This is a post I wrote last week.  I toiled with internal struggle over whether I should even share the writing or not, not out of fear of sharing something personal, making me feel vulnerable, rather I wasn’t sure if anyone would find it interesting.  The more I thought, and continue to think, about it, though, the more I realized that the context of my thoughts are pretty common and if they help only one person, than my sharing will be well worth it.  Unfortunately, as the title might suggest you will see, I do not have any photos of butterflies to accompany my thoughts, so instead I’m sharing my photo “The Lonely Leaf” which many people actually think is a butterfly and not a leaf.  At any rate, enough rambling – here’s my experience.  I hope you enjoy and find value in it.

Lonely Leaf North Shore Pittsburgh Sunrise Reflection blog

A little over two weeks was a pretty big step for me…on a few fronts and in a lot of ways. I was honored enough to be asked to give a presentation about my photography to the Photo Section of the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Pittsburgh, or in simpler terms “The Pittsburgh Camera Club,” which as it turns out is the oldest continually operating photography club in America, starting in the late 1800’s. That’s right, the late 1800’s…almost since the dawn of photography.

I was asked back in August and emphatically said yes to such a gracious offer and awesome opportunity. We set the date for mid-April, giving me more than plenty of time to prepare, which I didn’t, and hundreds of days to stew on ideas while letting butterflies build permanent homes in my stomach, which they did.

Fast-forward 8 months to April 1. A few butterflies have not simply set up shop in my belly, the entire herd – what do you call a group of butterflies, anyway? – has colonized my body, and I am the “monarch.” See what I did there?

Luckily for me, I’ve had lots and lots of practice of keeping things stored in the back of my mind or the pit of my stomach – literally and figuratively on the stomach part, I like to eat – so coming up with a theme for the presentation was going to be no sweat. Or so I thought. As ideas popped in to my mind, I’d make sure to get them down on paper else they’d be lost forever and rather quickly at that. I was certain of the photos I wanted to include for the most part, but was still lacking a cohesive flow to the presentation.

The day before I was to speak, I spent 12 hours putting together a Power Point presentation, essentially relearning the program because I’ve not used it in well over a decade. It was a slow, tedious process, which both allowed my brain to otherwise focus on the preparation part while the nervousness about actually speaking to a room full of people in less than a day percolated at full force.

A funny thing happened, though, the morning of presentation day. I was polishing up the presentation – oh who am I kidding, I was finishing the last third of it when I had my “aha” moment. I put together 4 principles in which I look or hope for when I set out to create a shot. It’s rare to find more than one of the elements I hope for in one photograph, but in a moment of intense clarity, a feeling normally foreign to me as my mind tends to jump around quite a bit, I realized an image I had not used yet which drew from every single theme I had just put together.

It was at this point where I actually said out loud, in the middle of a Dunkin Donuts, mind you, “Holy shit. This is a damn good presentation.” Again, this was a rarity for me as I am my own harshest critic. Nothing is ever good enough for myself, and as a sole proprietor of a creative business, that’s how it has to be for if I get complacent, or even comfortable, my work will stagnate and the business will fail. But there was going to be no failure this time. I was proud of what I had put together and confident in the material. It also helped that I know my work and my processes inside and out. It’s funny how a little knowledge and a smidge of confidence can drive off a colony of butterflies squatting in someone’s stomach.

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6 responses to “Butterflies”

  1. Maria- Mrs. Johno! says :

    Great story, and my husband and I were blessed to be present for the presentation. You nailed it! It was perfect!
    P.S. another name for group of Butterflies is a
    “kaleidoscope” colorful like you!

    I look forward to reading your next story.

    • jpdphotos says :

      Thanks, Mrs. Johno! Having you at the presentation put me at ease and it was my honor to have you there in the audience. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and of course for always supporting me!

  2. Peggy L Puckett says :

    I love your story. It is open and real. It took strength to stand up in front of a group of people and “brag” about your work. You take amazing pictures and you should say ” Damn I’m good”. Congratulations.

  3. stu1955 says :

    One of the secrets of public speaking is that if you’re not nervous, you’re not going to do your best. I was fortunate to be there and it was everything I was hoping for and more! Always looking forward to your next story. Thanks!

  4. barbarajelerbyconsulting says :

    This was great! I loved your ahhhh-haaaa moment!! As always I love your work, Monarch! Glad I could see this! Looking forward to see what is next!

  5. Deb celedonia says :

    Hi Jp,
    I love your photography! Note to self…relearning PowerPoint will take time… lol, thanks for that reminder!
    Check out Phipps, my favorite place to take pictures…they should have butterflies.
    Cool new pics!

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