When starting at a new job, most people are usually very energised and excited and prepared to do their very best. And they do try, work hard and really give it their best. They learn new things and meet new people, everything is new and exciting. But after being in the same job for a long enough time, many people get to a state that can be described as being too comfortable. The time it takes to get to this state differs from person to person, but it can be anything between six months and three years. By that time most people (unless they are really lousy at what they are doing) master their job well enough and remain in their comfort zone for most of the time. Now, that’s not a bad thing per se. You could even argue that people in this situation perform optimally — using all their experience and know-how to do what’s right in most situations. During personal appraisals they usually end up being rated as ‘good’ or ‘great’ and they are able to do their job without having to work too hard or stay too late. It looks like win-win for everyone, right? Well, I am proposing it’s not as clear cut as it may seem.
Being able to do your job comfortably sounds like a universally good thing, but I believe it is often associated with a number of side-effects: The longer you feel very comfortable in your job the more difficult you’ll find it to do something completely different people are becoming complacent (at least to some degree), tend to lose touch with the reality outside of their own ‘bubble’ (team, company, industry) and become less interested in self-improvement and ongoing education. Most importantly though, the longer people are (too) comfortable in their role/job the more difficult they find it to face something new and really challenging. That’s because new and challenging is the exact opposite of comfortable for many people. This process eventually results in a slow but steady decline in performance and an increasing tendency to always prefer the ‘safe and proven’ over the ‘new and riskier’.
Strictly professionally speaking, the very nature of this process and the fact that it is gradual and often quite hard to detect from the inside, masks its real effects on the individual and the company. Of course, everyone is different. Your priorities change over time and so it’s only natural to feel that there is no such thing as being ‘too comfortable’ at your job. But it’s important to appreciate that to stay on top of your game professionally, being comfortable for too long is not the best strategy. Constantly challenging yourself and being put outside of your comfort zone allows you to develop your skills and gain experience much more quickly then just proving to yourself every day that you are doing your current job as well today as you did it last month and last year.
Not becoming too comfortable can be achieved by various means and changing your job is only one of them (and not always the best one). It is much more about constantly driving yourself to do your job as best as you possibly can at all times, about identifying new opportunities within your current job and within your company as well as about looking for areas where to expand your skills and experience. When it comes to the professional (and when it comes to it also personal) development, you should never assume you already achieved all there is to achieve, you should never be fully satisfied with yourself. And if (when) you come to a conclusion that there’s nothing significant for you to learn in your current job, that there are no other opportunities or challenges you could take on, you will know it is time to move on. Making a move in such a situation is good for you and good for your current and future employers. You should leave near the top of your game in your current role and well before you become too comfortable.
Having seen the weather forecast yesterday, we did not even try to wake up early. When we did eventually get up, the sky was again covered in low, dark clouds and so without too much hesitation we decided to stay at home for the morning. The weather brightened up just a tiny bit around 12 o’clock and we decided to test our luck and to go to shoot at the Préverenges beach. We just started shooting but the sky darkened again and rain followed very soon. Disappointed, we went back home and patiently waited.
A couple of hours later the rain stopped and clouds retreated a bit so soon afterwards we were back to the beach again. This time, we were more lucky. The sun came out about 30 mins later and we spent the next three hours shooting on the shore of the lake. The light was beautiful and there was plenty of places to choose from — piers, stones, little bays, trees and more. It was so great to finally have a good light and be at the right place. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Around six clock we headed back home — tired, but quite happy.
Despite the struggles with poor weather, this year’s trip was a success. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the pictures, but browsing through our raw files, we think there will be at least a dozen or so we can be happy with in the end. I am flying back to UK tonight, but hope to process and post the best pics during next week. So that’s it — our 2013 photo trip is over. But we are already thinking about next year. Should we go back to UK? Or will it be Switzerland again? Or perhaps even US? Too early to say now. But one thing is for sure — we have been doing these trips for three years now and that already constitutes a tradition. So we must carry on!
