How to be Fearless

Ninjas are a good example of fearless. We did this photo shoot a couple nights ago and it was challenging, but so much fun! It's one of those images that I will keep a big print of on my office wall to remind me to Face the Dragon of Fear. Fear is one of those rare emotions that can be either crippling and paralyzing, or fantastically empowering. All it takes for it to be the previous or the latter is a simple switch in your mind. Click. Did you hear it? That's the crazy part - you just have to make a decision in your mind to either face the fear, or cower and avoid. It doesn't take any training or skill to flip that switch and become fearless. (although if you plan to partake in a ninja fight, you should probably have some training). 

The ability to face fear is easier when we have experience - which gives us the confidence to accept the challenge and assume a reasonable chance of success. However, you don't gain experience unless you start facing fears without it first. Funny how that works. I am 45 years old, and it has taken me many years to understand the power of facing my fears. Many of the issues in my life - both personal and in business, have loomed larger and more ominously because I was really avoiding facing a fear. Maybe it was confronting somebody on a delicate issue. Maybe it was asking for help when I felt lost or incapable. Maybe it was starting a new activity that I've always wanted to do, but feared I wouldn't be successful at it. Fear rears its head in many ways.

The happy ending to this fearful story is that we become so incredibly empowered when we face our fears. Stress falls away, miscommunications are minimized, and we can walk with our heads a little higher feeling a sense of empowerment and success. Most fears are, in fact, either imaginary or unfounded. From my own personal experience, I really believe this. At the most, the fear is not as bad as we imagined and we find a way to work through it - and that feels really good.

The fearless ninja in this photo is actually Sensei Brian Sortor, from Sortor Karate in Bend, OR. The other fearless ninjas are his wife, Kristina, and students Ben, Seth, -)

We setup the tarps and a canopy anyway (because if you bring an umbrella it never rains, right?) and got to work lighting the scene. The smoke machine was a challenge to work with. It didn't exactly fill the forest with a gentle fog, like I imagined, but rather it bellowed clouds like a fire-breathing beast. We had to wait for the cloud to blow the right direction and dissipate a little for each shot. We even used a battery powered leaf blower to help coerce the clouds in the right direction. That didn't really work. We also had to worry about somebody seeing the smoke and calling the fire department!


Our setup required 6 lights. We used the Photoflex Triton flash units for the main light on Sensei Brian, and for the backlight deep in the forest. We used Nikon speedlights for a side light on the back right ninja, another light with a Rogue Grid on the front ninjas. We strapped a speedlight to the latern, held by Kristina, and covered it with a warm gel to emulate lantern light. Finally, we put a speedlight behind a large Photoflex LitePanel, on low power. This added a little fill, but mainly served to add a reflection to the swords so they would show up silvery instead of reflecting back the black forest. All of these lights were triggered by my PocketWizard wireless triggers. I used a 14-24mm lens on my D3s to exaggerate the perspective and create the feeling of being in the middle of the action. My vision for this shot was to emulate a movie poster - maybe for an anime film. I knew I would need to process it a little in Photoshop to enhance the surrealism. All of these "ninjas" are amazing athletes, so getting the action and poses I wanted was the easiest part. Timing, composition, and fog were my dragons to deal with! In the end, I love the way the images came out - due in no small part to the power and fearlessness in Sensei Brian's presence. He looks pretty scary in the photos, but he's really a super nice guy ;-)

Products used:

Photoflex Triton Flash systems
Photoflex LitePanel
Rogue Grids
Nikon SB900 & SB800 speedlights
Manfrotto Boom arm & stand
Nikon D3s
Nikon 12-24mm f2.8 lens

My big wall print, and prints for the dojo, need to be the best quality possible, so they will be made by WHCC!

I welcome your comments. Tell me how you've faced a dragon and overcame your fears.

I hope I never have to give a talk like this again...

Recently, my Grandmother, and last surviving grandparent, passed away in Hawaii. I was very close to her as a child growing up in Hawaii and I loved her dearly. I returned home for the memorial service and my family somewhat surprised me by asking me to deliver the eulogy! I wasn't even really sure what was supposed to be in a eulogy, as I've been fortunate to have attended only one funeral before hers - that of my grandfather over 20 years ago.


I looked it up in the trusty wikipedia and found it simply meant "Good Words." It was praise of someone's life. That was easy enough for me to do. To do it without crying through the whole thing was the hard part. I am an experienced public speaker and that does not scare me. I don't often get nervous anymore. I got pretty nervous. It was the hardest, and most rewarding, talk I've ever given. 


My grandmother was an amazingly loving woman. She was patient, kind, creative (an artist and book lover), and she spoke her mind - without ever being offensive. She just told you what she thought and you usually realized she was right. She lived to be 88 yrs. old. Her mom, my great grandmother, lived to be 108 and was celebrated in Hawaii as one of it's oldest residents on record.


Preparing the eulogy was an eye-opener for me. I started to think about all the lessons I've learned from her and how they have impacted my life. It's wild to think back and connect the dots between all the little things someone has impressed upon you and how that molded who you are today.  I recalled stories from her life - things that she told us about herself and things we remembered about her. Everything she did, it would seem, was a valuable life lesson. At the end of my eulogy, I summarized with a list of things I learned from gramma:


1) Be nice to everyone.
2) Exercise, take care of your body, and eat well.
3) Take time to smell the roses.
4) Say what you think.
5) Stand up for what you believe in, even if you're the only one standing.
6) Always keep learning.
7) Share what you know with others.
8) Sing, even if you can't sing very well.


My sister, Kecia, gave a short dedication after I did and she said something very profound. When she started to think about things to say at Gramma's memorial, she wondered what people would say at her memorial. How would she be remembered. 


For me, it was very poignant and yet so simple. I will keep this list with me always to honor the lessons Gramma herself lived & breathed. I love you gramma.


How far ahead do I look?

I love going fast. I drive fast down winding roads (never over the speed limit of course!) I ride my bike fast, my moto-x bike fast. It's a rush. I've learned that to better navigate the fast, twisty roads and trails you have to find the "sweet spot" in the road ahead where you focus your eyes. Race car drivers do this. When you look at the road or trail just in front of you, you have less time to react to changes in the path. You're line tends to twitch and the entry or exit in a tight turn can be over-shot. When you soften your eyes and focus slightly ahead of where you would normally look, you find that your line becomes smoother, and naturally follows the curves. Your close-range peripheral vision handles keeping you on the road or trail, even if it doesn't seem like it should work that way. Try it yourself...focus a bit further ahead on the road, relax your eyes. Notice how your movements become smoother, and you follow the curves much better without having to over-correct.

As I was driving my favorite winding road home from work tonight, I realized that this technique worked for driving, biking, running, motorcycling, etc. It also works for my life path. If I focus right in front of myself, I tend to find myself over-correcting and using a lot of energy to stay on task or on track. I lose sight of where I'm really going or what really needs to be done for longer term success. I get stuck on busy work and side-tracked easily. When I focus too far in the future, I let important things slip through the cracks. I'm not paying attention to what needs to be done in the here and now. It's like I'm dreaming, but not taking action to make those dreams come true. But when I'm looking just far enough ahead, with my peripheral vision allowing me to handle just the things that are really important right in front of me, I feel I'm the most productive, effective, and ultimately - happy.

It was an interesting a-ha for me and I thought I'd share.