario I wouldn’t be stuck without a camera.

On all but one occasion I had spare, empty memory cards on hand so I could change them out in the field. I carried them in a little case, turning used cards so they faced inwards and empty cards so they faced outwards to prevent confusion.  I downloaded and backed up photos after each outing, so at any point in time there would be three copies on three different media.  I had enough cards with me that I didn’t need to reformat them while away which turned out to be a VERY good thing.

The one time I didn’t have my trusty case with me was the time a fellow photographer ran out of room on hers. I would have been able to loan her one otherwise, so I’ll be making sure I have a spare card with me every time I go out in future.

I wish I’m taken a good pair of waterproof gloves.  The special gloves we bought have little ‘peepholes’ in the fingers which theoretically let you press buttons and things more easily.  More often than not I took the glove off my right hand when photographing and just wore a thin merino glove liner.  In between shots I’d either put the outer glove back on or stuff my hand in my pocket.
The outer gloves weren’t waterproof, so quickly became wet when you moved around the ship hanging on to snowy or wet handrails. Kingsley made use of the hairdryer in our cabin to dry the gloves out.

Waterproofing the camera.  The weather shield I had got more use in Iguazu than the Antarctic. It certainly kept the camera dry, as intended, but you needed to have a very good idea of where all your controls were as although you could see the LCD the top panel of buttons, which in my case have all the important settings like ISO, autofocus and burst modes, metering etc, are not visible.  That would probably be fine if you were going out to focus on a single subject in pretty stable conditions, but we were switching between portraits on seals, landscapes, flying seabirds every time the zodiac changed direction so changing your settings was part and parcel. It did act as a large, warm and waterproof glove though, so given that my actual gloves weren’t waterproof it all worked out ok.

Some other travelers had a much simpler set up which was a clear plastic sleeve with an elbow joint and that seemed to work really well.  Unless you were somewhere where it is really belting down that might be a better option.

We took a selection of dry bags along, and a rain cover for my camera bag.  I did use the dry bag a couple of times, but it was more for peace of mind than any practical use. We certainly could have done without the two large bags and just taken just one small one. The rain cover for the camera bag worked really well.  The bag is reasonably weather sealed itself, but the cover meant that spray on the zodiac, rain and snow were a non issue.

Battery life was something I was concerned about, having read dire warnings.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the batteries lasted for me. I knew that GPS drains the battery so I’d turned that off, which is something I now regret.

We were able to charge everything up in our cabins. We traveled with a power board and a European power adapter which worked a treat in our rooms. In the lounge/bar the power sockets were different and I don’t recall which adapter worked up there.  We had access to a few different kinds so it all worked out.

The laptop we took was Kingsley’s old one, which was heavy and ungainly.  Given how much the trip was costing I couldn’t justify buying a new one, and although I had the ipad with me that wouldn’t have given me the ability to download and backup all my pictures to external hard drives. I’m glad to have had the laptop there, but one which weighed less and that actually held more than 60 seconds of charge would have been an improvement.

The selection of software I’d loaded up met all my requirements. The Scopoderm patches we were wearing to prevent sea sickness gave both of us fuzzy vision so  I didn’t get as much done on it as I had expected.

The two WD My Passport hard drives were great and I’ll be traveling with them again.

Adding to the weight I also took a ipad, iphone and a kindle.  I wouldn’t have been without any of them for the trip, though I would make sure I downloaded the offline maps before heading overseas. The ipad was perfect entertainment for long flights and I made use of it for blogging in some instance too. It was amazing to see how many people on the boat used their ipad as their primary camera!

I need to be revising my blogging platform (watch this space). People had all sorts of issues adding comments to the blog, and I didn’t know they were there until I got home. I could move my blog to the same platform as my online galleries, but I’m a little wary of doing that in case I decided to move that to another vendor at some stage. I’ve got this one on my list to investigate this year.

Blogging on the road was fine in those places where there was decent internet.  That meant it was unbearable in Ushuaia and Iguazu. It all takes up more time than you think it will, but doing it on the day really is important.  I wish I’d taken better notes on those days I didn’t write on the boat.. The eyesight didn’t help, but even scrawling something on a bit of paper would have been a good idea. The big events you remember, but it is the smaller, more intimate observations of the moment that slip away.

A spell checker wasn’t available for Open Live Writer when I left, but I’m pleased to say there is now so hopefully future posts will be less prone to my poor typographic skills.

I only took one lens cloth and wish I’d taken a couple more.  I spend more time than necessary figuring out where I’d put the one I had.  I did try and buy a spare in Ushuaia before setting out, but had no luck locating one.

