Competing With Yourself

I started writing this blog a couple of days after I got to New Zealand. Now I am in the airport lounge waiting for my departure after an incredible 16 days in this country.

When I began this post, I had just won the Bronze award for Travel Photographer of the Year at the SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) convention in Wellington, New Zealand. I was up against some pretty stiff competition from some of the best travel photographers in the world, so it was an honor that I greatly appreciated.

On the last evening of the convention, they announced the winners of the Photographer Shootout that had taken place the first 3 days of the trip. The starting point was the Auckland airport where all the photographers involved were given their own vehicle – each identical in every way so as not to give anyone an unfair advantage. You could make your own itinerary and go anywhere you wanted to on the North Island – as long as you returned the car in Wellington – 3 days later by 5PM.

The weather was mixed as it usually is during springtime in most countries. We had some clouds, some sun and one morning of hard rain. One of the challenges of course was driving on the left side but that wasn’t as frustrating as the lack of a “shoulder” along the road to pull off to when I saw a magnificent sight – which was just about every 5 minutes. The distances were deceiving and invariably I had twice as much on my itinerary that I ended up getting to.

When I finally returned the car, I was happy to be rid of it – weary of the winding roads that were quite challenging at times. I felt good about the photos I had captured – but not overwhelmed by them because there were so many that I knew I had missed. When they announced that I had won second place silver portfolio – I was surprised and delighted because it had been so challenging for me on many levels. I’m mostly a people and city photographer, so in a country that’s known more for their scenery than large population centers – I was constantly pushing myself out of my norm.

I think that is why the shoot out reward is particularly meaningful to me. I wasn’t trying to beat out my competition and in fact I didn’t feel like someone else needed to lose in order for me to win. I felt good that I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone and every time I have done that, I have been richly rewarded. It was nice to be recognized by my peers and it was nice to win a prize but the best part of all was the feeling that I gave myself. I succeeded in what I had set out to do and that was to try something new and face some trepidations.

The older I get I realize that it’s all about the journey – not the destination.

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