The weather was quite bad today. When we woke up, all we could see were heavy and low clouds. We set off early as we wanted to go to see the Lac de Montsalvens dam which is about 80km from Préverenges. We arrived at around 7:45am and took a footpath along a river which eventually lead us to the dam. It is quite impressive and despite the weather being so poor we decided to grab the opportunity and started shooting. We spent about an hour around the dam, but then our shoot was abruptly interrupted by rain. First, it was just a drizzle, but it quickly turned into a real downpour. So we quickly packed our gear and because the sky was desperately low and dark we decided to head straight back to the car which was about 1.5km away. By the time we got to the car we were both soaking wet. We felt kind of down and drove straight back to Préverenges — partly to get dry, but mainly to wait for a better weather.
The weather did improve a bit later on so after lunch we had a chance to take a few pictures around the EPFL / Rolex Training Centre near Lausanne. It’s a very interesting and architecturally creative building that, whilst being only on a single floor, seamlessly flows up and down in a series of ‘waves’ and creates one large and complex space. The sun finally came out and as it was Saturday the place was quite deserted and that gave us the chance to take a number of (hopefully interesting) pictures.
Overall, today was rather disappointing, mostly because the weather prevented us from spending enough time at the first location in the morning. I would like to hope tomorrow will be better, but the forecast is hopeless so unless we are extremely lucky, today’s photos might have been our last on this trip. Still, tomorrow is a new day. Let’s see.
Knowing that the weather is likely to be rather bad today, we woke up only at 7:30. And yes, it was raining as we expected. After breakfast, we decided to follow our Plan B i.e. a visit to the Museum of Photography (Musée suisse de l’appareil photographique) in Vevey. The museum is a tall and narrow building filled mostly and unsurprisingly with cameras and other photography equipment. The ground floor contains the very first cameras (staring with camera obscura) and each of the four upper floors then presents exhibits from more and more recent periods. The very top floor then contains contemporary technology as well as an outlook to the future of photography. While the museum is not huge and they charge for entry (6 CHF) it is well worth a visit.
The weather finally improved later in the afternoon so we finally got to take some photos. We first drove back to Préverenges and took some pictures from the lake shore. After that, when the sun started to peak through the clouds, we drove further along the lake towards Saint Prex. When we got out of the car near a small marina, the clouds retreated and the sun beautifully lit the boats and wooden piers all around us. It was well after 5:30 when we started shooting. The light was great, there was plenty of motives to choose from and we spent over an hour shooting in and around the marina.
We are hoping to go to the mountains tomorrow, but we remain concerned about the weather. Early start tomorrow morning again to catch the best light, weather permitting. Fingers crossed.
We decided to get up early in hope to catch the best light. We woke up at 5:30 just the find out it is still pitch black outside and raining heavily. Grudgingly, we went back to bed. Luckily the weather looked somewhat more promising a few hours later when we woke up again. As Martin had no food at home (no surprise ;-)) we packed our kit and set off. After stopping at a petrol station to buy some breakfast we decided to drive to Chateau Chillon.
It took us about 40 minutes to get there and surprisingly the weather has improved. Chateau Chillon is an impressive medieval castle located on the shore of lake Geneva. We first explored the surrounding and then spent about an hour around the castle. As we arrived rather late in the day the sun was already quite high up and so we had to deal with more challenging lighting conditions. The lake and the mountains provided a great scenic background and we managed to take several good shots, mostly long exposures. We then went inside of the castle (12 CHF per person if you are interested) and took some shots of the interiors too.
Around 2 o’clock we grabbed lunch and then drove back through Montreaux and then stopped in Vevey to take photos of a pier and stones. For the first half an hour our intended composition was somewhat affected by a woman sitting at the end of the pier, surrounded by plastic bags and eating her lunch. Finally, she decided to leave and so we moved a bit closer to the little lighthouse at the end of the pier and took anther set of photos against a gradually darkening sky. Our last photo session of today was stopped by rain that started to fall just after 5:30.
First day of this year’s trip was really nice and we are both looking forward to shoot at the other locations we still plan to visit. The weather forecast for tomorrow is bleak though (and it’s raining as I am writing this), so unless we are really lucky, we may need to find something else to do. Our back-up plan is a visit to a photography museum in Vevey.
A summary of Day 2 will be posted again tomorrow evening, so do come back!