I could have left the macro lens at home, but I was happy with the rest.  My walk around Canon 18-200 may only be a kit lens, but I’ve been very happy with the flexibility it gives me, and I’ve taken some shots I’m very happy with using it over the last few years. The Tamron 70-200 was great on the boat and the shore when I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to lug the 150-600 around. The Tamron 150-600 was great for birds and whales and penguins. So although there was  quite a bit of duplication there, I don’t think that was a bad thing. I was able to stick different lenses on the two bodies and when I got my cat together that made for easier switching where required.

I wish I’d taken more pictures.  I know this sounds stupid considering the GBs of photos I came home with, but I found I didn’t take as many as I thought I was taking at the time.  You won’t be back there again in a hurry so don’t be self conscious about how many times your shutter fires. Work the shot, make it count.  Get your delete key ready for a workout.

I wish I’d worked my shots more. There is a very real FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when you do a trip like this. Because you don’t get a lot of time in any one place, and because the wildlife is on the move, every choice you make comes with an opportunity cost. Staying an extra five minutes with this penguin here might mean you don’t see the iceberg tipping over there. I wish I’m stayed up later and gotten up earlier to make more of the sunsets and sunrises.

The flip side to that is you also need to take time to just absorb the experience. This sounds counter to the above, and maybe it is.  Because of the weather and the medical evacuation we didn’t get quite as much of the experience as we might have done. But I was glad to take the time to just gaze out at the magic surrounds, to feel the wind on your face, the cold seeping through your fingertips but not getting into your core, rejoicing at the effortless maneuvers of the birds in those winds of the Drake Passage, and the effort involved in taking off and landing on the waves.

The beauty and joy of the dolphins using the bow wave to slip stream. The effort of the breaching humpbacks. The play of the penguin chicks, the studious care of their parents. The drama that plays out before you as the skuas and chicks battle it out for their survival, predator and prey equally keen to see the next day. The smell of the penguin poo, the smiles of delight on fellow travelers. The wonderfully familiar wake-up call of “Good morning, good morning expeditioners” in Monika’s friendly but no-nonsense German accent.

I wish I’d taken more people pictures.  I will be working to get some more portrait experience this year I think. People give perspective.

There wasn’t as much structure to the photographic part of the tour as I anticipated there might be.  Given the range of interest and experience that makes sense in retrospect. Alex was certainly there to answer questions put to her. The number of people feeling poorly through illness or seasickness would have made a set structure difficult to stick to.

There were some things I think that would have been useful to have known before we started out, a pre-trip technical checklist which I will try and compile One of the things I really, really, really wish I’d done was to set the time and date on my camera on arrival.  It would have saved me a heap of rework later on.

Travel

Flights

We flew Perth, Sydney, Santiago, Igauzu Falls (via BA), Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Aukland, Sydney, Perth.

That meant a lot of airports and transfers. If repeating the journey I’d make sure I flex direct from Sydney to Santiago, and would have stopped in BA, before heading up to Iguazu, allowing the trip from Iguazu to Ushuaia to be done together, eliminating the need to transit between International and Domestic airports.

LAN were great, though the food on board did get a little samey.  The staff were helpful and polite.  QANTAS were fine too, though we did get a plane that was just about my age.

Between the two of us we fit under the luggage weight limit, but only just when it came to carry on.

We didn’t really need to take the three travel pillows we had with us.  In fact one would probably have sufficed.

The ship

The Ushuaia was a great little ship.  I am so very pleased we traveled on her and not one of the big monsters that was tied up in port. The staff were lovely and we had everything we could want and more.  The food was not amazing, but it was plentiful and made a bit of a conversation piece.

Traveling as part of a group.

I’m not a natural joiner. Being an introvert and finding it difficult to follow conversations where there is background noise posed a challenge that I think I failed to rise to on more than one occasion. Luckily Kingsley is very good at being my buffer, and this holiday had lots of structure which enabled (or forced) me to be a part of the group while still having time to myself to recharge.

Being in a smallish group in a largish group was also a little odd.  Some travelers tended to an isolationist policy, trying to keep withing their own cluster together at all times to the exclusion of the other passengers on the ship. Others preferred to mingle with those from all nations aboard, and there was a broad spectrum including the USA, Germany, China, India, UK and France, not to mention the crew from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Columbia. With one crew member to every two passengers we didn’t get to meet them all, although as our cabin was on the lower deck and the engine crew tended to smoke outside the hatch on our level we had a nodding acquaintance with many of them.