When I wrote about Martin’s and mine last year’s photo trip, I already knew we will go on another one this year too. It’s nice to have something to look forward to and given that we are both busy at work and on top of that happen to live in different countries I am really happy we managed to find time to do this again. So, it is May 8 and here we are again — flight tickets ready, kit ready, energy levels high. This year’s ‘M&M photo trip’ is about to kick off!
Where we are going
After exploring Dorset last year, this time we decided to go to Martin’s home country of last four years — Switzerland. Our ‘base camp’ for all four days of the trip is going to be Préverenges, a nice little town by Lake Geneva. And because last year in Dorset we quite successfully applied our approach of less-is-more when it comes to places to photograph, we will try to do the same thing this year. We picked only a handful of locations and will give ourselves enough time at each location to think about what we want to achieve and how best to capture what we see.
After a thorough research predominantly led by Martin (which included consultations with local elders as well as forest animals, a church library and a little bit of surfing online) we identified the following candidate locations:
- Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland
- Gruyères, Switzerland
- Yvoire, France
- Lac de Montsalvens, Switzerland
- Lake Geneva, Switzerland
- Les Crosets, Switzerland
There is clearly a whole raft of opportunities around Lake Geneva so we expect to spend quite a but of time there. We do want to go to France one day as we believe the other side of Lake Geneva offers several interesting spots.
The weather is likely going to be a real challenge this time, with weather forecast not being very promising for the next few days, but we remain hopeful. Naturally, we have some back-up plans involving a visit to a photography museum in Vevey and some drinking;-)
Kit & Stuff
Since last year, we have both somewhat updated our equipment. Partly because having new gear is fun, but mostly because somebody finally built a camera that is small, light, has optically excellent interchangeable lenses, is really well-built, has great ergonomics and costs much less than a Leica. And the company that produced such a camera system is Fuji. So unsurprisingly, both Martin and I are now happy owners of Fuji XE-1 — Martin’s is silver and mine is, of course, black.
So here comes our (almost) complete list of photography equipment for this year’s trip:
- Fuji XE-1
- Fujinon 18-55 mm f/2.8-4
- Nikon D300
- Tokina 11–16 mm f/2.8
- Manfrotto tripod
- Hoya circular polariser
- B&W ND110 filter
- Remote cable releases for both cameras
- Fuji XE-1
- Fujinon 18-55 mm f/2.8-4
- Fujinon 35 mm f/1.4
- Fujinon 14 mm f/2.8
- Nikon D700
- Nikkor 24–120 mm f/4
- A number of Lee filters
- B&W circular polariser
- Gitzo carbon tripod
- Remote cable release for both cameras
We both now have two camera bodies — a Nikon and a Fuji. In practice though, we do not plan to carry both cameras around. In fact, we hope to need the DSLRs as rarely as possible. But since for both of us this is going to the first photo trip with the Fuji rangefinder, we felt it may be safer to still have the DSLRs at hand ‘just in case’. For me personally, the additional reason is that at this point I do not own a wide-angle Fuji (x-mount) lens and thus may need to rely on my Tokina for some shots. Yes, I know I can use an adaptor (and I own one) but working with an adaptor is not very convenient and it’s also quite slow. So for all these reasons, my D300 is travelling with me even though I may not use it very often. On the whole, not having to use our DSLRs at all and be able to rely solely on the Fuji for the whole time would actually be a great outcome. In any case, the kit is just means to an end. And we hope the end will be a set of great pictures we both will be proud of.
It all starts tomorrow
As it happens, it’s been almost precisely 365 days since our last photo trip. May seems to be a great month for photography and we plan to make the most out of it this year again. All that remains now is to hope for a good weather and a good light.
Daily updates from our trip will follow from tomorrow, so do come back!
This admittedly very geeky t-shirt I designed yesterday will probably make sense only to html-savvy people who have at least a vague interest in specific aspects and misuses of typography (especially) on the web. I do agree that’s not the largest target group but that’s fine with me. All I care about is that those who actually ‘get’ the point, will enjoy and love this t-shirt.
To get yours (and you should), just head to teespring. It costs only $15 and you can get it shipped to anywhere in the world.