There was one fellow passengers on the ship, traveling alone, called Gina.  A Chinese girl living in the US she went about making sure she got to know everyone on the boat. I would love to have that level of comfort and confidence. She was just a lovely person and had an absolute ball. Always ready with a smile, and happy to challenge people and their views she was well traveled and keen to extract everything she could from every situation.

Some of the connections made as part of the trip have persisted and we had a little catch up a little while ago.  There is the chance of some more local excursions in the future.

Clothing and Laundry

I never anticipated how difficult it would be to make sure we had clean clothes. We ended up paying a (relatively) small fortune to hotels in some places simply because of poor planning and preparation. Many laundry services were closed on Mondays, and if you need anything cleaned over Carnival you will need to do it yourself.

Next time I’ll be looking at laundry locations when booking my accommodation, and taking laundry in as the first thing in any new city.

We have enough stuff without having too much.  Two suitcases and two carry on suitcases in total was plenty. Having the right things with you at any moment is key of course.  Our coldest experience was back on the continent when we went on a tour without multiple layers of coats, thermals, gloves and hats. Out in the penguin colony we shivered out way in the wind and the rain, far far colder than we had been in Antarctica.

Just Do It

Perhaps the most important lesson of the lot, if you have the opportunity to do something amazing, go for it.  Life is full of regrets for things you might have done but didn’t. On this trip I learned things about the world we live in, the people in it, the wilderness, my husband and myself. The pattern of my life is richer for the things I’ve seen, the mistakes I’ve made, the things that have both scared, infuriated and delighted me. The more I see, the more I want to see.  The more I learn, the more I want to learn.

Of course coming home is always lovely as well.

FastPictureViewer

FastPictureViewer

In the age of digital photography you can afford to have a number of misses to each hit. When I head out, camera in hand, I know that when I come home I’ll have anywhere between a few hundred and upwards of a thousand images to review. Shooting in RAW has lots of advantages, but the files are big and the process of going through each one to decide if it is a discard or a keeper can be a slow.

To ease the pain I use a piece of software called FastPictureViewer Pro. I’ve been happily using it for over two years now so I’m comfortable enough to share my experience with it.  To my great relief the Pro license I bought will allow me to install it on my laptop as well as the PC, so when I’m traveling to far off parts next year I won’t be without this nifty bit of kit.

 

The license, including codecs, cost me $50 when the AUD / US exchange rate was just about at parity.  I haven’t had to pay a cent for upgrades since, but apparently if/when there is a major upgrade I’ll get a discount. It’s available to trial for free.

So, what does it do? The codecs allow you to browse thumbnails of raw images through Windows explorer as you would jpgs. The viewer lets you review all of your images super fast, quickly rate or tag them, and apply workflow to delete, copy, rename, resize based on those tags and ratings, and a stack of other rules.

So my workflow goes like this;

  1. Plug camera into the PC and let the EOS utility download all of the images into a date named folder on my external hard disk (Called Photos – original).
    I have a card reader, but I really like the way the EOS utility works and prefer to copy direct when I can.
  2. Open FastPictureViewer
  3. Reviews images one at a time, zooming in with a click of the mouse to see which  images have what you’re looking for in the finer detail.
  4. Use the one key rating method to assign a xmp rating to each picture.
  5. Use the FPV Advanced Features – File Utility to delete or copy images based on my preset rules
  6. Import into Adobe Lightroom where it can read all the xmp ratings, and I
    can use Lightroom to create a third copy of my 4+* images for me to
    work on.

For reference my rating scale goes like this;

* Useless, this can be deleted at any time to retrieve space
** Next to useless, but you never know if you might need to come back to
this to figure out what you’ve been doing wrong.  Leave it on the
original disk but don’t copy it anywhere.
*** Meh, copy to the next stage but likely won’t do any further processing on this image
**** Keeper image, copy to hard disk for editing
***** Straight to the Pool Room, this one will get some attention and will
most likely be printed, used on a blog post or manipulated into a graphic for Redbubble

You can flag pictures for deletion, or for publishing and it can publish straight to Zenfolio, Facebook, Flickr etc. I prefer to do some work on my keeper images before they go anywhere else.

The interface includes some great features, which come in handy when you are trig to see at a glance why something worked, and something else didn’t. So aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering mode etc are all front and centre as well as a histogram. You can toggle those displays on and off as you wish.  They can also sit on your second display as they aren’t locked into the Viewer window.

I’m sure that by now there are other applications out there that do similar things, but I think it speaks well for this product that in two and a half years I have never once gone looking for an alternative.  It does the job I need it to, and does it well and you can’t say better than that.